Ways to Save Money as an Expat That You May Not Have Thought Of
For many people, living and working abroad is living the dream, trading in the unpredictable weather of the UK for sunnier climes and more exciting locales. It’s not surprising that having made it this far, many people immediately drop any ideas of saving a nest egg or putting some money aside for their holidays (why would you need holidays? You’re already there!).
Perhaps this is why surveys have shown that expats tend to spend their money rather than saving it up for a rainy day. However, while you’re carpeing the diem, it’s still a good idea to save money where you can, even if you are immediately going to take your saved money on a shopping spree.
Understand your tax before you go
A new country means new tax laws, and it’s a good idea to read up on these ahead of time. If it’s confusing (y’know, as opposed to one of those countries with really easy and simple to understand tax laws), get some professional financial advice. While it’s great to pay towards the infrastructure and welfare system of your adopted home, you don’t want the bill to take you by surprise.
The tax laws can vary depending not only on the country you’re going to, but the country you’re from (several country’s have certain tax treaties for situations like this, and there may be taxes in your home country that you are still eligible for).
Move your bank account offshore
Yes, offshore bank accounts aren’t just for mafia dons and corrupt politicians anymore. Having a local bank account is not only advantageous from a tax angle, but also because it will give you a good way to manage your monthly transactions rather than constantly batting money between accounts in your home and adopted country (which can be a pricey endeavour on its own). It also means you can keep an eye on the exchange rate, making sure you transfer funds back home only when it’s in your favour.
Learn to convert the currency in your head
Let’s face it, currencies from other countries don’t feel like real money, especially in the beginning. It’s toy money, like those plastic tokens they give you in theme parks, or “gold pieces” when you’re playing a videogame. So get into the habit of working out what you’re spending in “real money” whenever you’re out and about. It doesn’t have to be an exact figure, but you should be able to quickly to do arithmetic to turn, say, €10 to £7.10.
On the other hand, if you’ve not got a head for figures, you can set yourself a daily spending limit in the local currency—and do not cross that limit, no matter what.
This ties into the problem with imaginary made-up money. You need to keep track of what you’re spending and where. Yes, we’ve all tried to do this at home and it always ends up getting thrown in the bin the first time you decide to have an unscheduled take away, but here it’s more important than ever to keep track of where your money is going. These days, there are a slew of great apps and other digital tools to help you—but a notebook a pen always work, as well!
If you’re anything like me than the first thing you’ll do when you’ve moved some place new is sign up to the very first telephone company/water provider/electricity provider that comes along, because looking at utility company websites is boring and they all cost roughly the same anyway.
This is the wrong way to go about it, and it remains just as wrong when you’re in another country and so don’t have a lifetime’s worth of listening to your friends complain to let you know which providers to steer clear of. Shop around, not just online, but offline, asking locals and expats who’ve been here longer than you where the best place to go is. Indeed, if there’s one tip we really insist on, it’s find those who’ve gone ahead of you, and learn from them!
Chris Farnell is a freelance writer who’s written on travel and immigration for many publications, including Holiday Hypermarket.