9 Money-Saving Ways to Travel with Student Debt

Travel with student debt

Wondering how to pay student loans while abroad? Is that even possible? We’ve got the 411 for wanderlusting recent grads who want to travel with student debt! ☆ The young and restless world-traveling dreamers who are freshly coming out of college with a diploma in one hand and a student loan in the other can now take a deep breath. Paying off student debt while living abroad is not a dream anymore! Say whaaaat?

students is graduation caps sitting in graduation ceremony
The student debt represented in this photo probably equates close to a million dollars.

There has never been a time with a greater need for expat students and international employees than now, when the world has opened its borders (for the most part). If your level of English is close to native and you have a diploma, we guarantee that you can find a job pretty much anywhere you want in the world. Can you picture yourself paying off debt while living abroad? Yes you can!

At home, it usually goes that after you finish college and get a job, you start paying off your debt. The process is practically the same abroad as well. Except that it is, well, abroad, and your life is not your ordinary life anymore. A few things may change, like your lifestyle, your salary, your expenses, and of course your daily routine, but isn’t that exactly what you are looking for?

You’re probably here because you’re looking for a change of scenery, and a way to pay off your debt but still travel to your heart’s content. Wanna know how? Keep on reading, friend! You’re about to learn how to travel with student debt.

Is paying student loans while living abroad possible?

Although a student loan should not really be looked at as a “loan” but instead as an investment in one’s self and their career, at the end of the day it’s still a burden that thousands of people have to deal with. It’s a burden that makes a lot of people put their travel dreams on hold until they pay their debt off, and then they can start enjoying life.

Naturally, people look for loopholes—a way you can make both happen, and you don’t have to wait until you’re debt free or too old to travel the world. So…is paying off debt while living abroad possible?

hand holding up rolled american 20 dollar bill
Ugh…every little bit helps when paying off debt while living abroad (we guess).

The answer to that question is a definite YES! But (there’s always a but), there is a certain amount of planning involved to make this possible. Before you jump into something and create more debt, make sure your plan is tight, and you are prepared for anything. If you are still living at home with your parents, paying rent in another country might not be a feasible option for you, and the thought of moving to a whole new country is scary. But we are here to put your worries at ease.

[How to Save Money for Travel as a Student]

Paying off debt while living abroad requires planning

First and foremost, start by taking a hard look at the amount that you owe, re-evaluate your loans, maybe even consolidate them, and know exactly what amount you have to pay towards it every month. From this point on, your loan will be treated like any other monthly bill, meaning that whatever you budget for, this should always be on your expenses list. 

Be smart with your budget and your choices. When you look for accommodation, keep in mind that living outside major cities (rather than downtown) is more affordable. Check for public transportation and connections, get a bike, share rent, hit the local food markets more often, and do free outdoor activities. In other words, be creative at having fun!

You might not be living a glamorous life, but you will be living the most fulfilling life—and you’ll be able to see than principal balance steadily declining. Instead of going out to eat, cook at home and save your money for a trip in your new home country. You can even search for different ways to make some extra travel money, like freelance work or tutoring English to local children. 

And perhaps your debt won’t get paid in full by the time you head back home (that happens and it’s okay!), but by the end of your adventure, a significant part of it will have been paid off and you’ll have had some of the best memories and significant experiences of your life.

Who knows, you could be one of those people who are so much happier in their new host country that they just decide to stay even after they’ve paid off their loan. Either way, we see it as a win-win situation.

9 tips on how to pay student loans while abroad

If you’re still worried and can’t imagine how in God’s name any of this is possible, check out these 10 tips on how to pay student loans while abroad.

person writing in notebook at desk near globe
Get your pen and notebook out, and get started on your plan for paying off debt while living abroad!

1. Get yourself a working holiday visa

One of the best and most popular ways to earn some money while you’re living abroad is through working holidays. You can do seasonal jobs in different countries abroad, like working in a hotel or a resort, as a staff member in a restaurant, or even be part of a crew staff and sail across the globe.

These options give you the chance to live as a local in a new country and become a part of the community, all while you’re earning an income. And if this sounds like bogus advice to you, do yourself a favor a Google the minimum wage in typical WHV countries, like Australia and New Zealand.

Pro tip: Good service brings good tips. Extra cash means extra enjoyment or more down payment towards your loan. If you happen to be working in Europe, you can make beaucoup d’argent from your tips. Check, please!

2. Why not teach abroad?

You’ve just finished college, which means you have a degree in something. It doesn’t really matter what it is, because with a degree and a level of English close to native, you can teach abroad pretty much anywhere you want.

Apply for teaching jobs at universities, public or private schools, language universities and international schools. Even search for companies that hire English teachers for their employees. Some of these jobs might come with accommodation and certain benefits, which will definitely help your budget and reduce your debt immensely.

And it doesn’t have to be English you are teaching (although that’s definitely the most popular choice). You can also teach music, arts, math, or computer science; if your degree is in education, even more doors will open to you, especially in the Middle East.

[7 Tricks to Saving Money While Teaching Abroad]

3. Work remotely #digitalnomad

Isn’t this what everyone is doing or wishing to be doing nowadays? Some actually have the guts to pack their backpack and laptop and travel the world. Start your freelancing career today, because there are countless job opportunities out there for everyone.

Teach English online, become a virtual bookkeeper, write for a few blogs, design someone’s page, or sell cool stuff online. You can be living in a different country every 90 days when your tourist visa expires, all while you’re making payments towards your student loans.

And if you want to pick up and go back home, you can do that anytime you like! You make your own schedule and make your own decisions. Check out websites like Upwork, Rev, and Guru to get you started. 

4. Live a modest lifestyle

Now, in order to be able to live abroad and successfully lower your student loan debt, there are some things you may have to give up, like having a coffee from Starbucks everyday. Consider trying to save more money by shopping at second hand stores sometimes, driving an older car, using more public transportation, walking or cycling, and not eating out every weekend.

These are some of the most common and useful ways you can make living abroad possible and still pay off your student debt. Don’t go imagining a life of abstinence, because this is not what it is. You’re simply choosing to stay in a weekend or two, watch some TV, and relax, in order to have a whole week of adventures. Learn how to live smart and this is a skill that will forever help you in life.

hand holding out two large coins
Does this look like enough for a pumpkin spice latte? NO! Set your budget and stick to it, and you CAN travel with student debt.

5. Choose affordable countries

Choosing the country you will be living in depends on the road you’d like to take to travel with student debt. If you get a good job in, let’s say Spain, that offers certain benefits, then you don’t really have much to worry about.

However, if you’re more of a wild soul, or don’t have the luxury of being offered a generous salary in an expensive European country, then set your sails for more affordable countries, like the Philippines, Thailand, South Africa, or Mexico, where the cost of living is very affordable. 

Pro tip: Use exchange rates to your advantage and live the life of your dreams. You’ll be watching your loan decrease while sipping from a coconut and getting ready for your evening yoga classes.

6. Pass on the four-star hotels

Your biggest cost (after your loans) will be that of your accommodation. But if you are smart about it, accommodations abroad don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. First rule: don’t live in the big cities.

Hit outside the city areas, which have just as much to offer as downtown—and probably even some cool hole-in-the-wall places you haven’t heard of. You will have to rely on public transportation, walking, or cycling to get where you want to go. But what better way to explore your host country? 

Second rule: you don’t have to live by yourself. You can easily find people to share rent with, or work as an au pair and live with a host family. An opportunity to interact more with the locals and actually live like one is an exciting opportunity that can’t be overstated.

7. Become an au pair, flight attendant, or drive away

And if you want a job where traveling is your job, you just hit the jackpot!

As an au pair, it would be your job to live with a host family in a different country, adapt to their lifestyle, and watch over their kids. You are involved in their daily activities, you get paid, and there are no bills for you to worry about—besides your student loans back home.

When you drop off a rental car somewhere other than where you picked it up, do you wonder how that car gets back to the original place you got it from? Well, rental companies hire people to drive their cars between different destinations. So if you love driving, cars, money, and have a student loan balance to pay off, you should give this job a try.

Or how about being one of those glamorous flight attendants who gets to jet around the world every single day? If you’re okay with an inconsistent work schedule, the payoff is an occasional weekend in a new country or city you’ve never been to before. Every airline has different standards and routes, so consider getting your feet wet with a domestic airline like Southwest before donning that chic Emirates uniform.

[How to Find Cheap Flights: FundMyTravel’s Inside Scoop]

8. Use FundMy Travel before you go!

You always want to have a safety net, which usually translates into a decent amount of cash to start this journey with. It will take you some time to get ready for this journey, so while you do your research and take care of packing and planning, why not start a campaign with FundMyTravel and raise some money with the help of friends, family, and internet strangers? 

Thousands of people like you have already launched campaigns to achieve their meaningful travel goals. You will be surprised at how much people actually value these campaigns and step up to help other people achieve their dreams. Give it a try—you have absolutely nothing to lose and a whole bunch to gain!

9. Sell your s***

Last (but not least for all the pack rats out there), if you have tons of stuff that you haven’t used in ages, and that you are most definitely not taking abroad with you, why not sell some of it and make some money?

A lot of the things you own are replaceable…so replace everything with items from your travels! Basically, you can sell your old things on websites such as Craigslist, eBay, and Decluttr to create a nest egg for your travels (and to create space in your parents’ basement). Then you can use that money to buy yourself incredible experiences and memories abroad. Now that is money well spent! 

Paying off debt while living abroad is possible… shall we pinch you?

world map with pins
Pictured here: All the places you can go while paying off student loans while living abroad.

No, it is not a dream! Everything you’ve read is entirely true and there are thousands of people just like you out there doing it right now. You could too! And this is the perfect time to do it. You’ve worked hard to get your degree, and this will only make the experience so much more worth it.

When you get home, not only will you have significantly reduced your debt (if not even paid it off)  but now you’ve also gained an incredible set of skills and experiences that will make your resume shine amongst the others.

You’re set up for success! So, are you willing to be mildly to moderately (to even significantly) uncomfortable for the sake of achieving your travel dreams? Only the adventurous need apply.

Start Your Campaign With FundMyTravel!

This article was written by Lucy Dinu. Lucy is an entrepreneur and world traveler—plus writer by day, and reader by night. Born and raised in Romania, Lucy has lived in three different countries and, together with her husband, has traveled to over 20. She strongly believes in personal development, speaks five languages (with a sixth in progress!) and is passionate about everything that puts a smile on people’s faces. Through her unique traveling stories, Lucy aims to inspire others to get out of their comfort zone and explore the world.

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