For a while we were operating out of two houses; aptly known as the ‘Belfast House’ and ‘My House’. We have now finally and completely moved out of Belfast into a smaller house in a small town, and no one thinks 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 costs 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! I’ve also included what providers we used for informational purposes.
This is probably going to be a window into my soul for the people in the North who know me…
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? Nope.
Let’s dive in!
Rent: £525 per month (Property Pal – search engine)
We lived in a two-bedroom, two-reception room, mid terrace house in the BT9 postcode. 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. I don’t recommend our letting agent, so I won’t link you. The landlords were great, but the middle-man was a real waste of their money…
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!
Protecting your deposit: Getting the deposit returned was not a problem for us. Our landlord made a cheque out to us 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.
Tenant Liability & Contents Insurance: £33 per month (approx.) (Homelet)
Self-explanatory. Get insurance.
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 accumulate in two years.
Power: £60 per month in Summer, £80 per month in Winter (average) (Power NI)
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 (like decent insulation) your bill may not be as high. In our new home, we have spent about £25 per month.
There is no charge for water in Northern Ireland.
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. It only went down a couple of times and slugged every now and then. I would consider this to be expensive internet and it was thoroughly OK (not that worth it).
Phone: We do not have a landline. Mobile-wise, Tiernan still has his 3 mobile plan down south. Jack was with Vodafone on a ‘pay as you go’ sim. 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. Anything that can potentially receive TV must be licenced – even if you don’t want to watch TV. You have to have a licence even if you only have a mobile phone. Now I have paid it, I feel the need to watch as much BBC drama on the iPlayer as possible.
I budget for £400 per month. In reality, we spend £250 per month on groceries and then use the difference to eat out! We very rarely go over this amount. We lived around the corner from a Marks & Spencer, which most people would class as ‘posh groceries’, so our quick food runs were fairly pricey. Our monthly essentials stock-up shop was done at Tesco.
If you want to count your pennies, you can shop around very easily. Alternative grocery options in Northern Ireland include:
- Lidl and Aldi (cost-saver)
- Shops like Poundland can sometimes have surprises (like Vegemite) going cheap.
Fuel: £200 pm (for two cars doing about 24,000 miles per annum)
During our first 6 months in Northern Ireland, I worked in a place I could bus to. A monthly travel card with Translink now costs £61.
Insurance: £170 per month (Admiral)
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. This rate was based on street parking in that BT9 postcode.
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.
Total Monthly Spend: £1,464.99
We were a group of three young people sharing. So the split cost worked out at approximately £488.33 per person per month. That makes those numbers look a little more reasonable, doesn’t it?
So the moral of the story is: bring a friend!
Before we go, here are some 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 (Bangor Fuels) 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. Their plans run from £13pm.
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)?
Last updated: 13 September 2016 – Be aware, these prices are correct as of Sept 2016 and since they represent my real living cost from June 2014-June 2016, they will not get updated later on. Make sure you check the websites for the companies we used to calculate up to date costs! There are no affiliate links in this post.