Monday, December 4, 2023

They moved abroad hoping to save money — here’s what they found out

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Sipping a cold pint of beer in Budapest can cost $2.

Dinner for two in a pub in Prague? About $22.

And a month’s rental for a sleek studio apartment in the center of the Portuguese city of Porto can set you back $650.

With these sorts of living costs, it’s no surprise that many are tempted to move overseas.

Needless to say, that’s not always the case — sometimes moving overseas is more expensive. CNBC Travel speaks to people with different experiences.

Spending just $5 a day

Originally from Romania, Irina Papuc is a co-founder of the digital marketing agency Galactic Fed. She said she’s traveled to more than 40 countries as a “digital nomad” while growing the business.

She is able to save money because she has embraced a style of travel that minimizes spending while on the road, she said.

“I prefer to choose a few high-quality experiences instead of constantly moving around. Slow travel, namely spending more time in one place, allows you to save a ton of money, because it’s usually the transport (plane tickets) that dry out the bank account.”

Irina Papuc at Lake Tele in the Republic of Congo.

Source: Irina Papuc

She adds that eating local food, embracing “couchsurfing” — which she describes as “the best way to meet local people and not pay any rent at the same time” — ditching fancy co-working spaces and hitchhiking are all great ways to save money.

As for which places offer the best value, she cites Nepal, Thailand and Taiwan.

“On average, when trekking in Nepal, I spent around five dollars a day, including all food and accommodation,” she said.

Saves half her salary

Born and raised in the United Kingdom, Courteney Richardson-Hicks now lives as a digital nomad in Europe.

“I’ve actually managed to save quite a lot by traveling, certainly more than if I lived in the U.K.,” the marketing content strategist said.

Courteney Richardson-Hicks left the United Kingdom to live as a “digital nomad” in Europe.

Source: Courteney Richardson-Hicks

She told CNBC about a side gig she discovered that comes with a free place to stay: pet-sitting.

“This is one of my favorite ways to travel as I get to spend time with animals,” she said. “My only costs for that month are food, transport and any extra activities I want to do. For example, I stayed in a beautiful villa in Cyprus for seven weeks looking after cats.”

She said her nomadic lifestyle allows her to save at least half her salary.

“If I compared it to London, I would probably be paying the same for a room in a flat share as I did for a whole one-bedroom apartment with sea view in Madeira, for example,” she said.

Her advice for people who want to move abroad and save money? Try Poland.

“Of the places I’ve been in Europe, one of the best value for day-to-day expenses was Poland,” she said. “The accommodation and eating out was really good value for money.”

“Also, Poland is really beautiful, and the people are so kind and friendly.”

Bali, the island of the gods

Taryn Elledge-Penner and Martin Penner, of the boutique travel agency Quartier Collective, currently live in Bali with their three children. The family has lived in nearly 20 countries since first hitting the road in 2018, said Penner.

“Is it possible to save money compared to the U.S.? Absolutely, for sure,” he said. “But in the last 18 months we’ve noticed a price increase in short-term rental options.”

Martin Penner said you can “absolutely” save money while traveling full time, but he cautions that short-term rental prices have increased.

Source: Quartier Collective

Despite that, he said his family can still save because they aren’t pressed for time: “We’re lucky to have time as a resource and can be flexible with where and when we go.”

Elledge-Penner advises those who want to save money to avoid Europe in the summertime. Instead, go in the shoulder or off-seasons, she said.

Penner also pointed out that some things are more expensive than back home. “There are a lot of things you don’t pay when on the road, but then we spend $15k a year on flights,” a cost he said they wouldn’t bear back in Seattle, he said.

For those who prefer a “turnkey” approach to Bali, Boundless Life is launching its first program there in July, said the company’s head of demand generation, Elodie Ferchaud.

The company has six-week and three-month programs that many families combine to stay abroad for longer periods, she said.

The three-month program costs around 2,100 to 3,500 euros ($2,214 to $3,690) a month for a furnished home, including utilities and weekly cleaning. Schooling costs 1,500 euros per child per month, and community workspaces run an extra 425 euros per month.

All told, fees can run north of $8,000 per month for a couple with two kids, the company said. Boundless Life also runs programs in Greece, Italy and Portugal.

London calling

American Erin White has had a different experience.

White lives in Marylebone in central London, where she works as a vice president for sales performance at the California-based HydraFacial company.

She moved to London from Connecticut to accept a new role at the company, so her decision to move overseas “was both a career and a financial one.”

When asked if living in London was more affordable than living in the United States, Erin White said, “not at all!”

Source: Erin White

But has she saved money?

“Not at all! It is much more expensive to live in London,” she said.

“Rents and the property ladder are super expensive. You don’t have the option of a 30-year fixed mortgage here — they are more like our ARM mortgages. I rent a basement 2-bed, 2-bath and it’s over 3,500 British pounds ($4,140) a month, plus I pay the council taxes, a TV tax” and more, she said.

She adds that even though she lives in London, “You are sort of a tourist too, so you want to take advantage of things like visiting other countries on the weekend and holidays.”

But the rent isn’t the expense that has surprised her the most, White said.

“For me, it’s the cost of personal maintenance here … nails, hair, waxing, all the things a woman needs to do are sometimes two to three times more than what I paid in the U.S.”

Her workaround? “I always make sure to take advantage of these services when I’m back in the States.”

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