Those three special words… cost of living.

This topic comes up from time to time. When I was researching moving to NZ and having a nose around forums the general consensus is that NZ is expensive. Generally, wages are lower and cost of living is higher, therefore, expats perhaps have less disposable income than their UK days. A lot of people are happy with this because a better lifestyle makes up for less money. Also, although income can be lower and outgoings higher, people seem to have a better standard of living. For example a family may pay the same or more for their mortgage in NZ than the UK but they have a 4 bedroom bungalow with a huge garden near the beach.

I can, of course, only speak for where we live and not the whole of NZ. In Christchurch we feel that, in general, we are not paying any more money for the things we had in the UK. The only thing that has cost us more here has been a car and a electronics. These two things didn’t bother us too much because we planned ahead for an expensive car and we   laptops, TV’s etc are all one of purchases. 

One major gripe for people living in NZ is the price of groceries. The government adds GST (government sales tax) onto food in NZ (15%), which pushes the prices up. I disagree with this (as do most people!), but that’s another story for another day! I actually think the food prices aren’t too bad. However, there is a big difference in how we shop for groceries. When we were in the UK it would be one trip to Tesco to get all groceries – meat, fruit and veg etc. Here in NZ we buy our meat from the butcher, fruit and veg from the greengrocer and then any other bits from the supermarket (cheese, yogurt, cereal etc). It works out a lot cheaper this way and anyone in NZ who finds grocery prices high I would definitely urge them to shop this way. A good example of this is the price of meat in supermarkets. It is astronomical! I would consider becoming a vegetarian with those prices! The chicken we buy from a local butcher (chain store called The Mad Butcher and Dave’s Chicken on Stanmore Road) is $9.99 per kilo. Countdown (similar to Sainsbury’s) sells chicken for $17.99 per kilo. Same goes for milk. Buy it from your local Dairy (corner shop) and not Countdown. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about the price of milk, yet they buy it at twice the price at Countdown. I have actually nicknamed Countdown “Countfrown” because I frown every time I look at their prices…

Another thing to be aware of is buying fruit and veg out of season. In winter tomatoes are a luxury item! It’s no big deal as we just buy different things that are in season, but it is something to be aware of and can be why fruit and veg seem expensive.

Our grocery bill is slightly more expensive here, but not by a lot. In the UK we spent around 45 pounds ($90) per week. In NZ we spend around $100 (50 pounds) per week on food. One thing I would like to add is the difference in quality, particularly fruit and veg. The fruit and veg that we buy in NZ is all fresh and delicious. In the UK we only really bought fresh fruit, but frozen veg. The meat here is also much tastier. The lamb is to die for and steak is super cheap! Steak was somewhat a luxury item in the UK, now we eat it most weeks.

A piece of advice I would give to potential expats is do your sums! Work out how much you are going to get paid per week/month and then calculate your outgoings. A couple of useful sites are:

http://www.trademe.co.nz (for houses to rent or buy)

www. countdown.co.nz (for groceries, although bare in mind that Countfrown is expensive!)

It’s worth keeping an eye on fuel prices as they do fluctuate a lot. The highest we’ve ever seen petrol is $2.25 per liter (1.12 pounds).

As for clothes, we don’t find them any more expensive than the UK. There are equivalents here where you can get clothes at a good price. K-Mart and Warehouse are similar to Primark. Cotton On and Hallenstines are both equivalent to New Look. If you are big on shopping and love branded or designer clothes then you will be disappointed. These types of clothes are limited and very expensive. If you are like us and are happy with presentable clothes that look half decent and are of fair quality then you’ll be fine. Kids clothes are the same. We bought Mr M’s wee cousin some clothes for his birthday from Warehouse and they were around the same price as what you would get in Primark or Tesco.

In a round about way the cost of living here is no where near as bad as the forums lead me to believe. We don’t earn heaps, I guess I would describe our income as modest – we are not high earners and we are not on the breadline. 

How much? Sign driving to Hanmer Springs...

How much? Sign driving to Hanmer Springs…

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