The Difference Between Poverty and Prosperity for Travelers and Nomads

living abroad

This? Or a ramen noodle diet?

Here’s a question whose answer will say a lot about you:

If you had to double your disposable income within 12 months, what would be the best way to do it?

It’s kind of a trick question because there’s not one right answer. The first answer that springs to mind is going to depend on a lot of factors, such as 1) How and where you were raised. 2) How much of a “hustler” you are. 3) Your education level and type. 4) How much you have traveled. 5) Whether you have ever lived abroad. 6) How good/experienced you are at being frugal.

Some will naturally say, “Get a better job,” “Make more sales,” or “Work harder.” That’s one answer, though I’d argue it’s one that sounds better on paper than it really works out in reality. If you could double your income just by working harder, you probably would have done it already.

Some would leap to an education answer, saying “Get a master’s degree” or “Get certified in ____.” That 12-month window isn’t very practical for that answer though, plus you’re probably going to lay out a lot of cash to get that additional education.

A frugal-minded person would probably answer, “Drastically cut my expenses.” Move to a smaller apartment in a worse area or move in with the parents. Sell the car and switch to public transportation or get a barely running used one. Eat rice and beans. Stop drinking anything besides water. Stop going out. Cut out cable TV. Cancel the gym membership. Will this work? Probably, but it turns life into a grind and is not much fun.

If you’ve already been a long-term traveler, you’ll probably go to your comfort zone and answer “Take off traveling around the world.” You know that your expenses will drop drastically as soon as you get on the plane if you pick cheap destinations. Unless you’re a digital nomad though, you’re living off savings, so this is a temporary solution.

Change Your Address, Halve Your Expenses

cheap living abroadSince I’ve written a whole book on this subject, I obviously have my own bias. I’ve tried the expense cutting, the traveling, I got a college degree, I’ve changed jobs for more money and have gone for a raise or promotion. The easiest, most dramatic way I’ve found to double my disposable income in a hurry though was this: move abroad to a cheaper location. Work myself into a portable job and then leave the place that’s sucking away all my cash.

Even moving to Korea to teach English when I was younger raised my standard of living considerably compared to how I was living in the New York City area before I left. And Korea is not all that cheap. When I moved to Mexico both times, my standard of living instantly went up for me and my family and our monthly expenses dropped in half.

Not everything got cheaper of course. Electronics and clothing didn’t, imported items in general didn’t. But a whole lot of other things did, to the point where the “basket of goods and services” any normal person would spend money on dropped dramatically. That’s utilities, housing, groceries, transportation, health care—all the major items. Then since a lot of other things cost so much less, line items that would be a luxury at home become standard in the cheaper spot. Things like a regular maid, a handyman on call, symphony tickets, and regular meals out in nice restaurants.

In other words, A Better Life for Half the Price.

You can stay where you are, doing what you’re doing now, and complain that you don’t have enough money. You can whine that there’s not enough left to save for retirement, build an emergency fund, fund your kids’ college education, or invest in a business that will get you out of the cubicle life. Or you can change everything by taking one step.

Get the book here in e-book or paperback form, or check out the higher-tier packages that come with some group or one-on-one help that will push you in the right direction and make the path clear. Or at least subscribe to the Cheap Living Abroad Newsletter by following the link at the very top of this page to learn more and see if this life is for you.

Comments
  1. Art Selikoff

    Tim, The picture above; where is that?
    Thanks,

    Art Selikoff
    Zhuhai, China.

  2. jeremy

    Even when I earn more my expenses go up (especially health insurance), so that doesn’t help much. I’ve gotta relocate I think.

  3. Nhân

    we can make money on our trip?

  4. Anthony Thomas (@djfourmoney)

    Well… This is a question I had to answer myself.

    At the time I had no real income, credit problems and no job.

    Once I decided what I wanted the most, I started to go over the research I collected over the last few years.

    If carefully thought out, doubling your income is possible. But I didn’t opt for that, I opted to reduce my cost by half or more.

    America’s economy is such that one could make between $500-$1,000 unearned income . But it’s also in a state that what’s lower middle class wages in many developing countries is straight up poverty wages here.

    Research is important and short trips are even more important to find out if the decision was right.

    What I want is fairly unique so there’s really only a single destination that covers all bases.

    It is more expensive than other locations on the continent but it’s economy is advance enough to maintain a lifestyle I am used too for a reduced cost.

    Tim’s preferred spot is Mexico. I live in Southern California, so getting anywhere in Mexico is fairly inexpensive. I flew to Mexico City for $250 R/T a few years ago.

    The exchange rate is currently I believe 15:1 so your dollar does go very far. You still have to be careful with some items and services you are used to getting easily or a discounted in America.

    I think I will clear about $25,000 gross but my expenses are fairly low. My first research trip is planned for late 2015, early 2016.

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