Sunday, August 18, 2013

How to Move Abroad Part 1: Money

I've decided to start a little "how to" series, basically of things I wish I'd known when I decided to move! I hope this will be helpful to others who are thinking of doing the same thing.

Hopefully it's not too for those of you who know me and are hoping for personal updates...or I guess if it is you can just pass on to the next post!

So far, here is my biggest piece of advice for anyone thinking of moving abroad: Have some money in the bank. You will need it for expenses that inevitably come up, and to tide you over while you wait for that first paycheck!

Luckily I had some money saved, and I got some money when I sold my car in the U.S. If I hadn't, I would have really struggled. Even though my current employer paid a $1500 (US) moving allowance and a $500 shipping allowance, I found that I needed a lot more than that to get just the basics. (The point of this post is *not* to bash them at all-I'm lucky they paid some expenses! My point is just that it is expensive.) So what is all that money going to?

#1: Moving in expenses
If you're lucky, you'll have to pay 2 months rent up front (just like a deposit in the states), plus 1/2 month rent as the realtor's fee. I say if you're lucky because I had my employer co-sign a lease, and provide a rental agreement. Often renters want to charge up to 3 months rent up front!

#2: Appliances and Furniture
I don't know how it is in other countries. However, here in Paraguay, unfurnished apartments and houses are *really* unfurnished! That means when you move in you have to buy, not just the regular furniture like a bed, couch, and kitchen table. You also have to buy appliances like a refrigerator, oven, and washing machine. This adds up quick!

I basically bought the cheapest appliances I could find (new). I spent about $1300 US for my washer, fridge, stove, and microwave. It is possible, but difficult, to find used stuff here. No craigslist! If you're a teacher moving overseas, your best bet is to ask around for contact information for other teachers who are leaving your school/city and see if they are selling stuff.

Then there is furniture. Some stuff is more expensive than I expected, but it's also possible to buy other stuff for pretty cheap. I want this post to be helpful specifically to those in Paraguay, but also as a general guide to moving abroad so with that in mind:
-If you are in or near Asuncion, it is worth it to go to Mercado Cuatro for most of your furniture purchases. There are all the shops you could want nice and close together and they have reasonable prices. See if you can get a discount for buying multiple items. Delivery is always included. See if you can ride in the truck when they deliver your stuff to your house, and save yourself a cab fare.
-I bought a bed at a bed store, didn't see those at the mercado.
-Ask for the cash price. It's almost always cheaper, just make sure you know what your ATM limit is so you can have the funds ready upon delivery. You never pay when you buy, you pay when it's delivered. Mercado 4 delivers on the same day. Appliance and bed places might; it depends on how early in the day you shop and how busy they are.
-Personally I spent about $1000 US on a bed, night stand, couch, and dining room table and 4 chairs. It isn't terribly expensive, but it certainly adds up and I'll need more. That is just what I felt I needed to feel comfortable enough to move in!

#3 Everything under the sun
For the first couple of weeks after I moved into my apartment, I shopped like it was my 2nd job. It seemed like every day, after work, I'd go shopping. There were a few big shopping trips I took right after I got my apartment, where I'd buy a LOT of stuff. But after that it was still lots of random odds and ends I needed. I don't feel like I was being extravagant...a can opener, a broom, measuring cups, an iron, cleaning supplies, a lamp. It took awhile, even after I bought the main stuff like dishes and of course a coffee pot, until I had the basic necessities. All of these purchases definitely added up too! I'd say that is an easy $500-1000 US, even if you buy the cheapest stuff possible. After all, a well-stocked kitchen is still cheaper than eating out every meal!

What I wish I'd known
Personally, I got a shipping allowance to cover extra baggage fees. I wish I had bought a giant suitcase and filled it up with kitchen stuff and other gadgets I had to buy. If you get a shipping allowance, it is worth using it, because it is probably cheaper than buying all that stuff over again. Of course you are still going to have to buy a ton of stuff, but it's probably cheaper to take at least some of that stuff with you. I'm not talking cast-iron pots here, but smaller things.

If at all possible, contact the people in the place you're moving to and ask a lot of questions. What is cheap to purchase? What is expensive, or really difficult to find? For example, once I got here I found that coffee pots and hair dryers, things that you can buy for $10 in the states, can cost easily $50 each. Just because the cost of living is known to be low, doesn't mean that *everything* is cheap. Towels and sheets are a little expensive here, and are much lower quality. Knowing these things ahead of time will make it easier to decide what to pack and what to leave at home.

I've always prided myself in traveling light and not bringing more than I could carry. That is great for travel. However if you are MOVING you need to change your standards and just do your research!

No comments: