Considering moving to New Zealand? Here is a breakdown of the cost of living in Auckland, New Zealand, for an American expat family!
We are an American family of 3 traveling the world. We sold our home in Greensboro, North Carolina, in July 2017 to pursue our dream of traveling full-time. Since then, our goal has been to match or lower our cost of living in North Carolina in each new place. We understand that the cost of living can vary greatly country to country (or even city to city!), so we plan on using funds saved in a cheaper location to offset costs in a more expensive spot. Our hope is for our average yearly expenses, at least, to match our costs in the United States. So far it’s working!
One country we knew we’d be saving towards was New Zealand. We spent almost 10 months traveling through Asia and Southeast Asia with the intention of ending up in New Zealand for three months. In our preparations for living in New Zealand we heard where to go, what to expect, and that the country is pretty expensive. They weren’t wrong! It was a hard transition for us to move to a more expensive, first world country after having been in an inexpensive region for so long, but, honestly, the prices here are about the same as they are in the United States. Once we got over our initial shock we fell back into old spending habits rather quickly!
Our monthly cost of living in New Zealand is higher than in North Carolina, but that’s partly due to the fact that we are paying extra for things locals wouldn’t. Our rental car is a steal at $20/ day by tourist standards, but considered outrageous to those who have bought a car for long-term use. We are also paying $250/ week for our son to attend school as an international student, which would be free to local children.
If you’re considering relocating to Auckland as an expat you can easily cut down on our costs by homeschooling children (or establishing residency with certain visas) or buying a car. One way we, and everyone else, save money is by taking advantage of the many free outdoor opportunities in the North Island! Our town, especially, is considered “rural” and surrounded by secluded beaches and gorgeous nature hikes. It’s easy for us to get outside for some free entertainment every day!
Monthly Expenses in Auckland
Rent on a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in Matakana Village: $2,693.00 USD/ month
4 Weeks of School as an International Student: $990.00 USD
Monthly rental car: $396.00 USD
Weekly groceries: $80-120.00 USD
Daily Expenses in Auckland
We’ve been living in Matakana Village, a small town in the Auckland Metropolitan Area, for the past two weeks. The village is considered a tourist town, with quaint ice cream shops, decorative statues, and bright colors. Though it’s small, we love being able to walk down the street for fresh bread for the bakery, to the grocery store, or the favorite town restaurant for their daily special.
At this point the novelty of living outside of Auckland, New Zealand, has worn off and we’ve started living pretty typical daily lives. We do major grocery shopping once a week when we make a trip closer to the Auckland City, we take our son to school every day, occasionally eat out, and spend almost every afternoon doing something outside as a family.
The culture here is to be as close to nature as possible (even letting it enter through the soles of your feet as you go everywhere without shoes on), and we’re tying to embrace that!
Here’s exactly what we spent in one week.
9:00 a.m. I take Whit to school then come home to a bowl of cereal from the weekend’s grocery run and get started working.
12:00 p.m. Ben and I share lunch of Sunday’s leftover spaghetti and catch each other up on our work pursuits
3:30 p.m. When Ben brings Whit home from school he has a shopping bag with him. They stopped at Warehouse department store and bought Whit a new wet suit, a steal for only $20.00 NZ. They also bought 2 bottles of sparkling water as a gift to me ($3.00 NZ). We spend the afternoon at a nearby beach where Whit can try out his new wet suit snorkeling with Ben.
6:00 p.m. I make up for a disastrous attempt at eating Mexican food out this past weekend with chicken fajitas and rice. Everyone loves it!
Daily total: $23 NZD, $15.18 USD
9:00 a.m. I didn’t sleep well last night, so Ben takes Whit to school to let me rest.
12:00 p.m. Whit has an early release day from school, so we plan on lunch at home and meet a new friend for an afternoon of surfing at the beach.
3:00 p.m. We have a great time as a group on a nearby beach, just one of the many free things to do in the area!
6:00 p.m. I’d rather go out for dinner than cook, but we have some meat which will go bad soon. I decide to use it in a Thai curry, which was, unfortunately, not wonderful. Today I hit some big personal goals for work, so we celebrate with Tim Tam Slams after dinner.
Daily Total: $0
9:00 a.m. Ben takes Whit to school, and comes back to tell me a new friend has invited him for a run on the beach around dinner time tonight. Should we get late lunch when we pick Whit up for school then bring snacks to the beach, or have a big late lunch when we get Whit from school? He’s also talked with our brother-in-law (who spent 2 years in Samoa as a missionary) about which Pacific Islands we should visit, and I’m feeling too distracted about where to go next to sit down and work.
12:00 p.m. Ben and I both scrounge for snacks for lunch since we’ve planned on an early dinner/ late lunch at a cafe which closes at 4:00 p.m.
3:00 p.m. We pick Whit up from school together and drive 30 minutes away to the Puhoi Valley dairy farm and cafe, producer of our new favorite chocolate milk. The dairy products are amazing in New Zealand, and we were excited to try the creamery’s other foods. The cafe kitchen closed before we arrived, unfortunately, so we settle for buying two cups of house made ice cream ($4.50 NZ and $2.50 NZ) and a large bottle of their amazing chocolate milk ($6.80 NZ)
5:00 p.m. Ben’s running mate became ill, so we end up taking a leisurely drive back home. We stop at Domino’s to pick up two pizzas ($5.00 and $8.00 NZ) to eat at a local park. The pizza isn’t amazing, but it was fast and familiar. Sometimes you need that!
Daily Total: $26.8 NZD, $17.69 USD
9:00 a.m. I take Whit to school and then head back home for a bowl of cereal with Ben before we both set to work.
12:00 p.m. I’ve stumbled onto some bad news with work, and Ben and I have leftover pizza for lunch as we try to get to the bottom of our problem.
3:00 p.m. I’m still feeling worked up about my earlier issue, so I ask Ben if we can get Whit from school together and go on an adventure. Being outside always cheers me up! We pick up some dinner essentials from the store next to Whit’s school ($5.50 NZ), then head to a nearby beach I hadn’t been to yet. The beach is peaceful and deserted, which sets my mood straight again.
6:00 p.m. I make my famous spicy chili for dinner, after which Ben and Whit go for a bike ride and I settle back into work (more calmly, this time)
Daily Total: $5.50 NZD, $3.36 USD
Read: Is Hobbiton worth it?
9:00 a.m. Ben and I have breakfast together after he takes Whit to school.
12:00 p.m. We walk five minutes down the road to our favorite neighborhood restaurant, which offers pre-packed meals for $5NZ at lunchtime. My favorite, bangers and mash, is usually sold out past noon, but I’m elated that one is left just for me. Ben isn’t interested in the other items available today, so he buys a sandwhich from the local deli for $9NZ, instead. We have a great lunch date eating our meals beside the river before heading back home to more work.
3:00 p.m. We pick Whit up and bring him back home for some much needed R&R. We’ve had a pretty full week with activities nearly every afternoon, and we could all use some down time.
6:00 p.m. We rally as a family to walk to the center of town for dinner. We choose a Vietnamese food truck with great reviews. It’s only open on weekends, and this is our first time trying it. We buy two meals and a springroll based on recommendations ($34.00 NZ), and eat them at the local playground. The food turns out to be amazing! We’re all in a great mood, so we end the night with a stop at our favorite neighborhood ice cream parlor ($11.50 NZ)
Daily Total: $45.50 NZ, $30.03 USD
10:00 a.m. We drive an hour into Auckland to meet some friends. We spend two hours talking and laughing together before we head to West Auckland for some exploration.
12:30 p.m. We stop at a fish ‘n chips spot along our route for our favorite one-the-go meal: a fish ‘n chips basket for two for $24.00 NZ. Every shop prepares their food a bit differently, but the portions are always huge. Mental note: order a smaller basket next time. We eat ours on the road while driving to the hike and beach we planned to see.
1:00 p.m. We arrive at Muriwai Beach and Gannet Colony, our activity for the day. We spend hours enjoying the scene with a crowd of other tourists. Patchy rain forces most people under a cave, so we feel like we have the place to ourselves (for a few minutes, at least.)
5:00 p.m. We stop at our favorite grocery store, Pak ‘N Save, on our way home for next week’s groceries. The nearest Pak ‘N Save is around an hour away from us, so we have to plan ahead! ($130 NZD)
Daily Total: $154.00 NZD, $101.00 USD
Everyone warned us that staying in New Zealand would be incredible but expensive, and they were right. It’s not a cheap place to be, but you will have lots of fun if you decide to stay here!