Save Money When Moving International

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I recently moved back to Florida after living in the United Arab Emirates for close to two years. We lived in Sharjah and were less than ten minutes from Dubai. We had relatively quick and easy access to the Burj Khalifa, the seven star hotel Burj Al Arab, and many more awesome things.

Having lived in Dubai means that I made an international move. Twice. I like think I have a little something to offer to those who may take this kind of adventure themselves in the future.


Accept that you are moving, things are changing, and that all the things sitting around your home are not as important as they feel.

When it comes down to moving day a lot of stuff is going to go in the trash. Ideally you want to minimize how much you are going to throw away. Why waste what can be used or gifted!

Spring Cleaning

This is one of the easier steps. Before I knew for sure that I was moving to Dubai in the first place I did some “spring cleaning”. There were plenty of old worn clothing, toys, and random stuff that didn’t have a proper place to be. You want to gloss over things in the first stages (if you have time) and get rid of all the” obviously not going with or worth paying to put into storage”, stuff. These items are things that I generally am comfortable donating to Salvation Army.

Keep in mind: You have to bring stuff with you or put it into storage.

Deep Clean

At some point you have to really get tough and clear out a lot of junk.

Remember: The goal is to make the move as cost effective as possible! Saving money is a major goal.

What kind of storage unit do you have? (Uhaul has decent prices compared to their competitors) If you are wanting to have maximum savings then you can do the smaller unit, but you have to fit your extra belongings in there. I would suggest that what you want to keep are items that are valuable or sentimental and you do not want to go without it when you return. Items that are easily replaced do not count!

Things that I kept: Our really nice dining table, musical instruments, bed, some sheets and blankets, our gun safe, family photos and albums, and my husbands fishing gear among other things.

  • Join some Facebook garage sale pages to list items. Check the page first to see if the listings are normal people or a business and if the page has decent activity.
  • Create a Facebook event for selling your stuff. You can make individual posts for items and control who sees the page. This way you can easily off-load items to people you know and trust.
  • Selling for 50% or more discount of original prices is a good place to start if you don’t know how to price something.
  • For items that may not be worth selling or you don’t have the time or any buyers interest, bag it and make multiple trips to Salvation Army (I much prefer SA to Goodwill because SA is more about helping others than profit)
  • Keep a running list of items you donate and their value as suggested by Salvation Army so you can put them on your Taxes as charitable items.
  • Use Plastic boxes to store items, they’ll be safer from being squashed or getting wet. (see examples below, click to view more info)

Cars, Houses, Other Big Items

Not everyone can affordably keep big items when they are living in another country. For us it was not going to be cost effective to keep our home so we sold it (and paid off debts with the profit). We also sold our family car, which we had to pay to get rid of because the value was lower than what we owed, yikes. We had a Mustang as well, luckily a good friend stored it for a while for us. When that was no longer an option we paid the shipping fee to transport it to Utah and within 8 months it was sold. This left us with NO car upon return but also no insurance payments and we no longer had to ask favors of family to take care of the darn thing.

Do what you can with large and expensive items.

The Move & Settling In

When move day comes, here’s what you want it to look like:

Your clothes and peronal items that are used daily are in large suitecases and duffel bags (Emirates Airlines allows to checked bags per person). You have your carry on bag and personal item as well. You may have a box or two with some kitchen items or less used but still wanted items that is being mailed to your overseas office or new home. This what you bring with you.

Baggage ideas to keep it light and hold a lot! (click image to visit page)


When you get there you search the classifieds for gently used items at a discount and maybe fill in things at Ikea. When you eventually return to the United States for full-time living you’ll have to repeat all this and more. So keep this mind when you first arrive to your expatriate life! Buy the essentials and try not to get stuff that you will not want to bring home. Keep your purchases practical.

  • Get rewards cards from the stores you shop! They are usually free and they can save some money
  • Start cooking at home as soon as possible
  • Use groupon and local equivalents when you go out.

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