3 Tips on How to Save Money Teaching English in Nicaragua!
The following post was written by 24 year old, college graduate from Chicago, Illinois – Anna. Anna took her TEFL/TESOL certification course in Leon, Nicaragua in June 2015, and has been teaching English to children, young adults, and adults ever since. This is her first hand experience teaching English here in Leon, and saving money – which until recently was not even thought of to be possible. Since our conversation started with Anna, I have been in touch with other alumni in Nicaragua, and they too are able to save money here. Especially teaching online where you can make $1500/month for working 20 hours a week. We are currently in the process of updating our resources to reflect this new information and provide you with the best resources.
It was coming down to my last few months of college and I was still figuring out what I really wanted to do after graduating. I knew that I had two things in mind: living and working abroad. While doing my research, I immediately came upon the International TEFL Academy Nicaragua where I could get certified to teach English in many different countries worldwide.
The next, and most important, decision was where. When deciding where I would take my TEFL course, I took many things into consideration including my interests, my love for Spanish, but also cost-friendliness and money. After doing my research, and speaking with my advisor Jonathan, it was clear that Nicaragua was going to be one of, if not the most cost-effective and budget-friendly places that I could choose. Nicaragua was the answer. After arriving to Nicaragua and receiving my TEFL/TESOL Certificate, I immediately wanted to start working. I had heard that English teachers would most-likely break even working in Nicaragua, but I soon found that with smart budgeting and working hard, Nicaragua was a place that I could live comfortably and still manage to find ways to save money.
When teaching English in Nicaragua, it is very possible that you will have multiple jobs if you choose to do so. My first job was at a private school where I taught English to both elementary and high school aged kids. My second job was doing some afternoon tutoring with both children and adults, and my third job was teaching English at night to adults. I know this may sound like a lot, but even with these hours, I was still not working weekends or full time:
Job #1-15 hours a week at $6.50 an hour
Job #2-5 hours a week at $7.00 an hour
Job #3-10 hours at $6.00 an hour
Total hours: 30 a week
Total income: $193.00 a week /$772.00 a month
Related Staff article: Cost of living comparison between the US, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.
Once again, I know, only $193.00 a week? This may not seem like a lot to North American or other countries standards, but in Nicaragua, this goes a long way. $193.00 turns out to be $772.00 a month. In a country where you’ll probably spend less than $100.00 a month on groceries and a beer is $1.00, this is a pretty nice salary. Plus, if you’ve saved any money before you come abroad to Nicaragua, your money will go a long way, especially if you keep track of what you’re making and create a budget. After some trials and tribulations, I was able to come up with a monthly plan for where my money would go:
Rent and Bills: $160.00
Day-to-day spending/Going out/Saving: $492.00
You may look at this and think that this is surprising or seems impossible, but living and working in Nicaragua makes it very possible. Having a budget in Nicaragua is like having a budget anywhere; the difficult part is actually sticking to it. Imagine, you’ve just moved to a tropical Central American country, it’s sunny every day, the beach is just a short drive away, and there’s always something going on at night. It’s really easy to watch your money go fast. After some trial and error, I’ve found ways to stick to my budget that I’ve summed up into three tips so that I’m able to live very comfortably in Nicaragua and still be smart with my money.
- First, be smart about your housing. Live with a roommate. I only pay $125.00 a month for a room in the house that I share with one other person, plus we split the bills. Skip out on the air conditioning. This may sound crazy, but trust me, everyone acclimates to the temperatures and your fan will be enough. However if you do really want it, it will only add on an additional $20.00 or so to your electric bill each month. Ask locals if they know of any places or rooms for rent. Locals will know the best deals and will be able to help you find a good spot in a good location. I have lived in three different housing situations and have always paid less than $200.00 a month for rent.
- Second, do your own cooking and learn to shop where the locals do. When doing your grocery shopping, look to buy products that were not imported. They will always be cheaper. A pound of chicken breast at the grocery store is $2.40. A pound of vegetables (depending on the vegetable) falls anywhere between $.50 cents to $1.50. Most meats, poultries, fruits, and vegetables are cheap. The fruits and vegetables will be even cheaper (and fresher) if you buy them at the market. This makes grocery-shopping turn out to only take a small fraction of your monthly budget. My average grocery bill for the week is around $20.00 for one person, but I always leave room in case I end up spending a little extra. Plus, if you’re doing your cooking at home, that cuts down on your expenses if more.
- This leads me to my third and definitely important tip, live with the same habits you had when you didn’t live abroad. Living in Nicaragua really does feel like a never-ending summer and things are much cheaper than at home, but you still want to have good habits and be smart. For example, if you didn’t go out to eat every night at home, don’t go out to eat every night here. An average meal at a nice restaurant is less than $10.00, which is awesome, but if you’re doing that for every meal, it definitely adds up. If you didn’t buy your coffee everyday at a coffee shop at home, don’t buy your coffee every day from a coffee shop here. Again, a delicious and high-quality latte here is only $1.50, but it will still add up. If you didn’t get your nails done all the time at home, don’t get them done all the time here. A manicure and pedicure costs less than $10.00, but again, this will add up. You can go out for a night with friends and easily spend less than $20.00, just don’t do that every day or your money will be gone before you know it. Have the same mindset as if you were at home and you will see how far your money will go in Nicaragua.
As you can see, things that are expensive at home can actually be really cheap here in Nicaragua. Living in Nicaragua, you have the opportunity to go for a day at the beach and again, spend less than $20.00 (transportation and food included). By creating a budget, being smart, and having good habits, a little money will go a long way. Nicaragua is one of the only countries in the west that provides the opportunity for you to live in a tropical country abroad, teach English, and still live a very comfortable lifestyle.