What's The Cost of Living in New Zealand? The Expat Guide!
Let’s talk money, baby! I’m positive that if you are coming to New Zealand with the idea of settling for a while, you may, right now, have at least 10 windows open in your browser trying to gather realistic and updated intel! I’ve created this guide that I hope will shed some light into the mysteries of the so-called kiwi life, and how much it costs!
If you are new to TGC, you may not know I’ve been living in New Zealand for 4.5 years. Though I’ve been based in Christchurch most of the time, for the purpose of this guide I’ve reached out to some friends that have the latest scoop about the costs of living in other regions of the country. Though I’m not breaking the guide down to any specific city or town, it’s fair to say that Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown, being the most expensive cities in New Zealand, are, on average, 15-25 % more expensive than other spots.
How does this guide work?
I wanted to make it as user-friendly as possible, so all the information is quite synthetic and includes a whole lot of links that will direct you to the main sources!
A few months ago, I posted a full guide with all the costs of travelling in New Zealand, including budgets and many other things that I may not be including here! So, you have to check that one out!
It’s taking me ages to write this full guide—which is already 3k words!—so stay tuned as I’ll add a whole lot more of info in the next few weeks!
Numbers are in New Zealand Dollars!
Table of contents
Getting ready: Cost of New Zealand Working Holiday, Essential Skills, Student and Skilled Migrant Visas
Getting ready: Cost of Immigration Medical Examinations
Cost of doing the IELTS, TOEFL or Cambridge B2 (FCE)
Cost of getting the IRD number and opening a bank account
Cell phone networks, monthly and prepaid plans
Going to the doctor: Insurance, Acc and Public Health
Housing: renting a flat or a room
Cost of buying groceries
Next to come!
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Cost of internet and power bills
Buying a car and all the expenses you need to consider!
Cost of public transport
Cost of fines in New Zealand
Studying in New Zealand
General costs of gear for outdoor sports.
Going to the gym, yoga and classes
Salaries and examples!
Getting ready: Cost of Working Holiday, Essential Skills, Student and Skilled Migrant Visas
So, here’s something you need to know: the same visa may have a different cost—and set of rules—for people from different countries. In these two screenshots, I’m showing you, as an example, how much can the cost of the Working Holiday Visa vary from country to country.
If you are coming from the States it has no cost, but if you are from Germany, you’d pay $ 245.
I’m telling you this because we all have well-intended friends that tell us something and then it turns out they are wrong just because…they have different passports! This happened to me when I went to Aussie, a friend told me the visa tourist visa was free. It turns out that it was free for people from the EU but for me, travelling on my Argentinian passport the cost was $ 160 NZD. Fuck!
Moving on, here are some cost estimates that will give you a rough idea of how much you’d pay for your visa:
Working Holiday Visa
$ 0 - $ 245
Extension or balance of your Working Holiday Visa
$ 0 - $ 245
Essential Skills Work Visa
Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa
$ 530 —for the Expression of Interest
$ 2710— if you are already living in New Zealand
$ 3310—if you are residing outside New Zealand. I just found that people from Japan don’t have to pay to get Residency?! I’ll let my friend Yusuke know :)
Fee Paying Student Visa
I don’t know a whole lot about coming to New Zealand on a student visa, for what I’ve researched, the Fee Paying Student Visa is the most usual:
$ 0 - $ 295
If you follow this link, it will take you to Immigration’s Fee Visa Finder, so check it out!
Cost of Immigration Medical Examinations
People from different countries intending to stay for x amount of time may have to do Medical Examinations in order to get a visa!
In my case, I had to do the Chest X-Rays as Argentina has a “risk factor” for Tuberculosis. When later on I applied for Residency, I had to do the X-Ray again but also a full Medical Assessment.
You’d do these only at centres approved by Immigration New Zealand, and you can find these all around the world. I did the first X-Ray when I was in Denmark.
The cost of the examinations can vary but usually, it’ll end up being $ 150 NZD for the X-Rays and, in case you need to do both, it’ll cost between $ 300 - $ 400 NZD.
This link will take you to the full Health Requirements and the list of approved doctors from all over the globe.
Cost of doing the IELTS, TOEFL or Cambridge B2 (FCE)
You may have to sit an English exam in order to get your Student or Residency Visa! This applies to those who are not from English speaking countries. In some scenarios, the partner of the applicant would have to do it too.
In my case, as I was moving to Aussie, I had to do the IELTS. In the end, I didn’t go to Australia but was able to include that certificate later on in my Residency application. I got Residency through partnership as my partner, Diego was able to apply as a Skilled Migrant.
Back then, I did it at the ARA Institute and paid $ 385 NZD to sit the exam. But as the exam fees usually vary slightly, again, you need to do your research!
Here are the estimates I found, with screenshots and everything—what a pro! jajaaj
Check this very comprehensive guide in which I tell you all my tips and tricks for doing the IELTS!
$ 380—note that the fee of $ 270 in the screenshot is in USD!
CAMBRIDGE B2 (FCE)
Hey u! I'm Martina, from Argentina. I've been combining travel and life overseas since 2013 in a quest for living alongside with creativity, joy and personal growth.
Cost of getting the IRD number and opening a bank account
You don’t have to pay in order to get your IRD. The IRD number is your taxpayer number! If you hold any type of visa that allows you to work in New Zealand, then you must get this right off the bat. The folks from Backpacker Guide NZ explain this perfectly!
There are different banks you can choose from to get your account up and running—and earning!
Westpac, ANZ and BNZ are the ones most people I’ve met use. Opening an account is free, but note that BNZ charges a $ 5 NZD monthly fee for the account “YouMoney”.
Westpac charges $ 10 one-off for a debit card, whereas ANZ and BNZ charge $ 10 annually.
Cellphone networks and cost of monthly and prepaid plans
The three main providers in New Zealand are Spark, Vodafone and 2 Degrees. There are other companies of course, but this is to give you an idea of what your hard-earned dollars can get you!
I use 2 Degrees and pay $ 19 for a prepaid plan that auto-renews once a month as long as I have topped up my credit! I can’t say if I’m happy or not with this as I just can’t be bothered! In the end, all these companies look the exact same to me. That said, as I work from home and I’m not on Social Media a lot—a bloggers paradox I know!—, my need for data is not huge! So before choosing, keep in mind your average usage!
You can get monthly plans starting at $ 39,99 or a prepaid plan for $ 19 NZD.
Prepaid plans starting at $ 19 NZD, they also have MyFlex, which allows you to choose how many minutes, data and text messages you want to get! Their monthly plans start at $ 59,99.
Their monthly packs start at $ 30. You can get a prepaid carryover combo for $ 19. What may be cool about their plans is that their site is quite easy to browse and you can get add ons and a free hour of data every day—haven’t tried it yet!
Going to the doctor: Insurance, Public Health and Acc
First the short version:
If you don’t have public health, a visit to the Doctor would likely cost $ 75 - 85. If you do have public health it’s around $ 45.
Consider that when it comes to health and what’s covered, it’s more a case-by-case thing!
If you come to New Zealand with either a Working Holiday or a Student Visa, you’ll need to have medical insurance. At this stage of your life in New Zealand, you wouldn’t be able to access the benefits of the public health system.
In my case, when I came to the country as a working holiday-er, I had a travel insurance purchased in Argentina. When the 12 months of the visa expired I got insured through Orbit Protect. At that time I was on a partner visa and Diego was on a 12-month Essential Skills Work Visa, the
Therefore, we were not eligible for public health.
I chose Orbit Protect because they seemed to be the most widely used—and affordable— insurance company in New Zealand. As they have coverage options for people doing manual work, I thought they were a good fit for my needs. As you know, during my first years in New Zealand, I had all sorts of “backpacking jobs”
Luckily, I never had to use it!
Once Diego got a 3-years Work Visa, we registered into the public health system. We’ve been on that one since then.
Check who is eligible for public health. This information comes directly from the Ministry of Health.
But, there’s more to this!
The Accident Compensation Corporation is an injury scheme that provides financial compensation to anyone that has suffered an injury in kiwi soil. Important to note that this scheme doesn’t cover illness, which is another reason why it’s so important to have insurance!
In the end, how much does it cost to go to the doctor in New Zealand?
I know, I know… let’s circle back. Let’s say you are feeling sick. You typically go and see a GP (general practitioner). The cost of the consultation varies slightly among practices but in most places, it costs $ 80 NZD.
If you have public health and arrange an appointment with your doctor, then you’d be paying around $ 40 to $ 50.
So you can wrap your head around all this information, if you follow this link, it has a quite comprehensive list of fees for different services.
I’m also including a site that lists their fees for dental services
I’ll touch on this very quickly. If you are keen, you can enrol to get private health, one of my friends, for example, has Southern Cross. They have plans starting at $ 14—the fortnight— and I think it could be good if you need to take better care of your dental health or need to pay a visit to the optometrist. Honestly, I can’t speak for myself here, so take a look and see if this is something you’d like to invest in.
Before we keep going, I want to be clear and say that I’m being totally honest here and I don’t intend to influence your choices when it comes to health providers!
Housing: Renting a flat or a room
Bear with me here! The cost of flatting or renting a full flat/house can vary greatly!
I’ll speak for what I know to be the truth here in Christchurch, and then, according to what I’ve chatted with friends and researched on websites such as TradeMe, share a bit on intel into the cost of rent in the most expensive cities: Auckland, Wellington and I’ll add Queenstown.
A few months after moving to Christchurch I moved into this epic shared “party house” in Riccarton, a really nice and well located neighbourhood.
I was paying $ 120 weekly, including power and wifi, for a room next to the kitchen in this old house that in winter was pretty much like living in Antartica.
Later on, Diego and I stepped up in life jajajaja and moved into this two levels, big and more modern house just meters from Hagley Park—the main park in the whole city, which is part of the CBD. In here we were paying $ 260 weekly. We were sharing the house with between 1 to up to 4 more people.
Honestly, it was a bit over our budget when we first moved in as you can definitely find cheaper in town. But at all honesty, we were about to apply to our Residency Visa and needed a coll house were we could sort heaps of paper work and enjoy some peace of mind.
So now, let’s dive into how the rent is usually divided:
Let’s say you live in a shared house and you are just renting a room. Some landlords ask for a fixed price that includes rent + power + wifi. In summer you spend way less and in winter the cost of electricity just skyrockets! So by paying the same throughout the whole year, the rent balances out.
Other landlords would charge based on the weekly electricity spenditure which is divided among all flatmates. for example, over summer you’d pay $ 150 + 10 per week, but in winter it could be $ 150 + 25 per week.
Sometimes landlors rent the whole house at a fixed price, which means someone “owns” the lease and does all the admin. I guess it can be beneficial sometimes to do this if you are willing to commit—which we weren’t jajajaja. I know people that rent one of the rooms through Airbnb, which also helps make a difference and it’s great. But, if on the other hand, you have an empty room…you still would be paying the full price.
Renting a small flat, let’s say, just for you and your partner in Christchurch, would cost at least $ 350, this including WIFI but again, bear in mind power fluctuates a lot. Two of our friends were renting this really funky small apartment just 1 street off Summner Beach for about $ 380.
Roughly, renting in Auckland, Wellington or Queenstown would cost about 15 % to 20 % more.
In conclusion, if you want to pay little, you could find a small room in a shared house with a good location for $ 120 in total. If you rather live more comfortably you could spend up to $ 200. I do think that more than that for a shared flat would be too much!
Landlords or property management agencies, tipically require a bond for the equivalent of 1 week’s rent. plus 1 or 2 more weeks. So, do the math. If you are moving into a $ 120 nzd room, your bond would be $ 240 or $360. Generally, once you give notice that you are moving out, you can either not pay the weeks you already paid for in your bond and get the bond itself back once you moved out or pay till you finish the lease and get the whole refund.
Cost of food
In the guide to travelling in New Zealand I wrote the costs of most groceries and some good tips to save money in food when you are getting around here and there.
So in this article, I’m focusing more on how much someone that fairly settles in the country would spend. Because organizing your meals and groceries when you are living and working in a new place is not the same as if you’re solely travelling.
We do our grocery shopping once a week for Monday to Friday, and then we always treat ourselves over weekends. Usually, we spend about $150 for both of us, covering all meals for the 7 days of the week.
Diego and I love eating and cooking. Diego is pretty much a chef and I’m just… the one that makes the pancakes jajajaja. Diego is ultra-skinny and spends a lot of energy at work, which means that we are always cooking quite nutricious food because he needs to eat like 10 times a day jajaja.
Get a Slow Cooker!
All this to say that my favourite invention when it comes to cooking and that will save you heaps of money is… THE SLOW COOKER! One of the first things I’d get when moving to New Zealand is this. You can buy it at Kmart and it costs about $ 29. The thing is that you can throw in it pretty much anything and it will be delicious.
So what we do is, we usually buy what’s on special and cook it in the slow cooker—a 1.5kgs of pork shoulder would tipycalle cost $ 11 nzd. We end up eating fresh and nutricious meals for maybe $ 10-15 nzd. We are slowly getting into eating more organic and grassfeed products, in some supermarkets you can find a range of free range products, mostly chicken.
Avoid wasting food
Beyond ethical choices and types of diets, an important thing for me is to eat every single thing we buy. Which means, we don’t throw any food. Of course, to do so you need to be very clear on what you buy and how you preserve it. And this is why it’s easier to be good at this when you are more settled. Of course, I know this is easier said than done, and that being two makes it way easier.
Our weekly grocery shopping
So this is how we buy, what we cook and how much we spend to give you a fair, realistic idea! Consider as I said before that we also buy in the market and what’s on special!
Veggies: 4 Potatoes - 2 Onions - 1 Broccoli or Coliflower - 1 Kumara - 3 Carrots - 1 Capsicum - 1 Lettuce - 1 Cucumber - 2 Tomatoes - 400 grs Mushrooms - Spinach or Silverbeet.
Fruits: I always get about 25 fruits. I know it sounds silly, but I know we eat about 2 fruits a day each of us. So I just get a variety of whatever is cheaper that week. It’s usually Apples, Pears, Bananas, Kiwis and Oranges.
We usually pay between $ 30 - $ 40 for all these.
Dairy: 1 kg Cheese and a block of butter that last 2 weeks - 1 lt kefir - 6 Eggs
This usually adds up to an average of $ 15 weekly.
Meat: We try buying big pieces of meat and then we just cut it to make schnitzel or steaks or we throw it into the slow cooker. Pork Shoulder - Chicken Nibbles or Minced Beef - Bolar or Roast Beef - Fresh Fish.
It comes up to $ 40 or $ 50.
Things for breaky and others: Bread - Jam - Coconut Cream - Wine - Honey - Sugar - Coffee - Pasta - Tomato Concentrate - Canned Fish - Seeds and Dried Fruits - Oil - Legumes.
Maybe between $ 30 to $ 60. Consider that we don’t buy ALL of these very week. A coffee pack for the stovetop lasts like 1 month.
Total of our weekly grocery shopping
Between $ 115 up to $ 165. Meaning the average cost per person each day is between $ 8 to $ 12. Note that we don’t usually buy processed or frozen food.
Attention folks! I’m still writing this guide, so bear with me as I’ll keep adding to it within the next few weeks!!!!!!