The Quick Guide for Budgeting As An Expat: 4 Big Points to Keep in Mind

If you’re living abroad to provide a better life for your family, chances are money is always on your mind.

And why not? From dealing with different currencies to adjusting to a totally new lifestyle, budgeting undoubtedly represents a major roadblock for the majority of expats out there.

But beyond understanding where your priorities should lie in terms of how you should save and spend abroad, how else can expats ultimately keep more money in their pockets?

We’re glad you asked!

In this quick yet comprehensive guide, we’ve outlined some pointers to squeeze the absolute most out of your budget while living abroad. Although some of these tips might seem like no-brainers, the combination of each of them will ultimately allow you to live your life to the fullest in a new country while also sending more money home.

Understand Your Remittance Requirements

From fees and taxes to exchange rates and beyond, there’s a difference between sending money back home to Colombia or any other remittance-reliant country. While you obviously want to earn as much money as you possibly can, don’t neglect the dollars and cents you could potentially lose (or save) through how you’re sending you cash.

On a related note, you need to sort out exactly how much to send home based on your family’s living situation. Whether it’s a dollar amount or percentage of your income, there should be a defined balance that keeps both parties comfortable. Of course, everyone’s situation is different so there is no one “right” way to decide this: it’s a compromise between everyone involved.

Research the Cost of Living

Speaking of comfort and compromise, where you decide to settle down has long-term implications regarding how much you can save and what sort of job you can land.

For example, staying in the suburbs is obviously a cheaper option; however, living in a major metro area might mean access to better-paying work and a lessened need for transportation.

Again, it’s all about finding balance.

Perhaps the top priority of any given expat is reliable, long-term employment during their tenure abroad. As long as you’re living somewhere that offers such job security, you’re golden. Beyond that, tools such as this cost of living calculator can be eye-opening if you’re trying to pick between two cities to settle down in.

Iron Out Your Essentials

While you might be laser-focused on the well-being of your family, don’t neglect your own essentials in terms of staying happy, healthy and otherwise safe in your new home. During your initial adjustment period, understand how the following essentials fit into your monthly budget:

  • Groceries and eating out can quite literally eat away at your funds is you don’t spend wisely: opt for home-cooked meals that remind you of home and packing your own lunches whenever possible


  • Although you likely won’t have to worry about your own vehicle and insurance, you might want to think about investing in a bike before assuming public transit is your best bet


  • Given the high cost of healthcare in the United States for the uninsured, some form of coverage is pretty much a must-have for avoiding a disastrous “what-if” scenario financially

Now, once you’ve sorted out these expenses you can start to think about how you’re going to spend your discretionary income.

The good news is that keeping both entertained and connected in the States is relatively cheap. If you’re in a major metro area there are endless free things to do on a daily basis; meanwhile, an Internet connection and streaming services can keep you up-to-date on your family’s happenings as well as your favorite entertainment.

Fall Back on Your Emergency Fund

There are tons of “rules” and suggestions for determining how much to save for emergencies, but bear in mind that such percentages are merely suggestions. Saving a few hundred dollars per month for emergencies might not be realistic for some; meanwhile, sticking to a hard percentage could likewise result in an unnecessarily large sum that just sits there.

That said, stowing some money in a savings account is always a good idea in an attempt to plan for the unexpected. A good rule of thumb would be to simply save as much as you can at the end of the month and put away what’s left over rather than needlessly spend it.

For those living the expat life, money is always a huge area of concern in terms of your day-to-day life. That said, reigning in your budget sooner rather than later can not only provide you some much-needed peace of mind, but also a better quality of life for you and your family. If your current budget looks like a bit of a mess, the pointers from this guide can help you reign it in ASAP.