The guide to moving abroad: Planning your budget

The guide to moving abroad: Planning your budget

Want to live in a terraced house next to one of Amsterdam’s charming canals? Or are you planning on jet-setting all over Europe on your weekends? To figure out if any of these things are even possible, you need to put together a budget for your future expat life.

It’s easy to get romantic about the life you think you’ll have, but it won’t be very fun if you discover you can’t afford any of it once you get there. The place to start is with the cost of living in your new country.

Consider the following

There are several key cost of living categories to consider:

  • Housing: Whether you’re renting or planning to buy, what does it cost to put a roof over your head?
  • Food: Between buying groceries and dining out, what does food cost?
  • Transportation: What does public transportation cost monthly? Or will you be getting around via bicycle?
  • Clothing: How much is clothing? Will you need a whole new wardrobe based on the climate you’re coming from?
  • Personal Care: Is healthcare provided by the government, or do you need to get private insurance?
  • Entertainment: Nights out on the town, movies, travel: keeping yourself entertained all adds up.

Fortunately, you don’t have to piece this information together yourself since there are resources available that let you do a cost of living comparison between your current location and your target destination. Expatistan, for instance. We’ll go through a couple of examples together:

Amsterdam vs. London / Berlin

Let’s say you’re moving from London to Amsterdam, which is a common move we’ve seen at GoodMigrations since Brexit. According to Expatistan, Amsterdam is more costly for food and clothes, but is 17 percent cheaper overall when you look at all the categories. So, if you’re earning the equivalent of 100.000 euros (89.000 GBP) in London, you’ll need 87.000 euros to live an equivalent lifestyle:


What about moving from Berlin to Amsterdam? In this example, the cost of living is 25 percent higher! You would definitely want to get a salary increase from your company if you’re being relocated for work:


When using any cost of living calculator, however, it’s important to remember that the comparison is at a citywide level. As you’ve no doubt seen in your own city, cost of living can vary significantly from one neighbourhood to another.

You also need to figure out if there are new expenses you’ll incur. For example, if you have children and need to put them in an international school, that can be very expensive. So be sure to consider all the factors that make up your standard of living when creating your budget for your international move.

There are a couple of other budget considerations when preparing for your move abroad:

Your relocation costs

You’ll need a flight or train ticket to get to your new destination. And shipping your belongings can also be quite expensive: moving the contents of just a small apartment can cost thousands of euros.

Temporary housing costs

Unless you’re lucky enough to secure housing before you move, you’ll need to find temporary housing while you conduct your long-term housing search. If you're shipping your things, it can also be difficult to coordinate the shipment arriving at the same time you do…and having a home for it to be delivered to. You’ll likely need a furnished apartment or hotel, which can be expensive.

Don't forget to factor these costs into your overall budget!

Adam Vagley


Adam Vagley

Adam Vagley is co-founder of GoodMigrations (, which makes it easy to move anywhere in the world with free city guides and other resources for relocating abroad. He’s lived and...

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