Tips to save money when moving abroad
You’ve made the decision to move abroad, now comes the planning and preparation. For the smart traveler, getting things right in advance is the key to success. Make sure that your research is done and most importantly, ensure that you have everything costed correctly to avoid any unpleasant surprises. While it is impossible to plan for all eventualities, it is certainly possible to maximize your chances of a successful move by getting the financial aspects of your “big move” in order.
In this article, we’ll look at the best practices for ensuring a successful move and limiting unnecessary expenditure.
1. Set a Realistic Budget
We all know how to budget. It is (or should be) part of your regular life. This is even more true for when you are moving to a new country; the simple fact being, that if you can’t budget for the move, you shouldn’t be going. Here are a couple of key suggestions for setting a realistic budget prior to your move:
Research: Your expected earnings will vary greatly depending on which country you’re going to, as will your likely outlays. Find out costs of accommodation, bills, taxation, insurance and cost of livings in advance and try to make an analysis based on income vs. outgoings. DO NOT use just one “cost of living guide” from the internet, these are often written by backpackers who are just travelling and looking for the cheapest possible options. They will not give you accurate expenditures for someone living full time in a new country.
Realism: Plan as much as you like, but odds are there are going to be extra expenses that you’ve not budgeted for. If you make the assumption that you’ll need around 30-35% more than you originally planned, you should be able to avoid any stressful cash-related situations.
2. Book at the Right Time
If you’re booking late, you’re not preparing well enough. Take advantage of early booking costs for flights and transfers. Not only does this save money, it also allows you to sort out visas and accommodation arrangements well in advance.
Trying to organize hotels or apartments at the last minute will inevitably result in more expenditure; as will paying for express service on visas and passports. The more time you have to organize these things, the more money you’ll save.
Most airlines raise the ticket price as the actual flight draws nearer. According to studies done on over one and a half billion flights, Businessinsider.com recommends the following tips:
- Book at least 90 days in advance. Airfares start to rise steeply after then.
- Don’t fly mid June to mid August. This is peak summer and prices will be higher than at other times of the year.
- Optimal flight purchasing caries continent to continent. For Europe and Africa it’s around 250-270 days in advance; for Asia it’s around 320. For the best deals, aim for about 6 months in advance if possible (but no less than 3 months).
This can often be misleading in terms of actual savings. Although an indirect flight may save you some money, you may have stop-overs that require a hotel, you may have to eat in airport restaurants, and of course, time is money. If the stop over is relatively short, go for it. If not, you’re better off paying the extra for a direct route.
3. Travel Light and Travel Cheaply
We’ve all had that awful experience of rocking up to the airport and when checking in you are told that your luggage is over the weight limit and you will be charged an extortionate amount of money in excess baggage. Most airlines have around a 20-25kg baggage allowance for international economy flights, which you’ll want to maximize (but not run over). Some airlines allow you to aggregate the baggage allowance between all members of the travelling party, others set a strict weight limit per person per bag that cannot be transferred to others in your party.
Consider what you will really need on arrival (eg. work clothes, medications), and what things you can either buy in your destination country or send as unaccompanied airfreight or sea freight. Shipping belongings is expensive, and you may find that you can acquire most of what you need locally for not much more than what it would cost to ship everything.
To save money when moving abroad, get rid of anything unnecessary before you leave Australia. Consider what to do with your belongings. Many people choose long-term storage, which may be convenient, but it’s an expense that doesn’t go away and can really add up over a few years. If you have friends or family with a lot of space, then great, they can take care of it for you. Otherwise, consider selling the things you won’t take with you. You’ll probably be replacing a lot of things anyway, so why hold onto them?
4. Make sure you are properly insured and understand what medical cover you are entitled to at your destination.
When moving abroad, it is important to understand what healthcare services you are entitled to in your destination country, and whether or not you will need to take out international health insurance. When moving abroad, international health insurance is preferable to say travel insurance, as travel insurance will generally only cover you for emergency medical treatments.
Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with a number of countries around the world which provide limited health care in the event of emergency. Contrary to popular belief, these arrangements can be very limited in nature, and also your entitlements may only be available for your initial period in the country (eg. < 6 months).
The country you are moving to may provide public health care to temporary residents, or may require you to take out local health insurance.
Make sure any health insurance you take it is competitively priced. Cigna Global (which has over 90 million customers worldwide) offers free quotes for international health insurance online.
5. Shipping vs. Airfreight
Should you decide that there are certain items you either can’t do without, or would be unable to replace in your new home, you’ll have to consider the delicate balance between direct shipping and Airfreight.
Airfreight will usually provide you with door to door delivery over a relatively short time. It can be very handy if you have a permanent home already arranged or a friend in country who can handle the acceptance for you. It is more expensive than shipping (but cheaper than excess baggage on your flight) and should only be used if there are items too heavy to take as part of your luggage allowance and too necessary to do without for even a short time. Companies like send-my-bag offer an unaccompanied airfreight service.
Shipping is slow but reliable. You can use this for necessary but non-time urgent items (eg. household furniture, household appliances, counter-seasonal clothing, toys, books). It will work out a lot cheaper than airfreight but may involve more effort in both sending and collecting unless you use a specialist agency (these agencies are essentially shipping agencies at two ends of a journey). To get the best possible price for shipping your goods, try out Triglobal. Based on your stated requirements, they will arrange for up to 5 pre-qualified companies to provide quotes to allow you to choose the most competitive deal.
6. Short Stay Accommodation on Arrival
If you’re looking for a bit more freedom when you land to check out different areas of the city, consider getting into short stay accommodation. This doesn’t mean hotels. There are many companies that can arrange either small apartments on a weekly basis or serviced apartments on variable leases.
Also, with the growing popularity of Airbnb, you have even more options available. Airbnb can provide you with short term accommodation, directly leased by the owner, at an affordable price. It often has the added advantage of a local person being available to give you advice on the area.
7. Search for a Permanent Accommodation
In the long run, having permanent accommodation will save you a lot of time, effort and cash. You can easily organize renting either an apartment or a house in advance (as long as there is no language barrier), which will allow you to hit the ground running. There are, however, two sides to the story.
- You won’t be wasting money on hotels or transport fees.
- You can start building your new life immediately (schools, shopping etc…).
- If you’re travelling with children, it will be easier on them and you.
- You’ll be able to have any shipping delivered directly.
- Many places can be had fully furnished, this will save a lot of money and be super convenient.
- If you’re not familiar with the city, you may want more freedom to get to know an area first.
- Should you not like the accommodation, it will take time to sort out a new lease.
7. Minimise Bank Fees on International Money Transfers
We’ve all experienced the frustration of paying foreign exchange fees when using our credit or debit cards on overseas holidays. You will also find banks charge significant fees (and offer poor exchange rates) when making international money transfers through your internet banking or in the branch.
There are now better alternatives for people moving to a foreign country that need to transfer money abroad. The way to save the most amount of money is to open a bank account in your new country of abode as quickly as possible, and then use an online money transfer company such as OFX to transfer money between your Australian bank account and your foreign bank account. These companies, in my experience, can save you $200-$300 for every $10,000 you transfer internationally. You can read more about why I don’t use my bank for international money transfers.
Correct planning and cost considerations will make the process of moving a lot less stressful and allow you to save money when moving abroad (especially if you’re moving with a family). Arrange as much as you can in advance, take advice from as many different sources as possible, and approach everything with a sense of realism. Don’t take unnecessary chances with things and you’ll not only make a greater success of your big move, but you’ll also sleep sounder at night.
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