Teaching English abroad is a great way to travel the world, learn new languages and sharpen your teaching skills. In this post, I’ll help you create a teach abroad plan and budget to make your transition abroad as smooth as possible!
If teach abroad costs, budgeting and planning and keeping you from starting your teach abroad adventure, then you’re in the right place!
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Create a Teach Abroad Plan
Before any great adventure, you need a plan. If this is your first time teaching abroad, then a plan is especially important. Here are 8 potential teach abroad costs to plan for.
A TEFL Certificate
To begin, before you even think about searching for jobs abroad, you need to make sure you have a TEFL certificate. TEFL stands for teaching English as a Foreign Language and many schools and countries require a TEFL to get a teaching job abroad.
If you are looking for a more affordable and faster option, I recommend a 120-hour TEFL course from Premier TEFL.
All courses from Premier TEFL are accredited and they offer student support like webinars, Instagram live sessions to ask questions and more.
If you are serious about teaching English abroad, then I recommend checking out International TEFL Academy. With over 35,000 alumni, ITA offers accredited courses plus lifetime job search help. You can complete your TEFL online or in-country in locations like Costa Rica, Spain, Thailand, Turkey and More.
Visa Application and Paperwork
The second teach abroad cost is your visa. Depending on your school or program, you may be responsible for paying for the visa application fee.
There is also paperwork like police background checks, certified copies of your diploma, translations of documents and more. In order to plan for these costs, I recommend reaching out to your school or program for an estimate. You can also contact your local embassy.
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The third teach abroad cost is your flight. In most cases, you have to buy your flight abroad. If you’re interested in getting the cost of your flight reimbursed, then I recommend looking for teaching jobs in Asian countries like South Korea, Japan and China.
If you are a certified teacher, international schools often pay for their teachers’ flights as well. Lastly, if you teach abroad with a program like Fulbright, you’ll receive a stipend which can cover the cost of flights.
Storage While Abroad
The fourth teach abroad cost is storage. Once you’ve accepted your job abroad, you need to figure out what to do with all your stuff!
In my case, I usually sell the majority of my possessions and keep anything with sentimental value at my family’s house. If you aren’t willing to part with your things or only plan on being abroad for a year or two, then you can rent out a storage unit.
Initial Housing – AirBnB, Hotel or Hostel
The fifth teach abroad cost is initial housing. If accommodation isn’t offered as part of your contract, then you’ll want to book an AirBnB, hotel or hostel for the first 2 weeks or so.
This will give you plenty of time to check out places to live. I do not recommend setting up housing until you are actually in the country and can physically inspect it.
These days, many countries have apps or websites where you can search for accommodation. Another option is to ask current teachers at your school or in your program about how they found accommodation.
The sixth teach abroad cost is your housing deposit. Depending on the country, you could be required to put down a deposit equal to a month or two of rent. If accommodation is included in your contract, then you can leave this expense off of your list.
Your First Month (or Two!) of Expenses
The seventh teach abroad cost is your first month of expenses. You probably won’t get paid for your first month of teaching until the following month. Make sure to include a month or two worth of food, bills, and transport costs in your teach abroad costs plan.
Furnishing Your Accommodation
The eighth teach abroad cost is furnishing your accommodation. If you end up renting a place that isn’t furnished, you need to plan for purchasing furniture and appliances.
I recommend trying to find a furnished apartment if possible. Out of my nearly 11 years of teaching abroad, I’ve only lived in one unfurnished apartment!
Ok, that seems like a LOT of money! Are you starting to rethink your decision to teach abroad? Don’t! Let’s look at some teach abroad money tips to help you finance your time abroad.
Teach Abroad Money Tips
Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor. I can only speak from my experience as someone teaching abroad for the past 10 years. Please speak with a professional for specific advice.
Now that you have a nice long list of teach abroad start-up costs, I’m going to share 5 teach abroad money tips.
Teach Abroad Money Tip #1: Get an extra job for 3-9 months before going abroad
The teach abroad process isn’t something that takes a few weeks. You’ll need time to wait for paperwork to process, visa appointments and contract negotiations. While you are waiting to finalize your contract and visa, pick up an extra job or two to help cover your start up costs.
Working hard for 3-9 months will be worth it when you can move abroad without financial worry. In my opinion, teaching online is a great option for people looking to teach abroad.
You can sharpen your teaching skills and can also potentially continue this second job while abroad, allowing for job security and extra pocket money abroad.
Teach Abroad Money Tip #2: Use Wise to get the best exchange rates
When moving abroad to another country, you’ll often need to transfer money between your new bank account and your bank account in your home country. The easiest way to do this is to use an app called Wise (formerly known as Transferwise).
Wise has some of the lowest exchange rates and fees around and is a MUST when teaching abroad. I use Wise to transfer money from my US bank account to my Australian account and vice versa. Wise also has a handy digital wallet feature that allows you to hold currency from different countries.
Teach Abroad Money Tip # 3: Apply to programs with benefits
If you’re hoping to move abroad without spending a lot of money AND want to be able to save money while abroad, then the best options are schools in South Korea and China. If you’re a certified teacher, I recommend applying for international schools through agencies like Search Associates or ISS.
Both of these options offer competitive salaries and bonuses. Your package may include flights, accommodation, health insurance, allowance and bonuses.
Teach Abroad Money Tip #4: Teach abroad in countries with a low cost of living
If you aren’t interested in South Korea or China and you’re not a certified teacher, then going to a country with a low cost of living can be a great option. Living expenses like accommodation, transportation, food and bills will be significantly lower.
However, do consider how much you’ll be earning and look for jobs where you’ll be able to save money instead of just breaking even.
Teach Abroad Money Tip #5: Get a grant or scholarship to teach or go abroad
Did you know that you can teach or go abroad for free? I spent a year in Egypt and Spain thanks to a grant from Rotary International in 2010-2011. I also taught in Costa Rica for free thanks to a scholarship from Lawrence University.
To find out how to teach or go abroad for free, watch this video.
Ok, you’ve got a teach abroad plan, you have some ideas on how to finance your plan, now let’s look at a teach abroad budget.
How to Make a Teach Abroad Budget
The basics of budgeting involve predicting or tracking your costs compared with your income. So what can you do when you’re moving to a new country where you aren’t sure how much things cost?
You can use the website numbeo.com as a reference. You’ll find information on rent & transportation, utilities, clothing, and food. It’s also a good idea to contact current or former teachers at your school or in your program to get an idea of costs.
If you are doing a teach abroad program, there’s often a Facebook group for prospective, current and former teachers. This is a great place to find information on available accommodation, buy furnishings and items from departing teachers and share general information.
Additionally, there are many Reddit forums for English teachers and expats abroad.
What to include in your teach abroad budget
- Bills (electricity, water, internet, phone)
- Gym/club membership
- Transportation (monthly pass, etc.)
- Going out
- Payments back home (car, student loans, etc.)
- Clothing, shampoo, other miscellaneous purchases
- Teaching supplies
- Subscriptions (Netflix, Spotify, Audible, etc.)
- Savings and investments
I hope this video helps you create a teach abroad plan & budget! I guarantee that a bit of planning will help make your transition abroad smoother.
Check out this video for more teach abroad finance tips.
Not sure what to pack when teaching abroad? Here are 7 things to bring with you when teaching abroad.
Ready to take the leap and teach abroad but need step by step help? Check out my self-study online course The TEFL Teacher Roadmap. This is the exact process I’ve used to teach in 6 different countries!