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Living Abroad on a Budget

The British government has announced that it’s going to survey its people to find out whether they are happy or not.  Apparently the findings will sit alongside GDP figures, and statisticians and politicians will then be able to work out whether people have a decent quality of life in the UK.

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics has revealed that 344,000 people moved abroad in the year to September 2010, and both Lloyds TSB and Skandia have revealed that wealthy Britons are particularly disaffected by the state of the UK at the moment, with up to 56% thinking about moving abroad.

So, whilst the government wonders whether the nation is happy, those who can will demonstrate with their feet and leave.  But what about the rest of us…i.e., those of us who are not high net worth and who could end up living abroad on a budget, if indeed a relocation overseas is even possible?  Well, the good news is, today we’re going to show you how moving and living abroad, even on a tight budget, is perfectly possible.  Forget relying on the government and a happiness index to find out if you’re joyful – the only way to be happy is to live the life you want.

Cheap Countries to Live in Abroad

As we explained in our article ‘the 5 cheapest countries to retire to,’ cheap is a relative term.  For a billionaire, the whole world is cheap!

ExpatForum.com recently produced a fairly in depth guide to the cheapest countries to be an expat in, and they broke it down by continent.

Taking Europe as an example, they identified that the nations teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and eurozone ejection could be the best bets for those seeking an affordable cost of living.

Think Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland then – although they also suggested that the UK is fairly cheap.  We would beg to differ on that score – the rate of personal income tax coupled with VAT and fuel duty, added to utility costs and basic food costs makes living in the UK seriously expensive.

If you’re not too taken with ExpatForum’s findings therefore, and you’re not sure about where you want to live but you’re wholly driven by price, Mercer’s Cost of Living Index 2011 could be a good place to start.

It identifies that cities such as Leipzig in Germany, Manama in Bahrain, Adelaide in Australia and Ottawa in Canada are cheap – demonstrating that you can find affordable on any continent.  You just have to know how and where to look, which leads us neatly on to…

Working Out the Cost of Living Abroad

As stated, cheap is a relative term – but not only is it relative to how much money you have, it’s relative to the wealth of the local population, and the cost of living abroad in a given destination.

Therefore, you need to look closely at the cost of living abroad.  However, that’s easier said that done right?  When you’re sat at home in the UK, dreaming of relocation and you have a country or a city in mind, how on earth can you find out how much it really costs to live there?

Well, the answer is right here on Expatra; we posted a report entitled ‘How to Find the Cost of Living Abroad’ that has proved particularly popular…


Because it contains links to genuine resource that can help, it also lays out what you need to look at to start pricing up whether you can afford to live abroad on your budget.

The article breaks down the costs you need to compare, and it introduces you to resources such as Numbeo.com where you can not only compare costs around the world, you can contribute your own data about where you live now, to help the community which uses the resource.

We hope you find the report and the resources useful in working out where in the world your current budget will allow you to live.  However, we also know that you need to be able to afford the relocation before you can even commit to emigration…

Affording to Move Abroad

Moving abroad doesn’t have to be expensive.  Yes, you heard us right.  And no, we haven’t gone mad!

Ok, so in the past we’ve talked about whether you can afford to move abroad if you haven’t got financial security already.  But seriously, as long as you’re not buried in debt, (if you are, see below for tips about getting out of debt to enable you to move), you can afford to move abroad.

Firstly you may not be able to afford to move to live in your dream destination if that requires long haul airfares, visa costs or a massive salary just to afford to rent a pokey one-bedroom hole.  However, as long as your destination is within your affordability range, you can move there.

You may have to rent out or sell your current home, you may need to have a massive sale of goods to free up all the ‘equity’ in your accrued assets, (i.e., your furniture, car, CD/DVD collection and so on)…and you may need to intensively save for the short-term to get the required funds together, but it is perfectly possible.

Firstly you need to identify the cheap country you’re going to be living in, (see above).

Secondly you need to check out the cost of living using all the online tools available to you – including forums where you can tap in to local expat knowledge and get really insightful data about what it will really cost you to live overseas.

With all of this information in mind you’re ready to formulate your personal relocation plan.  Your plan will come down to money as the bottom line.  How much money will you need: –

  • To get a valid passport in place
  • To get required visas for relocation/employment abroad
  • To find somewhere to live – even if that’s just for an initial month whilst you find work and your feet overseas (by the way, have you heard of EasyRoomMate.com – it could be your answer to cheap accommodation abroad?)
  • For your airfare/travel costs
  • To relocate your family and pets (if applicable).  Remember, if you can’t all afford to go at once, can you go and set up a home and get solid employment in place so that you can then ‘sponsor’ your family to join you?
  • To move your personal effects overseas?  Again, this is not necessarily something you have to do now or even ever.  You may prefer to sell everything, give it away or store it for free with willing family and friends.  This is certainly not an expense you have to incur now…

With your final figure determined it’s simply a case of having that as your target, and working towards achieving it.  However, if you’re in debt and the thought of ever being able to save enough to move is beyond you right now, keep reading…

Overcoming Debt and Living Abroad

We wrote a money management plan for expats as well as for those who really want to move abroad. We did this in response to the fact that emigration figures from the UK have fallen, specifically because of lack of affordability factors.

We hate the thought that some people are restricted from realising their dream because of a lack of cash.  What’s more, expats often end up in a much better position to slash any debt they have once they move abroad, so we’re all for enabling people to live abroad on a budget, because it can lead to a better life on so many levels.

Here’s what our money management plan suggests for anyone dreaming of living abroad who needs to overcome their debts first: –

Face your debts – you can’t run away from them when you relocate, and if you don’t face them, the accruing interest charges will make them grow out of control.

In facing them you can identify priority and non-priority debts, snowball them (i.e., throw everything you have at the priority debts first, and work your way down).

You can forget about saving until you’ve got rid of debts – why pull yourself in two directions and why save when you pay more interest on debt that you earn on savings?

Be absolutely ruthless and cut out every single inessential spend – because come on, you have a dream to live abroad and you need to achieve that dream by a) getting out of debt and then b) saving up to afford your relocation.

And remember that you’re not alone – and that just because you’re in debt, you’re not a bad person!  We’ve ALL been there (well, most ‘normal’ people have anyway) – what’s more, in taking action to get out of debt and get a new life, you’re one in a million, a unique and special person who’s taking control of their destiny and making their dreams come true.

We’re right with you all the way.

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