How We Saved $205,000 In 4 Years and Traveled More as Teachers

Today, I have a great guest post to share from Mike Beatty. Here’s how Mike and Sarah moved abroad to teach internationally, increased their income a significant amount, while saving $205,000 over 4 years. Enjoy! If you told me in 2015 that I’d be writing an article on how we saved over $200,000 in 4…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: February 16, 2024

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Today, I have a great guest post to share from Mike Beatty. Here’s how Mike and Sarah moved abroad to teach internationally, increased their income a significant amount, while saving $205,000 over 4 years. Enjoy!How We Saved $205,000 In 4 Years and Travelled More as Teachers

If you told me in 2015 that I’d be writing an article on how we saved over $200,000 in 4 years and travelled to 20 countries, I would have laughed in your face!

It’s safe to say that saving $200,000 was not something we thought was possible in our situation. Not without winning the lottery or a great run at a casino anyway. 

So how did we do it?

In hindsight, I can see there were four steps that we unknowingly took:

  1. Increase income from work
  2. Find additional ways to make money
  3. Intentional budgeting
  4. Putting the money to work

Recommended reading: 36 Best Side Jobs for Teachers

Teaching in England- 2010 to 2015, aka the beginning

Ever heard of living paycheck to paycheck?

That was us during this time! 

We’d just finished University and ended up going down the teaching route. Sarah went straight into it and taught ages 4 to 6. But I tried some sales jobs, coaching sports, and teaching assistant roles. 

Eventually, I realised it seemed far more “sensible” to start a career, so I became a PE teacher. Both of us had spent 4 years getting a couple of degrees each (and the debt that comes with it… although it’s not as bad as college debt in the USA!) Now we finally had jobs in a well-respected industry. 

But our joint post-tax salary of $4,500 didn’t cut it in pricey London. We could just about pay for our mortgage, cars, food, exercise and a cheap annual holiday somewhere in Europe. 

Saving money wasn’t really an option. It was just a case of trying to stay afloat and not get into more debt. 

Something didn’t feel right. 

The appeal of travelling

In 2011 we did go on a “trip of a lifetime” (so we thought) and lived with our parents for a year to save the money to go to Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. 

It was an amazing few weeks. But it also taught us how the cost of living is very different in different parts of the world. 

In Australia, we were staying in the cheapest 8-bed dorms we could find. They had smelly shared bathrooms and we spent about $60 a night for the pleasure. However, in Thailand, we stayed in a luxury bungalow (as in think honeymoon suite style) for $70 a night. 

Where we stayed in Thailand

This trip changed our mindset about the world and what was “out there”. We just didn’t know it at the time!

Step One: Increase income from work: Moving abroad to teach internationally 

So after a few years of “staying afloat,” we spoke about possibly moving abroad somewhere. 

We never seriously considered it as we wanted to stay close to family and friends and we didn’t really know anyone that had done this. 

But at the start of 2015, our conversations turned into action. 

We started Googling it and trying to work out if this was actually possible. Some of the questions we asked were…

  • How do you find a job abroad?
  • Where would we move to?
  • What would the salary be?
  • Would we still be able to see our family and friends?
  • And about a million other things! 

After a couple of weekends of research, we found out that you can get paid significantly more by teaching internationally than you can make in England (even with the “London bonus”… which is nothing compared to the increased cost of living!) 

It’s not only the salary but the benefits of doing so, often with accommodation and other allowances included! 

How to find a teaching job internationally 

We had no idea where to start. 

As I say, we didn’t know anyone personally that was doing this and Google wasn’t much help at the time. Yet we went from the idea of teaching abroad in February 2015 and moved to another continent by August 2015. 

So how did we do it?

The short answer is through a recruitment agency. The long answer is below…

Start with a plan

Here was our genius plan…

Ask people if they know anyone teaching internationally. 

After asking dozens of people Sarah found out that her old Principle was teaching in Dubai. Somehow we managed to get hold of his contact details. 

He was obviously a busy guy but he put us in touch with some people that worked at his school. 

We jumped on a Skype call and they told us about a teaching recruitment agency called Search Associates. 

We went to a few teaching job fairs and had a handful of interviews and job offers from different schools around the world. We found schools in places such as Nigeria, Egypt, Brazil, Dubai, Vietnam and way more. 

But eventually, we found a good fit for us in a school in Qatar in the Middle East. 

My view as I write this from our home in Qatar

The difference in salary

So when we made the move we were doing exactly the same job… just in another country. We didn’t get any more experience or qualifications. 

Yet here’s the difference in our salary:

We now had summer all year round (and got 10 weeks vacation to go somewhere else during the crazy hot summers). Plus, we didn’t need to worry about paying the day to day bills and living expenses. The money we earned was our money to keep and decide how to spend.

Is this exactly what we planned?


It came from a very simple initial plan… 

Ask people if they know anyone that teaches abroad. 

Oh, and by the way, this isn’t limited to teachers. Now we know a lot of people in different professions that have done a very similar thing to us.

Step Two: Side hustling 

The next step we took was finding ways to make additional money.

Many people overlook the first step. But your job is actually one of the biggest income streams for most people and it’s the quickest way to increase your income. You don’t have to do what we did either you could: 

  • Get a raise 
  • Receive a promotion 
  • Change company
  • Work from home more/ reduce working hours (this isn’t a direct increase in pay, but it allows more time to side hustle!)

But there is often a limit to how much money you can make from your job. To really speed things up we found ways to make additional income streams. 

Using your existing skillset to make money

Let me be honest with you here… we didn’t actually intentionally do this! 

But as a PE teacher, it’s natural to coach some sports. It just turned out that there are certain after school activities that parents are very happy to pay for on the international teaching scene. 

Sarah also had some students’ parents approach her to do some tutoring. 

These opportunities kind of fell on our laps due to the skills we already had. But these “side hustles” bought in an extra $50+ per hour. 

Chances are the skills you have from your job or career could provide an additional income stream without having to learn something new. 

Find new ways to make money

Even if you can’t think of ways to earn extra money from the skills you already have, there are tons of opportunities to make money in different ways. 

This was the first time in our lives that we actually had some money to play with, so I started to take investing this money seriously. I will go into more detail about this in step 4. 

But it was in late 2015 that I read Tim Ferris’ “The Four Hour Workweek”. It was like someone flicked a switch inside me. I started reading more of these types of books.

And I was on the lookout for this epic side hustle that could become this game-changing business.

But the truth is it doesn’t really work like that for most people. 

You have to get in the trenches and try things out. Ideally for as little investment as possible… “100 Dollar Startup” is a great book on this concept.

It wasn’t until the end of 2018 when I tried an affiliate marketing course that I found something that floated my boat. Eventually, this became a side hustle that makes over $1,000 a month pretty passively… but it definitely takes some hard work to get there! 

But there are tons of high paying affiliate programs that you can join for free. 

Step three: Discovering intentional budgeting

You may be wondering why budgeting is step 3 on the list. 

It’s because this is not the reason why we were able to save over $200,000 in 4 years. Increasing our income was far more important.

If we tried budgeting and stayed teaching in England the most we could have possibly saved in 4 years would have been $216,000… and that would have been if we did not spend one penny of our income!

So what is “intentional budgeting”?

Prioritising values

Let’s face it… 

Nobody wants to “budget” or “live below their means”. But these are crucial things to avoid getting into a ton of debt and having any chance of retiring. 

When we changed the focus slightly it became so much easier (and more fun) to do!

We started by thinking about our values. You know the things that are important to you such as:

  • Health
  • Family
  • Freedom
  • Travel
  • Happiness
  • Money
  • Lambos
  • Watching Breaking Bad
  • Playing the trombone
  • Or anything you want!

We spent 10 minutes writing as many things down as possible. Then we spent 5 minutes arranging these into our top priorities. 

Sarah and I had lists that looked pretty different at first glance (and that’s totally fine by the way!) But we found some similar values that featured close to the top of both lists…

  1. Health
  2. Travel
  3. Family
  4. Freedom

So now we had a clear idea of what we wanted. Instead of budgeting the normal way we prioritised our income to go towards these things and set a budget for the rest of our income. 

Our $8,500 went something like this:

  • $4,000 for future freedom (investments)
  • $1,500 for travel
  • $1,000 for healthy food
  • $2,000 for everything else (remember we had our accommodation sorted)

It’s quick, simple and helped us focus on planning exciting things that we wanted to do! It changed our restricted mindset to an abundance mindset. 

Travelling more 

Now, I do want to make this clear…

I also track our spending for the previous month.

This isn’t fun and can be horrible to do sometimes. But it is the easiest way to look at the man (or woman) in the mirror.

It helped us to see where we were spending too much money. Buying loads of alcohol or other things that we thought made us happy were easier to cut once we realised the alternative (i.e. a trip to the Maldives or Sri Lanka).

Tracking your spending helps to keep your finger on the pulse and is a great habit for life (and business).

So now we actually had some control of our finances we spent our money on experiences that were important to us. Since moving to Qatar we have been to:

  • Dubai
  • Oman
  • Sri Lanka
  • India
  • Philippines
  • Bali
  • Thailand
  • Maldives
  • Zanzibar
  • Malaysia
  • Portugal
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Canada
  • USA (West coast)
  • Loads more of the UK 
Visiting the Taj Mahal in India

We also get to spend more quality time with family and friends as we spend weeks with them when we are back rather than a few days here and there. 

Now, can you see how budgeting doesn’t have to be boring? But also, why it’s not step one! None of this would have been possible without the first two steps that we unintentionally took!

Setting up a home gym

Health has always been super important to us. 

At the time we did have access to a gym in our compound and we played different sports. But we found buying some cheap home gym equipment helped to do something on those busy days when you really don’t feel like it. 

Even if it was just a quick 10 minutes of yoga or a short HIIT workout it helps to have some basic home gym equipment. 

When we were in England I built a home gym in a limited space in the garage and I’ve helped friends and family set them up too. I’ve used this experience and a ton of research to create this guide on building a home gym for any budget

Compared to the average gym membership you’ll be saving money within a year of using this guide. 

Step four: Making your money work for you

The final step that we took is a super important one…

Finding ways to invest with the little money you have!

 It’s actually something we thought about before step 3. 

Once we figured out what we wanted to do with the money we were saving it makes it far easier to not accidentally spend it. 

Investing our money is like investing in future freedom. But it’s probably not a good idea to blindly take a “financial advisor’s” advice (especially if they make a fat commission for sticking your hard-earned money in a mutual fund). 

The best thing you can do is educate yourself to make informed decisions. 

Plan what you want to do with your money

There are technically 5 asset classes that exist today. Here they are with a resource that I found helpful to learn more about each one:

  1. Paper assets (stocks, shares, index funds, ETFs etc.)- Financial Freedom book by Grant Sabatier, great for learning how index funds can create a truly passive income.
  2. Commodities (gold, silver, oil, wheat etc.)- Guide to Investing in Gold & Silver book by Mike Maloney.
  3. Real estate- Rich Dad Poor Dad book– explains more about these asset classes (apart from cryptocurrencies as these didn’t exist at the time of writing).
  4. Business- The Millionaire Fastlane book– don’t be put off by the cheesy title!
  5. Cryptocurrencies- Coin Bureau YouTube channel (based on facts and data rather than hype!)

I find there is a ton of great info about the first four asset classes. But there is still so much hype, speculation and plain misconceptions around cryptocurrency. I highly recommend checking out Coin Bureau’s YouTube channel.

But what’s probably more important than learning about the asset classes is actually learning about our current financial system. I still haven’t met many people that know how it works, and I’m not sure many of the world leaders really understand it! 

This video series called Hidden Secrets of Money is a huge eye-opener and is not as boring as it sounds! Also check out Ray Dalio’s 30 minute economic machine video. 

I’m no financial advisor and I’m definitely not going to advise you what you should do with your money. But if you’re anything like me, you will continue to spend all your money unless you have a plan for where to put it! 

There are so many free (YouTube and podcasts) or very cheap (books) resources today that anyone can learn more than most degrees will teach you about this!

If we could do this you can too (honestly)

The truth is that I wouldn’t have believed any of this if you told me about it in 2015. 

It’s pretty crazy how much our mindset has changed since then and it’s not a long time ago in the grand scheme of things! Here are some important things to recognise what we didn’t do:

  • Discover some amazing new business idea 
  • Make any giant leaps in one go (apart from moving country) 
  • Win a lottery or leave things to chance
  • Anything very special or complicated

The things that have made the difference are tiny little habits that we have slowly implemented over time such as:

  • Finding ways to use our existing skills better
  • Read more books (that are useful!)
  • Think about our own values and set goals regularly (they can change!)
  • Track income and expenses 
  • Exercise regularly 
  • Educate ourselves about money (money is the tool to more freedom and control)

I found stories like this super motivating when I was trying to work out how to make more from our lives. I hope this can do the same for you.

Let me know in the comments below what your main takeaway from this is or if you have a story to share. I’ll keep checking in over time to respond to any questions you may have!

Author bio: Mike Beatty is a qualified PE teacher and the founder of Strong Home Gym. He loves learning about how normal people make a living through online businesses. He shares these stories with their struggles and what worked for them on his website and podcast Make Time Online

What’s your current goal? Do you want to travel more or save more money?

Recommended reading: 33 Best Summer Jobs for Teachers To Make Extra Money

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. I must admit that having side hustles are surely the way to creating multiple streams of passive income, pay off 100% debt, and have financial flexibility to travel as one pleases. 🙂

    1. Yep and funny enough, since I wrote this my “side hustle” has made waaaay more than the day job does in 2022.

      It’s pretty much a full on business now with people hired doing different things for me.

      I also found out you can sell these websites for around 25-50x monthly profit (mind blown!)



    1. That’s for 2 teachers (me and my wife)

      We work at ACS International School

  3. Joao

    I must admit that having side hustles are surely the way to creating multiple streams of passive income, pay off 100% debt, and have financial flexibility to travel as one pleases.

  4. Wow, moving to Qatar is a pretty smart move — didn’t know that one could just relocate and double their after-tax income.

    This is a great post with a simple, distilled advice and resources on how to be able to save and gather money. Will definitely check out that resource on cryptocurrency as I feel like there’s so much to learn in that space.

    1. Yeah- again it wasn’t really “smart” we just stumbled into it. It would be great to say we planned all of this but we didn’t in honesty.

      It’s still my go to channel on crypto. But there are some really good books on it as well- you get the deeper understanding from these