The cost of living in New Zealand ranks highly on many indexes that prove it’s a fantastic place to live. It’s safe, welcoming, filled with beautiful scenery, and the locals exude a type of friendliness that can be hard to find in other parts of the world.
Despite all the pros of moving to this South Pacific island nation, the cost of living in New Zealand can be pretty high. Before moving to a new country, it’s always a good idea to set out a budget and understand whether you can afford to live comfortably in your new country.
New Zealand has a population of 5 million people. There are downsides to moving to a small country.
A smaller job market can make it more challenging for some people to find work, while New Zealand wages are typically lower than in many other Western countries. However, most people looking to move to New Zealand are more interested in the lifestyle the country has to offer.
New Zealand is exceptionally safe and has a low crime and corruption rate. As the first country to give women the vote, New Zealand continues to be a very progressive country.
To top it all off, New Zealand is a great place to live and raise a family due to its high level of work-life balance. With mandatory 4-weeks of annual leave, additional annual sick days, one year worth of maternity leave per child, free healthcare and a high minimum wage, it’s a country with many social programs that aim to look after its citizens.
Salaries can be on the lower side compared to other Western countries. However, New Zealand is a very egalitarian society with less extreme poverty and extreme wealth than most other countries.
The median income in New Zealand is around $NZ27 per hour or an annual salary of $NZ56,160 for a 40-hour week. Salaries differ depending on the region and the industry. Larger cities like Auckland and Wellington pay higher wages to keep up with the higher cost of living.
You may want to invest in your higher education before moving to New Zealand. A Bachelor’s degree can help you earn up to 40% over the average income. The minimum wage in New Zealand is $20 an hour.
According to data from the job-seeking website Seek, architects in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector are offered the highest salary in the country at $143,074 per annum.
Other high paying professions include:
New Zealand has a straightforward tiered tax system. This means you may pay a few different tax rates on your salary or income, depending on how much you earn. In New Zealand, you will pay:
10.5% tax on income from $0 to $14,000.
17.5% tax on income from $14,001 to $48,000
30% tax on income from $48,001 to $70,000
33% tax on income from $70,001+
As an employee, your employer will take care of your taxes for you. It’s a good idea to figure out how much income you will have after-tax to see if you can afford to have the life you want in New Zealand.
When it comes to the cost of living in New Zealand, expect accommodation to take up a good portion of your monthly budget. New Zealand’s housing market went through a significant boom during 2020 and 2021. The average property value across New Zealand is 7.9 times the average annual household income, an all-time high.
House prices have been rising steadily in New Zealand for decades due to a lack of supply. Average regional house prices in 2021 were the highest across all regions:
Rent in New Zealand is collected weekly. While rent will vary based on which city or town you live in. This tenancy website has a helpful calculator that can tell you the average rent price in the city or town you plan on moving to.
The cost of living in New Zealand, for one person in a major city, is between $3,000-$4,000 per month. A family of four can expect to need $5,000-$6,000 per month to live on.
New Zealand’s biggest city is also its most expensive. While Auckland has some of the highest salaried jobs in the country (and the most significant job market) it’s also the most expensive place to rent, buy, or eat out.
According to the comparison website Glimp, to live alone in Auckland, you need to earn at least $4,379 per month, while a family needs around $7,984 per month to live comfortably.
Rent and mortgage payments are pretty high in Auckland. Expect to pay around $2,414 per month to live alone or $3,600 to rent a three-bedroom flat. The average house price in Auckland is $1.25 million.
Unless you live in the central city or suburbs close to it, Auckland isn’t overly walkable or public transport friendly. While living in the suburbs will save you rent money, you may want to buy a car to get yourself around the wider city.
New Zealand’s capital city has the highest rent in the country but is slightly cheaper than Auckland when it comes to groceries and other cost of living expenses. The 2021 Trade Me Rental Price Index showed Wellington had a median weekly rent of $615, while the average price of a house is now $1.1 million.
In general, two-bedroom properties rent for between $450 and $620 a week, and three-bedroom properties rent for between $630 and $790 a week.
One of the cost-saving benefits of living in Wellington is its expansive public transport system. Owning a car in Wellington isn’t necessary as the city has buses, trains and ferries that service the inner city, Kapiti Coast and Hutt Valley Regions.
A single person living in Wellington must earn at least $3,843 per month to avail of the minimum cost of living. A family of four needs to collectively make at least $6,890 per month as a household.
Christchurch is the South Island’s biggest city and has bounced back considerably from the devastating earthquake that hit in 2011. As a large business hub, it has a growing economy and the rebuild of the city has helped keep house prices and rents from skyrocketing.
Christchurch is New Zealand’s most affordable big city to live in. The cost of living is still more expensive than smaller towns, however, you’ll find houses and rentals far more affordable than even smaller cities like Gisborne, Napier or Tauranga.
A single person needs around $2,696 per month for rent, food and bills, while a family of four should be earning a minimum of $5,820 per month to live in Christchurch. The average price of rent in Christchurch in 2021 was $435.
Queenstown might be a small town, but it’s known for having some of the most expensive housing in the country. In the last thirty years it's gone from a humble village into a town known for luxury accommodation and adrenaline-fuelled activities.
Queenstown has had a housing shortage for the past few years due to its geographic location and popularity with tourists and wealthy investors. This has also helped to push up the prices of goods, foods and services.
In November 2021, data released by property website realestate.co.nz showed house prices in Central Otago and the Queenstown Lakes Districts increased by 41.9% to an average of $1.4 million.
On average the weekly rent in Queenstown is $600. To enjoy living in Queenstown a single person should budget at least $3,600 per month. A family of four needs to make at least $6,800 per month. These figures are similar to what you would need in bigger cities like Wellington, as the cost of groceries, eating out, and entertainment is very expensive in Queenstown. Many people choose to live in smaller towns outside of Queenstown and then commute into the town.
New Zealand is ranked 12th out of 79 countries regarding the cost of living, with a price index of 184.
However, not all cities in the country are expensive. While not cheap by global standards, there are a number of cities that have a far lower cost of living.
New Zealand is a very isolated country. The cost of flying to, from and within New Zealand can be high as the country only has two major airlines. Flights between major cities can cost anywhere from $50 (at their cheapest) one way to $299 at busier times of the year. It pays to book ahead to ensure you are not paying too much for your holiday.
You’ll also want to factor in buying a car into the cost of living in New Zealand. Public transport outside of major city centres isn’t excellent, and there’s much to see and do outside of the cities. Fuel is more expensive in New Zealand which is why it pays to include petrol in the cost of living in New Zealand. The average price of a litre of petrol in New Zealand is $NZD2.610.
According to The Spinoff, New Zealand is one of the most expensive countries to buy groceries in. In 2021, the Commerce Commission reported that New Zealand’s grocery prices were the sixth highest out of 38 countries. On average, expect to spend a minimum of $70 per week on groceries for one person.
Groceries in the UK are a third cheaper, in Belgium, they are 29% cheaper, while in the US groceries cost about 28% less. Only Iceland, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland and Japan, were found to have more expensive groceries than New Zealand.
New Zealand has a range of fast fashion retailers that you might find overseas. On average expect to spend $50 on tops, $120 on sweatshirts and knits, $150 on a pair of shoes and $130 on a pair of jeans from mid-priced retailers.
One of the biggest shocks for people moving to New Zealand from overseas is that many retailers on Amazon and eBay don’t ship to New Zealand. Next day delivery is also not very common. Expect to have to shop online and wait a week for your purchase, or shop at larger stores in person.
New Zealand is an expensive country to move to. But, most people that make the move find out they are actually happier with fewer material possessions and focus on buying quality goods over cheaper alternatives.
For your prized possessions, making sure you have a mover that takes care of them during the move is so important. At Wise Move, we help you find the best movers at the best price. With Wise Move, our extensive network of trusted moving companies will help you settle into your new home in New Zealand in no time.
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