plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

August 5, 2008

would you move for a lower cost of living?

Filed under: house — Tags: , — plonkee @ 12:00 pm

So last week I compared the amount that I’d be taxed if I lived in Wisconsin, with the amount that I actually am taxed living in the UK. Many people astutely pointed out that the cost of living is somewhat lower in Wisconsin. I have absolutely no doubt that they are right.

Where I live the cost of buying a flat or house starts at around £80k (US $160k approx). You can buy a 3 bed 2 bath family house in Madison, Wisconsin for the same price, and the lowest you can really go is $50k or £25k. Using the Big Mac index, you can see that the cost of a Big Mac in the US is $3.57, whereas in the UK it’s the equivalent of $4.57 – that’s 28% more, and something that’s almost certainly repeated for other food goods. The price of petrol/gas in the UK isn’t at about $4 a gallon like the US, it’s more like $7-$8.

So, what about moving somewhere with a lower cost of living? Well, of course I can’t move to the US because it’s almost impossible to get a work permit, but it would still probably work out cheaper to live in Australia, Canada or New Zealand, which are all places where it’s feasible that I could both emigrate to, and find a job in my current field (I’ve seen the trade press adverts).

Moving across an ocean is a little extreme, after all going that far away from friends and family brings it’s own costs in regular flights back, and international calls. But, many (not all) EU countries have a lower cost of living, Spain, Cyprus, Italy, Poland, Slovakia all come to mind – particularly for the cost of accommodation. I’d need to learn a new language though. More of a challenge. The other country that almost solely speaks English, is Ireland. Whilst there are many great things about the place, I’m not sure that low cost is one that springs to mind. Especially if you’re considering the Dublin area.

Which brings me back to the UK. Most of the costs are generally the same throughout the country, unless you’re in or around London, in which case all bets are off. If I wanted to move somewhere cheaper, I’d have to go further north in England, into Wales, or up into Scotland – carefully avoiding pricey Edinburgh. Towns are usually cheaper than cities, and there are plenty of nice ones dotted around the place.

I’m actually not in a great position to move somewhere cheaper. I bought my house last year at the height of the property boom, and I think *forever* is a good description of how long it would take me to sell. Most of my friends and family actually live in more expensive parts of the country than I do, so it’s not like I’d have the advantage of being near friends and family. I don’t think that I could move somewhere that was that much cheaper.

The price of property is the biggest difference between the regions, but I don’t think that it makes enough difference at my end of the ladder. In the four cheapest regions in England the average price of a terraced house is between £110k and £120k. But I only spent about £100k on mine in any case.

I guess where I live is cheap enough that I can’t easily save money by moving anywhere else. I’d have to look at seriously altering my lifestyle instead. But, I think I might be in an unusual position. Have you moved or thought about moving somewhere cheaper? What have your experiences been? Let me know in the comments

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