Teaching Abroad on the Debt-Free Journey: My Life in China

There’s nothing like a 10-year high school reunion to make you evaluate your life. Amiright?

You start thinking, “Have I achieved enough? Did I live up to the yearbook superlative, Most Likely to Succeed? Would that guy I had a crush on have a crush on me now?”

When I started comparing myself to classmates, I realized I had achieved a lot more than others, but I wasn’t fully satisfied. An undergrad degree from a great school, trips abroad and a master’s degree sure looked good. But my debt balance sure didn’t! Not to the tune of over $50,000.

At the reunion party in our hometown watering hole, I shared how I’d been thinking about moving abroad. Life in North Carolina wasn’t cutting it. The bills weren’t cutting it. All. Those. F*ckin. Bills. It seemed like I could never get ahead.

I didn’t have a husband, child or mortgage to really cause significant pause. I loved traveling. At this point, I had been to 9 other countries. Why not move away?

One great personality trait I love is once I get my mind set on something, I go for it.

That October in 2015—just a couple weeks after the reunion—I started volunteering with an adult ESOL class at a local community college. In December, I was an adjunct professor teaching 4 nights a week. I LOVED IT! In February, I started my online TEFL course. That’s when I learned China could be a lucrative place to teach.

In May, I accepted a job offer in China. In August, I quit my 9-to-5. On Labor Day in September, I sold my car back to CarMax to eliminate that loan and was on a plane to southern China less than 12 hours later.

My new life had begun!

Since moving to China in September 2016, I have:
– paid off more than $14,000 (26% of my total) in debt (medical bills, credit card debt, undergraduate student loans)
– saved more than $7,500
– paid nearly $6,000 for my teaching certification
– traveled to the U.S. twice, Thailand twice and Vietnam once

I’ve also met a lot of cool people and had kick-ass, priceless experiences in China and Hong Kong.

I asked folks on the ‘gram what they wanted to know about my experience. Here are answers to some of those burning questions.

Road to China Timeline Wise Woman Wallet

See answers to your questions about my life in China.


5 Calls to Make to Take More Control of Your Money

Ramit Sethi first introduced me to the concept of negotiating bills. It was a normal part of his cultural background, but it was a foreign concept to me. I Will Teach You To Be Rich, one of the most important books I read as a personal finance newbie, gave me the courage to pick up the phone (find Ramit’s 6 telephone scripts here if you don’t know what to say) and take more control of my cash flow. I hope this post does the same for you.

1. Would you please change my bill due date?

You can actually apply for this change online for some companies. This option is good if you get paid 2 times a month and most of your bills are stacked heavily in 1 half of the month. Been there. Done that.

Here’s are 2 workarounds:

  1. Use 1 paycheck to pay some bills early.
  2. List all your bills. Divide that number in half. Each pay period, try to set aside that amount plus a little cushion in a separate checking account than the one for discretionary spending. When bills come due, the money’s already there.

Wise Woman Wallet_5 Calls to Make To Take More Control of Your Finances.png

Click here to see the other 4 calls you shouldn’t be afraid to make.

Worthy Goals for Q2 2019

April is upon us. No foolin! That means the first quarter of 2019 is done. I hope you’ve progressed as time passed.

To look ahead, I’ve come up with a few goals that might be worthy of adding to your list for the second quarter.

Reflect on Q1 and keep what worked well.

Ask yourself:

  • What goals did I have the last quarter?
  • What did I accomplish?
  • What specific things helped me achieve those goals? What works for me? (habit tracking, affirmations)
  • What has held me back from reaching some goals?
  • How I can I overcome those obstacles in the next quarter?
  • What can I do specifically in the next quarter to get closer to my goals? (daily, weekly, monthly)
  • How will I measure success? (the amount of debt paid off, number of times I exercised per week)
  • What expenses should I plan for in the next quarter?
  • How can I monetize my gifts and talents?

Take a look at the Ultimate Goal-Setting Checklist for guidance on crafting new targets.

Evaluate where you are in terms of annual goals and list the next, best steps.

Go back and look at the big picture. Have you reached 25% of your debt payoff goal as planned? Did you earn an extra $300 each month in the first quarter? Be intentional with the next 3 months to make sure you’ll be in a better position and proud of yourself in December.

Keep reading to get 4 more ideas for your Q2 goals.

The Ultimate Goal-Setting Checklist

You can’t get anywhere without clear, specific goals. Here’s the ultimate guide to writing crystal-clear goals that will help you improve any area of your life: career, financial, physical. Feel free to download the checklist and start writing your own goals ASAP.

🔸Is it your goal—not someone else’s goal or expectation?

🔸Does it have a strong, emotional “why”? In Think And Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says all thoughts which have been emotionalized (given feeling) and mixed with faith, begin immediately to translate themselves into their physical equivalent or counterpart.

🔸Is it specific?

🔸Is it measurable? ($100 each month for 12 months, 3 workouts a week) Anything that’s tracked usually grows.

🔸Is it attainable? Reach and dream, but understand what you really need to do or have to achieve your goals.

🔸Is it relevant to your values or a bigger vision? This goes back to your “why”.

🔸Does it have a deadline?

🔸Is it written on paper or typed? You become 42% more likely to achieve goals just by writing them down on a regular basis, according to a psychology study from Dominican University.

🔸Is it somewhere you can see it every day?

🔸Did you share it with another person? An American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) study found you have a 65% chance of completing a goal of you committing to someone.

🔸Did you list specific tasks you must complete to achieve the goal?

🔸BONUS: Is it written in the present tense? In No Excuses, Brian Tracy writes “Write them down in the present tense, as if you have already achieved them.”

🔸BONUS: Did you list potential obstacles and how you plan to overcome them? In Exponential Living, Sheri Riley writes “Preparation is the key to getting through the NOs, and getting through the NOs is the key to victory. Preparation equals expectation. To prepare is to have a plan. That means thinking about the obstacles you might face ahead of time, and having contingency steps ready to implement when those obstacles arise. You will face obstacles; the key is to not let those obstacles come as a shock to you. … if you mentally prepare for obstacles and have a plan in place for dealing with them, you’ll be able to remain engaged.”

The Ultimate Goal-Setting Checklist and Worksheet Wise Woman Wallet

Here’s an example of a clear goal:

Goal: As of Dec. 31, 2019, I have $12,000 in savings because I set up a savings account at a bank that doesn’t house my checking account, set up automatic deposits each paycheck of $500, went without some wants and prioritized savings in my budget.
Why? I want to be able to cover 4 months of my family’s expenses in case we lose our income.
Written or typed? Both.
Shared with: Bae and Instagram friends.
Daily reminder: On phone and nightstand.
Obstacles: Dipping into the savings account for wants or other goals.
Solutions: Save in an account with withdrawal limits and rename the account “Family Freedom Fund” to remember my “why.”

This is all backed up by science. Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University found more than 70 percent of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend reported successful goal achievement (completely accomplished their goal or were more than half way there) compared to 35 percent of those who kept their goals to themselves, without writing them down.

Goal Achievement Study

Participants in Matthews’ study were randomly assigned to one of five groups.

Group 1 was asked to simply think about business-related goals they hoped to accomplish within a four-week block and to rate each goal according to difficulty, importance, the extent to which they had the skills and resources to accomplish the goal, their commitment and motivation, and whether they had pursued the goal before (and, if so, their prior success).

Groups 2-5 were asked to write their goals and then rate them on the same dimensions as given to Group 1.

Group 3 was also asked to write action commitments for each goal. Group 4 had to both write goals and action commitments and also share these commitments with a friend.

Group 5 went the furthest by doing all of the above plus sending a weekly progress report to a friend.

There you have it! Use this checklist to get started on your goals today. Happy goal-setting!

Create a Goals List in Canva for Free

It’s important to keep your goals front and center to stay on track and keep a positive mindset on this journey. That’s why I love sharing my intentions on Instagram every month. Canva.com is the place I go to design everything.

Canva is an incredible tool for all of your design needs. Instagram posts, blog headers, ebooks—it can all be done in Canva. I’m not sponsored by them. I’m just saying.

You can create a goals list like this on Canva.com with a free account in a few minutes.

Goals list created by Canva's free account

The list only consists of 5 elements:

  • yellow paintbrush stroke
  • heading or title i.e. “August Goals”
  • checkboxes
  • body text i.e. individual goals
  • watermark i.e. WISE WOMAN WALLET

When you want to check off an item, you can return to Canva and add check marks.


Click here get step-by-step directions with images.