It’s well known that teaching English abroad is a great way to make some good money.
In Korea, it’s no different. The opportunity to save the big bucks is something that draws many people to Korea’s uber-popular EPIK programme (English Programme In Korea). And to be honest, I was one of them.
With the relatively low cost of living, a tasty monthly salary of 2.2 million won (£1400/$1800), and free accommodation included in your contract, it’s easy to set money aside each month in Korea.
My partner and I ventured to Jeonju, Korea to work as EPIK teachers in September 2017. We both managed to save over £8000/$10,000 without really trying. And we by no means lived frugally.
We ate out 5 times a week, frequently went out to bars and pubs, and travelled to Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan and Australia over the year. Even we were impressed with how much money was left over after all of that.
Achieving this for yourself is relatively easy. By altering some small aspects of your life in Korea and making some conscious changes, you too could save thousands.
Here’s how to save £8000/$10,000 a year in Korea without even trying.
1) Send your money home straight away
This one is important. If, like most people, you would be inclined to spend the money sitting temptingly in your bank account, send it away.
Most months, I sent just over 50% of my salary home immediately. That was usually 1.2 million won (around £800/$1000). Hana Bank’s ‘Easy One Remittance Account’ makes this super easy.
When you open this account, you link it to a bank account in your home country. This means that when you transfer money into the Easy One account, it gets sent directly into your home account. And the fees are relatively low too. If you want to set one up, check out this handy little guide.
When that money is out of your Korean current account, you are highly less likely to spend it. I only touched this money to pay for all those exotic holidays I mentioned earlier. This is a crucial step to help you save money in Korea.
But wait! Sometimes it’s worth waiting a few days or weeks to send that money home. Make sure you…
2) Keep an eye on the exchange rates
When you’re sending large amounts of money overseas, it’s worth checking the exchange rate first to make sure you get the most out of the your money.
I had a handy little app on my phone that told me how much much 1.2 million won would get me in pounds. If the pound was strong, that 1.2 million won would equate to less. If it was weak, it would be worth more- so that’s when I’d send the money back home.
Holding back on the big bank transfer when the exchange rates aren’t in your favour is definitely worth your while. From my experience, doing so could be worth up to £100/$120. And £100/$120 is a lot when you’re trying hard to save money in Korea.
3) Eat Korean food
Being in Korea, eating Korean food isn’t difficult. I’ve put it on the list because eating traditional Korean meals on the regular is a great way to save money because it’s so cheap.
Nowadays, there’s lots of tasty international food options on offer in Korea, especially in the cities. For people like me, who are not huge fans of the ol’ bibimbap, this was a godsend.
However, international cuisine in Korea is usually a lot more expensive than Korean food.
A hearty Korean meal with all the trimmings (side dishes) at a small local restaurant could set you back as little as 5000₩. That’s just £3/$4. Crazy, right? That’s probably less than half of what you would spend in an international restaurant.
Eating these cheap, cheerful and nutritious meals is a brilliant way to save money in Korea – every penny counts! I did so at least 2/3 times a week to keep the costs down (especially at the end of the month when I was running out of won).
4) Take buses, not taxis
One of the many things I love about Korea is its fantastic public bus system. Korean buses are fast, frequent, and seem to take you just about anywhere.
Even better, they’re also cheap. An easy way to keep the costs down and help you save money in Korea is to take buses wherever possible, and avoid the temptation to take the also cheap-and-readily-available taxis.
In my city (Jeonju), one bus journey would cost you 1,350₩ (90p or $1.20), even if it takes over an hour and involves changing buses. Getting around by bus is a super easy way to reduce your expenses.
5) Travel on a budget
Teaching in Korea gives you an amazing opportunity to travel that you shouldn’t take for granted. With the school vacations and an ideal base in Asia, there’s tonnes of interesting places to visit that are just a few hours away.
If you’re looking to save some serious cash from your year, it’s probably best to avoid those luxury 5* resorts. But that doesn’t mean your holidays need to be any less exciting.
From booking out-of-the-way Airbnbs, to cooking some of your meals at home, there are plenty of ways to cut down the cost of your trips. Check out this article I wrote on the topic to find out how, like me, you could save hundreds of pounds/dollars on your most adventurous trips.
And it’s as easy as that.
You don’t have to be super stingy to make massive savings while you’re teaching in Korea.
By simply paying attention to your spending and following these tips even vaguely, you will find it easy to set money aside each month. And by the end of your year, you will probably have a lot to show for it. Good luck!