Surviving in New Zealand on a Budget


There’s nothing I’m going to say here that you wouldn’t figure out on your after living in New Zealand for three months, but the less you have to figure out on your own the first hectic three months of living in a foreign country the better.

Probably the biggest downside of living in New Zealand is the cost of living. The housing market in New Zealand is a complete train wreck, and consumer goods are excessively expensive because so many of them have to be shipped in from overseas at great expense, and a lot of the consumer goods that are produced locally get shipped out overseas where they can be sold for a bigger profit. The scarcity that creates in New Zealand means locally made products that are sold locally can be sold at a higher price. What can I say? Businesses are greedy everywhere in the world. Such is life.

The first thing you’re going to need to do when you arrive in New Zealand is find housing. To do that, go to www.trademe.co.nz and find a house with three strangers living in it who are renting out their fourth spare bedroom. That’s how it’s done in New Zealand. If you want a place of your own you had better sell a child before you get here. Your other option is living out of a camper van, which is a surprisingly popular choice for tourists.

Trademe.co.nz is also a great place to find free or cheap furniture and all the random, weird crap you need. We just bought a cat tree off of TradeMe today. That’s also where you’ll want to go to look for jobs. It’s Craigslist and EBay rolled into one. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. If you live in New Zealand long enough you’re going to use TradeMe eventually.

There are a few tricks to grocery shopping that can lower your food budget. There are only a few big grocery stores in New Zealand: “Countdown” and “New World.” If you shop at a small town grocery store you’re probably paying too much for your food. If you don’t get a “One Card” you’ll miss out on vital discounts when shopping at Countdown.

The third big grocery store in New Zealand is “Pack N Save,” which offers less variety than the other big grocery stores, but it sells in bulk at a discount. However, if you do all your grocery shopping at Pack N Save you probably won’t actually save any money; you have to do selective shopping to make it worth your while.

Speaking of selective shopping, New Zealand has a lot of weekend farmer’s markets, fruits and vegetable specialty stores and butcher shops. If you have more free time than money you should definitely look into doing your meat and vegetable shopping at these specialty shops. You’ll get plumper products at a cheaper price, but the real savings at the butch shops comes from buying in bulk. So if you don’t have a big freezer then the butcher shop might not be worth it.

If you’re really hard core about saving money you can go surf-casting fishing and catch your own dinner. We went camping once and watched a teen fish all morning long. Then he came by each of the camp sites and offered to sell everyone the fish he caught. I suppose you could even supplement your income that way. You don’t need a fishing license, but there are very strict limits on what you can catch and how much.

For all your household shopping needs there’s “The Warehouse.” That’s pretty much the only store comparable to Wal~Mart. So when you find out which New Zealand city you’re going to live in, figure out where its Warehouse is, because you’re going to need to go there to buy pillows and tooth brushes and underwear.

Cigarettes and alcohol are extremely expensive no matter where you shop. Cigarettes start at $13 per pack. $16 for Marlboros. Six packs of beer start at $11. $16 for Heineken. So if you’ve got chemical additions you’re either going to have to give them up or give up every other luxury in your life.

Gas (aka petrol) is about $2.09 per liter. That’s $7.91 per gallon. You may consider getting a bicycle (aka push-bike). I have to warn you though, the only thing Kiwis hate more than bicyclists on the road are bicyclists on the side walk (aka foot path).

Luckily there are plenty of free activities you can do to have fun in New Zealand. There are more beaches and hiking trails than one person can visit in their life. There’s always a cultural festival going on somewhere. There are plenty of art museums. Auckland literally has over 800 parks. If you want to socialize you can find plenty of meetup groups online where you can connect with other world travelers. New Zealand tries really hard to make itself accessible to visitors. So almost every town in New Zealand that’s worth going to has a tourist information office somewhere near the center of town. Just head there, and you’ll find out everything you need to know about the local area.

If you want to make some extra cash while you’re here traveling and you don’t want to (or can’t) get a “real” job you can do seasonal work.

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2 Responses

  1. Honestly, this post got me discouraged in pursuing my migration plans to NZ. Until I saw the title ‘in a budget’ :) so what do you exactly mean on a budget? how much annual salary do i need to have for me to be NOT in a budget?

    Are Software developers in NZ on a budget? Can they afford to get a house of their own and not rent with others?

    • If you make less than $30,000 per year you’re living on a budget. If you have a dependent then that number goes up. Software developer salaries are probably comparable to other first world nations. If you live in a major city you’ll probably be living with flatmates.

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