How to Save for—and Pay for—Work Abroad Programs

by Published | Updated

As you sit at your desk, daydreaming about working overseas, a few things probably come to mind. Instagram pictures of you meandering through a European cities? Yes. Snorkeling along a beautiful coral reef in crystal blue water as fish swim all around you? Umhm. 

How to save for work abroad? You know, those financial implications and the required planning to save and pay the upfront costs? ...Maaaaybe not so much. 

[Download our FREE eBook for even more tips & tales from first time workers abroad]

man working in Jakarta, Indonesia

Working abroad And a little startup cash.

But, you should. Because even though you are participating in work abroad programs, there are still upfront costs to consider. The benefit of overseas work programs is that you have the support of professionals to help you find a job, get settled into your new country, and handle some of the pesky logistics associated with moving. But that is complicated and it certainly isn’t free. 

Before you have a chance to mingle with a foreign culture, there are some pesky money issues you need to work out. Here's how to save for—and pay for—working abroad.

I gotta pay to play?!

Yes, you gotta pay to play. Overseas work programs are like any other business; they require extensive human resources and capital to handle the logistics of bringing people across the world, placing them in jobs, and dealing with all of the associated tasks that come with that (i.e. VISAS). But, ultimately, the support and logistics help you are paying for is worth it. 

[Get matched with affordable work abroad programs]

What do work abroad program fees cover?

Every line item in the total price of work abroad programs will vary, but usually, you can expect that they will provide or help you coordinate housing, set you up with your job, provide visa assistance, and offer general support for you once you arrive. 

But, keep in mind that those are just program costs. There are, of course, other costs associated with moving that may or may not be included in your program fee. You know, plane tickets, visa applications, housing/rent, transport once you are in your new location, etc., etc.

When you are planning your great escape via a overseas work program, it is important to figure out which costs are included and which costs you will need to pay for out of pocket on top of that. Knowing the total cost will help you plan and save appropriately. 

Pro tips to save money for work abroad programs

Hopefully, you aren’t totally bummed out by the financial considerations of moving abroad. They aren’t a fun reality, but they also shouldn’t deter you from it entirely.

Luckily, you can mitigate some of the pain to your wallet by saving ahead of time. I have moved internationally twice and I also happen to be...very careful with money (ahem...I’m cheap). 

Below are some strategies for how to save for work abroad that you can use to get your personal finances under control now and help you save some cash to pay for those upfront costs of work abroad programs. 

[How to Prepare for Working & Moving Abroad]

tracking finances

Track your spending diligently to look for places to trim fat.

Pay Yourself First (Hide it From Yourself) 

Set up an automatic deposit from your paycheck that places however much you want to save each month into a special account that you don’t look at and don’t have access to. With the money out of sight and out of mind, you will much less tempted to spend it. You will be surprised how quickly even a little savings each month adds up when you don’t touch it after a few months. 

Do a Full Personal Audit

This can get emotional. 

To control your spending, you need to know how you are spending it.  Not how you think you are spending it, but how you actually spend it. 

I suggest writing down every last thing you buy for two weeks. Every last cent should go into a spreadsheet or notebook. And don’t set up anything automatic, do it the old fashion way, recording by hand each transaction so you really have to think about each purchase.

At the end of the two weeks, review your purchases. What purchases are necessary? Which ones surprise you? Are you shocked at how much you are spending going out for coffee or drinks? Do you “splurge” a little more oft than you thought?

Though it can be tough to face, once your audit is complete, you can begin to cut away the fat. This requires that you be honest with yourself. Is that Starbucks each day necessary? Did you really need that new watch? 

Make a conscious effort to start cutting out the things you don’t need, and then.... 

Track Everything, Everyday

With some of your fat cut away, continue to track every purchase every day, reviewing weekly or biweekly how you are doing at limiting those little unnecessary purchases. 

The reason it is important to write down all of your purchases is the same reason people record their meals when they try to lose weight. It makes it harder to cheat, because if you do cheat, you have to face that personal shame when you write it down later. 

Recording all of your spending is also helpful for staying motivated. As you see your daily and weekly costs going down, you can feel a sense of accomplishment at sticking to your plan, and you are rewarded by being able to see exactly how much you are saving for your work abroad program fees.

[The World’s Best Places to Work Abroad in 2018—GoAbroad Official Report] 

pouring latte art

We’re all suckers for latte art, but you’ve gotta cool it. 

Only Pay in Cash (It’s proven to force you to spend less)

Debit and Credit cards make you swipe like a boy on Tinder after a bad night out at the bar. Plastc just makes spending money wayyyyy to easy.    

Instead, pay for everything in cash. Go to the ATM, take out the amount you hope to spend over the next few days, stick in your wallet, and be firm with yourself about only spending that amount. Forcing yourself to pull cold, hard, cash out of your wallet will help you think twice about pulling the trigger on unnecessary purchases. 

No Big Purchases Until After Your Get Your Paycheck

I never buy anything “big” until my next paycheck. Why? Because by the time my next paycheck comes around, I have usually forgotten about the thing I had to have two weeks before. Minimizing those impulse buys, no matter how small, will help add up to big savings by the end of the month. And plus, you are a Millennial, you are a minimalist who spends on experiences over material goods anyway!

[How to Choose Between Work Abroad Programs]

Sell Your Crap

You have a lot of stuff you don’t wear, don’t use or don’t need anymore. Selling old clothes to resale shops like Crossroads and selling other goods  on Craigslist are ways to add a little cash to pocket. When you get rid of your junk, you also don’t have to worry about paying for storage when you get ready to leave. You are saving money for your  work abroad program every which way! 

$$$ Side Hustle $$$

Start. A. Side. Hustle. This is the gig-economy baby! It has all the excitement of the 90s except everyone is depressed and no one has any money. But besides that, it is the exact same. 

But the gig-economy really is fantastic for those who have talents and skills that can be turned into a side-hustle to make extra money. From writing to graphic design to web design to walking dogs to becoming an Uber driver, there are a ton of different ways to add multiple revenue streams to help pay for your work work abroad program 

Less Netflix, more cash flow. That is what I always say. 

[Save and compare work abroad programs side-by-side with MyGoAbroad]

Man pulling cash out of wallet

Pay for everything in cash. You’ll spend less!

Affordable work abroad programs to start saving for

Now that I have solved all of your personal finance worries for the next few decades, here are a few awesome, affordable work abroad programs to get your research started.

Work and Travel in Ireland with Stint

Enjoy a working holiday through Stint Ireland. Stint will support you before you even leave with your visa process, allowing you to focus on enjoying Irish culture and gaining professional work experience. No matter what job you end up with, you’ll have good craic and the best happy hours in the world. Another pint, please! 

Related: Read Stint Ireland reviews | Visit their site

Au Pair with InterExchange

InterExchange, a non-profit organization, continues to promote intercultural awareness through offering work and volunteer exchange programs. Live and work with a family in Australia as their au pair. You’ll get a first-hand look at day-to-day life and totally perfect your scary witch voice for bedtime stories. 

Related: Read InterExchange reviews | Visit their site

Hit the Slopes with We Are Sno

This work abroad program is an opportunity to become a ski instructor in beautiful Canada or Japan with only one to two weeks experience skiing. We Are Sno will train you to become a ski instructor and then you will spend November to April swooshing down the slopes and teaching others to ski.

Related: Read more about We Are Sno | Visit their site

rummage store

If all else fails: sell everything you own. You won’t be able to pack that “Friends” box set anyway.

Work in International Education with Abbey Road

Become a summer program staff in Italy, France or Spain! Abbey Road is screening candidates for several positions, including Program Coordinators, Program Directors, Recruitment Assistants, and Instructors. Summer staff and faculty are typically made up of university directors, high school teachers, highly qualified college graduates, and graduate students. Be part of others’ transformational international experiences. 

Related: Read Abbey Road reviews | Visit their site

Teach English...Anywhere! with Asian College of Teachers

Having a TEFL certificate to teach English is truly a ticket to anywhere in the world. English teachers are in high demand nearly everywhere, and an accredited TEFL certificate program will give you the skills and job support to get you in the classroom ASAP with good salary and benefits. 

Related: Read Asian College of Teachers reviews | Visit their site

Save it. No more excuses! 

Working abroad may not be free, but cost isn’t everything. Working abroad is incredibly rewarding personally and professionally, and it can open doors of opportunity that you may have never even know existed. It may take passing on that new pair of shoes or one less night out on the town per week, but when you are meandering through a foreign night market eating local food, you will know it was worth it. 

Search work abroad programs