Five years in London is coming up alarmingly fast. Five years when I only thought I was moving to London for three months. I now have two homes, two homes on opposite side of the world – the distance makes it a little hard to pop over for a coffee. Every time I am in London I miss New Zealand, and when I am in New Zealand I crave London.
I love where I am and I don’t want to move home any time soon, but a little bit of my heart remains 18,234km away. Instead of a post today here is a little video from me to say what is too hard to put into words. Enjoy xx
Money is a touchy subject, but I know how much of a constant brain freeze this was when I moved over so I am going to put it all out there for you guys. As I said in my previous money post, what I write below is just my opinion and of course everyone does London in their own way; if you have your own thoughts and suggestions please leave them in the comments below for everyone to read.
Well, you want to move to London because you saw that Amanda Bynes movie and you have had The Clash stuck in your head each day as you trudge to work. But what do you actually need to save before you come over? Of course it is easier if you have friends over here, because crashing on their couch when you first arrive will save you some serious cash – but as long as you are prepared it will all be ok. I mean, cold and full of people who laugh at you when you say deck, but ok nonetheless.
When you are saving for London the temptation is to go for the best case scenario. Get a job in the first month, start earning pounds and then you can spend your remaining ‘move over’ savings on travel. Well I did the first part of that, but then managed to burn through my savings just surviving. What I hadn’t taken into account is that even if you manage to get the job in the first month (not guaranteed), then a lot of the time the person currently in the role still has a months’ notice to work out. So you don’t even start working for two months. And most annoyingly even once you have started work in most places it will take another month before you get paid. That is best case scenario three months without income.
To add to that shitstorm of no income, if you plan on getting a flat during that first three months you also need to take the bond into account (around 6 weeks rent) plus rent in advance. As well as feeding yourself, buying interview clothes if you didn’t bring any over, losing money when you transfer it from NZ to the UK and having enough money to sightsee a little to stop yourself falling into a vat of depression and anxiety during the job search.
The impossible figure I would recommend is $10,000, which at the current exchange rate works out to be £5,795. You can thank Brexit for that exchange rate, when I moved over I only got £4,900 for the pleasure. That is $10,000 when you leave NZ, so you will need to add your visa ($300-$800 at the moment), flights and leaving party costs on top.
How far will that £5,500ish get you? Let’s break it down like a bad 90’s rapper. The numbers below were my situation, so five years old and completely different to what you may end up doing.
*I was meant to stay with my sister for a full month, but we nearly killed each other after a few days so I did the next best thing. I found a short term let (the girl was going traveling for two months) so I could at least be stable while I tried to find a job. I seriously recommend short term lets, they help you get used to London life before you commit to a lease.
**Food is very expensive when you first arrive, you might not have a kitchen to cook from scratch and even if you do you get stuck shopping at the closest shop rather than the cheap ones.
***come on, you just arrived in London. You have to go to a show or a museum or something to prove that you are here, that you did it.
Just with the above you have chewed through half your savings. Want to do a trip or job search takes longer then it gets quite hard. Not impossible, just hard.
Should anything I have written in this post stop you from achieving you dream of living in London? Shiny fucktrumpets no. You just need to be more prepared or have a backup plan. If you can’t even dream of saving $10,000 then just make sure you find a job (even a temporary one) before you come over, or find a cheap form of accommodation for the first month or so. Don’t have a friends couch to crash on? Scour the Kiwis in London Facebook page to find a short term let from day 1. Nothing is impossible, it just pays to be realistic and prepared in case it doesn’t go your way.
Since an American talking Burger Ring is currently trying to stop immigration…I want to make it as easy as possible. Any questions you have about moving to London please send them my way, it’s about to get honest. Flats tend to cause the most stress (and are what I got the most messages about this month) so I figured it was a good place to start. These baby-expat questioners don’t normally give a crap about aesthetics or finding the cool kids; it’s all about where and how much.
‘Where to live’ is something that everyone stresses about before they move over, but trust me when I say it always works itself out when you arrive (everyone has a terrible flat story after living in London). Unfortunately finding a flat in London comes down to money and priorities. Money because that is what you pay your rent in (good god I hope it is how you pay your rent), and priorities because that will dictate how much of your salary you have to spend on rent. As an example some people want to come over to London for their two years to travel, nothing else matters as long as they are on a plane every weekend. If that is your goal then finding the cheapest flat possible is how you will have an awesome London experience. For me, London itself was the goal. And for me to enjoy it I needed to be in a safe, calm flat with as few people as possible aka I should have known from the start that all my money was going to end up lining my landlords pocket.
Before we get down to the money I want put a little disclaimer here in an attempt to holt any trolling before it starts. This post is how I did it when I first moved to London, but everyone has their own experience. I think a lot of you will see the numbers below and think that I was totally insane spending that much on rent, but it was my choice and was what I needed to do to be happy (add a comment to the end of this post with how you did it, seriously I’m interested). I also want to mention that I 100% realise the privilege of the numbers below, I am university educated and did not have any dependants which allowed me to be entirely selfish with my spending. Being skint in London is very very different to living on the poverty line.
Since the end of this post is all from my perspective, I wanted to cast the net wider to see how other people decided to spend their money on rent, and of the 150 or so people that replied these were the results:
Question: What percentage of your income goes on rent?
Question: How have you saved money on rent?
Question: Has the cost of rent in London ever made you consider moving home?
Yeah those numbers are pretty scary, it’s not just me then. If you are in a relationship you are one of the lucky ones, it looks like it is pretty much the only way to pay a reasonable amount in rent. But for everyone whose only ‘action’ is swiping right on Tinder the reality of living in London is that 42% of people who answered the survey spend more than 50% of their income on rent. The number I find the saddest is the 87%, the 87% that have considered moving home because of the cost of living.
If you want to play along and work out how much you have to spend on rent I suggest you do some googling to find out what type of salary you can expect over here, don’t make the mistake of just assuming you will get what you were on in New Zealand. If the internet doesn’t help, the minimum wage is based on your age and can be between £4 and £7.20. I tried to find the average salary but couldn’t find anything more recent than 2015 (no, I didn’t go past the first page of google, don’t judge its late and I’m hungry) where the average salary in the UK was £27,000, which works out to be around £21,600 after tax (NEVER FORGET THE TAX).
Ok, let’s go. I don’t know why I haven’t done this level of detail before. I guess it’s because we are all so squeamish about revealing money matters even to close friends (and because HEY TROLLS). Even now I am only giving you the numbers from five years ago, but still I hope it helps! Five years ago when I arrived in London I had a fairly average admin job – entry level and soul destroying but you had to have a university degree and experience to get it. My salary was £22,000 per year, which worked out to be £1,458 in my pocket each month after tax and national insurance (NI is basically another compulsory tax that goes to pay for the NHS, pensions and benefits).
At the time I was living in a two bedroom flat in Zone 1 (this is where a lot of you spit your tea over your computer screen). Living in zone 1 is not a normal thing for a newbie Londoner; since Zone 1 is right in the centre it is very expensive and most people live in the easily commutable zone 2 or 3 for that reason. I briefly lived in Colliers Wood (Zone 3) before going for Zone 1, but the 1.5hour round trip to get into central meant I never went to experience London at the weekends…which was kind of my entire point of moving over. Side note: being sad and feeling alone in Colliers Wood is exactly what prompted me to start this blog, it was meant to force my ass to do something at the weekends.
My zone 1 flat was in Wapping and it fitted the bill in that it was safe and quiet. But for all the reasons that it worked and I stayed put for two years, it wasn’t exactly a Bridget Jones dream flat. There was mold everywhere, my room wasn’t huge so my bed was hard up against two walls and my ‘bedside’ table had to go at the foot of my bed. Oh and I could never have my windows uncovered because my room backed onto a carpark. But I was only living with one other person which was my top priority (if you are reading this, hi Chi!). My rent in 2012 (this has probably significantly increased for a similar flat in 2017) was £758 and every month bills and council tax would add about £150 to that. Yeah council tax in zone one for only two people is a complete bitch.
My monthly money looked a little something like this (this is probs 95% accurate, my brain is struggling to remember 5 years ago).
*I could have had a free bank account, but this one gave me travel and mobile phone insurance for £10 a month, oh and it also gave me 5 song downloads and a DVD rental each month…it was weird.
Once I took care of the standard expenses I had £300 to play with, as long as nothing went wrong. Turns out things quite often go wrong in London – one Thursday you get stuck paying for an unexpected round of drinks and there goes your transport budget for the month and you have to walk everywhere.
The thing with the above situation is that I was earning enough money to be able to choose to spend it on rent. Choice, that is the thing. It was tight, I ate the same thing for lunch for an entire year to be able to stick to that budget of £25 a week for food (almonds and cranberries for morning snack, peanut butter sandwich on homemade bread for lunch, chopped carrots and cucumbers for afternoon snack). For that year breakfast and lunch cost £8 a week, leaving me with £17 to sort 7 days of dinners. You can do it, but you have to be organised.
Anyway, how does this help you decide where to live? As I said it comes down to money and priorities. First up calculate how much money you will have after tax (take that salary you googled and put it into the tax calculator on this site: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/tax-calculator/ ). Then decide what your priority is, if it is travel how much will you need to save each month to be able to afford flights and hotels etc, or if it is London then how much are you willing to sacrifice for being able to walk down the Thames. Work out a draft budget based on the one above.
Once you have all your estimates in place you can put the remaining amount in the rent column and play real life Sims. Head to Move Flat or Spare Room and see what you can afford, play around with the zone and number of people to see how that impacts things.
There is no such thing as the perfect flat in London, you will have to compromise somewhere along the line. Depending on how restricted your budget is it may be living with ten people, being ages away from a tube stop, living in a cupboard (true story) or all of the above. But as you are crying into your laptop at how much all of this will cost remember; There is no such thing as a ‘bad’ flat in London, only one that you compromise for in order to live the London life you want.
As you know (because I have no filter and you read my blog) I passed my Life in the UK test a few weeks ago and then cried in a Disney movie. I have raged about the content of the test to every person I have met recently so I decided to create my own and see how many of you would be able to pass. Check out the video below to take the test (all questions that could actually be asked in the real Life in the UK quiz) and then click the link at the bottom for the answers. No cheating please and don’t forget to comment below or tweet me with your scores!
Remember, there are 24 questions and if you don’t get at least 18 right you will be deported…no pressure!