The Cost of Living

Many migrants to New Zealand from the UK are surprised to find that the cost of living is far higher than they expected – especially when they start earning dollars.

It is hard to compare incomes and household expenses between New Zealand and the UK – there is the exchange rate to take into account, different rates of tax and income support, as well as different lifestyles. However, in purely numerical terms:


Figures from Statistics New Zealand suggest the average NZ household income in June 2017 was just over $100,103 or $1,925 per week.


Household expenses in june 2016 averaged just over $67,600 or $1,300 a week. 26of this expenditure went on housing and utilities, 17% on food, and 15% on transport.


In 2016/17, the mean average household income was ₤32,247 per year, or ₤620 per week.(Statista 2018)


A comparable survey of UK household income from march 2017 released by National Statistics in the UK shows average expenditure of around £28,808, or around ₤554 a week. Just over 14% of this expenditure went on transport, 13% on recreation and culture, 13% on housing and utilities, and 10% on food.

The most striking difference when it comes to the cost to live in New Zealand is obviously the variation in the proportion of income spent on housing and utilities – 26% in New Zealand and 13% in the UK. The housing figure the UK is artificially low as the classification system used excludes mortgage capital and interest repayments – the New Zealand figure includes these expenses.

Anecdotally speaking, some emigrants from the UK report that they feel very financially stretched in New Zealand, while but others either satisfied with their incomes or feel happy that the lifestyle in New Zealand compensates for any income disparity. It is fair to say that the cost of living in New Zealand is probably higher than you expect, and that you may have less disposable income than you are used to when you emigrate to New Zealand – and at least some of this is down to the relatively high cost of goods and services in New Zealand.

So why are things just as expensive, or more so, in New Zealand?

NZ is a remote, relatively small market, so imported goods especially may be more costly. For the same reasons, you may not find the range of goods you are used to. It probably takes around two years to stop converting the prices of things you buy from dollars to pounds, and looking for things in the shops that just aren’t there, but you’ll be relieved to hear that some things do compare favourably!

There is much ongoing debate in New Zealand as to why incomes in New Zealand aren’t that high, even when compared to a local economy such as Australia. You will hear a lot of discussion in NZ about whether workers are better off in Australia, which has higher wages and lower taxation.

The Standard of Living in New Zealand

But the fact remains that a very good standard of living is very achievable in New Zealand, far more so than most parts of the UK, especially for a family. For example, it probably won’t take you long to drive to a pleasant beach, which is a great day out for the price of an ice cream. Many regions have festivals and fun days, and family entry to attractions is often around $25. You’ll find attractions and events less crowded and easier to get to, which makes them a lot more enjoyable.

The vast majority of migrants to New Zealand come here to improve their lifestyle, and our experience with hundreds of UK migrants over the past 6 years suggests that most of them achieve this. Take a look at the results from the New Zealand Migrant Settlement Report.

You are in quite a strong financial position as a UK migrant to New Zealand; you may be able to take the equity in your UK home and pay off a large chunk of a comparable home in New Zealand. You could well save on school fees by moving into an area with good state schools – which you may even be able to walk to. Either of these steps may mean that you are able to live on one income while your children are young, buy a nicer house, and/or take a lower paid, less stressful job.

Remember that your last few months in the UK and your first few months in New Zealand will be very expensive – on the UK side for example you may be decorating a property to rent or sell, paying for shipping and insurance, and paying for air fares and visa fees; once in NZ, you will need to buy a car, pay for your initial accommodation, and perhaps pay for uniforms and other education expenses. It will make life much easier if you can access some savings over this time. For more information, please see our article on how much it costs to emigrate to New Zealand.

To find out more, request a free copy of our Financial and Pension guides for New Zealand.