Belfast Cost of Living Update


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

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.

Deposit: £1050
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.

Utilities

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.

Water: n/a
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.

Food

I budget for £400 per month. In reality, we spend £250 per month and then use the difference to eat out!

Transport

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.

Vehicle Tax: 
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)?

Conquering Dingle

Some summer we are having here. It was roasting in May and followed by rain that lastest all of June and through the start of July. Today it’s sunny again and I have been watching the diggers excavate the field behind my house. The field is to no longer be a field.

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I have a bag of Hunky Dorys open on the bed beside me and the Olympics playing in a tab. Four years ago, I was doing the exact same thing at the other end of Ireland. Angry Pete (how he got that name, I don’t know) had helped me run a cable up two flights of stairs so we could watch the games on the big hostel TV in Killarney.

Speaking of Killarney, I recently made my annual pilgrimage back to the town I lived in during my first visit to Ireland.

Since Jack was busy with football and Tiernan was working, I took my Aunt with me. It was her first time in the county, so I wanted to show her some of my favourite places. Sadly the weather was scheduled to take a turn for the shocking. In anticipation of this we picked what was supposed to be the “best day” weatherwise and used it to drive out to Dingle and Slea Head.

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The sheer quantity of people in Dingle over the Summer is outrageous! It’s unsurprising for one of the top scenic drives in the world, but it really was teeming. I drove around the waterfront a couple of times before taking a chance on a rouge, blue P sign which lead me to a great little pay & display near the Lidl.

Happily parked, we wandered back through the town, browsing and buying from the many gorgeous boutiques. I know Claddagh rings are kind of Galway’s thing (named after the town that is now a suburb of the city), but I bought my first and only, much loved Claddagh in Dingle.

For lunch, we went for the packed variety. There are a lot of awesome pubs and fish and chipper in Dingle, but there is no way my hangry beast would have the patience to deal with the crowds of seaside pilgrims pouring off the Fungi tour boats and out of coaches.

We sat on the walls of the marina and watched the Fungi boats go out, one after the other, into Dingle Bay. It was breezy but pleasant. The threat of poor weather was looming; not yet realised. Our ham and cheese sambos were consumed with some excellent people watching (my favourite sport) and, after an hour, we agreed to try our luck on the scenic drive.

Unbelievably, the Slea Head drive itself was mostly devoid of cars. The coaches must tackle it earlier in the day, coming into Dingle for lunch. This left us with ample opportunity to pull in from the tight roads and take in the view – which was amazing! I regaled as many of the Tour Tales I could remember as we wound our way around the peninsula.

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An hour or two later we pulled into the South Pole Inn in Annascual (where I was recognised as a former hostel employee). We ordered a huge wrap that appeared twenty minutes later, dripping with sauce and the non-driver also downed a pint of local brew. Driving back to Killarney, in the twilight, on full bellies, brought back so many memories of the times I drove that route back in 2012. I think we have that food to thank for our excellent mood going into a really bizarre Hypnotist show at the Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney. Now THAT was an experience I can hardly find the words to describe.

I think with those sorts of hotel shows you need to go in willing to play the game – for the craic, like. Fortunately, there were either some fabulous actors or some really convincing hypnotism. Each to their own with that, I say. Although, the girl pretending her pants were on fire was PRETTY HILARIOUS.

I hope you are enjoying these lovely photos and this arbitrary trip summary! At the moment I am living to a rhythm of wake up, work, come home, collapse, repeat. So I do apologise for the low frequecy and dubious quality of these posts. I just wanted to post something rather than nothing.

But I have three weeks off in October; you’ll be sick of me then as there will be nothing to do but write blawgs!

Belfast Trojans v. Dublin Rebels: My Opinion on the Shamrock Bowl 2016

Unfortunately for the Trojans, I arrived at the Shamrock Bowl knowing a little more about the sport of American Football than previous years. I brought with me a small kiwi contingency including my Aunty Bev and my friend Brigette. And our honorary kiwi – Tiernan. I acquired a curry chips and settled in to watch the 30th Shamrock Bowl sandwiched between a young family and a group of Rebels fans that notably included a girl with blue hair.

Teams ran out on to the immaculately presented Tallaght Stadium, which shone brighter in the wake of last years’ Shakespearian tragedy. This year the Belfast Trojans were facing off against the Dublin Rebels – looking for five in a row. The ‘strive for five’ some have said. Sadly, I don’t think the Trojans will find this write up quite as hilarious as last year.

From the very beginning it was clear that the Rebels were here to play some extremely competitive football.  They came with a sharp offensive line up and although they only have a couple of key players, they found the ball every time, ultimately scoring the first touchdown of the game.

The veteran Trojans were not prepared to acknowledge the inconsistencies which had plagued them all season. Ineptitude was clear, communication a thing of the past. Players passed the ball back and forth like rugby (or perhaps piggy-in-the-middle) before inevitable fumbles and interceptions. Set plays were lost with key players not being where they were supposed to be and the team was left to scramble to make something from nothing. How they managed to respond with a touchdown before the end of the first half, I have no idea.

By the second half I was on my feet and screaming random things (I like doughnuts, etc). Somewhere about this time Tiernan figured out the game as well. The dawn of understanding was reflected in his face as he realised that the Rebels were about to launch a final offensive campaign which would ultimately win them the game. He started screaming too.

The game had been played overwhelmingly in Trojan’s territory and it is a huge credit to the Belfast defense that the Rebels were denied again and again for 23 minutes and 30 seconds. You see where I am going with this.

With 6-7 in the Trojan’s favour on the scored board, a couple of things happened which plagued me all Sunday night. First, Belfast were playing their only strong offensive of the game. They had gained over 30 yards of territory when they were overcome by what I can only imagine was overconfidence. In trying to keep the ball running they flopped the ball backwards and forwards between themselves on a second and ten rather than allowing the tackle, accepting a little loss of yards and having another go. The Rebels were there and ready to make something as a fumble was intercepted and the ball turned over to give the Rebels their last chance to get winning numbers on the board.

The Rebels made their way slowly but surely back up the field. With a little over 20 yards to the goal line, they were looking to make 10 yards and go back to first down. This is where things get… well just a bit dodgy in my opinion. Fourth down needed to land right in front of me to get the Rebels that chance at another 10 yards.  And it didn’t. It wasn’t even a little bit there. In fact, the stretching out the player did to ground that ball was a little dubious in itself in relation to where his knees hit the ground – but I’ll spare you the detail. There may or may not (except there totally was) a certain sideline ref who took a massive step to the left that was not exactly (or at all) appropriate (do I sound bitter?).

Alas, the decision was made to walk the chains out. You know how I don’t like to blame the ref, but if this line ref were competing on the beam in the Olympics she would have been the one to snap her leg. Like a drunken sailor, she listed that chain to the right and when it was ultimately laid down – surprise! – the ball was exactly at the marker.

This was absolutely crucial to the game because the Rebels went on to touchdown from the next set of plays – building the score to 12-7 with only 10 seconds to go. The Trojans reformed admirably and did what they could with their final ball, fumbling it into full time.

So it was a massively heart-poundingly disappointing game to watch as a Trojan’s supporter. I can only imagine the Rebels heartbreak had they lost after playing so confidently all game. Fortunately for them, that is not something they have to think about now they are carrying their Gold medals back to Cabinteely and Sea Point Rugby Club (which is, ironically, nowhere near the sea).

Photos to come – my expanded hosting has expired.