7 Tips for Saving Money While Teaching English Abroad

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The rewards of living, traveling and teaching English overseas cannot be measured in dollars, cents, euros or yen, but for most of us, financial concerns are a reality and we want and need to save money to pay bills, reach goals and to make the most of our lives.  Here are 7 great tips for how you can make the make the most financially out of your experience teaching English overseas.

  • Earn your TEFL certification – Receiving training and holding a recognized TEFL certification will qualify you for more many more jobs teaching English abroad, especially better paying jobs. The days when schools and language institutes would just hire people off the street just because they spoke English are largely gone. Most schools that offer top salaries require a TEFL certification and many schools, particularly in the most lucrative job markets in Asia and the Middle East automatically slot teachers with a TEFL certification into a higher salary tier.  Read more about TEFL certification.

  • Head to East Asia or the Middle East – In Europe and Latin America, most first-time English teachers make a solid wage that enables them to cover their expenses and enjoy a comfortable standard of living.  But they don’t typically make enough based on the local cost of living to save substantial sums (more than $200, for example) at the end of each month after expenses. This is known as “breaking even.”

    However, in many nations in East Asia and the Persian Gulf in the Middle East, even first-time English teachers with a TEFL certification can make enough to save 30%-50% of their income after expenses based on the local cost of living.  Here are some ranges for typical savings when exchanged from the local currency into U.S. dollars (some people may save more or less than these figures).

    TYPICAL MONTHLY SAVINGS AFTER MONTHLY EXPENSES (not including extra from private tutoring)

    • Thailand: $200 - $500

    • Turkey: $200 - $500

    • Vietnam & Taiwan: $400 - $600

    • Japan: $400- $800

    • Indonesia: $300 - $500

    • China: $400 - $1,500

    • South Korea: $800 - $1,000

    • Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar: $1,000 - $2,000

      Many teachers, particularly in South Korea, China and the Persian Gulf countries receive free furnished housing or a housing stipend, and/or free or reimbursed airfare.  Receiving free housing is a huge factor in enabling savings, and getting your airfare covered can significantly reduce your own start-up costs.

  • Explore multiple opportunities in multiple countries – Considering and exploring multiple job opportunities in multiple countries will ultimately give your more choice when it comes to the teaching job you accept and it will give you a better chance of landing a good paying position that will enable you to save more of your income.

    save money while teaching English abroad

  • Think outside the box and stretch yourself - If you’ve only ever considered teaching English in Europe, but you want or need to make and save more money than you can make teaching English there, broaden your horizons and consider going to Asia where you can make and save great money.  Nations like China, Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan all offer a great international experience. 

    And guess what?!  After you teach English in a place like South Korea or China and save $10,000 - $15,000 after a year of teaching, chances you are you’ll be able to afford several months of travel in Europe and you can stay on and teach if you so choose. 

  • Take on private students – Wherever you teach English abroad, chances are that you can make extra money by giving private lessons.  From China and South Korea, to Spain, Germany, Turkey and Argentina, many individuals or parents will pay the equivalent of $20, $30 or even up to $50 an hour or more for private lessons.  Many foreign English teachers can make double per hour giving private lessons compared to their hourly wage at the school where they teach. In Europe, many English teachers are able to earn the equivalent of an extra $300-$600 a month or even more and in a nation like China, where the demand for private lessons are nearly insatiable, many English teachers in China can make the equivalent of an extra $10,000 or more a year.

To learn more about giving private lessons, read: Can I Make Money as a Private Tutor While Teaching English Abroad

  • Learn to live and shop like a local - In many countries around the world, the cost of living can be quite lower compared to what you may be used to in the U.S., Canada, or the U.K. From 30-cent bus rides to groceries, travel and nearly every other basic good or service, the cost of living in a country like China,
    Vietnam or Thailand is typically a fraction compared to the U.S. This is one major reason why it is possible for foreigners in Asia in particular to make and save great money. That said, as an expatriate living in a foreign country, it's easy to fall into the trap of hanging out, eating/drinking and shopping at "foreigner - friendly" establishments and that usually means paying over-inflated "foreigner" or "tourist" prices. You will save a ton more money if you learn how to take public transportation (which means no car loan, insurance or gas money), shop at local markets, and also if you avoid pricey restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
  • Get a roommate - If your employer doesn’t provide free housing, look to get an apartment with a roommate to share costs and lower living expenses. In most countries, finding other English teachers or local citizens looking to share an apartment is typically pretty easy.

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