Moving to a new country: it’s exciting, it’s exhilarating, and maybe it’s just a little bit intimidating. Making sure you have all your finances in order before you hop on that plane will help you feel a little more secure and confident when you get to your new home. Here’s how to get started.
Define your goals
First thing’s first. Be clear about why you’re moving abroad and what you hope to get out the experience. Did you get a promotion? Or are you planning on being a digital nomad and freelancing your way through Europe? Are you working as a sailing instructor in the Bahamas and traveling the Caribbean in your free time? Knowing what you want to get out of your experience will help you prioritize your budget and allow you to spend more on the things that really matter to you.
Add up your debts
Make a list of any financial obligations you’re taking with you when you move. These might be student loan payments. If you’re a homeowner you’ll still need to consider that mortgage payment in your plans even if you’re renting or Airbnbing your house while you’re gone. Everything will probably turn out fine, but there’s always a chance your renter falls through or you can’t fill up your Airbnb schedule. You’ll need to have some savings set aside to step in with the mortgage payment if that does happen.
Know what funds you have coming in
If you have steady employment lined up, this step should be easy. This number would be your monthly take-home salary, or what you get paid after taxes, healthcare, etc. are taken out. If you don’t have a steady job lined up, do your best to estimate your average monthly intake. You can do this by searching around on cost of living websites like Expatisan to figure out what everyday items costs. Many expat bloggers have also shared their own experiences finding work abroad. If you have monthly debts that you’ll need to pay in U.S. dollars, then it’s very important you know what the exchange rate is between the dollar and whatever currency you’ll be paid in. This will help you understand what percentage of your pay will go to those bills and what you still have to spend.
Find the right neighborhood
Try to keep your budget in mind when you’re searching for the right neighborhood. That might mean eliminating the need for cars and taxis by finding a place close enough to walk to work or take public transportation. It might also mean ruling out that London apartment with the picturesque view of Big Ben. It looks like a fairy tale, but as one of the most expensive cities in the world, chances are you’re going to be paying a premium for that London view. Is the view more important to you or is it more important to have that money available to travel or go out with your new friends? You can use GoodMigrations’ Neighborhood Explorer to find the best neighborhood for you in the top global expat cities. When you’re budgeting for your home, you should also keep in mind any fees associated with renting in your new city. For example, you may be responsible for paying for the required credit check or for providing first and last months’ rent up front.
Plan for Day to Day expenses
The last thing you’ll need to know is how much it will cost for you to live your day-to-day life in your new city. For example, if you’re moving to an island nation, groceries and other common items might be more expensive because they need to be shipped in. Or, if you’re moving to a big city, restaurants and bars may be more expensive than you’re used to. You can do some research online to get a feel for the cost of some of the things you might be buying weekly.
Budget for the Actual Move
Now that you know how much you’ll need to live on before you get that first paycheck and how much you need in case of an emergency back home, you can figure out how much you need to actually get you and all your stuff there.
How will you get there?
Planes, trains, or automobiles? What’s the best way for you to get to your new home? If taking your car is practical, that might cut down on some of the moving costs since you can pack it full of the essentials (assuming you’re moving to a country you can safely reach by car). Just be sure you budget for gas, food on the road, and any accommodations you’ll need to stay in during your move.
What do you need to bring?
Before you start talking to movers, figure out what you need to move. Will you bring furniture with you or is your apartment fully furnished? If not, be sure you compare the costs of shipping your items or buying new ones once you arrive. The same goes for items like bulky winter clothes. If you’re moving to a warmer climate, you may be paying to move something that you’ll never need.
Do you need a professional?
If you plan to use an international moving company, it’s important that you get 3-5 moving quotes before you dive into a contract. You might find that one company offers more services like providing all the packing materials, compared to a cheaper company that may offer fewer services. Comparing prices and services will help you get the biggest bang for your buck.
Is Fido or Fluffy coming with you?
If you’re bringing your pet internationally you may have to budget for separate travel arrangements to make sure they get there safe and sound. You’ll also want to check with your new country and see what you’re legally required to do to register your pet. That might mean additional vet visits to get them up-to-date on vaccines, license and registration fees, or even time spend in special quarantine when they first get there.
Kylee Della Volpe is a writer and editor for mortgages.com. She loves traveling and writing about personal finance. If she could move anywhere in the world it would be Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.