The biggest requirement we had for deciding to move to Ireland was that we would not get into debt with the move. We wanted to save money in a foreign country. It was essential to us, that we learnt from our previous money mistakes, and not get into the same bad habits in a foreign country. Trust me, there is nothing more frightening than being in a foreign country with no savings, and debt. So saving money has been a top priority for us.
The biggest way to save money is to first have a clear understanding of your budget – you need to know how much you will earn, and how much things cost. Once you have a budget outlined, there are other ways you can save money. Some of the ideas listed below are perhaps are a bit more extreme for some people, but these are ways we have saved money in a foreign country. I would like to think that with this new outlook to life (of wanting a more simple life), that some of these ideas would continue even if we were to move back to South Africa. But obviously, some things are dependent on the situation you are living in. Thankfully we have found it relatively OK to live off one salary whilst I look for a job, and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that we have a good budget in place and we have stuck to the below ways to save money.Some of the ideas are extreme, but these are ways we save money in a foreign country. Click To Tweet
- Try limit the contracts you sign up for. We made a conscious decision not to buy a TV here in Ireland. Honestly, with the way things are going, I am not sure there is a need to sign up for cable TV, or TV channel packages. We signed up for WIFI at home, and this contract alone has helped us to stream all our favourite TV shows. Data is never an issue here in Ireland. We never run out of it, and the internet connection is super fast, so we are able to watch HD movies, while I blog, and check my social media – technology is a wonderful thing. We both did not sign up for a phone contract when we got here. This is because the competition here for phone deals is ever changing. You don’t want to be tied into a package when you could get a different deal every month. I am on a month to month contract that costs me 15 euros a month and includes 30G of data, 400 minutes to any phone in Ireland. I am still able to whatsapp video call my family back home any time I want to.
- We haven’t bought a car (yet). This is a massive savings for us. Right now, we are able to use public transport or walk/cycle to where we need to be. But even if we were to need to buy a car in the future, we have both learnt the hard lesson that cars deprecate in value and it really doesn’t mean much to me to have a brand-new, fancy car. So if we need to buy a car, we would first save up for one, and pay for it cash. No car loans for us. The one expensive part to owning a car as an expat – car insurance is expensive. It is something that we will definitely have to shop around for if we ever decide to buy a car.
- Find a place to live in a central location to work and leisure. You will figure out quite soon that rent is ridiculously expensive in Dublin. We could honestly rent 2 HUGE places back in SA for the price we pay a month to rent our little elf cottage. But if you can find a place that is central, you can save money this way. We are incredibly lucky that our place is close to the bus stop, train, luas (tram), bike stop, and we could even walk into town quite quickly. You could find a cheaper place to rent further out of the city, but then you would need to own a car, or pay for public transport to get back into the city. I guess it really does depend where you work, and what you do on your weekends. For us, we love the convenience of a lock up and go place that is close to the city.
- Meal plan and shop weekly. This is a huge learning that if I plan what we eat, and only buy what we need to make these particular meals – we can save a lot of money. I am also learning to buy seasonal fruit and veg, and buying things that are on special. Sometimes buying bigger sizes is cheaper, but then split it out and make sure you make it go further.
- Eating out is expensive. I understand that it is a nice way to see a new city, but there are ways to save money and still eat out. We have learnt that we can buy one combo meal from our local Chinese take out and it feeds us both. Some restaurants also have early bird specials (where you eat dinner for prime time, usually before 7pm). There are also some places that have a 2 courses for 20 euros deal which is also a cool way to have a meal out but keeps you to a budget.
- Take a homemade lunch to work instead of buying meals. And seriously, stop buying those over priced Starbucks flat whites and drink coffee at home!
- Avoid the fancy cocktails and hard liquor. Drinking at a pub is a favourite thing to do in Dublin. Alcohol is expensive though. Ways to save money here is to drink house wine; or local beers on tap.
- Walk when you can. It is also a great way to see a foreign country, plus saves you money. We walk as much as possible. If you are planning a trip further away from home, then you need to book train tickets in advance. Train ticket prices are cheaper a few weeks before you travel.
- Sign up for a leap card. This is an essential whilst traveling in Dublin. You can use your leap card on bus, train, luas and even Dublin bike rentals. Also the rate for leap card holders is cheaper than pay as you go on public transport.
- If you use a Dublin bikes, the first 30 minutes is free. Rob uses this to get to and from work, and for the most part, his commute both ways is less than 30 minutes, so it’s free! Plus, cycling gets you there quicker than walking.
- This was a big lesson we learnt: if your house is using gas and electric, try switching to gas only – a lot cheaper to heat the water with gas over electric. Our gas heats the water, but also heats the house (through the radiators). A trick we learnt was to turn the dial to only heating water, and not the radiators – as this saves us money too. We also only need to switch the gas on for a short time to heat the water, and it doesn’t need to be on all day, so you can save even more.
- A big saving we had over winter was keep the heat in the house to a minimum. We invested in an electric blanket and found that once we were in bed, we didn’t need the heat in the house on. While I was working at home through the winter months, I wore a few more layers in the house, and had a blanket when we sat on the couch. Another great trick is to drink more wine 🙂 – I will find any excuse to drink wine!
- The benefit of renting a small house means there is less to clean. It takes me under an hour to clean the bathroom, dust the house, clean the radiator grills, vacuum the whole house and mop the floors. Plus, we clean the house ourselves, so that saves us money too!
- You learn pretty quickly that a great way to save money in Dublin, is to actually use coins to pay for stuff. I have been known to take a wad of 5c, 10c, 20c pieces and pay for groceries with it. The great thing is that there is a self service machine at the store, so I can feed the machine all my small change without feeling terrible for making the cashier count it out. We have a piggy bank we use to collect coins, so the last week of the month, we use it to buy bread and milk etc.
- Try tap for it, instead of swipe. Bank charges here are quite minimal, but still, it is cheaper to tap your card instead of swiping. You can tap for anything under EUR30.
— Meg (@thisisus_living) April 18, 2017
There you have it, this is just some of the ways we save money in a foreign country. We are still learning and figuring out things, so I am sure that we will learn even more ways to save money as we go. The trick is to be aware of your priorities. For us, we want to save so we can pay off our debt, and travel!
How do you save money where you live?
Unlock the simple life,
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