5 Steps to Save for a House Deposit While Teaching Abroad
You can most definitely save up for a house deposit while you are teaching abroad, despite what many expat teachers say. In 6 years of teaching abroad, I have managed to save enough cash to buy a 4-bedroomed house in my home country, a 3-bed apartment in Spain, earn my MA in Applied Linguistics & English Language Teaching, & live for a year in London… If I can do it, so can you! Personally, I think you should aim for more than just the house deposit, so you can get a shorter-term mortgage. For example, if you choose a 15-year mortgage rather than a 30-year term, you'll pay €90,000 LESS in interest on a €200,000 fixed-rate loan. Yes, that is a €90,000 saving you will make, just by saving more to secure a 15-year mortgage rather than a 30-year.
Here are 5 steps I followed to help me save for my house deposit:
- Have an ideal place in mind
- Is it a house or apartment?
- Is it for you to live in eventually, as a holiday home, or just to rent out as investment? (This may affect the size and location of where you buy and whether or not you want a property that requires renovation)
- How many bedrooms?
- What kind of house/ apartment is it? (Is it a maisonette, semi-detached or a terrace? Is it a studio apartment?)
- Is your ideal property in Ireland, in the UK, in Spain, or in Dubai?
- Is it in a city, suburbs, town, village, or countryside?
Narrow down what you are looking for and go onto reputable property websites and research your ideal place. What is the approximate price including all taxes and charges? Now find out how much you have to save for its deposit. For example, in Ireland a resident needs to have a 20-25% deposit but if you live outside the country, it rises to 30-35%, so speak to your bank’s mortgage advisor to see what they require. You may not go with them in the end but they should give you a checklist to apply for a mortgage. Calculate 35% of the total property price + taxes + charges- now you have a financial goal in mind!
- Make sure your saving for a house deposit is a SMART goal
Look at the financial goal you have calculated above (i.e. 35% of total property price + taxes + charges). You need to check if this financial goal is SMART, which means that it is:
Specific: You have a specific amount of money in mind.
Measurable: You can break your goal down and set yourself weekly, monthly, half-year, and annual targets to chart your progress.
Attainable/achievable: This is REALLY IMPORTANT! Look at your monthly salary to make sure your monthly saving allows you to live as well!
Realistic: AGAIN, this is REALLY IMPORTANT! While you are working abroad, you have to enjoy yourself too by socialising, travelling, etc., so if what you need for a deposit is completely unrealistic in a 2-year timeframe, then either look at a smaller and cheaper property or decide to commit to living abroad for 3 or 4 years instead. Sometimes, you will be homesick and lonely as an expat teacher, so feeling like you’re broke all the time while you save will probably discourage you from staying and ruin the expat experience!
Timed: If you plan to work abroad for 2 years, break it down into months and weeks, i.e. 24 months = 104 weeks to save it up. This makes your goal seem a lot more attainable. If 2 years is not enough to save for your house deposit, then perhaps extend your timeframe to 3 or 4 years of teaching abroad? Again, break it down into months and weeks to know how much to save each week, month, etc.
This is vital that you take the time to do this. I have always set myself SMART goals with a deadline and this has enabled me to buy a 4-bedroomed house in my home country, earn my MA in Applied Linguistics & ELT, & live for a year in London- these were all goals I had set myself when I first moved to Qatar in 2011 to begin my expat teaching career.
- Visualise your goal
There will be times where you don’t want to stick to your budget or when you want to eat out for the fourth time in a week, so to keep you motivated to fulfill your goal of saving a house deposit in 2 years, you should use a vision board. There are 2 ways to do this:
- You can either get some pictures of your ideal property in Google Images and copy & paste them on a word document (or you can use Pintrest to do this too) and print a few copies out. Stick one board in your bedroom, carry another in your wallet and look at this list it daily to remind you how wonderful the rewards will be!
- Download a vision board app to add your images to it & look at it every day to inspire yourself, especially when you have to decline a brunch invite one weekend in order to meet your monthly saving target (don’t worry- you can meet your friends at the Happy Hour after the brunch instead!)
Remember, you need to commit fully to this goal. Like one of the most successful investors in the world, Warren Buffet says, “Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving.” The minute you get paid, transfer your monthly saving amount to a savings account and live off what you have left over. Otherwise, months will pass by where you don’t save a penny. Those months will turn into years and you will have nothing to show at the end of your contract! If you want to use your credit card to earn points, then transfer a certain amount to your credit card too so you don’t overspend and have a huge bill at the end of the month.
- Look for ways to earn more money
- Get into savings mode right now!
Start by keeping track of EVERYTHING you spend, review it after a week, and see if the majority of your purchases were needs or wants. Then adjust your spending habits accordingly by setting a budget. Where could you have saved money, e.g. 2 less takeaway coffees a week per month (40 AED x 4= 160 AED), one less brunch per month (approx. 350-400 AED), and one breakfast out to catch up with a friend rather than a dinner (save at least 200 AED) could save you 760 AED (195 euros/ £166 a month). Can you save money on your phone plan/ TV plan? Can you cancel a gym membership or app subscription that you never use? Can you limit your clothes shopping?
Lovely to meet you!
My name is Sorcha and I've taught in Qatar and Dubai for 10+ years. In my first stint as an expat teacher in Qatar, I saved over $100,000, which I used to buy my first property (a 4-bed home in Ireland) and do my MA at King's College London. Before I accepted my second international teaching job in Dubai, I applied for and received 12 job offers from top international schools in the Gulf, Asia, and Africa. I went on to save another $100,000, which I used to buy a second property in Spain, set up an investment portfolio and complete my ILM Level 7 Executive Coaching and Mentoring qualification and set up my own business!
In October 2021, I left teaching and became a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and a Teacher Career & Money Strategist.
As the founder of Empowering Expat Teachers in 2017, I have helped 100s of teachers find great teaching jobs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Oman, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, etc. My signature programme is The Six Figure Expat Accelerator, where I teach clients EVERYTHING I've done to earn and save six figures as an expat teacher in a 6-month container. To read more about it here, see what my clients have achieved after we worked together & join the VIP Waitlist if it suits your career and money goals (it opens again in July!), click on the link below:
Yes, I want to be a Six Figure Expat Teacher too!