|Somewhere over the rainbow|
1. Start paying off your debt.
Debt is servitude. Being in debt ties you to your job because you have to make a certain amount per month just to pay the debt. Here are some scary debt statistics and I hope you aren't one of these!
* over 40% of US families spend more than they earn. WOW! that is scary
* the average US household credit card debt is $16,140.
* the average consumer has 3.5 credit cards
*total outstanding consumer debt is $11.34 trillion and includes car loans, mortgages, credit cards, student loans, and personal debt and the numbers keep going up every year!
I'm no financial expert but we did it buy living simply and cheaper and then using that money to pay off the debt. We drove the same car for 8+ years. We cut up the credit cards. We shopped at Goodwill and Aldi's. We rarely ate out and we rarely bought "toys" and stuff. I enjoyed listening to Dave Ramsey and there are many other financial websites that can help you achieve your financial goals.
2. And then start saving.
Open a savings account, stuff it under your mattress, bury it in the backyard, anything! Just start saving.
It's hard to judge how much you will need to live in a foreign country until you get there. Some places are really cheap. Our friends in Panama tell us how much they pay for stuff and it makes me cringe because things are expensive in Chile. But it is relative. Our friends from New Zealand think Chile is cheap. We lived in South Carolina and to us Chile is expensive. You can check out numbeo.com to see how much things cost in the country you are looking at. Then you should try to save enough money to live on for a year or two while you get yourself established. For Chile, outside of Santiago, a family of 4, living simply, could survive on $3,000 per month. But you have to figure costs if you need a car, buying land or house, sending the kids to private school which is typical here and could cost you $500 USD per month. You may have a retirement check or other monthly income which will be great to keep you going if you have no major expenses like car or house but don't expect to come down and just get a job. Jobs here are low paying for unskilled labor and if you don't speak Spanish you might as well forget it unless you plan to teach English. Which leads us to ....
3. Get or create a job.
You may have a retirement income or not or just need some extra income. Get or create a job that is not tied to a certain location like telecommuting or an online job. If you are an entrepreneur, there are many opportunities esp. in Chile with its growing economy and stable government and rising incomes. And your 1-2 years worth of savings will give you some time to get some other income going. We have a monthly retirement check we are living off of but we want some more disposable income and we are still young and energetic, at least most days, so we are opening a business here in Chile selling products from the US. Often it just takes some time on the ground living in the country of your dreams and thinking with your entrepreneurial thinking cap to see what opportunities exist.
Next time we will wrap up our list with
4. To Pack your stuff or not to pack your stuff
5. Finding a place to live
6. Buying your airline ticket cause you've made your dreams come true!
And also a few tips on set backs and not getting discouraged because most of your friends will tell you that you are crazy and you'll never do it!
4. To pack or not to pack
Here are some pros and cons for each.
1. To pack by shipping container
In 2013 we bought a 40' seaworthy shipping container for $4,000. We packed it up and then it sat for 9 months in the yard at our duplex which our eldest son was living at. And in the meantime in Chile, we were checking out what we could and could not get here and the prices. So we had our son buy a welder and put it in the container. Then he put some kayaks in and so on. Then we paid $1000. to have it driven to the port of Charleston about 3 hrs away. We paid $2700. for the boat ride to Concepcion, Chile. which took 3 weeks. We hired an aduana or customs agent to oversee things for us and do all the paperwork and pay all the port fees. This was about $500. Chile has a special deal for new residents- if you ship during your temporary residency you pay less taxes. We met the container at the port where they did a quick inspection and we were on the way with a truck which we hired to bring it to our house about 6 hrs from the port for $2,000. The whole process was pretty smooth and we had no problems. But not always. You can rent your container instead of buying but this puts you on a tight time schedule which can be very stressful! Friends of our had their container detained in the US for a random inspection. 2 weeks later and $2,000., the container was on the way. He was sorry he had done the whole thing. So think about your stuff. Do you have collectibles or valuable things, irreplaceable items, sentimental things you'd prefer not to live without? Specialty equipment for your hobbies or job? Or just a bunch of junk you'd prefer to sell then....
2. If you sell everything, you can use the money to start over once you settle down.
Cons - You may not find everything you want or think you need once you get here.
Pros - A lot less hassle and expense
You can bring some stuff on the airline for free usually 2 suitcases up to 50 lbs and $80 for any extra but that varies depending on the airline and the time of year you travel.
You can ship stuff by postal service. We got a 25 lb box for about $175 and it took 2 weeks. The Chilean postal service has a bad reputation for stealing stuff and sometimes they do inspect your box. There are usually no importation fees unless you receive a box from a business and then they will charge you 19% IVA tax.
5. Find a place to live
|This beautiful cabin is in Frutillar Bajo|
We have a friend with a vacation home that they let us live in for almost 2 years but if you don't have a friend like that (sorry, I don't have a vacation home) .....
You could travel around Chile using airbnb.com to find cheap short term rentals. This way you could explore different areas and when you find one you like you could do a more permanent rental on a cabin. Expect to pay $400-500 for a small 1-2 bedroom cabin outside a city. January & February are peak summer vacation times so rentals may be more expensive or even hard to find in some areas. July also may be a busy and expensive time because of winter break. BTW, these are good times to explore Santiago as the residents leave en masse for vacation. I would recommend 6 months to a year in your chosen area before making the commitment to buy anything.
6. Buy your airline ticket
Expect to pay $800 to $1,000. for a roundtrip ticket from LA, Dallas/Ft Worth, Atlanta, or Miami direct to Santiago on LAN or American. The overnight flight gets you there first thing in the morning on an 8 hr. flight or leave in the AM and get there in time for a late dinner. Chile is usually 1-2 hrs ahead of eastern standard time.
Chile used to charge a reciprocal one time entrance fee to all US citizens of $160. but that was revoked in 2014. A free tourist visa lasts 3 months and can be renewed once for another 3 months but then you have to either leave or apply for temporary residency.
In conclusion. I wrote down our goals with a rough timeline of when I wanted to have certain things accomplished. I checked this list regularly to keep us on track. It helped us to stay focused and take action instead of making excuses. And don't get discouraged because everyone will think you are crazy and will tell you you'll never do it. Best wishes to you all!