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Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

Old Jun 9th 2013, 12:10 am
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Default Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

Sorry to be so general about this. I've been doing some rough budget sums, trying to make sense of our financial situation now as homeowners in the US. I think, like a lot of people, I assumed the cost of living was far lower here and the standard a lot higher. Certainly housing-wise the standard is higher for the price.

But looking at the figures, I was surprised to see that we would be spending over £200 a month less in the UK. To clarify we have a nice house here but would be living in a small flat in the UK comparatively. So yes there is that obvious difference.

But that aside, I can only attribute the cost difference to expensive food in the US, lower wages (here in AZ anyway) and that old chestnut.... healthcare.

I wonder what everybody else thinks? It's difficult to nail down because there are so many variables. But along with food, something as simple as mobile phone bills seem incredibly high in the US. Fuel is cheaper in the US, but then the (older) cars are that much bigger, and you have to drive further to get anywhere.

I'm trying to weigh up where we are now, having moved here in the Sept 2012. We bought a house outright, something never possible in the UK. In theory we should be saving money with low outgoings. But it doesn't seem to have worked out like that way....

Any thoughts?
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Old Jun 9th 2013, 12:13 am
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Default Re: Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

"Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?"

Certainly can be. Depends on a lot of things. Cost of living varies dramatically from place to place, in both countries.
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Old Jun 9th 2013, 12:22 am
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Default Re: Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

In California where I am, yes it is.
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Old Jun 9th 2013, 1:07 am
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Default Re: Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

Originally Posted by markonline1 View Post
In California where I am, yes it is.
But not if you were in London.
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Old Jun 9th 2013, 1:28 am
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Default Re: Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

I came from London (Islington) to California (Bay Area). And my first impressions were that it was cheaper. I was young, unmarried, no kids, healthy, and drove a lot.

Now I have kids (and went to the ER today!) and have to pay for healthcare, schooling, and I seem to drive even more, I still think that it's cheaper to live the lifestyle I live here than it would be in the UK.

Last edited by jackattack; Jun 9th 2013 at 1:30 am.
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Old Jun 9th 2013, 1:40 am
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Default Re: Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

Comparing like for like (similar city, similar lifestyle i.e. house and vehicle size), overall, I would say that yes the US is cheaper, but people who immigrate to the US from the UK tend to buy bigger houses and cars, eat out more often, and drive further, which offsets the lower cost of housing, cars, restaurant meals, and petrol. Many are also forced by work considerations to live in high costs locations of the north east and west coast.

When I first moved to the US, I noted that my payroll deductions including health insurance, were substantially less than my deductions when I worked in London.

Last edited by Pulaski; Jun 9th 2013 at 1:55 am.
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Old Jun 9th 2013, 1:50 am
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Default Re: Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

The two countries are nearly impossible to compare because they are so different and that difference depends on the desires of the individual. If you want a country where everything is close together and short train rides to all places, then the UK will likely be the place for you. If you desire an outdoor life with reasonable weather, then the US will likely be for you. If you want art, history, and architecture, the UK will likely be the place for you. If you want very nice weather, that will likely be much easier to find in the US.

Since a price can't be placed on those and other things, you can't compare prices.
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Old Jun 9th 2013, 2:20 am
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Default Re: Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

Originally Posted by guitarmaan View Post
Certainly housing-wise the standard is higher for the price.
Size, more than likely. Standard, almost certainly not.
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Old Jun 9th 2013, 2:50 am
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Default Re: Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

Originally Posted by Pulaski View Post
people who immigrate to the US from the UK tend to buy bigger houses and cars, eat out more often, and drive further, which offsets the lower cost of housing, cars, restaurant meals, and petrol.
Yes, very true. With property prices low in comparison the temptation is there to "have your cake and eat it". We've definitely driven a lot more here in the US too. With California 6 hrs away we'd be crazy not to take some trips.

But in the UK you could buy a flat outright and have minimal costs after the purchase. In the USA is there a comparison? You can buy a condo, but that involves monthly fees which can be steep. So is it possible to downsize like that in the USA?

Originally Posted by Pulaski View Post
When I first moved to the US, I noted that my payroll deductions including health insurance, were substantially less than my deductions when I worked in London.
But what does that cover actually provide? My American wife had the misfortune of many family illnesses before we married. When her first husband became too ill to work, his work-provided health insurance was withdrawn. When her father developed a rare illness, his insurers declined to pay for care on a technicality (he'd swapped insurance 6 months prior). Her mother also suffered from illness, and while her parents were wealthy business owners in the beginning, after all this they weren't wealthy anymore.
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Old Jun 9th 2013, 3:42 am
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Default Re: Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

I've posted this before, but can't find it as the search still seems to be broken. We had the opportunity to live back in the UK for 6 months when our current US house was being built, back in 2005. At that time, I kept a pretty detailed track on our outgoings, which would be representative of what our lifestyle would be if we moved back. Here we live in a reasonably nice neighbourhood, in a reasonably affluent suburb of one of the cheaper major metropolitan areas (Houston), close to other family, with access to our line of work. In the UK we moved into my sisters house, in a reasonably affluent suburb of a smaller metropolitan area, but again with access to our line of work and close to our UK family (North Yorkshire).

Our lifestyles in both were/are different, but were what we would want them to be if we actually lived there, without one being "better" than the other if you get my meaning - a good lifestyle in the Arctic would be different to a good lifestyle in the Sahara, they could both be good, but how do you decide which is better?

Anyway, cutting to the chase, after equalizing everything out (taxes, mortgage, insurance etc), we found we could live our desired lifestyle in the UK considerably cheaper than the US. I can't remember the absolute difference, but if the search comes back I'll try and find my earlier post which I think had figures. I realize that is going to vary massively from person to person, family to family, but for us, the UK is undoubtedly the cheaper place to live for our chosen lifestyle. Or at least it was 8 years ago!
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Old Jun 9th 2013, 3:55 am
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Default Re: Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

Originally Posted by markonline1 View Post
In California where I am, yes it is.
Originally Posted by Michael View Post
But not if you were in London.
Even that depends on where in California and where in London.

It really is impossible to compare the two - ultimately it just comes down to what standard of living you can afford and how satisfied you are with it.
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Old Jun 9th 2013, 4:01 am
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Default Re: Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

Originally Posted by md95065 View Post
It really is impossible to compare the two - ultimately it just comes down to what standard of living you can afford and how satisfied you are with it.
Yup!
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Old Jun 9th 2013, 4:03 am
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Default Re: Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

Originally Posted by md95065 View Post
Even that depends on where in California and where in London.

It really is impossible to compare the two - ultimately it just comes down to what standard of living you can afford and how satisfied you are with it.
Yes it's difficult to answer such a broad question.

The cost of housing in London has become prohibitive but you may not need a car and are close to a lot of great entertainment.

My perception is that it's harder to make ends meet on a low salary in the US, if that makes sense.
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Old Jun 9th 2013, 4:04 am
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Default Re: Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

Originally Posted by Yorkieabroad View Post
Anyway, cutting to the chase, after equalizing everything out (taxes, mortgage, insurance etc), we found we could live our desired lifestyle in the UK considerably cheaper than the US. I can't remember the absolute difference, but if the search comes back I'll try and find my earlier post which I think had figures. I realize that is going to vary massively from person to person, family to family, but for us, the UK is undoubtedly the cheaper place to live for our chosen lifestyle. Or at least it was 8 years ago!
When you say that the UK would be cheaper for your chosen lifestyle do you mean in absolute terms or as a percentage of your likely income were you to be working in the UK?

I haven't really kept up with UK salaries but I am pretty sure that my income in the UK would be quite a bit less than it is here in California ...
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Old Jun 9th 2013, 4:19 am
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Default Re: Is the USA actually more expensive than the UK?

Originally Posted by md95065 View Post
When you say that the UK would be cheaper for your chosen lifestyle do you mean in absolute terms or as a percentage of your likely income were you to be working in the UK?

I haven't really kept up with UK salaries but I am pretty sure that my income in the UK would be quite a bit less than it is here in California ...
I meant in absolute terms, but the way we are structured, our income wouldn't be significantly different in either location. If we were UK based, my wife may have a little more business travel, which would cut into her consulting margin, but not massively so.
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