Navigating Finances In 3 Currencies

Money matters are the last things you want to think about when imagining life in a new place! For me it’s the least exciting bit. Unfortunately, finances are an unavoidable part of life. It’s really helpful to have them in order before the chaos of moving ensues. When you have three currencies to contend with, the budget gets even more interesting!


Budgeting in three currencies can get murky very easily. We have a mortgage in Scotland, my old student loans in the US, and all the usual day-to-day living expenses in Australia. All of them get paid from our Australian income from working. In order to keep everything straight we decided our ledger would need to have three columns. One for each currency. Aussie dollars (AUD) go in the first column, and then UK pounds (GBP) followed by US dollars (USD). We write in the conversion rate for each item. This keeps things simple for when we’re looking at the balances.  For example, if the bill in Scotland is 100 GBP, we write in how many Aussie dollars it will take to cover that each time it comes around. This helps keep us right with what our outgoings are in AUD and make sure our income covers everything we need it to cover. We check in with our budget every second month or so to make sure we’re still on track and that the exchange rates haven’t totally gone haywire. We like to use xe for the market exchange values.

When we started planning the move to Scotland we were glad to have our budget set up already and I’ll tell you why. When the invoice came in for the shipping it was comprised of two parts. Part one for AUD to cover the Australian leg of the shipping and part two in GBP for when our belongings moved through Scotland. We were able to slot both of these numbers into the budget and know exactly how we were going to cover the costs. By doing it this way we never have any guesswork how our bills will be covered. We can add up how many dollars it will take to cover the bills for any given month and make one transfer into GBP. Then we forget about it for another month! The budget is easy to read and keeps track of what money needs to move where so you don’t have to think about each individual item. 

Planning A Budget For Your Move

I’ve been taught from a young age the importance of having a budget, and sticking to it! That couldn’t be more true especially when planning a move. From visas to removalists to goodbye dinners the numbers really add up quickly. Set up a budget with the columns of all the currencies you might have bills in, and keep track of them and their exchange rates. 

If you’re saving for a move, I’d recommend doing some calculations early on to see exactly how much you’ll need for completing your move. And don’t forget to include a buffer! I’ve made a wee list of costs that we didn’t anticipate to help you with your planning. Make sure you include these in your budget along with the more obvious ones. Flights. Transportation on arrival. Rental bond (deposit) for your new place. Savings to cover bills if you’re having gap in pay from work.

Moving Money

For moving money out of Australia to pay bills overseas we like Transferwise. You just download the app, sign up for an account, and easy as that you can start sending money to accounts around the world. The app will tell you the conversion rate before you actually push go. If you don’t like the rate one day, you can wait until tomorrow. Every time I’ve compared it’s been a much better rate than the banks for small or larger sums. People living in the UK can get a card attached to the account, which is even better again. You just upload money to your Transferwise account and voila! Spend in any currency you like. They’ll tell you how much you’re worth in whatever currency you choose to have on screen. It only takes a matter of moments.

Using Money Locally

Because we move money between Scotland and the US on a weekly basis we need a bank with an online platform that can support us. Long gone are the days when you go wait in line for a teller and ask them to process your transaction! 

In Australia we liked ING. It’s a purely online bank that easily supports instant money transfers and no fees. The no fees was important to us because we work hard to earn our wages and we don’t want them squandered away with nothing to show for it. Plus, when there is an option for a bank with no fees and a great online platform, you take it! 

In Scotland we use Starling bank for the exact same reasons. Starling has this nifty function in the app where you can set up envelopes so to speak. Your money stays in your main account but you can set it aside whilst you save up for things. We’ve come to call them vaults and we have them for Christmas, birthdays, and other major upcoming events. The one thing we would want more from Starling was the ability to have more than one personal account but it’s definitely not a deal breaker. We use one personal account each and we share a joint account with cards for each of them. If you deal in cash from time to time you make easy deposits at any Post Office!

Money matters don’t have to put a dampener on your relocation plans. I would love to know what international solutions you have found to help minimise the amount of time spent on finances. Leave a comment below with any of your own wisdom so we can all get back to that which we love… enjoying what the world has to offer!

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