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How to save money when working abroad

The life of a digital nomad is appealing. But how can you maintain financial stability while working abroad?

Digital nomads need money not only to keep up with expenses while traveling, but also to save for their future. Here are a few tips to meet your financial goals while enjoying your time overseas.

Bring in enough to fund your savings

Some of the most successful digital nomads are those freelancers and entrepreneurs who charge what they’re worth and actively pursue high-paying clients.

There are a few ways that you can do this:

Charge what you’re worth.If you’re not sure how to come up with a rate, divide your current salary by 2,000 — the number of hours typically worked in a year (40 hours a week over about 50 weeks). Double that amount to come up with an hourly rate you should be charging, taking into account benefits and income taxes.
Don’t hesitate to charge a lot.It may seem counterintuitive, but many employers see higher rates as a sign of high quality. Don’t devalue your skills and experience simply to land a contract.
Choose your work carefully.When possible, find work through referrals from other professionals rather than use popular freelancing sites. These sites typically take a percentage of your money, not to mention the low-quality employers on the hunt for the cheapest workers.
Do your best to cultivate referrals.On that note, consider consulting within a field you’re interested in, and ask for referrals and recommendations after you’ve done a bang-up job.

Prioritize your savings

Before embarking on your round-the-world exploits, consider how you’ll continue building up a significant retirement nest egg.

A few financial rules of thumb:

  • Strive to save half of your salary. By squirreling away at least half of what you earn, you’ll easily invest in your retirement.
  • Abide by the 4% rule. Investments typically increase by 7% per year. After accounting for 3% inflation, that leaves 4% to spend freely without dipping into the principal.
  • Invest in your future. Put 25% of your monthly income into a personal retirement plan or an investment property.

Send money when working abroad

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24 hours

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OFX has no maximum limit transfers, with competitive exchange rates for 45+ currencies.
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XE has fast transfers with low fees and a range of foreign currency tools.
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From $1.99

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New customers send USD 20 to Lebanon and use code ADD10 for a USD 10 discount. Valid till 7 November 2021. T&Cs apply.
WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups.
Wise (TransferWise)
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From $2.26

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Wise uses the mid-market rate and transparent fees to help you send money in 45+ currencies.
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Exclusive: Use code GET60 to save 30 USD on each transaction over 200 USD. Valid for the first two transactions and till 30 November 2021. T&Cs apply.
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Western Union
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Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world.
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MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide.

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Limit discretionary spending

Sure, it’s tempting to indulge while enjoying the new adventures you encounter during your travels. But keep your two goals in mind: maintaining overall financial stability while also saving toward retirement.

A few easier ways to save:

  • Cook and hang at home. For every night you go out to restaurants or on day trips, enjoy a few nights cooking or getting together with friends at home.
  • Limit souvenirs. Most trinkets end up collecting dust, no matter how interesting they are at first. Invest in affordable experiences instead.
  • Explore cheaper travel options. Be flexible with your travel dates and hours, and consider deviating from your plans if the price is right.

Keep track of your finances

Saving money while working abroad is different from simply putting money in a savings account back home.

To set out on the right foot and protect your savings:

  • Hire a financial planner. If you work for several companies in different countries, you could have smaller pensions. A planner consolidates these accounts for you so they’re ready when you retire.
  • Be aware of inflation. Calculate an annual rate of 5% inflation into your savings. Your savings will decrease by that percentage each year as the cost of living rises.
  • Watch exchange rates. Fluctuating currency rates can affect your savings. Consider keeping your savings in a range of currencies, so that if one exchange rate drops, you can use a stronger currency.
  • Get international insurance. Coverage can protect you against medical emergencies, political upheaval and damages during moves.

By watching your finances and remaining diligent about saving as much as you can, you’ll earn enough to maintain a comfortable lifestyle as a digital nomad while also stockpiling money for your slower golden years. Here’s to your new adventures!

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