4 secrets to living in another country for a few months on the cheap

Guest post by amber linthakhan
By: epSos .de - CC BY 2.0
By: epSos .deCC BY 2.0

Traveling to another country for an extended amount of time is only for the filthy rich and privileged. You can’t possibly afford international travel to some other country! Let alone live there for months at a time!

That’s what we thought, too.

It all comes down to a few simple tactics that are not always that simple to implement. But if you’re serious about making travel possible, then you’ll make it happen.

Here’s a few tips to help make a Vagabond possible.

1: Destination

Find a destination with a low cost of living. Of course you should always consider safety very high on your list but there are many countries you can go that are safe, cheap, and amazing! Places in Central America and in South East Asia have some amazing and cheap places to visit. Trust me, there are plenty more.

Consider arriving at your destination in the off season, costs are considerably cheaper on the low season.

2: Travel Slow

Find a spot, then get comfy. Moving around a country can eat up your budget FAST. So find somewhere you want to be and then stop. Dig into the culture. Soak it up. And go home changed. There is no reason to rush and see it all. You’ll in fact miss everything if you’re worried about getting to everything.

3: Save

Figure out exactly how much money you have going OUT a month, how much you have coming IN. Anything left over goes directly into savings. Seriously, you have to make it a priority. When you do this; travel is possible. Don’t go out buying new clothes for your trip, new luggage etc. You don’t really need it. Save money on all those travel size items by NOT buying them. Soap, shampoo, toothpaste… those are things you can find almost anywhere in the world.

Things we’ve done to save money:

  • Stop going out to eat. Period.
  • Make weekly meal plans. Saves on the grocery bill; honest.
  • Condense your errands to save on gas money. Try to drive less.
  • No extra activities (movies, bars, arcades, etc.) unless they’re free.
  • No cable. If it’s not online somewhere to watch it’s probably not worth watching.
  • We’ve just stopped buying “stuff.” Our can opener makes me want to scream, we need a new one. BUT it still works and thats the bottom line.
  • Stop buying things that are on sale! Our dog ate my favorite pair of flip flips, you know the ones that you could wear with just about anything. BUT I still have other shoes… so I don’t need to buy those clearance flip flops. Right?
  • Do side jobs and/or sell items. All the money goes straight into savings.

4: Reduce Bills

While you’re living abroad, get your bills that you’ll still be responsible for while you traveling as LOW as you can. We took an hour of our time and made a few phone calls and cut all of our “at home” bills down by 90% for the time we are going to be gone. So my best advice if you’re planning on skipping out of the country for a few months… make a few phone calls to check your options.

Cell phone: Call and ask for a “seasonal standby.” With Sprint you can have your service suspended for months at a time for $9 a month per line. But note that for each month your service is suspended it will add another month to your service contract.

Car loan: Call your banks that your loans are through. They may be able to also do the same thing. For a small fee you may be able to miss a few payments, tacking them onto the end of the loans. (Warning: You may end up paying more interest this way.)

Cable/internet service: We use a company named LocalTel for our internet. They allow people to stop service while they’re away. When we arrive home we will have to pay a $20 hook up fee, that’s it. No contracts broken and no other fees associated.

Credit Cards: If you’ve been making more than the minimum payment then take the time you are gone to just make that minimum payment for a while and cut yourself a break. Or even try a phone call to the company to see if you can’t skip payments and have them added to the end. (You may also end up paying more interest this way.)

Mortgage/rent: We are lucky enough that we won’t be responsible for rent while we are gone. Our home in Nebraska has wonderful tenants in it, which covers the mortgage payment. And as long as we move our personal belonging out of the park house we won’t be paying rent in Washington. But if you aren’t in this situation…

Here are a few options:

  • Subletting your home while your gone
  • Use a service like AirBnB to rent out your space out to fellow travelers
  • Finding a house sitter, some are even willing to pay partial rent. Here are four really great sites: Housecarers.com, Trustedhousesitters.com, Mindmyhouse.com, Caretaker.org
  • Again… make a phone call and just ask if there are any options for skipping payments
  • Utilities: Call the companies to explain and see if they can suspend service. Or if you’re getting a house sitter; most know they are responsible for utilities while occupying your home.

Insurance:

  • Auto: Store your cars at the neighbor’s and drop your insurance as low as legally possible
  • Health: Shop around on the internet for travel health insurance. Depending on your needs there are LOTS of options out there. Squaremouth.com is a great place to start shopping around.

With a little dedication and hard work going to live in another country for a few months is a dream that can be reached.

Comments on 4 secrets to living in another country for a few months on the cheap

  1. It would literally never occur to me to pay utilities while house-sitting. That said, I’ve never looked into house-sitting for more than a weekend. Are there professional house-sitters who house-sit in order to have a place to live? That’s one way to avoid rent! Do you pay them or do they pay you?

    • I’ve met a lot of people who scour those house sitting websites and base their travels off of scoring a house sit. I’m not sure on the ‘pro-house sitters’, but there are many that do it on a very regular bases. The ‘rules’ for paying utilities or a small portion of rent and other chores/duties are pretty much based in the individulas doing the house sitting and the ones requesting the house sit. So you could totally score a place 100% free for 1 month or more and all you’d have to do it feed their cat!

      • The company I use for house-sitting makes it clear that the homeowners are still responsible for the utilities while away, it’s in the contract. But if it seems outrageous then we can contact them.

  2. If you’re only staying abroad for a few weeks or months, look into staying in a hostel while abroad. There are many that give huge discounts for long-term stays, and you can still get individual rooms, utilities, shared kitchen, and sometimes even linens. On top of that, you will get to mix with some really interesting people!

  3. I know WWOOF has been discussed here before… a work exchange is a great way to lower your housing and meal costs while also being really immersed in local culture!

    • WWOOFing is a great way to dig into the culture (and earth)! If your flexible with where you want to travel that’s a great way to go!

  4. I can appreciate wanting to travel and see different cultures, but don’t go wanting a trancendental experience. Other countries are not playgrounds designed for Westerners to discover and transform themselves.

    • A big hearty “YES!” to this. I studied abroad in India and have visited since (because wouldn’t you want to return to the country you studied abroad in if you had a great experience?) and it really was horrifying how many people I met on my return visits who were all “I found my true inner self in India!”

      Sigh. Your true inner self is there no matter where you are.

      • But is it really so bad to find “your true inner self” no matter where you are?

        I mean, say Indians came to the States to find their “true inner self.” What’s wrong with that? People here are trying to do the same thing. Pleasure traveling, getting away from our routines and our burdens, has always been used for fulfillment and gaining perspective. That’s why people go on vacations.

        I would encourage people not to creep the natives out on their path to fulfillment, but what’s wrong with traveling for the purpose of finding one’s “true inner self”?

        • I always say that if, when traveling, all you find is yourself, you have missed out. There’s a whole world out there that has nothing to do with you, go check it out! Learning about one’s self is one of the great thing about travel, and I don’t think Stacy and channamasala would disagree. But there is a difference between learning about yourself and turning an entire place or culture into a self-centric experience. Honestly, when I travel, I constantly un-learn things that I held to be true, even about myself. The point for me is to open my eyes and learn about the world.

        • I think ‘finding yourself’ is an awesome added bonus! I think we just need to be aware of how we are in other countries and be respectiful to all. I think most travelors who are looking to gain something have their hearts in the right place.

    • i couldn’t agree more. We shouldnt use other countries as playground. Traveling abroad can be a very eye opening and wonderful experience. If your soul purpose is to ‘find yourself’ you will miss out on a lot. I think going into any travel with an open mind and heart will leave you satisfied and you’ll gain much more then expected .

  5. Also, for the new place – apartment not hotel or even hostel. That goes without saying I guess. A short-term rental, even though it’ll be higher than the monthly rate for a long-term, will still be cheaper than several weeks’ of hostel rates. That’s how we could afford 4 weeks in Istanbul (we were there for a training course). Or look around and see if anyone has a short-term room to rent.

    And you can often make money by tutoring English or picking up hours during summer or winter ‘camps’ at local English schools. You don’t need to have training for these jobs – I am normally in favor of only professional teachers teaching English, but for these camps, someone who can lead kids around singing the ABCs is honestly enough. Find the local online expat forum and search it for “substitute teachers wanted”, or “short term/part time” contracts – you can also often find editing, voice work (like, for commercials and radio ads) and sometimes modeling work!

    Make sure you find a place that allows you to stay for a long time visa-wise. SE Asia and Central America are great that way. Thailand isn’t terribly likely to kick you out of the country. India is also a good destination in terms of cost of living and free/cheap stuff to do, but the visa regulations are far stricter. Other recommended countries: Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka (more expensive than India but easy to get yourself set up in). Turkey has a few good options too – you could live quite nicely for several weeks in, say, Sanliurfa, Goreme, Uchisar or Gaziantep, or even Hatay or Patara etc. without spending too much (although all the good short-term apartment rentals are in Istanbul).

    Alternatively, you could decide to go for one year, get a job teaching English (or something else, it’s just that English teaching jobs are easy to come by) and come back after your one-year contract.

    I only disagree on one item – ‘don’t eat out’. I don’t know about others, but for me, part of the reason I go abroad is for the food. I like to try local specialties, and sometimes I pick a destination just because I like the food (I went all the way to Udupi, India, based solely on my love for masala dosa and I am not joking). You, the foreign visitor, probably don’t know how to cook that food. So…how are you going to try the local food if you never go out to eat?

    Plus, if cooking implements aren’t a part of your living arrangement, buying them could cost as much as several nights’ out, or more. It may not be worth it.

    The good news? Eating out in the countries named is super cheap. Just don’t go anywhere fancy.

    • Awesome advice! I couldn’t agree more, going out to eat in other countries is a MUST. This was stateing more in the ‘planning’ stages. Savinging money while still in your homeland by not going out to eat. Of course in other countries (depending on where) it’s super cheap to eat local. And absoutly encouraged!

    • It sounds like the OP was saying that people should avoid eating out while still at home, in order to save money for the trip. I can’t imagine not eating the local food when traveling!

  6. I have a couple of comments/concerns about the strategies for cutting monthly expenses while you are gone:

    1) For suspending payments on a car loan and adding those on to the end, or only paying the minimum on your credit cards, it’s not “you may end up paying extra in interest”. You absolutely will. There is no such thing as a free lunch and creditors will always charge you interest no matter what you tell them you are doing. I can’t comment on how suspending payments on a car loan would affect your credit, but making the minimum credit card payment is fine. However:

    2) Do not try to get your mortgage payments suspended. This will definitely result in a mortgage modification which is not a good thing if you think you may ever wish to refinance your home. Also, it would be very easy for this to damage your credit. Find someone to rent your home while you’re gone, or save up so you know you can cover that bill in advance.

    3. On a more positive note, you should be able to completely suspend your car insurance while you are gone. If your car will be parked in a safe place and is not likely to be moved at all, your insurance agent should be able to cut your rate significantly and pro-rate a refund while you are gone. I used this benefit when I went to Africa for a month.

  7. Just finished 3 months in India and I’m currently in Nepal, with another 3 months travel ahead of me!

    I agree with a lot of what the OP has said, I was lucky in that I had a rented house. So I moved out and put my stuff in storage; it worked out at about £1000 for 9 months total. Much cheaper than rent!

    While your away look into staying in Homestays. They are family run hostels/hotels, but it’s basically like moving in with a local family. You can get a lot of good memories and experiences. Plus its better for them to have long-term guests as they can plan any meals you’ll have (breakfast and evening meal tend to be included). And you can definitely haggle on price. In fact haggle everywhere you go! 🙂

  8. I love tip #3 and the spelled-out idea of not buying stuff! A few years ago I took a trip overseas and a few friends gave me the old “must be nice to afford that”. Well, actually, I paid for the trip by saving-hard- for years. Nothing v painful- stuff like drinking free coffee at work instead of stopping for a latte on the way and, um, keeping the toiletries from hotels I stayed at during conferences. Now, I know there’s a lot of factors at play here, like comfort level with minimalism, time management for cooking, mending, and walking- and ability to live car-free, but I think the main thing is identifying travel as a priority and maintaining consciousness of one’s budget for everyday decisions. The same friends had teased me about darning my socks “they’re only like, $5” or walking 30 minutes for an errand to avoid bus fare. Some of my money-saving habits are very visible, and I’m glad to read that I’m not alone! The ability to make these choices is a privilege, for sure, and I think it’s important to recognize that no matter what choices you’re making. The other day a friend told me that she couldn’t afford to travel because she was saving for a fancier car. I thought it was interesting that she said that and not “I prefer to spend my money on a car instead of traveling.”

Comments are closed.