Are you looking to broaden your horizons by moving overseas? Whether the lower prices, new cultural experiences, or work opportunities draw you in, there are many fantastic reasons for moving overseas to beautiful countries like Germany, Portugal, or Costa Rica. 

Moving overseas is so popular that there are currently 8.7 million Americans living abroad in different countries. Excluding the military, The Association of Americans Resident Overseas (AARO) estimates that if all these Americans were put in one state, it would be the 12th most populous state in the U.S. So, if you want to move overseas or become an expat, you’re not alone. 

However, moving overseas can be expensive. Therefore, here are 10 top tips for moving overseas on a budget to help you save money during your big move.

Plan Ahead 

Moving overseas is not something you want to put off planning. Planning ahead gives you plenty of time to accommodate minor setbacks without worrying about pushing back your original move date or paying more for last-minute services. 

Start planning your move at least three to four months in advance. Create a Google Doc or file to keep track of all your notes and projects as you move. Use management software like Asana or Notion to organize your move into smaller tasks and lists. This software allows you to create detailed plans for your move while providing a bird’s-eye view of the entire process. 

Planning ahead will also help you get better, more cost-effective deals with shipping companies, forwarders, and flights since you won’t be left to pick whatever is left or have to pay fees for booking last minute. 

Choose Ocean Freight Shipping

If you’re moving overseas, you have two primary options for international shipping: ocean and air freight. 

While air freight is convenient, it’s also much more expensive. We recommend skipping air freight entirely or only using it for small, delicate items like your professional camera equipment or artwork. If you have a tight deadline for moving, you may need to use air freight to ship your items. However, sea freight will be much more affordable if shipping costs are a concern. 

For most travelers, ocean freight will be the budget-friendly choice for shipping your goods. Keep in mind that you’ll need to give your belongings a month or two to show up at your new home because traveling by boat and clearing customs takes considerable time.

There are two primary types of ocean freight shipping to consider: 

  • Full Container Load (FCL): Full Container Load shipping typically gives you a choice between using a 20 or 40-foot container to store your belongings. The shipping container will be exclusively for your items, so you won’t have to share space. 
  • Less Than Container Load (LCL): If you have fewer than a few thousand pounds of belongings, you may want to save money by choosing a less than container load shipping option. This option will consolidate your belongings with other shipments within a container. The biggest downside of this option is that the company will take your belongings to a warehouse to consolidate the items with other loads before the container is placed on the ship. Unfortunately, this means that your belongings will be handled multiple times, increasing the chances of theft, damage, delays, or loss of your belongings. 

Go Through Your Belongings with a Critical Eye

Before considering your shipping options, carefully examine your belongings. Assess what you really need and what you can get rid of

Remember, the fewer items you bring with you, the less money you’ll need to ship them overseas. In addition, items you choose to part with can become an opportunity to make money. You can have a garage sale, sell things to secondhand stores or antique stores, and list items, like collectibles or furniture, on Craigslist to make extra spending money for your move. Don’t forget to advertise your garage sale online and in the newspaper to maximize how much you can make from selling your old belongings. 

Not only will you save money because you’ll have fewer items to move, but you can give yourself a fresh start with fewer items and less clutter in your new place. When going through your things, consider your new home too. Will your current furniture or clothes look out of place or be made from materials that don’t hold up well in the new climate? Consider donating or selling these pieces or asking friends or family to hold onto them for you if they are genuinely sentimental pieces. 

Buy Your Flights at the Right Time

Unlike other reservations for your move, you do not want to buy your airline tickets until you discover your move date. While this may seem counterintuitive, buying your plane tickets too early can actually be much more expensive. You also don’t want to wait too close to your move date to purchase tickets. So, when is the best time to purchase your flight tickets?

  • For short-haul flights, aim to buy your tickets around seven weeks in advance. 
  • For long-haul flights, look to buy tickets about 18 weeks in advance. 

If possible, book your flight on a Sunday and avoid booking during the middle of the week. Wednesdays are notorious for being the busiest and most expensive day to fly on. 

Another way you can save money on your ticket is flying during off-peak seasons, if possible. Directly after New Year’s Day or early fall are usually considered off-season. 

You can also set up flight ticket alerts that track ticket prices and alert you when prices drop below a specific price. 

In short, if you’re making a move overseas and have control over the timing, choose off-peak seasons for travel, book flights on Sundays, and set up a flight alert to get the very best deal on your tickets.

Handle Your Finances Now

Don’t assume that moving overseas will make your finances more manageable. If anything, you’ll need to take more steps to prepare your finances so that you don’t get cut off from your money at the most inopportune time. 

We recommend talking with your bank or financial institution and letting it know when you’ll be moving abroad. You’ll also need to provide your bank with a new address so that your bank account isn’t flagged as “stolen” or “suspicious account activity” when you’re purchasing things in the Caribbean or Australia. 

Ask your bank about the following: 

  • Registering for online bill payment
  • Customer service overseas
  • If the bank has branches located in your new country
  • International wire transfers
  • International fees

You’ll also want to speak with an accountant about your taxes. Unless you give up your citizenship, you’re still required to report your earnings to the IRS and pay taxes as a U.S. citizen. You’ll need to notify your government about moving abroad. Many governments require you to complete additional paperwork before the move to establish your new address and tax status. 

Speak with an accountant now so that you can adequately report your earnings and take the best steps to prepare yourself for this. Your accountant can help you avoid double taxation and unnecessary penalties and fees that can happen during an overseas move. 

Pack Your Items Yourself

If you’re looking to save money during your overseas move, it can’t be stressed enough that packing your belongings yourself is a great way to save money. 

We recommend that you separate your items into categories, such as a category for books, clothing, delicate items, kitchen products, etc. Then pack up as many of your belongings as possible. Remember, the less time the moving company is at your home packing or moving items, the less money you’ll spend on moving services. 

You’ll also want to look into international movers to transfer your belongings to the ocean or air freight drop-off. 

Make Tough Decisions Now

If you’re moving overseas, you must make tough decisions, like what to do with enormous furniture, your car, pets, and other hard-to-move items. 

For your pets, you’ll need to consider how you’re going to move your pets overseas. Start by looking at the airline you want to book your ticket through. Many airlines offer discounted prices for pets if you can book their tickets in advance. Larger pets, like big dogs, may need to be kept in the cargo section, but you may be able to keep smaller dogs or cats in a carrier near you during the flight. Complete your research on this now so that you can compare prices and weigh your options. In addition, you’ll need to consider government regulations on pets for the country you’re moving to, vaccination requirements, and pet insurance for your pet to keep it safe and healthy in your new home. 

Double-check what vaccines your pet needs before it’s shipped. If it’s not up-to-date on its vaccinations, some countries will require it to quarantine for up to 30 days and charge you for its stay, which can quickly add up. Don’t let this be you — research what your pet needs before the big move. 

If you have a car, you’ll need to decide to sell your vehicle or move it overseas. Selling your car will be easier and can leave you with extra money for your move. Consider if you really need a car in your new home. Many countries have excellent public transport or are better walking cities than many places throughout the United States. 

If you decide to keep your car, look for a trustworthy international shipper specializing in vehicle shipping. Verify that your current car meets all environmental and safety regulations for your new country and fill out paperwork to relocate your vehicle. You’ll also need to wash and empty your car before it’s shipped. Many countries are strict about soil being on or in your vehicle because this can import foreign pests, so deep clean your car to keep yourself compliant. 

Don’t forget to set up new car insurance to protect yourself financially in your new home. 

Purchase Insurance

Moving insurance is an added cost, but it can save you thousands of dollars if your belongings are damaged during the move. 

We recommend investing in moving insurance to cover your belongings, especially expensive items like electronics, artwork, or high-end jewelry. If you’re shipping your car, consider purchasing specialty shipping insurance to protect your vehicle. 

Don’t forget to shop around for the best deal on moving insurance. Your ocean freight shipping company may offer a policy, but third-party moving insurance often provides much more comprehensive protection. Tell your insurance provider that you’re moving overseas and ask for its recommendations on what kinds of moving insurance you’ll need to cover your items when they’re being moved by car or truck, boat, airplane, etc. 

Another critical aspect to consider when moving abroad is medical insurance. You may need to purchase private medical insurance depending on where you’re moving. In some countries, you may qualify for medical insurance or a public healthcare system, while others require you to maintain your own policy. Don’t leave this until the last minute because health insurance is a crucial step in protecting your finances should you become ill or have an accident. 

Gather Quotes and Price Match

Price-matching and shopping around is a massive opportunity for saving money for your move. 

Compare as many shipping options as possible and gather quotes from these companies. Decide which company you’d like to go with. If its price is higher than others, speak with a representative and explain that you’ve been quoted a lower price for shipping the same number of belongings. See if the company will give you a lower price or discount. 

If nothing else, it never hurts to ask for a discount. Many companies will gladly give you a discount or tell you about special deals, especially if it means they gain you as a customer. 

Prepare Yourself for Customs

Before your move, gather all the documents you and your family will need to make a move. 

Preparation for customs will include paperwork like: 

  • Passports
  • Medical records
  • Visas
  • Driver’s license or identification card
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate

These documents are crucial during your travels and in a foreign country when you’re applying for an apartment lease, opening a bank account, renting a car, or looking for a new job. You’ll also need this paperwork to make your encounter with customs easier. 

When you hire an international moving company, it will handle getting your belongings through customs. Its experience and services should prevent you from incurring extra costs when your belongings are taken through customs. Check with the company about additional paperwork you need to fill out for customs clearance, especially for unique items that tend to be rejected or scrutinized by customs authorities. Your international moving company should know all about this and be able to advise you on what you can do to prevent your items from being rejected. 

However, you’ll still need to avoid getting stuck at customs duty yourself. 

If you end up stuck at customs, you can incur extra fees, additional paperwork, long delays that cost you money, and theft. So, research what you can do to make the customs process easier on yourself. 

Consider any items you have on your person that the agents may want an explanation for, such as prescription medications. Keep all your documents on you so that you can prove you’re who you say you are, a doctor prescribes your medications, and you’re vaccinated, etc. Don’t try to sneak anything through customs. We promise it won’t be worth it when your move is delayed. Look up additional information about how to pack your belongings for customs. This will make the process easier when they’re going through your items and save you from additional fees or delays. 

Final Thoughts

Moving overseas is a big undertaking. However, planning and shopping around can reduce stress during the move and help you find the cheapest way to move from your home country. 

We hope our guide on the top 10 ways to move overseas on a budget helps you save money on the cost of moving during your big move and the start of your new life. Don’t underestimate the power of shopping around, price matching, and giving yourself enough time to plan your move and new cost of living out.

Editorial Contributors
Sam Wasson

Sam Wasson

Staff Writer

Sam Wasson graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Film and Media Arts with an Emphasis in Entertainment Arts and Engineering. Sam brings over four years of content writing and media production experience to the Today’s Homeowner content team. He specializes in the pest control, landscaping, and moving categories. Sam aims to answer homeowners’ difficult questions by providing well-researched, accurate, transparent, and entertaining content to Today’s Homeowner readers.

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Lora Novak

Senior Editor

Lora Novak meticulously proofreads and edits all commercial content for Today’s Homeowner to guarantee that it contains the most up-to-date information. Lora brings over 12 years of writing, editing, and digital marketing expertise. She’s worked on thousands of articles related to heating, air conditioning, ventilation, roofing, plumbing, lawn/garden, pest control, insurance, and other general homeownership topics.

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