For a while we were operating out of two houses; aptly known as the ‘Belfast House’ and ‘My House’. We have finally and completely moved out of Belfast, into a smaller house in a small town, and no one things we own a townhouse and a country estate anymore.
After two years in Belfast, I have now put my little brother on a plane back to New Zealand and am able to wrap up our time with one of my favourite post-types – a Living Cost Wrap Up! The Philippines (Makati) version has proved popular and I have been waiting with bated breath to revisit the numbers!
I love sharing these costs with prospective travellers. It’s hard to know what moving to a new city and country is going to cost you, so I decided to share my actual cost of living with the internet in hopes of helping other prospective migrants plan! This is probably going to be a window into my soul for the people in the North who know me. Don’t judge me by my junk food!
I would like to think we are average kind of folk, Tiernan, Jack and I. Not too extravagant, but not really frugal either. We like to eat, we like to use the internet (of course), and we rely on our phones (well, two of us do). Could you do this cheaper? Probably. Would we have done it? Nup.
Be aware, these prices are correct as of Sept 2016 and I since they represent my real living cost from 2014-2016, they will not get updated later on.
Let’s dive in!
Rent (monthly spend): £525
We lived in a two-bedroom, two-reception room mid terrace house in BT9. Approximately 30 minutes walk out of Belfast City Centre, on the Metro 9 bus route, and in the midst of the upper Lisburn Road shops.
When renting in Northern Ireland you are asked for a deposit and a guarantor. The guarantor must be a UK resident and known you a certain amount of time. As we did not have this luxury, we were required to pay a double deposit. Be aware of this if you are moving to the UK with no connections. You may need a little extra cash!
Getting the deposit returned, however, was not a problem. Our landlord wrote us a cheque a couple of days before we left. Landlords and letting agents are legally required to register your deposit with a third-party, deposit protection scheme. Make sure you know which organisation is keeping your money secure. For more information about deposit protection, check out the NI Direct website.
Tiernan and I did a cheesy Go-Pro tour of our Belfast house when we first moved in! We should have done another just before we moved out because BOY did we acquire a lot more stuff. It’s amazing what you can do with two years.
Contents insurance: £33 per month (approx.)
Self-explanatory. Get insurance.
Power: £60 per month in Summer, £80 per month in Winter (Power NI)
This is an approximation really. We did not use the oil heating in the house but rather used a heater in the sitting room only. The shower was also electric. If you rent a home with different features, your bill may not be as high. In our new home, we have spent about £25 per month.
There is no charge for water
Trash Collection: n/a
Council collection is included in the property rates which is in turn included in the rent.
Phone & Internet
Internet: £51.99 per month (Virgin Media)
The cost of internet was raised three times in two years with these guys. We had fibre and unlimited use which only went down a couple of times. I would consider this to be expensive internet and it was thoroughly OK.
Phone: We do not have a landline. Mobile-wise, Tiernan still has his 3 mobile plan down south. Jack was Vodafone pay as you go. I opted for a £53 per month Vodafone plan for a fan-dangled new iPhone 6. It has 10gb per month and I use all those gbs!
Netflix: €10 per month
Tiernan has a Netflix account down South. We use that for our TV.
TV Licence: £145.50 per year (approx £12 per month)
The UK still have TV Licencing. An archaic system that New Zealand got rid of during my childhood whereby you pay money in order to have a screen in your house. You have to have a licence even if you only have a mobile phone. Anything that can potentially receive TV must be licenced – even if you don’t want to watch TV. But now I have paid it, I feel the need to watch as much ITV drama as possible.
I budget for £400 per month. In reality, we spend £250 per month and then use the difference to eat out!
Fuel: £200 pm (for two cars doing about 24,000 miles per annum)
During our first 6 months I worked in a place I could bus to. A monthly travel card now costs £61.
Insurance: £170 per month
The cost of insuring your car depends on where you live. Costs can decrease by living in an area of low insurance claims or by being able to keep your car in a garage.
This is the annual fee vehicle owners must pay to use their vehicle on the road. My Ford Fiesta Eco Boost was tax-free as an eco car. Our 2012 Renault Clio, however costs about £150 per year in tax.
Monthly Total: £1464.99 / £488.33 per person (3 sharing)
Things we thought about doing, but didn’t:
Heating: You can purchase oil for the almost inevitable big tank behind your house by the litre. 100 litres is about £46 at the moment.
Gym: We contemplated joining a Gym but never got around to it. PureGym seems to have a number of franchises, is 24hrs and looks decent. They are from £13pm.
Well, we all know that the cost of living is proportionate to the salary opportunities in a given country. How did living in Belfast stack up against living in Manila?
I spent 68% of my monthly salary on living costs while living in Manila. In Belfast, I have spent more money that I actually earn. Some months I break even. This is because we use my salary to cover all the regular living costs. Tiernan then covers the savings, the retirement plan, the incidentals and the travel – the wedding, for example, was mostly out of his pocket. I have noted the cost per person as we were three young adults sharing. That makes the monthly cost look a little bit more achievable.
So the moral of the story is: bring a friend!
Please let me know your thoughts and questions below. Are there any other costs you would like me to cover? Perhaps a bit about Entertainment (movies, pints, etc)?