A lot of people will agree that one of the major reasons people choose to teach English in Korea is… the money. Of course, the culture, food, experience and all that is great too. But Korea is one of the few countries in the world that offers such great teaching contracts that require little to no teaching experience or qualifications.
I taught in Korea for a year between 2013-2014 and it was honestly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did I grow as a person (cheesy, but true), I was also able to pay off about $6500 of my student debt and have cash for a 4 month backpacking stint across Southeast Asia.
Today I’m sharing with you my personal spending habits and expenses from when I was living in Seoul, South Korea, so you get a better understanding of how much money you can expect to save and spend while you’re there. Of course, some of this will vary, but this is a general expectation for teachers who are about to embark on the Korea experience. You could save more or less depending on how frugal you are. Sure, you want to save money - but you’re also in a really interesting and exciting part of the world and there’s so much to do and see. Keep your spending in check but make sure to enjoy yourself and the money you’re working hard to earn.
My average monthly income was $1650 USD per month. I was a university graduate with no teaching experience and I think this is pretty average for someone with similar experience and qualifications. While it’s possible to earn more, this was more than enough for me to live comfortably.
I lived in a small, studio apartment that was paid for by my school, with my bills/taxes/health insurance taken out of my pay every month. To be honest, I can’t remember how much it all cost but it was never more than $150 in total.
Thanks to the convenient location of my apartment, I walked to work everyday and only used transit on the weekends. With the subway costing about $1 per ride, I probably spent a maximum of $20 a month for the subway.
$0 - Can you believe I survived an entire year without a phone plan? Thanks to wifi being so widespread in Seoul I got by just fine without a phone plan and just connected my iPhone to wifi whenever I needed.
I spent an average of $326/month on groceries and that included some specialty, expensive “foreign” food like cheese and avocados because hey - I like that stuff!
I was able to feed my shopping addiction with about $250/month.
My partying and entertainment spending was around $225/month (this also included weekend trips). I mostly went out with friends for drinks/karaoke on the weekends and didn’t do much during the week because a) I was lazy and b) didn’t finish work until around 8:30pm.
I also spent about $100 on miscellaneous things per month and this number fluctuated a fair bit. Stuff like haircuts, prescription medication, gym memberships, taxis and gifts were thrown into this category.
Coffee, snacks, fast food and an occasional dinner out made up this category and I spent about $60 a month.
Total Savings per Month
So there you have it! I had the most amazing time while I was teaching in Korea and would recommend the experience to anyone and everyone.
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