Estimating Expat Expenses
How much money will you need when you first move and how should you plan to access it? A lot of this will come down to your personal circumstances and any relocation allowance offered if moving for work. Even if you have a relocation allowance, though, you may need to pay out of pocket and then submit receipts. It’s important to research expat expenses in advance and have money set aside when you’re ready to settle in your new home.
This is probably the largest chunk of money you will want to have on hand. If renting, it is common for landlords to require 6 months’ rent up front to make up for your lack of UK credit history. Even if you had a stellar credit score in the US, that will not make a difference for most credit decisions in the UK.
To get an idea of what housing will cost, run some searches on Zoopla or RightMove. This will also give you an idea of how many options are on the market in the areas where you think you’d like to live. If choosing an area to live in seems difficult, try joining some Facebook groups or scroll through Quora or Reddit for suggestions from people whose living situations seem similar to yours. If looking in London, this map provides estimates by the various London boroughs.
General Lifestyle Expenses
To estimate your costs before moving, I found the Numbeo Cost of Living estimator helpful. I particularly like it because it goes beyond telling you the average cost of a loaf of bread in different cities. If you’re like me and have a hard time translating that into a realistic monthly picture of what you’ll spend, the Numbeo estimator will help with a lot more detail.
You should expect everything to cost more in London than elsewhere in the country. In general, I find groceries less expensive than in the US. Utility costs are rising in the UK, but if you’re used to running air conditioning a lot, you will find non-winter months quite affordable here.
When I moved back to the UK, we sold two US cars and have since purchased one used car in the UK. If you are going to live in London or another major city, you may not need a car at all. For us, it’s been a convenience more than a necessity.
If you’re planning to primarily use public transportation to get around, I recommend checking out a commute estimator such as this one for London or this one for commutes into London from surrounding areas. Zoopla also has a decent commute estimator feature that works UK-wide if you’re not looking at London. Transport times can be longer than you’d expect, and this will play a big part in where you decide on for housing.
The cost of public transportation in general is also something you should research if you’re going to use it a lot. TfL is a great resource to get started in London. If you’ll live outside of a major city and only expect to use train service periodically, then I recommend thetrainline.com. I live outside the boundaries for TfL, and use TrainLine for all of my rail bookings into London or across the UK.
Many employers in the UK pay monthly in the month following the month worked. This could mean that you wait 1-2 months for a full regular paycheck! You also want to be very clear on your visa requirements as some visas, such as fiancé or student, offer restricted or no employment rights. Make sure you have adequate money to support yourself until you are able to earn income again.
Even if you have money ready to support yourself, you will need to arrange for a UK bank account and move money over. See my article here for help setting your finances up.
Example Expat Expenses Moving Budget
Assumptions: Moving 1 person to London from Chicago, no pets, no shipping personal items or household goods
£300 Moving costs – excess baggage fees only
£600 Plane ticket Economy Plus one way
£9,102 Monthly rent x6 months (London average £1,517/month for 1 bed flat in Islington)
£1,750 Rental deposit x4-5 weeks rent
£65.33 Utilities x1 month
£670 Lifestyle expenses (groceries, going out, clothing, household goods, etc) x1 month
£160 Transport expenses x1 month
Moving anywhere is an expensive venture. Expat expenses can be tricky, but not impossible to estimate. It’s best to get a solid idea in advance of what your expenses will be and how much you’ll need set aside to support your goal. That way you can focus on what’s important – experiencing your new home!