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Money Saving Tips For When You Move Abroad

October 13, 2015 expats / how-to

Airplane and Luggage

All the Money Saving Tips you Need to Move You Life Abroad

There are many reasons people move abroad other than a job transfer. Couples who are from different parts of the world will settle in one partner’s home country. A person may be looking for a new adventure. A person may want to return to their parent’s or grandparent’s homeland.

Whatever the reason for moving overseas, the move itself can be very expensive and then there’s the settling in: a home, furniture and vehicle being the biggest costs. A lot of pre-planning is required to make the transition go smoothly, and we’ve found some good money-saving advice so you won’t go bankrupt in the process.

Read on and save.

Money saving tips for moving abroad

The Move: International Removals and Taking Pets Abroad

When relocating from the States to Europe, Jamie Shaw of 2MoveAbroad lowered her moving costs by about 70%, much of those savings coming from selling the contents of her one-bedroom apartment. She also saved $400 by choosing the self-pack option for the goods she was having shipped; you may be able to save even more if you opt to pick up the delivery at your destination country instead of having it delivered to your new home.

When deciding whether or not you should bring something with you, the rule of thumb is to calculate the difference between shipping and replacement costs. If it costs more to ship than to replace, sell it.

If you’re able to pack your life into a few (heavy) suitcases, you may want to see if a luggage delivery service like SendMyBag makes sense. The cost of delivering a 30kg suitcase from the UK to anywhere in the world in 1-2 days starts at EUR105, and there are discounts for students shipping abroad.

Spend time researching your moving company. It’s not just money you can save here, but headaches too. At the expat site Just Landed, there’s an article about how to choose a removal company for a move abroad. Written by the team at AGS Movers, the first step is to check if the moving company is accredited by the Federation of International Furniture Removers or is a member of another national or international movers organization.

Check any customer reviews you can find, and compare prices and services offered with at least three moving companies. The lowest price is not necessarily the best deal: you need to look at things like the shipment method and if customs clearance is quoted, as well as the time frame involved and details as to terminal or port fees. Some companies offer packing and unpacking services at an additional cost which you might want to take advantage of, especially if the relocation is being paid for an employer.


The Dog

Give yourself plenty of lead time when a family pet is involved in a relocation. Requirements for vaccinations and certifications vary depending on the country you’re moving to, and you may have to be prepared to have your pet quarantined for a period of time upon arrival.

If you’re traveling from or to the UK, PBS Pet Travel can help. They’ve got import and export information on the site, including the general rules for EU and non-EU countries as well as the documentation required. You can get either an itemized quote (have all your pet’s information handy), or ask for a basic estimate on their quick quote form if you just want a ballpark figure.

For international moves outside of Britain, you might see if Animal Airways is for you. They provide global pet relocation with a  focus on veterinarian support, documents and regulation checks, pet cargo services and help with obtaining valid pet passports for every pet entering the European Union. Fill in the “Get Started” form on their website for a quote to get the ball rolling.

Another global pet relocation service is Animal Land Pet Movers. This is a door-to-door service, and they handle everything from making sure your pet’s shots are current and all international import permit requirements are met to arranging the flights, with direct connections whenever possible.


The Money

After making the decision to relocate from the USA to Morocco, Amanda Mouttaki of MarocMama says there are some things you should do before the move: debt reduction, research and build a security fund.

While she and her husband didn’t have a mortgage or credit card debts, they did have education loans to pay off. Carrying that debt with them on their move wasn’t ideal, admits Amanda. It’s easier to start a new life abroad, with the considerable expenses of moving and settling in, without having to also handle debt from back home.

A security fund is something that everyone (not just expats) should have; and Amanda sees her savings as more than emergency money. She plans to use the funds for family travel and to buy a car overseas as well. As long as there’s an untouchable cushion for true emergencies, having money set aside for extraordinary expenses makes sense.

The research you do before moving should give you a detailed and realistic view of your financial future, starting with a monthly budget. Unless the relocation is due to your existing job, Amanda says you should “decide if your skills are transferable to the local workforce, or if you would be able to work remotely.”

In fact, experienced expats routinely recommend preparatory work with respect to nearly every aspect of your finances, going so far as to finding ATMs in foreign countries that don’t charge transaction fees.

“If you are going overseas for an extended period of time, up to a year or longer, making informed financial decisions can save you a lot of money,” writes Volker Poelzl at Transitions Abroad. In order make those decisions, Rick Steves of Rick Steves’ Europe suggests starting by asking your bank some questions about your debit card before you go. These would include:

  • if the card works in the country you’re traveling to
  • if there are fees for withdrawals or purchases made while abroad
  • if there are additional currency conversion or foreign transaction fees charged
  • if there is a limit for ATM withdrawals in the country you’re going to
  • if there are partner banks abroad whose ATMs you can use without a fee

Many people don’t bother getting information from their bank before they head off. They don’t even think to notify their bank or credit card company about their travel plans, which can sometimes result in having foreign transactions declined.

These travelers simply use their debit cards like they would at home, getting cash from ATMs in whatever country they’re in. While that may be okay for a quick trip with a couple of ATM visits, you should definitely make a visit to your bank — before you go — when planning a longer stay.

Prepaid travel money cards are an option to consider, until such time as you open your own bank account in your destination country. Something between a credit card and cash, the team at Finder, an Australian service that compares personal finance products in Australia, explains that currency cards “can be preloaded with multiple currencies, eliminating the worry of currency conversion rates.”

They’re not a new product. George Ward at Third Year Abroad (since moved to Global Graduates) wrote an article about currency cards in 2013. Some of the advantages he lists include:

  • “No ATM withdrawal fees: This is a major benefit as, despite being small, these can soon mount up and eat away at your hard-earned money which you have better things to spend on. Be careful though – some ATM machines have their own fees, so search online for a MasterCard / Visa ATM locator to find a nearby machine that won’t charge you.
  • “Favourable exchange rates: The daily increase and decrease in exchange rates can be baffling. By purchasing your foreign currency before you get to your destination, you secure a better rate, particularly in comparison to converting funds at the airport or in your new territory.
  • “Cheaper than using your card from home: No nasty bank charges, conversion charges or admin fees.”

Gustav Andersson, the Modern Nomad, says “if you spend much time in a given country, it is a good idea to open a bank account there. You can then spend the money without expensive fees and currency conversions.”

“Your ability to open a bank account varies wildly by country, Andersson continues. “Some countries (such as the US) only require that you have a domestic address (which can be a friend’s address) while other countries are much stricter.”

On the other hand, there are some banks that make it easy for the expat to open an account, such as the three UK institutions listed on Moving to London. HSBC has a passport account, which you can open online before you leave home. Lloyds and NatWest are others you can approach; you’ll likely need at minimum your passport and home bank statement to start the process.

One Last Thing

Do remember to turn off your phone’s data roaming until you have set-up a local plan. “Networks tend to charge much more for data abroad,” says Adam at Modest Money. “So, unless you have signed up to a specific travel plan that offers cheaper rates or a fixed daily rate, make sure you turn off data roaming.”


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Images: vikvarga, Public Domain Pictures, Stefano Ferrario

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