In an Instagram post back in October, I rambled on for about 4 paragraphs about how moving to Australia was the most expensive decision of my entire life. And I’m not exaggerating – I actually think it’s cost me more than my Honours degree.
Aside from the $7000 de facto partner visa and the flights back and forth in the early days proving to ourselves (and everyone we know) that 11,000 miles was a totally reasonable distance to maintain a relationship, the ongoing cost of building a life with someone from the other side of the world is huge – and never ending.
Don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge that we’re incredibly privileged to have access to commercial air travel and salaries that allow us to save enough to fly regularly. But when I’m punching in my credit card details into STA travel for the gazillionth time and staring down the barrel a double layover 27 hour journey with jetlag to boot, I can get a little whiney. Don’t h8 me.
Emergencies At Home
Living overseas means you have to live with the constant reality that disaster could strike back home, and you’ll have to plonk down a whole lot of money for a last minute flight – and then sit on a flight for 27 hours not knowing what’s going on. For this we have an emergency savings account offset against our mortgage with money that we don’t touch. I have a portion of this ear marked for any emergencies back home in the UK. I’m an only child and my parents are divorced, so if anything happens and my Mum needs me, I’m up. If this was The Price is Right, Bruce Forsyth would be saying ‘come on down!’ #throwback
Traveling Back for Visits
Aside from emergencies, we travel back about once a year. Recently we’ve been guided by who’s getting married and when, meaning the trips have been a bit closer together than once a year, but soz nothing is going to keep me from by best pals tying the knot (or the Portugal hen parties for that matter).
So we plan our trips well in advance, and usually put down a deposit of $100 with STA Travel, and pay the balance 8 weeks before we depart. That gives us time to save, and lock in great rates. Usually we fly with Royal Brunei – and if you’ve been avoiding them for fear of the unknown, don’t worry. They were kind of unknown a few years ago but they’re getting more and more popular, and they have some seriously cheap deals out for some months of the year.
We’ve found the cheapest months to fly either direction are Feb/March/April/May and Sep/Oct/early Nov. Royal Brunei does usually have a double layover (Brunei + Dubai) but I’ve a feeling they’re stopping this. Keep your eyes peeled for cheap sales – they do happen. Last year I flew Melbourne to London for $894AUD (about £460). But snap them up when you see them because the sales do end.
Top tip: search on SkyScanner and use the calendar to search by ‘whole month’ or ‘cheapest month’. Moving your dates by a day or two could save you hundreds. It also helps you identify busy (read: expensive) periods for if you’re traveling regularly. You get to know when is cheap and when is cray.
Royal Brunei has a new fleet of Dreamliners, which are definitely more spacious and have a much quieter in-cabin experience. The in-flight entertainment is on the up (and by on the up I mean they’re adding more classic plane movies like The Devil Wears Prada and more episodes of Friends) and the food is no better or worse than any other airline. Sometimes you get Magnums and pizza and that is a good time for everyone.
Keeping Up Appearances
In terms of how much the trips cost all up, they can be pretty expensive because I’m visiting friends and family who I only see once a year. While accommodation is free as I’m staying with my mum or friends, I’m traveling about and renting a car and all that jazz to be able to catch people. I eat out, I celebrate, I buy things in shops I miss and take home all the Galaxy chocolate and Drumstick squashies I can fit in my suitcase.
Usually I’m using annual leave or working remotely while I’m away, so what I do in terms of cash flow is save up a certain amount each week before I go away, and then drain my savings right down and transfer it all to pounds using TransferWise.
Side note: TransferWise is LIFE CHANGING for moving currency around. Super fast and low fees – would definitely recommend.
Then while I’m away, I let my salary build up over the 3-6 weeks that I’m gone, and that’s my savings base replenished when I get back.
People seem to think it’s all glamour and excitement and #holidaytimes, but – and here comes the whinging millennial in me again – it’s actually quite stressful! Trying to fit people in doesn’t leave you with a whole heap of time to relax, and my trips home usually replace any other holiday we have together.
Buying Your Life Twice
Having to furnish a home on each side of the world is really expensive – and boring. There are so many things you simply just can’t move with you – furniture, appliances, crockery. It all has to be repurchased, which really adds up. For the first couple of years of living overseas, I kept thinking MAN I NEED MY WASHING BASKET, or ughhh I already have a good saucepan but here I am buying another.
One of the other expensive components of moving overseas is the unknown. Whether you moved for love like me, or just by choice, or maybe for work, there’s a huge cloud of uncertainty around everything you do for the first year or so. You might not like it, your job might not work out, your relationship might fail – it’s expensive having to manage this level of risk. Having return flights booked, moving or cancelling them, and just wondering whether you’ll still be in the same place in a few months time is emotionally and financially challenging!
Have you moved overseas? Did you find it expensive?!