Skip to main content

Top money saving tips

Given that the cost of living is much lower in Indonesia than in the West, it’s usually possible for foreigners to live well and still manage to save money for their eventual return home.  

However, if you are on a strict budget while working in Indonesia, there are some ways to save money.

Shared housing is a good way to reduce accommodation costs.  Many TEFL employers will arrange for their employees a room in a shared house with other teachers.  This ensures not only lower expenses but also company with other expatriates who will either be able to give you tips on living in Indonesia, or who will be a source of comfort while you learn together.

Indonesian landlords expect the rent for the entire lease to be paid up front.  This can be a daunting prospect if you’re short of cash. If you cannot afford to pay a year’s rent up front, ask for a six-month rental at first.  Your lease may then be extended at the landlord’s discretion.   You can also ask to only pay for what you use in terms of utilities like electricity, rather than paying a fixed monthly fee.

Not all houses have landlines for telephones or hard-wired internet connectivity, but you may not need to install these if you choose to just use mobile phones.  Mobile phones are widely available and there are a variety of contracts available including those with unlimited internet access. Prepaid SIM cards are called ‘pulsa’ and are available everywhere; vendors can get you online instantly.  It’s a good idea to ask around to find the best providers in your area.  International calls on mobiles will certainly be expensive so consider using Skype or similar applications on your data plan.

Labour is much cheaper in Indonesia than in the West. For many people, living in a country such as Indonesia is the first time they can afford domestic help such as live-in maids, security staff, and drivers.  Many people also use a laundry service. However, these are obviously not necessary for everyone, and you can save money by not having paid help.

Indonesian staff are going to be more experienced at bartering than you, and will help find you the best deals.  Bargaining is a way of life in Indonesia, and is expected at roadside stalls, traditional markets, and in fact anywhere there are no price tags (but not at shopping malls!). It’s a skill that may take some time to learn but don’t be afraid to give it a try. Also, as a foreigner it’s likely that you will end up being charged more than your Indonesian counterparts — it is best to accept an element of this as inevitable. If you don’t want to bargain you can shop at fixed price stores — local shops may well be cheaper than the big supermarkets.

Tips for bargaining

  • First ask the price, then ask if the price can be reduced.
  • If the answer is yes, then offer one-quarter to one-half of the asking price.
  • After some counteroffers, you and the vendor will agree on a price that is about half to two-thirds of the original asking price — you are then obliged to purchase.
  • If you really like something, don’t show it.
  • You can leave if you think the final offer is too high.
  • But don’t open negotiations if you really don’t intend to buy.
  • If you are going to shop there frequently, your relationship with the vendor will be important and eventually his opening prices will be lower.
  • Be patient and keep your sense of humour.

To save money, use Rupiah in cash whenever possible.  Businesses may accept USD but will not give you a good exchange rate. Credit cards will attract a fee of up to 3.5% except in very high-end places. Coins are not often used and vendors will often round to the value of the nearest note.  One easy way to save money is to always be sure you are giving someone the correct note — the 50,000 Rp note and old 1,000 Rp note are very similar in colour and not everyone would correct you if you hand them the wrong one.

Part of your reason for moving to Indonesia is to explore the many and varied aspects of the country.  You will want to travel to different parts of the country while you are there.  Tourist attractions are not unduly expensive, but if you time your trips for during the rainy season they will be cheaper — but wetter.

See here for more details on bargaining in Indonesia.

Aetna® is a trademark of Aetna Inc. and is protected throughout the world by trademark registrations and treaties.

We use cookies to give you the best possible online experience. See our cookie policy for more information on how we use cookies and how you can manage them. If you continue to use this website, you are consenting to our policy and for your web browser to receive cookies from our website.