Living Costs For One Person In NZ v. USA

Continuing in our popular Migrants Tales series – first hand accounts of the migrant experience in New Zealand, taken from locations around the net.

Today’s tale comes from the not- for- profit NZ emigration advice and mutual support site Expatexposed.com, one of few uncensored NZ emigration discussion boards on the internet. The link was sent to us by a reader.

It was written to give emigrants an indication of living expenses for one person in New Zealand, a country considered to be an expensive place in which to live. At the end is a comparison to living costs in the USA, as you will see there is a BIG difference in the amount of disposable income after the most basic of needs have been met.

A Break-down of costs for one person

So, I was just sitting down to work out my budget for the year, and I thought I might share this in case any prospective migrants come across this site. The costs are basically what I pay annually, but the salary isn’t based on my own — I am nowhere near this well-off! I think this is a pretty realistic budget for ONE person for ONE year, living in the Auckland suburbs. This budget would be appropriate for someone coming from North America or Europe and wanting to maintain a lifestyle similar in quality to that of home.

Here are my criteria:

Rental property: 2-bedroom mid-range (almost livable)
Car: 8-10 years old and in GOOD condition

Gross Income 72,000
Income Taxes -16,910
—————————————
Net Income 55,090
Rent @ $425/week -22,100
—————————————
32,990
Electricity (incl. winter) -1,500
—————————————
31,490
ADSL/Phone Package (40GB/month) -1,260
—————————————
30,230
Car Payments ($15,000 @ 17.25%) -6,504
—————————————
23,726
ONE Trip to EUR/US -4,500
—————————————
19,226
Car Insurance (MUST HAVE) -1,000
—————————————
18,226
Contents Insurance (MUST HAVE) -700
—————————————
17,526
Dental Care (After insurance) -1,000
—————————————
16,526
Medical/Dental/Vision Ins. -1,956
—————————————
14,570
Rental Bond (one-off) -1,700
—————————————
12,870
Food -7,200
—————————————
5,670

That leaves $5,670 NEW ZEALAND DOLLARS for your mobile communications, retirement savings, general savings, clothing, shoes, entertainment, dining out, insurance excesses, savings for a home mortgage, vehicle maintenance, fuel for the car, natural gas for the house, pet care, and other incidentals. Of course, one could go without the health insurance and dental insurance and car insurance and contents insurance, and get a cheaper rental, and not take the trip home every year, and not use electricity for heating, etc. But that only makes life more miserable for those of us used to a reasonable standard of living. Wink

Now let’s look at costs in the US. I’ve based this on the same gross salary, but in US DOLLARS. It’s pretty common knowledge that if you earn $50,000 NZ Dollars in NZ, you’ll earn $60,000 in US Dollars for the SAME job in the US. This was essentially my VERY over-indulgent budget in the US, living in a city of 400,000 in a nice part of town. The gross income has been changed to protect the innocent. Wink

Rental property: 2-bedroom, fully livable
Car: 2005 model in GREAT condition

Gross Income $72,000
Income Taxes -9,932 (incl. refund)
—————————–
Net Income 62,068
Rent -7,200
—————————–
54,868
Renters’ Insurance -300
—————————–
54,568
Phone/Internet/Cable -800 (package)
—————————–
53,768
Food -3,840
—————————–
49,928
Car payments -3,768 ($10k @ 8.9%)
—————————–
46,160
Trip to Europe -2,500
—————————–
43,360
Car Insurance -1,500
—————————–
42,160
Dental Care -800 (with insurance)
—————————–
41,360
Medical/Dent/Vision -1,920 (employer-sponsored)
—————————–
39,440
Bond (One-off) -1,600
—————————–
37,840
Electricity -1,440
—————————–
36,400

That leaves $36,400 UNITED STATES DOLLARS for your mobile communications, retirement savings, general savings, clothing, shoes, entertainment, dining out, insurance excesses, savings for a home mortgage, vehicle maintenance, fuel for the car, natural gas for the house, pet care, and other incidentals.

A difference of $30,730!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m sure New Zealand is great for “lifestyle” … loosely defined. Wink

23 thoughts on “Living Costs For One Person In NZ v. USA

  1. Hi
    Its like hell here in NZ. GST 15% tax 28%. Sure the health care is free but you are off better with insurance. Ever country has some good and bad points. In NZ its hard. Everything is over priced. People save up to go to U.S just to do their shopping. What does that tell you….

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  2. I’m grateful for coming across this letter!! I am a little bummed out because I had my hopes up HIGH for NZ, but as I was reading I have concluded that it sounds exactly like Florida, where I live now. I want to live somewhere beautiful but still affordable, with a balanced income-to-cost of living ratio, and preferably outside of America. It seems impossible to find that 😦

    Like

  3. Ah, there we go …
    (Site no longer accessible though)
    http://www.expatexposed.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=41241
    A Break-down of costs for one person

    thimaeus

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    A Break-Down Of Costs For One Person

    PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 10:58 am
    So, I was just sitting down to work out my budget for the year, and I thought I might share this in case any prospective migrants come across this site. The costs are basically what I pay annually, but the salary isn’t based on my own — I am nowhere near this well-off! I think this is a pretty realistic budget for ONE person for ONE year, living in the Auckland suburbs. This budget would be appropriate for someone coming from North America or Europe and wanting to maintain a lifestyle similar in quality to that of home.

    Here are my criteria:

    Rental property: 2-bedroom mid-range (almost livable)
    Car: 8-10 years old and in GOOD condition

    Gross Income 72,000

    Income Taxes -16,910

    Net Income 55,090

    Rent @ $425/week -22,100

    32,990

    Electricity (incl. winter) -1,500

    31,490

    ADSL/Phone Package (40GB/month) -1,260

    30,230

    Car Payments ($15,000 @ 17.25%) -6,504

    23,726

    ONE Trip to EUR/US -4,500

    19,226

    Car Insurance (MUST HAVE) -1,000

    18,226

    Contents Insurance (MUST HAVE) -700

    17,526

    Dental Care (After insurance) -1,000

    16,526

    Medical/Dental/Vision Ins. -1,956

    14,570

    Rental Bond (one-off) -1,700

    12,870

    Food -7,200

    5,670

    That leaves $5,670 NEW ZEALAND DOLLARS for your mobile communications, retirement savings, general savings, clothing, shoes, entertainment, dining out, insurance excesses, savings for a home mortgage, vehicle maintenance, fuel for the car, natural gas for the house, pet care, and other incidentals. Of course, one could go without the health insurance and dental insurance and car insurance and contents insurance, and get a cheaper rental, and not take the trip home every year, and not use electricity for heating, etc. But that only makes life more miserable for those of us used to a reasonable standard of living. Wink

    Now let’s look at costs in the US. I’ve based this on the same gross salary, but in US DOLLARS. It’s pretty common knowledge that if you earn $50,000 NZ Dollars in NZ, you’ll earn $60,000 in US Dollars for the SAME job in the US. This was essentially my VERY over-indulgent budget in the US, living in a city of 400,000 in a nice part of town. The gross income has been changed to protect the innocent. Wink

    Rental property: 2-bedroom, fully livable
    Car: 2005 model in GREAT condition

    Gross Income $72,000

    Income Taxes -9,932 (incl. refund)

    Net Income 62,068

    Rent -7,200

    54,868

    Renters’ Insurance -300

    54,568

    Phone/Internet/Cable -800 (package)

    53,768

    Food -3,840

    49,928

    Car payments -3,768 ($10k @ 8.9%)

    46,160

    Trip to Europe -2,500

    43,360

    Car Insurance -1,500

    42,160

    Dental Care -800 (with insurance)

    41,360

    Medical/Dent/Vision -1,920 (employer-sponsored)

    39,440

    Bond (One-off) -1,600

    37,840

    Electricity -1,440

    36,400

    That leaves $36,400 UNITED STATES DOLLARS for your mobile communications, retirement savings, general savings, clothing, shoes, entertainment, dining out, insurance excesses, savings for a home mortgage, vehicle maintenance, fuel for the car, natural gas for the house, pet care, and other incidentals.

    A difference of $30,730!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’m sure New Zealand is great for “lifestyle” … loosely defined. Wink

    Like

      • Since that post talks about a “gross income of $72,000”,
        a check with Careers NZ,
        http://www.careers.govt.nz/jobs-database/whats-happening-in-the-job-market/who-earns-what/

        The median income from wages and salaries across all jobs in June 2013 was about $44,000, according to a Statistics New Zealand income survey. This includes full and part-time jobs.

        So that “savings of NZD5,670” on an “income of NZD72,000” (so the total sum paid is: 72,000 – 5,670 = NZD66,330)
        translates into
        “debt of NZD22,330” on an “average income of NZD44,000”.

        In short,
        (average) single income means near-poverty for anyone starting out who is trying for an upward career trajectory in Auckland (unless you vastly adjust your expectations downwards.
        And …
        you may not get that promotion despite the hard work you put in, ref. “Office Politics”.

        I know people on their 5th year of a professional career …
        still living in 1 room of a 4 room house (basically, still living like students).
        Scratch that … students living in the halls of residence, are at least in properly insulated, WARM dwellings!

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        • To be more precise:
          “Average/Mean salary” = The “added together total amount” of everyone’s pay, divided by the total number of people. Higher pay earned by a small amount of people drives up this number.
          “Mode salary” = The amount of the pay that is earned most frequently in a population.
          “Median salary” = The “middle amount” of the pay earned by the sample population.

          In short, median wages of NZD44,000 means:
          50% of the population are earning more than that;
          50% of the population are earning LESS that that.

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  4. There was a poster on expatexposed called Thimaeus, I may still have the logs of what he said, a reasonable comparison of costs between NZ and USA.
    I’ll put it up shortly.

    Like

  5. I usually look locally when I need something. After I pick myself up off the floor, I look online.
    I can almost allways get things for less, online, including shipping [which sometimes is equal to the original purchase price] than is available in NZ.
    EVERYTHING in NZ is more, even [very rarely] domesticly produced goods.
    I still look locally, but seldom do I buy locally, because everything is overpriced.

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  6. I was recently checking out a real-estate website in Houston because my sister just bought a gorgeous house there in a plush cul-de-sac It’s a newly built house and was only US$400,000. I live in Auckland and I bought a house for the same price here which is a 1960s renovated 2 bedroom in a working class suburb . House prices are over the top and after paying rates, power, water, taxes and other essential living expenses, I really have to think twice before going out. Holidays are just a dream.

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    • A bit late in responding. I have been a long time reader of this forum and an immigrant who went thru a lot of similar experiences to the ones posted here .
      Long story short I was comparing house prices as I am leaving for the U.S. Shortly and can’t believe the financial freedom I am about to experience after a decade in NZ

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  7. I lived in the South Island for 16.5 years, thought I would retire there, but the cost of living, the 15 % sales tax, attitude of some of the locals and then the earthquakes, I finally packed it in. It is very expensive, with high petrol cost, inspections every six months for your vehicle, most of the houses have no insulation and electricity is very expensive. You spend so much time trying to make a living, that you do not have any money to go and see the “beauty” which is NZ. I arrived in 95, things were simple then, I left in 2012, and I do not think I will go back. I had my own business at one time, and every time I turned around, I had more cost to run it, and there are very few tax deductions available to you, it as if the whole process is designed for you to cheat so you can survive. If your going down there to live, do you research.

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  8. I realize that original post is from late 2010 or early 2011. I think the net pay estimate was too high then, but it’s definitely too high in 2013. On a very similar salary, I net about $50,000 before health insurance/pension/401k deductions. I do live in California, which has a state income tax. Living in one of the few no income tax states would increase my net by about $3000. I have lived in in many different areas of the US: I would have real concerns about any apartment that rented for less than $600 a month. I think the budget presented is otherwise realistic depending upon where one lives, but the net pay should be no higher than $55,000.

    I live in Los Angeles, one of the most expensive cities in the US. My monthly rent is $1435. Even after paying auto and renters insurance,natural gas, electricity, cable internet, satellite TV, gym membership, cell phone, and student loans, I have about $17,000 left over to eat, buy clothes, go on vacation, replace my car if it dies, etc. LA car culture and traffic may not be the best lifestyle in the world, but neither is sitting in a freezing NZ apartment and eating ramen noodles because you have a job and not enough money for heat or real food.

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  9. Try running a business in this country. New Zealand preys upon it’s hard working and contributing citizens. It’s wicked. And the compliance costs and requirements are appalling. Forget the propaganda, being small business in NZ is hell on earth. What is left after the crooks at IRD take the cream is a subsistence existence. Check out their penalty regimes. Most loan sharks don’t stoop to such behaviour.

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  10. Also one other thing – if you haven’t purchased something in a while and then go to do it you often get a rude shock and feel really ripped off. For example I went to the post office to post a parcel containing one small childs book and a card to my nephew in the UK and was told that the postage would be $25nzd standard airmail or $45 if I wanted the fastpost courier option. I’m sure I paid about $20 to send a whole box containing 6-8 gifts overseas about 5 years ago. This is one example of what happens regularly with everything you buy and no one except the MP’s (who get payrises every 6 months) has had a pay rise to meet this sudden increase in the cost of everything. So poverty and 3rd world disease is becoming quite prevalent in nz.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Nz has become really expensive in the last 5 years. I am on a medium income of $50k living in Auckland and with this salary can only live paycheck to paycheck – I bit like when I was 18 and just starting out! I can’t afford to eat out ever and having a few drinks with my friends after work is about once every 3 months instead of a regular friday night activity. Food is really expensive and the best most nutritional food is the most expensive. It is easy to feel like you are existing rather than living and yet the propaganda on TV keeps saying how lucky we are to live here and how beautiful the scenery is etc. Sure, if you can afford the petrol to go and see that scenery…not. Nz never used to be like this. It is a shame really and why Nz is losing its best people.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. That figure for rent really depends on where in the US you live. $600 a month will get you a nice 1 bedroom apartment where I grew up in Michigan but that will get you a room here in southern CA…and it isn’t uncommon for the rooms to go for even more than that. I think your income tax figure is off too. However, even if you double the income tax rate and triple the rent rate you are still working with far more disposable income in the US. I live in a high cost of living state, but they seem to adjust their wages a bit to offset this. It looks like wages over in NZ are much lower, yet the cost of living is higher. You cannot be surprised when people leave to earn more money for the same job and higher standard of living. I am seeing that happen in my state. A lot of people are leaving CA for states where you can buy a house built before 1950 for a reasonable price. “starter houses” here are in the mid $300K range, unless you want to live extremely inland, or in the desert! And that is socal, never mind up in the bay area.

    I spent a couple weeks in NZ and fell in love with the country, but I definitely spent some serious $$$ and it’s not like I was traveling via private jet and staying at the Ritz while bungee jumping every day. And even I am aware that I couldn’t spend like that if I lived there. When my friends come visit me here, they drop a nice chunk of change too. But I could just tell that visiting NZ VS living there permanently would be VERY different in terms of standard of living, cost, making ends meet….

    my friends that visit me in socal say that too…that they can’t imagine living here….socal has this image of it being all glamor and hollywood and expensive parties with celebs, followed up by surfing/chilling on the beach all day long…sure, if you’re on vacation, or if you’re rich, you can pull that off, but most of us rent apartments and drive used cars and go to work our 9-5 jobs. And I would bet the contrast between media portrayal/reality here in socal isn’t even close to how it is over there. but here there is definitely a BIG difference between visiting VS living here. I have a great job…I am paid well…I am lucky…I don’t live “on vacation” but I’m not worrying about making ends meet all the time…I feel (perhaps unfairly) that I would not be so lucky in NZ, even if I was able to find a job in my field.

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    • I spend less than 10K every year on rent where I live, but I could spend less. The problem is that New Zealand propaganda is persuasive in that it claims the “lifestyle is worth it”. That there is something so special about living there that any sacrifice is worth it. It isn’t. There is no good special lifestyle there. It’s penny-pinching and going to a pretty beach. That’s it. Want to live that way for years? Maybe if you are a pothead surfer dude. Otherwise…being poor and coping with the behaviours of those people who live there is, well, awful.

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  13. I found you on Google when I started looking for information about the cost of living in New Zealand. I have a friend, studying down there right now, who said that she had never, anywhere else, had to stuff a bit of shampoo back into the container if she thought she had measured out too much for her hair in the shower, just to save a few pennies! She said she didn’t mind living that way while she was traveling, but would not want to live that way all the time if there was little else to compensate her for all these continuous tiny sacrifices. I was going to apply for a job in a geological technical field in New Zealand, because of the interesting seismic activity there, but I have read enough on a few blogs and forums to decide against it and try another location. Would still like to visit.

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