First of all, this article has been inspired by Zach Holz, the Happiest Teacher, in an article he wrote last month called “House Hacking for All.” I highly recommend you read it here as it shows how Zach has saved a fortune of his rent allowance this year, but in a different way to me. Read both articles to see what would work best for you!

Here are the 5 ways I saved £6400/ €7100/ $7900 of my rent allowance this year:

1. I found a teaching job abroad that offered a decent rent allowance rather than school accommodation

When I was on my expat teaching job search 4 years ago, I was offered a number of jobs at amazing international schools in Doha, Dubai, Singapore, Shanghai, Senegal, and Oman. One of my requirements was that the package included a decent rent allowance rather than school accommodation because I know how much it can boost my savings provided the amount is equal to or above the rent of a one-bed apartment in a nice part of the city in question. I use the living cost comparison websites  Numbeo and Expatistan to check the average rent as well as checking out rental websites in the specific country to get an idea of the cost. Another helpful resource for expat teachers planning to move to the Gulf/ Middle East is my article on “How to Find Accommodation in the Middle East.”

2. I wanted fully-furnished accommodation

Last year, I bought an apartment in Spain and as I enter my 4th year living and working in Dubai, I imagine that my time in the UAE is coming to an end soon. Because I only plan to spend another 2-3 years here, I really didn’t fancy buying furniture for a whole apartment- having to find it, haggle its price, find a way to transport it, store it over the summer, and then sell it on when I leave- I decided to get a place that was fully furnished and equipped with everything I needed to just move in seamlessly!

3. I negotiated a 10-month contract

Contracts in the UAE tend to be 12 months long but I asked my landlord for a 10-month contract (September to June) and she agreed. Because my place is fully furnished and I am a minimalist, I don’t actually own that much stuff, so I believe that it is a huge waste of money to pay rent over my 2 months’ summer holiday,   just to house my belongings that could easily be packed into 2 suitcases and left in a kind friend’s spare room or in a storeroom in my school.

4. I made sure bills were included

My rent includes my electricity and water bills and my internet and TV package, which is a big saving each month. In Dubai, I live in a community development that is “chiller free,” which means air conditioning is included in my rent. It all helps!

5. I paid my rent in full at the beginning

Landlords often give tenants the option of paying their annual rent in 1- 12 cheques. I have found that paying the full amount in one cheque gives you some bargaining power over the price, so I got a discount on the full rent by doing this, thus saving more money. I had planned to do this so I made sure to put the money aside each month the year beforehand ready for September 2019!

6.  I got a studio apartment

Throughout my life, I have lived with housemates, friends, and lived on my own too. I have to say that I love living on my own and having my own personal space and sanctuary, so my solution to have this experience while still saving money is to live in a studio! Renting a studio allows me to still reside in a popular and traditionally more expensive area of Dubai, close to my friends. Best of all, it takes me about 30 minutes to clean up my whole place, which means I don’t need to employ a cleaner, saving me a fortune!

Join our supportive Empowering Expat Teachers FB group here where each #eetmoneymonday I share tips and resources to help you become a financially empowered expat teacher.


FYI- the Expat Teacher Evolution Membership Site is now open! Each month has a specific focus with masterclasses with me and featured experts, on a range of topics including:

    • How to update your CV and cover letter to get a great teaching job abroad
    • How to get a mortgage as an Irish/ UK/ US expat
    • How to buy property in Spain as a non-resident
    • How to support local students/ learners with English as a Second Language in your classroom
    • How to invest and make provisions for your retirement
    • How to write, publish, and launch your first book
    • How to set up a blog
    • How to understand the tax implications of being an expat from Ireland/ UK/ USA
    • And lots more! Find out more here.