Teaching English abroad is a great way to save some money or pay off those crippling student loans. If you’re interested in teaching English in South Korea, most schools offer contracts that pay rent for you (unless otherwise specified, for whatever extenuating circumstances).
If you’re fresh out of college and have become accustomed to barely scraping by, suddenly finding yourself with so much “disposable” income can be a little overwhelming, and may lead to some poor financial decisions.
With that said, here are 4 tips for saving money while teaching English abroad in South Korea:
1. Save Prior to Teaching English Abroad
You should have money saved up before traveling overseas to your job. Many schools in South Korea pay both entry and return flight fees, cutting costs on what you’ll immediately need to pay. However, there are many little fees that add up in the months between your arrival, and when you receive your first payment. For example, the process of your Alien Card registration, or subway and bus fare.
I would suggest that you to save up three month’s living expenses, which is something around $3,000(USD), but if you’re feeling brave, $1,500(USD) is feasible.
2. Save on Food
Once you’re settled in South Korea, payments have started, you have a bank card, and you’ve set up transfers back home, food is going to be your next biggest priority. Most schools will either include a small amount in your paycheck for lunch expenses, or allow you to eat at the school’s cafeteria.
I highly suggest you try as many native dishes as possible! If you’re given a stipend, don’t be afraid to eat out. Seriously, eating out in South Korea is very cheap. Kimbap shops will sell many dishes that are as low in price as 2,500 to 5,000 won (or $2.50 to $4.50 USD). Galbi (meat) restaurants are great if you want to share a meal with a couple friends.
The only way you’re really going to spend your cash on food is if you eat meals at “Western-themed” restaurants. If possible, try to avoid frequenting places you can find back home to save money. If you get a taste for something Western, consider getting a Costco card for bulk savings.
Another excellent way to save some cash on food is to visit the local grocery store. Eggs and rice are found in most dishes in South Korea, so they’re always cheap, and good to have in the house. Kimchi and packs of ramyun or jajangmyeon (black bean noodles) are also great to keep in the cupboard. Making a few meals ahead of time and bringing them in to work is a great way of cutting back on the cost of food.
3. Resist the Urge to Splurge
After the food and initial expenses are taken care of, the largest hazard to your wallet will be shopping and entertainment. Clothes, make-up, coffee shops, stationary stores, and kpop/kdrama memorabilia are everywhere.
For those who feel the burning need to spend every single baek-won (100 won is the equivalent to a dime) to your name, the best incentive NOT to do so is to remember that you have to ship it all back home when your contract is up.
If you’re teaching English abroad in South Korea to save money, try to refrain from large department stores and make use of the shopping centers inside many subway stops, where items are cheapest. Remember, the more money you waste on material goods, the less you have to put towards traveling!
4. Keep a Budget While Teaching English Abroad
The most important thing to do is budget your money effectively. It may seem like you’re making a lot of money, but it’s very easy to get swept up in the night-life and daily entertainments South Korea has to offer. If you’re not careful, saving money while teaching English abroad can be difficult.
- Choose your adventures: Don’t try to do everything all at once, and search around to see if travel groups are offering special deals on what you want to do.
- Set a goal and stick with it: Only put a certain amount of cash in your wallet each day to avoid overspending on items.
- Walk to your destinations: Taxis are cheap, the subway even more-so, but if your destination is only fifteen minutes away, do yourself the favor of some exercise and free sight-seeing.
One of the best perks of teaching English abroad is the ability to save money. With a lower cost of living, South Korea offers delicious food, fun entertainment, and breathtaking scenery. Have fun. Enjoy yourself. When you return home, you’ll have a nice savings to spend as you please, or start paying off those pesky student loans.
Written by Ashley Marie Shuttleworth
Ashley is a graduate from Trent University with a degree in English Literature. She spent a year teaching English in South Korea followed by a year Au Pairing in England, and both jobs have provided some of the most rewarding experiences in her life, to date. There are many more adventures planned for her future, (India and Japan are next!) all with the hopes that this worldly knowledge will help to fuel her career as a published author.