If you’ve landed a job teaching English in South Korea, congratulations! It can be a confusing process–you’ve passed the first hurdle. You may not be thinking of you finances just yet, but it is always good to have a plan! You will need a budget if you want to make the best of this situation financially. Because a lot of your expenses are covered, you may think budgeting is unnecessary. But with so much potential to pay off debt or save money, it’s good to have a general idea of where you want that extra cashflow to go. Follow my guide to budgeting in South Korea and tweak it to meet your own personal needs!
Everyone’s job will have a slightly different pay scale. For the sake of averages, I will say that you are starting with a 2.2 million won budget. If you happen to make more than this, congratulations! You can follow my budget plan and put the remaining money into various categories depending on your needs. I recommend adding anything extra to debt payments first, then an emergency fund, then investments. It’s easier than you think to save over 50% of your income while in Korea.
Something that’s important to remember when making your budget in Korea is that you should always pay yourself first. What does that mean? It means you should put your budgeted amount of money “away.” This will look different for everyone, but for everyone it means that you cannot easily touch or spend this money. Do not leave this money in your normal checking account. Depending on your situation, this could mean putting aside 1 million won, paying 200,000 into your savings account and 800,000 towards your debt. Maybe you already have a solid emergency fund and you want to put the whole 1 million towards your debt.
You will, of course, be able to include fun in your budget. Part of the reason you went to teach abroad in the first place was because you wanted to enjoy a new culture, experience a new country and travel to surrounding countries. You should definitely allot a certain amount of money per month for these kinds of expenses because if you travel all the way to South Korea to sit in your apartment for one year spending no money, having no fun, and never experiencing the culture around you–you’re definitely missing out on something important! It’s the kind of investment that isn’t monetary.
That being said, I was able to pay off $23,000 in debt, save about $6,000 and travel to 8 countries. I also traveled all around South Korea and regularly did fun things in my city with friends. I went out, had drinks, ate all the food and visited almost every province. If I can do it you can do it too!
Because in most cases you’re not legally allowed to have a side income while you’re working in Korea, you’ll have to rely on one source of income when making your budget. This makes it pretty simple and straightforward. I’ve created a sample budget below. Keep in mind that I’ve simplified everything for the sake of example. This would have been one of my more extreme months when I lived on only about 500,000 won. Your numbers will look different than mine because you’ll have different goals and interests.