The Cost Of Living In Kerry, Ireland, Versus The Cost Of Living In Scottsdale, Arizona
When my husband and I decided to move from Arizona to Ireland, we were nervous. Our first two choices for where to make a new life in retirement had been Spain and France, with Ireland coming third, but our research pointed to Ireland as the best fit for our circumstances. Still, we were concerned about the cost of living. We wanted to own a home of our own, but weren’t property prices in Ireland through the roof? Could we afford even to think about owning a car? Would we be eating spaghetti and baked beans for the rest of our lives?
Happily, the answers are no, yes, and no.
Now that we’re in Ireland, we’ve found that the cost of living is not as high as we’d feared. Dublin is the exception. This is a major European city and a national capital with prices to match. But in County Kerry, in the misty and stunningly beautiful southwest of Ireland where we’ve chosen to settle, life is turning out to be surprisingly affordable.
Let me break down our cost of living to show you, using the exchange rate at press time of 1 euro=US$1.11.
We like to eat well, and in Scottsdale, Arizona, we spent between US$100 and US$120 each week for groceries. We steeled ourselves for a shock after our first month’s grocery bills in Ireland, and, sure enough, when I added them up, I nearly fainted. Our average food cost per week our first month in our new home was 75.65 euros, including luxuries like wine, beer, fresh croissants, and ground espresso. Right now, that’s US$84.
Now, I’m not comparing U.S. top-of-the-market store prices with Irish discount stores. In Scottsdale, we visited four different grocers to get the best prices—two national chain stores, a regional store, and a local market. In Kerry, we shop at a U.K.-Ireland national grocery chain and at an Irish store. Many items are roughly the same price in Ireland as they were in Scottsdale; fruit is definitely more expensive in Ireland. But for fish, vegetables, bread, butter, cheese, and other staples, the Irish prices win hands down.
This is where the cost of living in Ireland hurts. Our average annual utility bills in Arizona were US$2,000: US$1,550 for electric heating and cooling, US$150 for an LPG range, and US$300 for water. Natural gas is not available in County Kerry, and oil is the most economical alternative for heating. Electricity is about 30% more expensive than in Arizona, but water charges are capped at 260 euros for two adults. We’re projecting approximately US$2,700 per year in utility costs here, an increase over Scottsdale of 35%.
Ireland has nationalized health care for its citizens, but non-EU residents are required to purchase health insurance. You need two kinds of coverage: hospitalization, covering stays and procedures in public and private hospitals; and everyday coverage.
When I found that a GP visit in Ireland costs 50 to 60 euros, compared with US$180 to visit my doctor in Scottsdale, we decided to go for comprehensive hospitalization with minimal coverage for everyday expenses and a 500 euro deductible. The cost per month for two adults is 97.34 euros. That’s about US$1,300 per year instead of the US$2,700 per year we paid in Arizona for less coverage and a higher deductible. You could have more coverage for everyday medical expenses for 1,520.94 euros (about US$1,688.24) per year.
Owning A Car
In Arizona we had a six-year-old economy import car and a clean insurance record—no claims ever. We paid US$1,080 per year for car insurance.
In Kerry we have a two-year-old economy import car and are paying 680 euros (US$755) per year while driving on our American driver’s licenses. When we obtain Irish driver’s licenses (you must after 12 months), our rate will drop to 420 euros (US$465) per year.
While we’re talking about cars, let’s look at gasoline prices. Though the current drop in oil prices has brought gasoline down to about 5.08 euros (US$5.64) per gallon in Kerry, that’s still enough to make American drivers think twice about running a car here. However, one thing makes a big difference—the exceptional miles-per-gallon (mpg) figures of European cars.
When he researched cars in Ireland, my husband noted the mpg figures for different makes, models, and years and the differences between gasoline and diesel engines. He found cars with gasoline engines getting from 55 mpg to 75 mpg and cars with diesel engines getting up to 86 mpg. (Note that diesel is also much cheaper than gasoline in Ireland.)
Our economy car in Arizona to 36 mpg, and we were paying US$2 per gallon for gas. Our fuel cost was 5.6 cents per mile.
In Kerry, our car gets 65 mpg, and gas costs 5.08 euros (US$5.64) per gallon. Our fuel cost is 7.8 euro cents (8.7 U.S. cents) per mile.
A 100-mile trip in the United States cost us about US$5.60, while a 100-mile trip in Ireland costs about US$8.70—over US$3 more. Driving 10,000 miles per year will cost US$310 more than in the States. With the lower cost of insurance, we can absorb the difference.
In 2006, the average house price in Ireland was US$450,000. Today, it’s US$193,000. In County Kerry, some fine homes are to be had for reasonable prices: a three-bedroom, furnished, semidetached home near Kenmare is on offer for 98,000 euros (US$108,780), for example, and a three-bedroom, 1,800 square-foot house in the Kerry mountains is listed at 175,000 euros (US$194,250). Or you can spend US$250,000 to US$500,000 for a home on the coast. It’s all here.
One last note on housing: A property tax has just been introduced in Ireland, and it’s a shock. For the 1,800-square-foot, 175,000 euro home mentioned above, for example, the annual property tax is a whopping 315 euros.
We had expected a tangible drop in our standard of living when we moved to Ireland. We thought we wouldn’t be able to live as comfortably as we were in Scottsdale, but it’s not working out as we’d planned. All the indicators point to having about the same cost of living as we had in Arizona, including cash left over for pub-hopping, sightseeing, and short flights to London to see our grandsons.
Of course, you could add on as many treats as you wanted, but if your budget is around US$30,000 per year, a fulfilling life in Ireland could be well within your reach.
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