How to Move Abroad on a Budget (10 Moving Hacks)

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The cost of moving to a new country can be expensive endeavor…particularly as you get older and accumulate nice things. When you are young and single, it’s easy to sell all your stuff, pack a few suitcases, and couch surf until you get on your feet.

However, for many (most?) of us this is not a realistic scenario. Most of the time we do need or want to take the things we own with us when we move abroad. After all, some have sentimental value, others are just too costly to replace in your new destination, and sometimes your couch just fits you perfectly and you’d never give it up.

One thing is consistent across movers, however: whether moving internationally for work, retirement, or some other reason, cost (and budget) is usually top of mind. Shipping your stuff is typically the biggest cost of an international move unless you’re dealing with lawyers to help with a visa.

The good news is there are ways to keep your moving costs down. Here are our tips for moving on a budget so that you can keep some extra cash in your pocket:

Tips for moving on a budget

1. Consider which items you truly want to ship.

Shipping your furniture, dishware, and other household items are one of the most expensive parts of moving abroad (only the visa process is typically more expensive). Consider a thorough declutter of your household items before requesting moving quotes. This will help you reduce costs but also the work of going back and forth with moving companies. Check out our tips on decluttering before you move.

2. Get free boxes for packing and moving.

There is no need to spend money on boxes! Most full-service, door-to-door moving companies provide packing supplies. However, if you still want or need more moving boxes then do not purchase them. Check out Craigslist and local liquor stores for free boxes. In an effort to reduce waste, U-Haul helps its customers sell, give away, or find boxes and moving supplies. Check out their customer message board.
Moving Boxes

3. Get multiple moving quotes to ensure competitive pricing.

You’d get more than one quote if you’re buying a car, right? So, be sure to request 3-4 moving quotes from reputable moving companies. Getting more than that will be a headache for you to manage and can be a slippery slope where you’re only focused on price when hiring an international mover. At GoodMigrations, we make this process easy by helping you gather and organize quotes from reputable moving companies. Whether you use our tool or not though, be sure to shop around so that you can stick to your moving budget.

4. Check airfare deals before you book your flights. 

If your move date is flexible, wait until you see a special promotion or discount for travel to your destination. This can save hundreds of dollars off a regularly priced flight. You can sign up for alerts and get emailed when prices drop. A few sites offering these services are Airfare WatchdogSkyscanner, and even Kayak Alerts

A related hack is to look for flights to nearby cities and then take a train to your final destination – this works best in places like Europe, which have extensive and affordable rail systems.

5. Go abroad as an English teacher

International schools are often looking for teachers for any number of subjects. And in places like China there are schools and companies always looking for people who can teach the English language. If you qualify for these roles, it can mean your relocation fees are paid for and you’ve got guaranteed income. Our Ultimate Guide to Moving Abroad discusses more ways to get paid to be an expat.

6. Figure out if you can reside there on a tourist visa

If you’re a digital nomad and don’t need a job physically located in the new country, you may be able to live there for a while on a tourist visa. This is much easier and much cheaper to get than a work visa. Sometimes you can extend these when they’re close to expiring. Just make sure you’re not violating any laws in your host country.

7. Live with a roommate

For most people, rent is the biggest fixed expense they have. On top of rent, if you’re moving to an unfurnished home you’ll need to buy furniture, which is another big expense. A good way to reduce your overall rent and the need to get furniture is to find someone who already has a fully furnished place and is just looking for a roommate. Just about every major city has websites that make it easy to find roommates.

8. Transfer your money wisely

Little costs add up quickly, and transferring money to a new bank account is one of those things where the fees start adding up. A bank-to-bank transfer is the most expensive way to move your money. TransferWise is a peer to peer marketplace and can be the cheapest way. There are also dozens of money transfer sites out there that offer better rates than banks. Just check the fine print on any that say “0 fees”…they’re going to be making money off a higher rate than you might get elsewhere.

Keep foreign transaction fees down and check out our article on currency exchange

9. Pick a cheap destination

If you’re being relocated by your employer then you likely don’t have much say in where you’re going. But if this is a self-initiated move then you can pick a more affordable country.

You don’t have to rule out Europe just because it seems so expensive. Sure, places like London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Rome are going to be pricey. But cities in countries like Portugal, Hungary, and Slovenia will be much more affordable while still offering that European charm.

Other locations also have a great lifestyle at a lower cost. Colombia, Thailand, and the Dominican Republic all offer a per person monthly cost of living for under $2000 USD, including rent.

10. Accommodations Upon Arrival

When moving to a new city or country, most people need temporary accommodations when they arrive while they look for a more permanent home. Hotels are the most expensive place you can stay. There are cheaper options available, such as short-term sublets on sites like Craigslist and home sharing sites like Airbnb or Housetrip.

If you’re looking for more information on how to have a successful move abroad, check out our Ultimate Guide to Moving Abroad, which provides 11 amazing “chapters” of advice.

Happy moving!

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