Adulting from abroad: real-life decisions to make before you leave

When you move abroad for a less-than-permanent term, several adult issues must be addressed. Some of them save you money, others prepare you for emergencies, but all of them are important to settle before you begin your adventure.

Health Insurance

This is a biggie, and actually a requirement from the UK government if you are working or studying. Insanely confusing at first (gotta love those insurance T&C’s), what is needed for a program like BUNAC is having up to $500,000 health insurance coverage plus return of mortal remains (also called repatriation of remains) to your home country under one travel insurance plan.

I was actually covered for both of these things, but under two separate plans. So, my $500,000 coverage fell under my health insurance plan while my repatriation of remains was covered under my life insurance policy. Sorry, folks, but that won’t count. Now I’m doubly covered, with a travel insurance policy I purchased through BUNAC, plus I am still paying into my insurance plans at home because cancelling them just wasn’t worth the hassle.

Shipping vs. Packing

At first I thought, “Hey, I don’t need some of this stuff for awhile, why don’t I send it by sea to save money?” Well, truth be told if you are not moving permanently and aren’t taking everything but the kitchen sink, using sea shipping is so unnecessary and expensive I’d take it off your list right now and focus on fitting as much as you can into as few luggage bags as possible.

Remember, where you’re going will also have shops, so some of those “needs” can be left out of your luggage and bought instead.

Read more on shipping vs. packing in this post.

Selling my Car

Because I did my move overseas on a tight timeline, I decided against selling my car. Instead, it will lead a quiet life in the countryside at my parents’ house for the next six months. In my case, this made sense. If I don’t secure a permanent job abroad (or don’t like living abroad), it will be nice to come home to a vehicle without having to then worry about purchasing a new one.

On the flip side, if you have a more permanent job, it might make sense to have that extra income before you go to buoy your finances. Plus, it reduces your upkeep, storage, and insurance expenses.

Car Insurance

I decided not to sell my car, meaning I still have to legally pay insurance on it every six months. Since it will literally be sitting around barely used, I had to decide what type of coverage to keep on it.

It had full coverage, but at over $400 it seemed an unnecessary price to pay for minimal usage (as my mom will drive it work once a week). Instead, I chose to drop it down to liability coverage only, bringing my 6-month expense down to around the $120 mark. Much better, when I will be taking on other expenses of living abroad.

Phone Plan

In the states, my phone uses Verizon’s network. I did not want to mess with setting it up for international usage (a tough feat in itself), and instead chose to take out my Verizon SIM card once abroad and buy a new one from a UK company that allows pay-as-you-go plans.

Unfortunately, this did not mean that my Verizon plan magically ended. Instead, I am technically paying two phone companies because of two pieces of red tape detailed below:

  1. Suspending my plan: I looked into suspending my plan with Verizon (a.k.a. putting it on hold for the months I’m gone at a reduced rate). After speaking to a Verizon rep, I learned that when you suspend a plan, your phone becomes unusable regardless of the phone company from whom you purchase a new SIM.
  2. Dropping my phone plan entirely: My other option was to drop my line from the plan I’m on. This did not make sense in my situation, because if I decide to return to the states in 6 months, I most likely would have to get a different number. And we all know what an absolute pain that can be.

So, as it sits, I am paying around $20 to Verizon each month—luckily, my phone became due for an upgrade right before I left and this is an already lower rate than the previous $46 per month—and £10 (or $13) to for my UK plan. Not ideal, but it actually comes out to less than what I was paying for Verizon alone before my upgrade.

Of course, these are all personal choices that are specific to your situation and comfort level. In my short time frame, I made the most logical decisions I could to efficiently spend my money without creating extra hassles in the long run.

Seriously though, if anyone knows a better way around any of these “sunk” costs, please let me know your thoughts below. As a penny pincher (now a pence pincher), any advice is more than welcome.

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