The Challenges of Moving to a New Country...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

As many of you know, I am planning to pack up in the fall and move all across the world to London, England. The move is sheduled for mid-September. I have been looking into jobs and apartments and all of the fees associated with moving and man, it's really adding up!

The minimum wage in London is £5.05. Yes, that's right. £5.05. Per hour. Now, people always say, Oh, but that's like making $10 here. Yes it would be like making $10 here, except that I am not here. I am there. A bottle of water that costs $1 costs £1 there. So I am making the equivalent of $5 an hour. Yikes.

Now, most of the minimum wage sales jobs that I've found are paying around £6 to £7 an hour. A little better. Ideally i'd like to find something in my Criminal Justice field, and if I can, most jobs are then paying £9 to £16 an hour - much better. Either way, I cannot bet on finding a great job right away, so I am working on a budget that will allow me to live on minimum wage.

In a perfect world, I'd like to live in my own, little, one-bedroom apartment. I simply cannot afford that (for now), so I will be looking to rent a room from someone. Most apartments in London (in the cheaper areas and no, I haven't checked whether these are in the 'bad' areas of town...yet) are going for between £75 and £125 a week. Some included utilities and council tax, while others don't. Ideally I'd like to find an apartment with wireless internet (I'll be bringing my laptop) and in-house laundry (even if it's coin - saves the trip with my dirty clothes!)

Ideally my job will be close to where I live - maybe even close enough to walk. If it isn't, I'll have to face the hoards that ride the London Tube and Buses. Monthly passes will most likely be my best option should I work full time. Depending on where I live (which zone) and where I work, I'll be paying between £15 to £62 a week for a Tube pass. If I chose to take the buses (they don't run on zones), I'll be paying a very reasonably £12 a week.

I made a couple sample budgets:

If I make £6 an hour; after taxes that will work out to £4.2 an hour.
My monthly take-home pay will be £678, or £168 weekly.

My housing costs would be £100 (including utilities).
I would budget £40 a week on food and groceries.
And I would buy a bus pass for £12 a week.

This brings my weekly difference to a miniscule £16 left for fun. Yikes.
That £16 is left to buy toiletries, entertainment, cab-fare and any other bills, such as cell phone, etc. That is pretty close to unmanageable.

Now, of course, I'm leaving out my savings and 'fun fund'. My savings will be at least $10,000 (roughly £4,800), and my 'fun fund' will be $5,000 (roughly £2,400). I also have another fund to cover my flight there and the VISA fund - hopefully there will be enough left in the bank to cover my eventual flight home. I anticipate using between £500 and £1,000 of my savings to get set-up. This includes hotel/hostel if I don't have an apartment automatically waiting for me, payments for bank accounts, or cell-phone activations, getting around, fees for recruitment agencies, etc, etc. That will leave me with at least £3,000 to cushion my wage and give me a decent standard of living. That will leave me with a monthly ration of £250 to put towards housing costs. Now, in reality, that could cover a portion (if not all) of my rent. However, ideally I'd like to only have to dip into this savings when neccesary.

My 'fun fund' is set aside for all things fun. Things like, hosting friends and family when they visit, admission to events and museums, jet-setting around the country, etc. Monthly it would be £200, but again, I'd like to use it as less as possible.

Now, let's pretend that I'm working at a professional job, earning £12 an hour.
That's £8.4 after taxes (I'm estimating heavily on the taxes in order to not over-budget).
And a weekly take-home pay of £336.

I could, probably, in this situation, afford my own apartment at £200 a week. This is something i'll have to consider. Most likely I'll end up renting a room, since it's easier. I don't have to worry about phone lines, internet, all of that stuff since my roommate will (hopefully) already have that sorted out. But, I may find a nicer room to rent somewhere more central, at, let's say £150 a week.

I would still budget £40 for groceries, but I might throw in the occasional fast-food or restaurant meal at an extra £15.
I also might spring for a Tube pass (which also works on the buses), for, let's say £20 a week.
My cell phone (most likely a pay-as-you-go) would probably cost me around £10 a month, so £2.5 a week.

This brings the difference to a more manageable £60 a week in the positive. The best part, is that I feel as though I could really do that without dipping into my savings at all. The savings could then be used as both an emergency fund, as well as an occasional fun-fund.

All in all, there's a lot of things I'm going to have to consider. I have a feeling that finding a decent apartment will be much easier than finding a decent job, although I am remaining hopeful.

I found this great website called Moving2London, and I really learned so much this morning from it. It is meant for Aussies moving to the UK, but the information regarding the UK works for everyone. I spent part of the afternoon looking at recruiting agencies, and, to my surprise, they have recruiting agencies aimed at Criminal Justice proffesionals! So, my dream of working the field are getting closer.

I am looking for a lot of apartments through facebook as well. Many people in London are advertising apartments, and I think that if I could make a deal while I'm here to have an apartment waiting there would be the best situation. Plus, if I find an appropriate apartment, once the seller and I are in contact, we can both peruse each other's facebook page to get an idea of what we are like - which sometimes, I think, it's a better idea of who you really are than a 15 minutes, face-to-face meeting. We'll see.

If you have any advise, suggestions, contacts, comments, anything!, please post them here! I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Canadian Saver said...

I dunno if you've mentioned this on your blog before, but why do you want to move to London? Have you gone over there a lot in the past?

How long can you legally work there for?

I'm curious because I'd love to do something similar, except for me it would be France... but not permanently (maybe 3 months to 6 months tops).

You've certainly done your research and are going over well prepared :-) Good luck finding a place to stay and a good job! Let us know how everything is going... I'm very curious about all this !

JW said...

I hope everything works out well for you in London.

I've always wondered how it would be to live in Europe.

Looking forward to reading about your adventures.

Good Luck

Bouncing Back said...

Right now the Loonie and the Dollar just stink compared to the pound. It is a fact of life. AND the UK is very expensive compared to what we are used to in North America (clothes, etc)

I'm very jealous (in a good way) of you. I love the UK and as I was reminded over the weekend, home is not a place, it's a feeling and for me, home is the UK. I go each year to visit friends and I love the country. I manage to keep the trips cheap because I am lucky enough to stay with freinds who are happy with meals in and the occassional night in the pub and don't expect an expensive hostess present each time I come over.

That being said, follow your dream Apples and Telephones! Get the Visa, save the $$ and go and have a blast. There are some areas just outside London where you may be able to find inexpensive housing and their bus and tube system is easy to get in and out of city for work. I want to follow your progress to London and hear about your trials and tribualtions as you search for a job. I have this feeling you will be OK. Good Luck!

Laura said...

Hey just found you via Fabulously Broke in the City today. I find myself in almost an identical situation to you - I am a single Canadian girl (from Vancouver), just got laid off from my job, and have no mortgage or major responsibilities, so I'm packing up my life and booked a one way ticket to Europe. I'm going travelling around continental Europe for 3 months starting on April 22 first, but after that returning to the UK and trying to find a job in London as well!

First of all you should check out, it's apparently where most foreigners moving to London find jobs, apartments etc.

Secondly - any apartment going for under 80 pounds a week is probably a bit sketchy, be very careful and do your research.

I will definitely be following your blog since it sounds like we currently have quite a bit in common! Take care and happy trip planning. What you're doing is fantastic, it's a great experience :)

Laura said...

Sorry - should have clarified! This will not be my first trip to London. I have not been all over Europe before but I lived in London back when I was 20, eight years ago. I did find a place for 80 pounds a week back THEN, but it was a friend of the family who was doing me a favour (they undercharged me) and it was also 8years ago, prices are higher now! That is not to say that you can't possibly find anything for that price point, but be very careful about the area... avoid Shepherd's Bush for example. Very dodgy area. Places like Notting Hill would be fine though! Just do your research and if you're going to book a place before you get there, then ask to see photos.

I know this probably sounds weird coming from someone you don't know from a hole in the road, but I've learned that as a traveller I have to just be willing to meet new people in all sorts of new ways, so here goes... if I happen to be in London by the time you arrive, (which I expect to be) I would love to meet up with you... give me a shout! laurashannonsmart at hotmail dot com.

Canadian Finance Guy said...

I lived in the UK last year and here are some tips...

Get a NI Number asap. This is similar to a SIN but not as important.

Once you have a NI number opt out of National Insurance by filling out forms at NI is the UK's pension and if you do not opt out you will not get it unless you work there for many years.

Setup an appointment at a doctors office. This will get you signed up for the National Health. YAY free healthcare!!!

Opening a UK Bank account is a pain. The will not open one unless you have a utility bill as proof of address and the utility companies will not let you sign up unless you have a bank statement. It is a vicious cycle that there are 2 ways to break. One once you have found a job they will have a relationship with a specific branch, you can open an account there. Second option is to pay 30 pounds at 1st Contact and they will open one up for you.

While you are poling around 1st contact's website look for a job. They pay well above the minimum wage. The can also send money back home for you.

Hope that helps.