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Thursday, December 27, 2012

How to save millions while teaching in Korea!

It's no surprise, if you know me, that you know I love a bargain and love to learn tactics on being more financially savy!  I get the bargain side from my mom who has taught me the tricks of shopping at Thrift Stores and checking out the sale section first, for the past 20 years!  I get the financial 'savy-ness' from my dad, who's always been GREAT with money! And I get my love for budgeting from my diagnosed OCD... I like to think of it as a blessing! :)

I came to Korea for the experience, not the money.  But, I've been pleasantly surprised with the amount I've been able to save in the 4 years I've worked here!  I've had a lot of friends and acquaintances ask me how I've saved so much and I've been debating for a long long time on whether I wanted to tackle the $$$ issue on my blog, but I've recently been able to help someone change their life with this stuff, so I decided it's time to speak up! So, here are the Jillers tricks on how to manage your $$$ while living in Korea and become a (₩)-millionaire while doing it!

1. Stay another year, or two, or three!
 There are amazing incentives to staying in Korea for more than 1 year if you work for EPIK.  For example, you get an extra 4 million (₩) deposited into your bank account each time you renew!  Here's 4,000,000 (₩) worth of 10,000 (₩) bills for a quick visual.  Kinda worth staying, right?
***UPDATE: There's a new rumor going around that EPIK will only be giving renewing teachers 2,000,000 as of 2013 instead of 4,000,000.  Sorry!  

 ... Plus every year you stay in Korea, your pension adds up (if you're American)!  When you leave Korea, you'll get the equivalent of 1 paycheck for each year that you've worked here.  For instance, if you stay in Korea for 4 years and make 2.5 million a month, you'll leave here with 10 million (₩) from your pension ($9300) to add to your savings account!  SCORE, right?!

2. For married couples.
Live in 1 school's apartment together. The other person will qualify for the housing stipend of 400,000 (₩) per month from their school, which adds up to 4,800,000 (₩)  a year, just by living in a smaller place together.  Aaron and I are doing it that way and we're so happy we did!  We can live in a bigger house when we move back to America if we want, but for now we'll enjoy our tight space in Asia and the extra $4,500 a year we're making by living in it.

3. Get yourself on a budget!
I can't stress this enough!  Download and print this document that I made, and keep up with it.  After a month you'll see where all your money is going!  You might be surprised!  I know Aaron was when he first asked me to help him save money 3 years ago!  He was spending almost $100 on his morning coffee every month!  That's $1200 a year on coffee! He started making coffee at home before work at a fraction of the cost!  So, the way this budget works is, every time you spend money, you color in the bars.  Each bar is 5,000 (₩), so if you spend 2,500 on something, only color in 1/2 of the bar.  You can change the line items by downloading this file, editing it, then printing it.

4. Stay in, cook dinner at home and watch a movie!
You'd be surprised how much you spend on eating out, drinks at the bar, and taxi rides home after midnight!  For instance, let's look at a pretend night out in Korea.
 Do that twice a week for an entire year and you'll scratch 4,284,800 (₩) from your savings!  That's $4000 dollars in 1 year! 

5. Brew your coffee at home
I looooooove Vanilla Latte's at Starbucks, but if I bought one every morning on my way to work, I'd spend a pretty penny!  You may be thinking, but Jill, I "need" my morning coffee!  I agree with you, except you don't NEED Starbucks, Angel-in-us or Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf coffee!  You could save hundreds of dollars by making it at home before you leave for work! Let's do the coffee math.

6. Listen to Dave Ramsey Podcasts.
My parents definitely put me on track to be financially savvy at a young age... Dave Ramsey helped me, as I became an adult, to manage my money and pay off my student loans in a timely manner.  Not to mention, he inspired me to be debt free, which I've been since I paid off $35,000 in student loans at 23! He may come across as really cocky at points, but his advice is right on the money and you'll walk away inspired to be debt free!
Click here to listen!

7. Avoid buying stuff at full price!
Trust me, it'll go on sale!  Aaron and I go to Home Plus about 3 times a week to look through their produce sale!  I'm not about to buy a bell pepper for 3,000 (₩)!  Especially since we use about 4 every night for dinner. I wait until they go on sale for 700 (₩) and buy all that they have! :)  When it comes to clothing, H&M is one of my favorite stores in Korea, but I NEVER buy anything full price there.  I do this because I know everything will go on sale!  Case in point, they're having a giant sale right now, and since I waited for the things I loved to go on sale, I saved myself a boatload of money!  Also, if you're shopping in the Korean markets, try asking the owner "Jome gaga juseyo" 좀 가가 주세요  (Can I get a discount, please?)  Sometimes they'll knock off 10-30%!  Every dollar, or (₩) in this case, counts!

8. Pay with cash in Korea.
First rule: If you don't have the money for it, you shouldn't buy it!  Secondly: Pay with cash instead of your credit or debit card.  Our minds have a harder time handing over CASH than handing the store a piece of plastic. Try it for a month and you'll see how much you save just by paying with cash! I'm visual, so this really works for me!


9. Buy online and use coupon codes!
I can't tell you how much I've saved by buying some of the things I need online!  Korea can be cheap if you know where to shop, but buying online can be even cheaper!  If you're in the market for electronics, jewelry, purses, foreign goods, shoes, clothes, etc... try some of these websites that I use!  Most, if not ALL ship to Korea too. (for anything Korean) (for purses, jewelry, clothes, etc) (for healthy foreign food, spices, all natural toiletries, etc) / (for EVERYTHING)
*** If you're shopping at any other store online, go to before you check out, and type in the website's name where your buying something from.  There will most likely be a coupon code to give you a discount on your order!  I just found this coupon code for 25% off the H&M store on ebay!  See what I mean?!


10. Make it if you can!
This applies to everything  from food, cleaning supplies, home decor, gifts, etc. I know not everyone out there is crafty or knows their way around a sewing machine, but if you do, start making stuff instead of buying it!  I've made curtains for my apartment, about 10 pillow cases, a duvet cover, a bed skirt, picture matings, wall hangings, clothes, holiday banners and a bunch of other stuff, and saved myself hundreds of dollars!  I borrowed a sewing machine from my school's 6th grade classroom. Your school might have one too that you can take home and use!  It's worth asking, right?!   I also make my own custom Christmas cards and did custom Christmas mugs this year too, which would be a great gift for co-workers! Aaron and I also cook healthy meals at home, almost every night, for between 3 - 5,000 (₩) a person!  Sure beats going to Outback, TGIFridays or a Korean Beef restaurant and being handed a bill for 50,000 (₩)!

11. Find a cheap hobby!
1. Try blogging, it's FREE!
2. Buy or check out a book from the English library and snuggle up with some homemade coffee.
3. Watch movies on
4. Start a new TV series and throw it on when you're bored and fighting the urge to go shopping!
5. Learn to cook!
6. Study Korean.
7. Craft something out of materials you already have laying around.
8. Plan a potluck at a friends house where you chose a country and everyone make that type of food.
9. Work out at home instead of your gym.
10. Take a run!
11. Skype someone from home. (You know your mom misses you!)
12. Do a puzzle.
13. Play Sudoku!
14. Try a crossword puzzle.
15. Learn a new card game and invite a friend over to play.
16. Meet up with some friends to watch your favorite TV show together every week. (I do this with my friend Ashley. We meet every Monday night to eat popcorn, drink coke and watch Revenge.)
17. Walk around your neighborhood and take some photos! You'll be glad you did when you finally leave this country and wanna reminisce!
18. Start a book club.
19. Volunteer at a local orphanage.
20. People watch.
21. Do an hour of yoga once in a while.
22.  Read blogs. (They're pretty interesting!) wink wink
23. Learn to sew.
24. Get a part time job. (Shhh, I didn't say that!)
25. Read and
26. Write a letter to someone back home and send it in the snail mail.
27. If you have a smartphone, open up an Instagram account and snap away!
28. Browse (That's Aaron's favorite.)
29. Dog sit / Cat sit for friends who need a break from their animals.
30. Clean your apartment. (You know you'll feel so much better when it's all tidy.)
31. Visit a nearby temple.

12. Learn to cut and color your own hair! 

If you're blonde like me, you know there are only a few salons in Busan that are even worth chancing, but you're still gonna pay 100,000 for your roots to be touched up and another 20,000 for a simple trim!  Uugghhh. Why not learn to do it yourself?  I've never been to cosmetology school, nor would I say I'm great at highlighting hair, but back in 2003, I decided that I'd rather spend that $100 a month on something other than sitting in a salon while my hair stylist painted 99 cents worth of bleach onto my hair, only to leave the salon 3 hours later with nothing but my roots touched up!  I grabbed some bleach from Sally's Beauty Supply (in America) and taught myself how to highlight my own hair for $1.00 each time.  Now, 10 years later, I'm still highlighting (and cutting) my hair in my own bathroom at home for about 99 cents a month!   If you do the math...
I think I'll take that savings and buy myself a car in April!  :) 

13. Don't save more than $1000 if you have debt.
The fact of the matter is, if you have debt, you shouldn't be "saving".  It's an oxymoron and a bad idea. The money you're making on interest is nothing compared to the money you're losing on the interest rates your debt is accumulating!  So, keep 1,000,000 (₩) in an account, just for an emergency, and send EVERYTHING else home each month to pay off your debt! 

14. Pay off 1 credit card at a time. 
This may sound strange, but by tackling 1 balance more than the others, it will give you a boost of instant gratification and help you feel like you're accomplishing something!  Pay off your smallest debt and once it's finished tackle the next smallest debt.  In other words, pay 3x, 4x, 5x's (whatever you can) of the minimum amount on 1 debt until it's gone!  *** I have a friend who's working as an EPIK teacher in Korea that I've helped get on a budget in order to pay off their credit card debt and student loans. They've been able to send home about 1,600,000 a month and will have paid off almost $20,000 in 13 months!  It is possible people! 
 15. Open an IRA!
Once you're debt free, SAVE, SAVE, SAVE and try putting at least $100 a month in an IRA account!  (If you're consistent, you'll likely end up with a million dollars by age 50!  YES PLEASE!  It's amazing the freedom you'll experience when you have money tucked away for a rainy day.  With a bit of discipline and a lot of creativity, I've saved enough money to sustain me for a couple years in the US (just in case it takes a while for our photography business to become profitable). And it's not like I've had to sacrifice having fun while I saved it - I've traveled abroad 13 times since living here and paid for 1/2 of my wedding and honeymoon and still have money to spare. It's hard sometimes, I'm not gonna lie, but the sacrifices out weigh the end goal! Start today and make it a goal to pay off those pesky credit cards and student loan payments by the end of 2013!


 Start today!

We're 3 days away from the New Year and there's no better time to start a new years goal of being debt free, or a (₩)-millionaire, than now!  And there's no better place to start than here in Korea where you're basically making $2000+ a month and have NO EXPENSES but your phone and apartment electric bill!   :)

Happy New Year and may you be debt free and a (₩)-millionaire by 2014!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy birthday sister!

My mom found this adorable picture of my sister Amy on her 3rd birthday, 33 years ago today, and I couldn't resist posting it!  What a little schmooch huh?!

Love your 70's mullet and can't wait to see you in NY in June!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Off to see the ballet...

I'm not sure how I grew up involved in 'dance', but have never seen an actual performance of The Nutcracker!  So, when I saw that the Seoul Ballet was coming to Busan to perform it on Christmas Eve, I asked Aaron if he would take me!  

Luckily I have a husband who's secure enough in his masculinity to take his wife to the Ballet!  I'm even more lucky that I have a friend who's boyfriend was up for doing the same for her! :)

It was absolutely beautiful and everything I dreamed a professional ballet to be! Such a fun way to celebrate Christmas Eve in Busan with Ash and Adam too!  

Ho! Ho! Ho!

"And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people!"

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Osteen Christmas Party!

Last night, Aaron and I hosted a Christmas potluck for 9 of our friends at our teeny tiny 200 square foot apartment!  Interested to see how we do things in Korea without couches, dinner tables and a shoebox for a house!?  Well, here's your chance!  We all kind of joked about wearing funny Christmas hats tonight, but since Aaron and I couldn't find any, he threw on his ugly Christmas sweater vest and I sported my new H&M 65% off party dress!  Now if that's not festive, I don't know what is!  :)

We had a GIANT spread of food, thanks to everyone who came!  Salad, salmon and cream cheese rolls, chicken pot pie soup, sliced fruit, home made hummus, pizza, veggie stir fry, fried chicken, home made chocolates, chocolate chip cookies, strawberries and cream, banoffee pie and enough wine to last a whole year! 

It's so nice to have good girlfriends while living across the globe from home!

This was taken after we played LCR and Aaron won the pot of cash!  SCORE Aaron!

Cilla, Adam and Grace

Aaron, Chris and Stella


Ashley and Adam


Reindeer Jeff!

A little later in the night, Aaron took off his Christmas sweater vest and was sporting a 90's style black turtle neck.  Everyone was joking about how he looked just like Steve Jobs!  Love it!

I decided it would be fun for everyone to have their own matching Christmas stocking to remember the night.  So, since I had Wednesday off of work for voting day, I pulled my sewing machine out and got to work!  I used some white fabric to sew the stockings, some Christmas ribbon I had laying around to spice them up a little and an old green sweater I didn't wear anymore for the letters (which are the 1st initials of everyone who came)!

Apparently they were a hit! :)

Aaron's new ipad mini got passed around a bit for everyone to play with.  I love this drawing that Jeff did on the PAPER app.

Maverick was so sweet, all night!  I sewed him a Christmas sweater out of a scarf that I hadn't worn in a long time and as soon as we put it on him, he was a whole new cat.  It acted a bit like a sedative!  haha.  At one point, I saw him all cuddled up with everyone's shoes at the front door.  

Aaron worked really hard on making home made chocolates for the party!  The ones on the left are peppermint white chocolate and the ones on the right are peanut butter filled!  He nailed it!

Since we don't have a couch, dinning table, or chairs. everyone lounged around on our bed and floor!  That's how we do it in Korea! :)

I can't say enough how much I love this game! We played Left, Center, Right at Grace's apartment for our Thanksgiving party and I won the pot!  Then, this time we played again and Aaron won the pot - 60,000 won!  I'd like to say we're really good at playing it, but the fact of the matter is that it's ALL LUCK!  Guess we're just a lucky couple!

We all brought gifts for a white elephant exchange!  I won a GIANT box of hot chocolate, which is perfect because my English Winter Camp kids will be so excited when I make it for them!  And Aaron won a gorgeous scarf and some super thick girlie socks (which I'll be stealing and wearing under my boots for my walk to work everyday this month in the freezing cold!)

 I am so lucky to be "doing life" with this gem of a husband!

 ... and will always cherish the time I was able to spend in Korea with these gems too! :)  Love you girls!

 1 more day till Christmas!  Tomorrow night, Aaron and Adam are taking me and Ashley to see the Seoul Ballet's performance of the Nutcracker at the Busan Cinema Center!  I've never seen a ballet, so it would be an understatement to say that I'm super excited!

Merry Christmas everyone!blog-signature

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A WOMAN President!

I am SHOCKED!!! In a country where most women are still expected to cook, clean, take care of the children, stay home, and basically be a servant to their soju drinking husbands, a WOMAN has been elected president!  Social progress is in full view today!
Congratulations Park Geun-hye.

Although, she's not just ANY woman. She's incidentally the daughter of Korea's assassinated dictator, Park Chung-Hee, who served as dictator from 1961 to 1979, and she actually grew up in the Blue House (Korea's equivalent to America's White House) 

"Many hope the elevation of the first woman to the presidency will help shatter the old patriarchal Confucian habits which permeate South Korean society." - BBC

 Here's the rest of the BBC article about Korea's newest President!

Handstand contests!

I'm not sure how these handstand contests first started between Aaron and I, but they've become quite the beloved tradition in our relationship and are always cause for a lot of potential broken limbs, but more importantly a lot of laughs!  Aaron always thinks he has a chance of winning, but that's because he forgets I did competitive gymnastics for 5 years!  Such a dreamer! :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dave and Meagan at Beomeosa!

We've completed our final photo shoot of the year and can not wait to see what 2013 brings our way!

Introducing Dave and Meagan

"Ludoph the Led Nosed Leindeer!"

Anytime we've traveled to another country where English isn't the first language, we'll hear funny pronunciations of English words that make us giggle a little!  Korea is no exception! There's actually no "R" sound in the Korean language. The closest is an "L" sound, and looks like this in Hangul: 르. I'm constantly hounding my students to repeat words like 'red, rainbow, reindeer, and right', over and over again until their pronunciation is better! We're making progress, slowly, but progress none the less!

Last weekend, Aaron and I took a 4 mile walk around the neighborhood, through the fish market, Gukje Market and Nampodong, where we stood and watched this darling kids choir singing 
Bless their sweet little hearts! Someone just needs to send them to my English classroom!  :)