Housing Costs When Moving Internationally
Your chosen living conditions will play a part in the resulting costs, clearly. If you’re comfortable with roommates, this can offset housing costs. We lived in Boston with 5 roommates at one time, only paying $400 a month each with the ability to walk to the subway (this was in 2006, but it’s doable, when you’re young). House shares or co-ops can be a wise way to go. If you’re buying, location will make a big difference, especially in the U.S. where house costs can be exorbitantly high (like in coastal cities such as New York, Boston, Seattle and San Francisco) to much more feasible (like in Nevada or the Midwest). A house in the city can still go for as low as $200,000 – $300,000 in a city like Dallas. Ancillary housing costs can vary widely, too. In Bangkok or Mexico, a weekly house cleaner is a nominal cost of $5 – $10, while in the US it can run $80+ a week.
Obviously taxes depend on where you go. Taxes in Europe, especially, are closer to 50%, with much of health-care costs offset as a result. However, it’s not uncommon for Europeans to think that that they’re flush all of a sudden when moving to the US where tax rates are lower, but they usually get a shock after visiting the doctor later. Do you research by country to plan for the accompanying spike up or down.
Transportation Across the Globe
Any big city offers you the opportunity to use public transportation to get around. In some international cities, like Melbourne (Australia) and Ghent (Belgium), this is an excellent economical option. For a modest fee you can get to your destinations on the daily, both quickly and reliably. But in the U.S., there are a lot of cities, even big metropolitan cities like Dallas where I currently live, that still do not have good public transportation. I yearn to leave my place each day and walk to work or to the subway, but I have to adjust as the city has simply not gotten there yet. Places in the U.S. where you don’t need a car include New York City, Boston, Chicago, D.C, Jersey City and San Francisco. If being car-free (and in turn reducing your transportation costs and your global footprint) is your goal, consider these cities.
Naturally, this budget line varies wildly by locale (in Bangkok, for example, one can dine out comfortably three times a day for a handful of dollars in contrast to London where you’re more likely to be padding your food budget). The costs of a modest restaurant meal abroad will find Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Denmark topping the price list with meals running from about $17 – $25, with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Indonesia on the lower end of the scale with meals under $2. I remember the first time I dined in Mexico City, with incredible fare, gorgeous upscale restaurants, and even 2 Michelin restaurants now. We ate like kings for about $40 per meal, and that included an appetizer, coffee, meal, and dessert, plus tip!
Perhaps you love the outdoors and your new city is filled with natural wonders to explore that cost little to no money. You may be content traversing local parks, with a sack lunch in your backpack, each weekend. However, if you’re into the arts, opera, local concerts, wine tasting or fine dining, you’ll want to budget extra to experience those activities that are meaningful to you. Decide what really matters and if an event is truly special and location-specific and you can only experience it while there (like Mexico City’s Ballet Folklórico), prioritize it and consider reducing costs in other areas if necessary.
A Final Note on Savings
Regardless of how the money shakes out, there is one part of your financial well-being that doesn’t change no matter where you are and that’s the importance of an emergency fund to absorb whatever unexpected cost may come your way. Aim to have at least the equivalent of $2,000 in a savings account you can easily access should you need to. Hopefully you won’t have cause to touch it, but the peace of mind it provides will make a difference no matter what continent you’re on.