Some two years ago, I wrote a cost comparison entry for basic UK-vs-US costs. It was based on generalizations rather than some hard data, but I hope it was useful for someone.
Having now been back in the States for a few months, I am probably due an updated treatise on the subject. And, predictably, I find it hard to work up any sort of enthusiasm for an exercise of this kind. Fortunately, my lovely wife has come to my rescue, at least partially. She made quite a few references in these past months that she finds some foodstuff costs to be higher in the US compared to what we knew in the UK, and she graciously agreed to perform a sort of analysis, which I now present for my audience.
A few important notes. One, the comparison is between suburban New Jersey (Middlesex/Monmouth counties, to be precise) and outer edges of Greater London (Lewisham/Greenwich boroughs); it is more than likely than the prices will be different the closer you get to Central London or if you put New York City into the equation. Two, the exchange rate has been holding relatively steady between $1.6-1.7 per pound sterling; I am going to use 1.7 for the conversion. Three, as noted in comments to that old post, UK local salaries are generally numerically lower than respective US ones, which means that proportional outlay for any given product may actually be higher even when the absolute cost is lower; for the purposes of this highly scientific study, we will imagine ourselves receiving a US-based salary, as if we were on an expat package.
I commented a few times in the past (most notably here and here) that the notion of cheap air travel on discount airlines within Europe is rarely as good as advertized. How about another example?
We are planning to fly to Costa Brava in the summer. There are two airports in the area directly connected to London – Barcelona and Girona. The former is served by British Airways from either Heathrow or Gatwick, the latter is served by Ryanair from Stansted. Girona is closer to our final destination of L’Estartit by about an hour over Barcelona, but that advantage brings a bit of ambivalence with it: Our chance to spend a few hours in Barcelona would be on the day of the departure back; if we fly from Girona, we are likely not to see Barcelona on this trip at all.
The best fare for a round-trip for a family of four on British Airways to Barcelona is from Heathrow, for a total of £370. Not too bad, in all honesty. Ryanair, however, offers the round-trip between Stansted and Girona for just £237.1 A considerable difference, with the airports on both ends being more convenient to get to. A no-brainer, right?
The cost of a weekly economy car rental (automatic transmission, A/C, unlimited mileage) in Andalucía for a UK resident: £157. The cost of the same rental for a US resident: $650.
Something to be said about the inter-EU travel.
On the other hand, business-class-only MaxJet tickets cost almost 50% more (at the current exchange rates) if paid through a UK “gateway”, and our upcoming Swiss ski trip would cost 60% more if we were to book it through a non-US agency.
Costs, Travel Costs
I have long planned to write an entry on the cost of living comparison between London and New York/New Jersey area. Such an endeavor, being of questionable value from the start, is certainly hard to make compelling. Or exhaustive. At long last, I decided to still do it, but in a limited form…