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7 Tips for Saving for TEFL Certification and Teaching English Abroad

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“You are so lucky to travel abroad!”

Have you ever said that to a friend or family member?

Really, luck has nothing to do with it.

Like many great things in life, with hard work, prioritizing, and goal setting anything is possible! I have personally travelled to 24 countries from the age of 15-31 and I did so on the wages of a server, bartender, and as an elementary school teacher.

Below I have included 7 great tips that will financially enable you to teach English abroad and get TEFL certified:


7. Start Making Money by Teaching English Online Before You Head Overseas

Teaching English online represents one of the fastest growing fields of teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) and offers almost limitless opportunities for TEFL certified teachers to gain experience & make money.

You can begin making money teaching English as a foreign language from home before you head overseas to save for start-up costs. Then, when you get abroad, teaching English online enables you to make money right away and to supplement your income as a teacher at a local school. This is great not only for paying off start-off costs (like your first-month's rent), but also if you want to save money for extra travel or need to pay off student debt.

One of the best aspects of teaching English online is the incredible flexibility that it offers. You can teach English online from virtually anywhere in the world & you can teach as many hours as you like, or even make it your full-time profession. 

To learn more, please check out Teach English Online: Your Guide on How to Make Money & Travel the World.

6.  If you have access to financial aid, USE IT!

You will find there are only a few times in your life when you will be offered thousands of dollars at a low interest rate to basically do whatever you please with, your college years are one of those times.

If you are looking to take a year off of college to teach English abroad and get TEFL certified or to be abroad teaching post graduation take some addition money out from your subsidized or unsubsidized government loan. Consider taking out enough not only for your tuition for your TEFL course but also for your airfare and startup costs. Travel is the only thing you can buy that will make you richer. This money will be well spent!

Tips for saving money for TEFL teaching English abroad

5. Set small goals, yet look at the BIG PICTURE!

The big picture is you at a fabulous outdoor café sipping sangria on the Mediterranean with colleagues from all around the globe. The small goal would be cutting back on sipping a $5 latte seven mornings a week or not going out drinking with friends on weeknights as they ponder why they are so broke. Setting small money saving goals will set you up to achieve your big goal of traveling the world as an English teacher.


4. Live below your means & live rent free whenever possible!

If you spend as much as you can on everything, you will be able to save money for nothing. If you can afford to pay $1,000 in a rent a month, find an option that only costs $500 a month.  If you typically spend $100 going out each weekend, hit the dive bars and watch the game at home and cut back to $50.

Disciplined spending and saving habits will provide you with options and enable you to invest in all sorts of great endeavors in life, including teaching abroad.

Moving back in with mom and dad or continuing to live with them is not always an ideal situation for you or for them but it is a great way to set a solid foundation of savings. Perhaps your lease is up and you do not want to sign a lease for another year – call on friends and family members to help you out. Sleeping on your buddy’s couch or in your old bedroom from high school for a month or two before you depart for your sleek one bedroom apartment in Shanghai will be worth it in retrospect.

savings tips for TEFL

Have cable TV?  Turn it off, disconnect it, cancel your subscription, NOW. 

Save $ 50 - 100 a month.  Like your favorite TV show?  Watch it on the internet for free or have a party at your friend's house.  If your cable TV is more important than your dream of seeing the world, you need to get into rehab and look at your life priorities better.

3. Sell! Sell! Sell!

Take inventory of your possessions that you will be leaving behind for the year or more that you will be traveling abroad and teaching English. Typically the amount of money you will spend on a moving truck, movers, a storage unit actually costs more than buying all new stuff once you return.

Put the stuff that you can replace and live without on Craigslist and eBay. If you have high-end items like a car, this will really help you start your savings in addition to getting rid of your car insurance payments. Getting yourself into a public transportation routine or purchasing a bicycle will really help save money on a weekly basis.


2. Don't Be Afraid to Borrow

We've all been warned of the dangers of debt, but check out any financial guide and you will learn that there is good debt and there is bad debt. Nearly all of us use debt to make necessary investments in life whether it's going to college, purchasing a home or buying a car. As long as it is manageable debt, such purchases and investments using loans are considered "good debt." Using a credit card, or borrowing $500 or $1,000 from your folks to teach English abroad falls into this same category.

Teach English Abroad TEFL

If you have concerns about incurring too much debt or paying it off, consider teaching English in a country where you will make enough to pay off your debt in a timely and responsible manner. 

Check out this article on: The Top 5 Countries to Make the Most Money Teaching English Abroad.

Most of these opportunities will be found in Asia and the Middle East where most English teachers make enough to save 30%-50% of their salary after expenses.

If you put $1,000 on your credit card to pay for your TEFL course and to fund other basic start-up expenses and then go to teach English in Korea for example, you will make enough to pay off that debt in the first couple of months on the job and you will incur very little if any interest.

Don't let your fear of debt keep you from making your goal of living and teaching English abroad a reality!

Want to learn more about salaries for English teachers around the world? Request a Country Chart that details salaries, hiring requirements, visas and more for teaching English in more than 50 countries around the globe.


1. Ask and you shall receive!

Getting TEFL certified and teaching abroad will be the best birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, or graduation present you could ever ask for. This gift of education and world travel will enhance your education and professional career for the rest of your life. The experiences, connections, and friends you will make will open you up to career possibilities you could have never imagined.

Explain to your family and friends, this is not money for the newest iPad or a trip to Vegas; this is money to change a child or adult’s life as an English teacher. This is an opportunity to explore and be immersed in a foreign culture. This is an opportunity to discover who and where I want to be on this earth. This is an opportunity of a lifetime!


Bonus tip!  Crowdsource extra free money. 

Ask your friends, family, strangers, do-gooder to help you pursue a dream finance your TEFL class and trip.  Ask for your birthday money, graduation presents, divorce settlements, etc.  There is a website devoted to your adventure called Fund My Travel

Finally, watch ITA advisor Ashley, Megan from GoAbroad.com, ITA alumni Ambassador Laura & ITA alumni Ambassador Ryan talk about how to save money & finance your dream of teaching English overseas!


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