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How To Pay Off Student Loans While Traveling

A lot of people wonder how to pay off student loans while traveling. They usually think it’s something that can’t be done without an inheritance or deferring on your loans. Not so! You can travel while paying off your student loans. Read on to learn how.

A lot of people wonder how to pay off student loans while traveling. They usually think it’s something that can’t be done without an inheritance or deferring on your loans. Not so! You can travel while paying off your student loans.

The way you can do it? Working abroad.

This isn’t the first thought that pops into most people’s heads. Whenever people think about travel, they usually picture sitting on a beach, drinking a cold one, and basking in the rays of the sun. In the distance sits a 4-star swanky hotel where there are a hundred different settings for the bath tub.

That’s more of a relaxed vacation. Travel can mean lots of things. Many people would describe it as being an experience of seeing new places and being immersed in new cultures. It’s not all about sitting on a beach all day long sipping a margarita.

A lot of twenty-somethings with student loans dream of being able to travel and see new places. But they think their student loans prevent them from doing so. They look at travel as something expensive and not possible while paying off student loans.

That’s what I used to think. Before I moved abroad, the idea of traveling and visiting several places never crossed my mind. I had graduated university with $21,000 in student loans and was intent on paying them off as fast as possible. Travel was something that would happen years down the line.

A swift leap of faith involved me moving abroad to Thailand to teach English. In the past year of being here, I’ve gotten to explore lots of Thailand and visit places like Myanmar and China. During this time, progress on my knocking student loans never even had to slow down. I’ve worked like mad for the past several months to make more money but I’ve also gotten to travel quite a bit.

It does take some patience and persistence to stay focused on paying them off your loans while traveling. When I was paying off my student loans, there were times when I wanted to use the extra money I had for a weekend getaway or to go off to another country like Vietnam or Cambodia, but through commitment and utilizing and allocating for fun money, everything worked out.

Here’s how to pay off student loans while traveling

Find a job teaching English abroad

Teaching English is one of the top ways people fund their travels and work abroad. It’s for good reason. Teaching English abroad allows you to really immerse yourself in another culture and see how day to day life is.

Teaching positions are typical 40-hour per week jobs where you spend 20-25 hours each week teaching. The rest of the time outside of teaching is either for lesson planning, making materials, or free time!

Googling “teaching English abroad” will yield thousands of results. The top places to teach English are China, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Asia is the most common place people go to teach English. There are English-teaching jobs all over the world but Asia is where the best-paying jobs are. When you’re focused on balancing student loan payments and traveling, having a good salary makes all the difference. The two best countries pay wise are China and South Korea.

South Korea is very popular because it’s a relatively easy place to transition into. Starting salaries for foreign English teachers range from 1.9-2.3 million won. Many jobs provide free housing, free school lunches, and reimbursed airfare cost for your travel to the country. South Korea positions have a lot of benefits!

A salary of 2.1 million won is around $1,850 USD. Many teachers are able to save around $700-1,000 per month. This can put toward extra student loan payments if you desire.

According to Forbes, the average class of 2016 student graduated with $37,172 in student loan debt. If you’re on the standard 10-year repayment plan, paying back loans with a 5.7% interest rate, your monthly payment would come out to $407. Saving $700-1,000 would allow you to pay extra towards your student loans every month.

The blog Great Big Scary World has tips and resources on teaching English in South Korea.

Private tutoring

In an effort to make more money for travel, many English teachers do private tutoring on the side of their full-time teaching job. They usually get private tutoring sessions through inquiries with parents or putting up fliers.

I taught several tutoring classes at a Thailand language center. It was fun and good way to make extra money.

Working Holiday Visa

Australia and New Zealand are two countries that offer one-year working holiday visas to people from several different countries. The visas allow you to work in the country for up to six months with one employer. 12 months in total.

From the countless articles I’ve read, the general gist is that Australia is the best for doing a working holiday. Australia and New Zealand have the same high cost of living, but backpacker/working holiday jobs are more plentiful and higher-paying in Australia.

Kate From The States saved 10,000 AUD in six months from her working holiday.


Now, when you’re wondering how to pay off student loans while traveling, the above options are good ways since they make you money. However saving money when you do travel is also important.

Below are some tips on cutting costs.



WWOOFing & Workaway

WWOOF stands for world wide opportunities on organic farms. Through the website, you can find volunteer positions where you get free room and board in exchange for work. Many long-term travelers do this. It’s a great way to reduce expenses while still being able to experience new things and places. You don’t even have to know anything about farming. Usually the jobs involve fruit picking, cleaning, and general landscape work.

Workaway is also another great option.

Couchsurfing

I used to think of couchsurfing as this weird thing to avoid…until I actually tried it. It’s great. I used it for the first time when I made a trip to San Diego for a conference. My host was fun to talk to and gave me great information on things to do in the city.

A few tips would be to make sure to go with someone who has lots of positive reviews and has a verified badge. Trust your gut. Always make sure you have the funds to book accommodation in case your host cancels or it doesn’t work out.


Basically, when you’re wanting to know how to pay off student loans while traveling, it comes down to working abroad and choosing budget-friendly options when you travel. Teaching English in good-earning places like China and South Korea where you are able to save up to $1,000 every month really helps.

Thailand (the place I’ve taught in) isn’t as great when it comes to making a good salary. However, I’ve made it work through getting a job at a school that offered higher pay and also doing tutoring sessions during the nights and weekends.

I paid off $21,000 in student loans in 18 months. 11 months of that was spent while abroad teaching English.

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How did you go about paying off your student loan debt? Do you like the idea of long term travel and working abroad? 

Not Another Emergency Fund

how to build an emergency fund

Can you ever have too many blog posts talking about emergency funds? Personally, I think so but others might disagree. The “blog post talking about an emergency fund” has been done over and over again in the personal finance world. And this post is about to be another one 🙂

When I first started reading personal finance blogs, I was a soon to be university grad who didn’t have a lot of money in savings. I read countless times about the importance of an emergency fund and why everyone needs one. It helps in case of unexpected expenses! Job loss! Your car breaking down! You need it!

I liken the experience of it to that of being told to eat my vegetables growing up. It should be something that happens but I still don’t listen to it all that often. I mean, you have to actually set aside money for some hypothetical event. When you have things constantly eyeing for your attention at the current moment, saving money for future emergencies can fall through the cracks.

However, I’ve always known of emergency funds. Even as a money newb who first started reading personal finance blogs, the concept of money set aside for emergencies was never foreign to me. I don’t think it’s foreign for most other people either.  

Even as a money newb who first started reading personal finance blogs, the concept of an emergency fund was never foreign to me. I don’t think it’s foreign for most other people either. 

People know unexpected expenses pop up. They know they should have money set aside for an emergency. The problem lies in people’s perception of an emergency fund. Many people don’t fully know how an emergency fund works (problem one) and they usually underestimate the amount they need in one (problem two). 

For the longest time, I thought an “emergency fund” was the small amount I had in my savings account. I also thought it was the leftover “buffer” amount I had in my checking account after I paid all of my bills. Most people think of emergency funds along this same line.

Having this way of thinking led me to dip into my savings account for not so critical reasons. I would take money out when I really wanted to buy some nice, but unnecessary, thing or when I would go on a vacation and need money for it.

Constantly seeing the money sitting in my bank account made me feel okay to spend it. Everything about my way of thinking of emergency funds was misguided.

An emergency fund is a dedicated account used only for real emergencies, like a job loss, medical bills, car repairs, and so forth. It’s not for when you really want to buy new clothes. It’s not the money that’s left over in your bank account after you pay your bills. That’s a buffer, not an emergency fund.

For the best chance of growing and keeping an emergency fund intact, people would be better off putting the money in a savings account at a bank different from where they do their day-to-day banking. Doing this helps when you’re someone who isn’t a natural saver.

Online banks come to the rescue with this. They’re best when it comes to holding an emergency fund. Ally Bank’s 1.00% APY for accounts blows past the traditional average 0.06% APY.

How much to keep in an emergency fund? There’s two common rule of thumbs: $1,000 in a starter emergency fund, then leveling up to 3-6 months of expenses stashed away.

Do what makes you feel most comfortable. From my senior year of high school all the way to after graduating university, I had the same old Ford Focus that I had bought on my own. Fully paying for my car at age 17 felt awesome but having to go through car repairs every year because the car was old was not so awesome.

My car situation and job situation were the two biggest things that influenced my emergency fund. It’s why I kept way more than $1,000 in an emergency fund while I was paying off my student loans.

Two big reasons I want to keep a good sized emergency fund now is because, one, I will be moving back to the states in the next year. That’s gonna entail moving around and getting a new job, a.k.a major money vacuums.

The second reason is because of an experience I’ve long fantasized about since I was a kid: buying a car with cash. I got a taste of this when I bought my first car at 17 and paid for it in full on my own. The current car I use, a Smart Fortwo, is completely off.

So, for the next few years, I won’t be buying a car with cash, but it’s still on my list. Walking into the dealership, they ask me how I’m going to finance the vehicle, I put on sunglasses and gaze into the distance and say “I’ll pay with cash.” Then they’ll look in shock as I put down the cash or write a check (<–do people still use those?).

I’ve been watching too many movies, but yeah, that’s kinda how I see it playing out.

Overall, I keep a good sized amount in my emergency fund because I’m aware of my own situation, spending habits, and priorities.

How much do you keep in an emergency fund?

I Moved To Australia!

working holiday visa australia

I landed in Sydney Australia a few days ago. It feels surreal to even say (type…) those words. It’s real though. I blinked several times and pinched myself to make sure.

I’m on a 462 work and holiday visa that lets me stay here for up to 12 months. Australia is wonderful for offering up this type of visa. You don’t need any employer sponsorship in order to get it. If you’re age 18-30 and have no dependents (kids), then you’re eligible for the visa.

The visa came at a hefty price tag of 440 AUD ($332.73 USD). The cost was way more than the cost of my Thailand visa. My excitement got me over the sticker shock.

Being here in Sydney still feels weird. My mind keeps going back to comparing it to Thailand. The streets here are so clean and there are all sorts of people walking around. There’s English signage all over. It kinda feels like some form of culture shock.

In Thailand, whenever you meet an expat, there was probably a big chance they were in Thailand to teach English. There were a few people you would meet who had sponsorships they were in the minority. The conversations usually started with, “So what school do you teach at?”

Here in Australia, there are all sorts of people from all over the world here on working holiday visas. They’re doing all sorts of jobs: restaurant, bar, office, carpentry, and fruit picking.

When I was in university, my dream getaway always included Australia. The barrier was always flight costs. A round-trip flight to Australia is expensive, holy moly. I would see costs being around $1,700 or $1,800. I couldn’t swing that.

Now, a few years later, I still wouldn’t wanna swing that. I came here on reward miles! My first experience in using it. I got the United Explorer Card last year. The signup bonus offered 30,000 miles, no annual fee for first year, 2X miles on United flights, and some other benefits.

I would put purchases on it and pay the balance in full every month. When it came time to book my ticket, I had enough reward miles to use. I ended up only having to pay $28 for my flight here. You can bet I was super happy when I found that out.

This Australia experience is more on the nerve-wracking side than my Thailand experience. I’m here with just a backpack and duffel bag. Nothing super planned out. A lot of the work and holiday visa (WHV) people get jobs at bars, restaurants, and such.

I’ve gotten set up with my Australian bank account, tax file number, and Aussie phone number. The bank teller was friendly and really interested in learning more about America. He was a final year uni student and said one of his goals had been to study for a semester in America, but he never got to.

We talked about the best spots in Australia and America. The conversation got me more excited about visiting Melbourne (pronounced ‘Melbin’) and going to Rottnest Island to see the smiling Quokkas.

I have a few job leads come up, some with office and one with a restaurant. I’ll update what happens.

All of the flying got me thrown in a loop. My first three days here in Australia, I slept. No kidding. I slept and whenever I wasn’t sleeping, I was in a constant drowsy state that even coffee couldn’t fix.  With the flying and moving around so much I haven’t been able to do consistent blog work for the past two weeks. Makes me sad. Hopefully, a more structured routine will solidify in the coming week or two.  This is a big reason why I could never be a travel blogger, haha :).

I’m gonna work to consistently put out a new blog post every Wednesday morning on American central time. Sydney is 13 hour hours ahead of the central time zone, so I’ll be in my little corner, late at night, scheduling them out. Alllll about that tenacity. 


What have you been up to lately? Any projects or travels? 

The Best Unpaid Internship There Ever Was

From doing this blog, I've learned a lot about how to manage my time and unexpectedly learned more about digital marketing topics. It’s safe to say this little blog has been the best unpaid internship I’ve ever had. No coffee runs required. :)
Old Bagan, Myanmar (when I visited in December 2016)

I first learned about the unruly thing that is known as unpaid internships back when I was in university. My major was in the media department and I quickly learned that many internships in the media industry were, and still are, unpaid.

Usually, companies try to dress it up as something more than it is. The position involves gaining valuable experience! You can build your portfolio and get exposure!

Well, you know what happens when people get a lot of exposure? They die. Just ask the sun.

As part of a university graduation requirement, I had to complete an internship. The one-hour credit cost $300. Factoring in the cost of gas to get to and from an internship and a student would literally be paying several hundreds of dollars just to do an unpaid internship.

It was dumb. I praised the internship gods when I finally got a good-paying internship during my final semester of university. I let out a sigh of relief, thinking unpaid internships were a blip in my past.

Well, how life surprises you! I’ve been working an unpaid internship in addition to my full-time job for the past year and I’ve actually liked it! The unpaid internship? Blogging.

I spent a little time gathering up all the costs I’ve put into this blog over the past year it’s been up.

Hosting

There appears to be two main options when it comes to starting a blog: self-hosted WordPress or Squarespace. I’m on self-hosted WordPress. Lots of people rave about the benefits of it. It is great but the main reason I use it is because I’m familiar with it, haha. I used it a lot during a course I had at university and it just stuck to me. 

For nearly the first year of this blog, I used Bluehost as my web host. There are people who rave about Bluehost and many more people who talk about how crappy it is. Well, I had a 3-year hosting plan back from when I signed up years ago when I started building websites. Maybe I was lucky, but I didn’t have too much trouble with Bluehost during my time with them. 

I switched away since Bluehost didn’t seem like the type of service I could grow with. Siteground was hosting a Black Friday deal and I hopped on it. $66 for one year of hosting!

Plugins and icons and themes

I LOVE Creative Market. Gah, I’m obsessed with browsing the site. They offer six free goods starting on Monday every week. I’ve purchased some icons from the site and also got the Social Warfare plugin, which I love. Total cost for plugins, icons, and WordPress themes came to $92.30.

Software

I rocked the free Mailchimp account for the longest. A couple months ago, I opted for the $10 plan to get the automation feature. Boardbooster is the scheduler tool I use for Pinterest.

Professional Development

Ah, this is always a big expense, isn’t it? Maybe not always. For me, it has been. Mainly because I decided to go to FinCon in September of last year, after unexpectedly winning one of the scholarships for a free pass. Even with the free pass, I still spent quite a bit. It was all worth it though for the bomb-digity people I got to meet. (and I’m sorry, but geez, I do not like the Ally bank cookies. Waaaay too sugary. The people who have gone to FinCon will know what I’m talking about. Almost everyone who goes loves the Ally Bank cookies. 

As for courses and such, on Black Friday 2016, I purchased a bump sale course special and got a bunch of courses from Made Vibrant and Jason Does Stuff for a low as heck price. And I’ve actually gone through two of the courses and put them into practice! Yay for actually using stuff! The cost for professional development came to $966.18 (most of the cost being FinCon).


Altogether, the total cost for running my blog for the first year came to $1,264.48 USD. A lot, yeah. It’s all been worth it, though. While I haven’t made any actual money from the blog itself, I have had opportunities pop up for things. And I love the personal finance blogger community!

I love reading stories about how people learn about money, how their blogs changed their lives, and such. People talk about how the personal finance space can be an echo chamber sometimes (have you read the 1,000,001 articles on emergency funds?). I can see how people say that but for the most part, I love reading people’s unique way they approach their money and how they use it for the life they want. 

From doing this blog, I’ve learned a lot about how to manage my time and unexpectedly learned more about digital marketing topics.

It’s safe to say this little blog has been the best unpaid internship I’ve ever had. No coffee runs required. 🙂 


What do you think of blogs? How can they help people? 

Investing 101 For Millennials

When I first started learning about investing for millennials, it was overwhelming. All these different terms were thrown around like risk tolerance, bull market, mutual fund, and it was a lot to take in.

After reading through several blog posts, I headed to the nearest bookstore to learn more. There are a lot of beginner-friendly books on getting started with money management, investing for millennials, and getting yourself in good financial shape. The ones I read were great. They talked about budgeting, paying yourself first, automating your savings, and eliminating debt.

Reading up on the topics was great but it felt like something was missing. The books would usually devote a chapter or two talking about investing and the importance of it. Once I had gotten through several of the books and blog posts, the advice all centered on the same key things to remember when investing: pick low-fee index funds, consistently contribute to your brokerage accounts, and have a passive, hands-off approach to your investments (a.k.a don’t pull your money out when the media tells you the sky is falling).

The advice was good. Although I was never sure exactly who the advice was aimed at. It was for money management newbies for sure, but what age group? Millennials? Gen X-er’s who need to catch up on retirement contributions? I was never fully certain.

There are articles on the interwebz about investing for millennials, but the articles were short and would usually talk about one part of the investing equation: what to invest in, where to invest, setting up a brokerage account, and what the heck a “brokerage account” even was.

I didn’t find many resources putting all of the information together. A resource showing how investing doesn’t have to be scary and how to get started and set yourself up with a passive investment portfolio filled with low-fee index funds. The kind of portfolio many investors recommend, including billionaire Warren Buffet.

Talking with friends, acquaintances, and strangers, I noticed a common theme emerge. Millennials had a vague idea of the importance of investing but they were still reluctant and confused.

I know investing is important but I’m afraid of losing money and I don’t have a gigantic sum of money to get started. 

Well, I created a resource to help fellow millennials out.

The Investing 101 For Millennials course is a free 7-day email course that walks people through all the investing basics.

  • investing myths
  • compound interest
  • developing a mindset to not be worried when the stock market has a downfall
  • and more

The course even has videos to talk more about investing topics. If you’ve been wanting to learn more about investing but have been stuck in confusing lingo or scared to get started, click the image below to learn more about the course.

See you on the inside!

Investing 101 for Millennials


Investing For Millennials FREE 7-day email course. Pin for later.

Are you confused about the world of investing and want to learn more? Enroll in my free 7-day Investing 101 For Millennials email course.

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