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Preparing for an International Move: Meet a Super Saver

By Emily E. Smith

  • PUBLISHED March 18
  • |

Jennifer McDermott grew up in Australia with a dream of one day moving to the Big Apple. “New York was always the goal,” the 35-year-old says. “But it’s one of the most expensive places to live in the world, so I knew it would take quite a bit of savings to get set up.” 
Why New York City? McDermott hoped to access new job opportunities as a PR manager and wanted to be a short flight, rather than a few continents, away from her sister, who lives in Nashville, TN. 
McDermott dove into background research, including conversations with people who had made a big, international move. She ultimately decided she’d need to save $40,000 in U.S. dollars to reach New York and cover her living expenses while she looked for a job. She wanted to be prepared to put down a sizable deposit on an apartment because she had no credit history in the United States. 
Once she settled on that figure, she set a goal of reaching it in just a year. To do so, McDermott needed to save about 50 percent of her income, which she deposited into a high yield savings account. So, she moved into her mother’s apartment in Sydney and lived rent-free. She also sold her car, furniture and other possessions that wouldn’t make the move with her. 
But those changes alone weren’t enough. McDermott also designed a detailed budget to help rein in her spending. “I tracked everything I spent,” she says. “And I started identifying triggers for not-so-great spending habits. I learned that if I was out with friends and it was later in the evening, dinner often led to drinks and a taxi that I hadn’t budgeted for.” 
She became strict about eating out only when she’d planned to, bringing her own lunches to work and skipping after-work drinks. She also started using cash more often, since she felt less inclined to spend when she was physically holding onto her money.  
When McDermott reached her goal and made the big move in 2016, her savings gave her peace of mind and allowed her to enjoy the adventure. “Moving countries is a daunting and scary thing,” she says. “Anything you can do to curb anxiety is a good thing. You’re worried about finding a home, building friendships, a network. To not have to worry that you don’t have enough money is a huge weight lifted. It felt amazing.”  
During her first few months stateside, McDermott dedicated her free time to getting to know the city. She spent hours walking around different neighborhoods and treating herself to lunch at local restaurants. And she soaked up the cultural offerings at galleries and museums.
“I find it is a much friendlier city than people give it credit for,” she says. “I found making friends really easy here. People are more open to meeting up with a stranger.”
Within a couple of months, McDermott secured a job and now works as a PR manager for a personal finance company. 
Her next big savings goal: buying her own home. And whether she ends up in the U.S. or Australia, she’s confident that she can set aside the cash to make it happen. 
Emily E. Smith is a freelance writer in Bozeman, MT. She writes for national and regional publications on topics ranging from personal finance to crime to wild animals. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, Smithsonian magazine and Atlas Obscura.

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