Showing posts with label Money. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Money. Show all posts

Monday, March 19, 2012

London Retailers: Welcome to the 21st Century!

I've often been confounded at the seemingly random (and archaic) hours that retailers stay open for business on Sunday here in the UK.  Only in the Southern part of the US (where clearly, one must go to church before doing anything productive during the day, and return to church in the evening...) where I grew up have I ever experienced such a brevity of 'open for business' which typically meant noon to 6pm.

At the very least, given the size of the population (and spending power...) you would think that London businesses would be open at a more extended rate of time than they are.  Well, as of yesterday, I now know why these bizarre Sunday hours are what they are:  it's the law!

Only since 1994 have UK retailers been allowed to open on Sunday at all, and if you are a business with a shop of more than ~3000 square feet, you are restricted to be open no more than 6 hours on the day-and it has to be between the hours of 10am-6pm.   Also, apparently, only 53% of UK businesses are open on Sunday.  Crazy.

But wait:  that may all be about to change!  In an effort to 'stimulate the economy' during the Olympics and Paralympics, the Chancellor (think, 'UK Treasurer') is apparently soon to announce that they will suspend  Business Trading Hours rules on Sundays and allow shops to stay open for more than 6 hours.  Oh, and this is supposed to be a 'test' to see if the Trading Hours rules shouldn't be permanently suspended., the crap-tastic UK Economy (read:  recession-and possible soon to come double dip) of the past four years hasn't warranted a revision of these rules already? Are we really *just now* thinking, 'hey! there's this thing called the internet that is open for business 24/7/365...if we want UK brick & mortar retailers to continue to be competitive, perhaps we should allow them to um...compete?'

As progressive as I think the UK is on many social and economic matters, something like this creeps up that just makes me smack my forehead and shake my head in complete and utter confusion.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Saving Money in London

For most of my friends that know me-both here and in the US-most of them probably know that I love nothing better than saving money on my purchases-I love coupons (vouchers to the Brits), discounts, deals, loyalty programs...anything that will make living my life a wee bit cheaper!  And, as vouchers have become very in vogue in London the past two years with the economy, I started thinking about all the ways I try to save money while living in this incredibly expensive city.

Now, I'm not one that would go so far as to buy something I didn't want/need just to say I got a deal (well, barring that Givenchy jacket I bought 10 years was Givenchy, afterall!), and most of the things I try to save money on are either things I'd buy regardless (meals out, for instance) or would like to buy, but refuse to pay full price for (a full half-dozen microdermabrasion treatments).  So, continuing the spirit of sharing, I thought I'd mention a few of the places/ ways I've saved money since being here-for what it's worth, these ideas don't have to be confined to London-or even to the UK (I'm fairly certain some of the group discount sites are now in the US).  In the interest of full disclosure, any links below are purely IMHO, and I'll make no profit from you clicking on them-except the Groupon link-though, in truth, I think I've screwed the link up, so it doesn't matter! :):

Groupon:  There are a few versions of Groupon circling the globe-Tippr, Groupon/My City Deals, Living Social, etc..and they're all effectively group discount buying sites.  With these concepts, you sign up to a website (free), pick your location, and sit back and wait for daily deals to be emailed to you. In the past few months with Groupon, I've bought £170 hair cut/color packages for £45,  a £500 microdermabrasion series for £50, and £60 worth of food and drink (at a place we go already!) for £19.  You really can't beat this, and I may never pay full price for a beauty treatment in London ever again!

Email Vouchers:  I am the queen of vouchers, and I'm not afraid to use them. :)  My $.02 for what it's worth...take a look around at the places you frequently spend money-restaurants, shops, department stores, pubs, etc...and then see if any of them have websites with email programs you can join to receive vouchers.  Ask (think, Olive Garden but better) has a great email voucher program, and as there is an Ask about 50 feet from our front door, it is our go-to restaurant when I don't want to cook and we don't have the inclination to trek somewhere.  Rarely, if ever to we pay full price at Ask-and their deals usually mean one meal is free.  We ate there two nights ago and had two pizzas -both 50% off (or £5.07 each).  Can't beat that!  Young's pub chain is also good with voucher emails-our local is a Young's chain, and again, I can't remember the last time we paid full price for a meal-and have on more than one occasion received a voucher for a free drink (no purchase necessary)!

Loyalty Schemes:  Why not make your purchases net you something in the end? And in the UK, this option seems more plentiful than I care to think!  Boots, Harrods, Nandos, Ping Pong, Nectar, Nero, local restaurants with punch cards...I have no problem carrying around carrying around a tiny piece of paper or plastic the size of a credit card if it means I'm going to get something free after just a few purchases.  You're going to buy the face cream/chicken sandwich/coffee/dim sum anyway-why not use a loyalty card and effectively get a 10% or more discount off every purchase?!?

Bite Card:  I swear I'm the only person that knows about this, though I don't know why...It's a discount card that gets you 20% off at a good number of food stalls in train stations-Delice de France, Costa, Millies...and a few others.  If you have a commute that involves a train station, you're crazy not to have one of these.

Annual Tube Pass:  I have an annual tube pass.  This means that I suck it up once a year (though, some employers will offer interest-free loans), and pay a chunk of money to TFL so that I don't have to worry about what travel in Zones 1-2 *really* cost me again for 365 days.  Along with the actual tube pass come a few 'perks' that seem to be the best kept secrets of the Annual Pass:  Discounts on Heathrow Express (about 40%) for up to 4 tickets purchased at one time-even if all travelers using the discounted tickets don't have an annual pass, and discounts on National Rail.  Most train discounts run in 30-50% range, which is not small change.  The nature of the annual pass alone means you get a free month of travel-in comparison to buying 12-one month passes, and with the other discounts, you have a very real chance of clawing back even more cash into your wallet!

Pub Quiz:  OK.  Don't laugh.  But, the pub quiz can be a very real way of saving some cash!  I'm lucky enough to play with a group of people who, collectively are the right combo for a winning team, and we're fortunate enough to win something (free bottle of wine, bar tab...) almost every week.  I like to look at it as self-funded drinking!  I'd likely be in my local once a week for a few beers anyhow-why not organize with a few friends and make those beers free?!?

Taste Card: The Taste Card is a dining discount card that gives you either a 50% off or 2 for 1 deal at participating restaurants.  Unlike every other suggestion above though, this one does cost to participate.  There is an annual fee of around £75, but if you Google 'taste card discount', you'll almost always find a relevant code for 50%-ish off the annual fee.  There are a good number of national chains with the card (Pizza Express, GBK), but there's also some local gems (Ukai Sushi, Greigs)-and a few that are rather pricey in which the card could actually pay for itself after one use! 

With all of the above, Simon & I hardly ever pay full price for a meal-unless we're just out and about and decide to grab a bite at the most convenient place.  But, if we're looking for a meal, and have the option to plan for a bit, we likely will get a discount on the meal.  As such, we probably eat out a bit more often than most.  But, eating out has always been a special treat for me as we didn't do it much when I was grown up;  if I can treat myself and save money all at the same time, you 'd beter believe I'm going to do it!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Can I Buy This?..

Gennifer with a G, I thought your question was so good, I decided to move it away from the comments section and blow it up into a post. 

Gennifer just asked about the relative availability/cost of the following food items, a typical grocery list.  I'll admit, I certainly didn't think about something this practical until I arrived-and was then surprised at what I could/couldn't find that I used to buy in the States.  Generally, it's largely the branded, pre-packaged things that are a challenge to find here (and as you'll note from my 'I'm a Hoarder' post....).  The below commentary is simply based on my personal experience-if anyone knows otherwise, give a shout!  Here's Gennifer's list.  My commentary follows:

biscuit dough (like American bread-type biscuits, not "cookies")

1 pkg. Velveeta 16 slices
1 pkg. 12 hamburger buns
1 box Banquet-brand frozen fried chicken, 8 pieces
1 pkg. bacon bits/crumbled bacon (like for salad)
1 quart of heavy whipping cream
1 quart of olive oil
3-pounds/48 ounces ground beef
1 pound-16 ounces ground lamb
1 ounce cinnamon
1 ounce white pepper
1 ounce paprika
2 eggplant/aubergines
1 ounce parsley
1 pkg. pita bread (5 per pk.)
3 ounces of loose orange tea
2 ounces of white loose tea (I have my own bags, brew my own, blah blah)
5 yellow potatoes
2 bags of spinach leaves for salad
6 Bosc pears
1 sweet yellow onion
8 ounces gorgonzola cheese
8 ounces of baker's chocolate
1/2 dozen brown eggs
1 can-diced tomatoes
4 pkgs. toilet paper, 4 rolls each
plastic food storage containers
one 5-pound bag of sugar
2 pounds of coffee
1 gallon of milk, approx. 4 litres
2 oz. pine nuts

The top hilighted items may prove a bit difficult/impossible to find here, but a few comments to clarify...
*'American biscuits' a proper souther girl, there are certainly few months in my life that go by when I don't eat a biscuit.  Made, not purchased-and if you ever find them pre-made here, I'd be stunned.  But, I find even making them has provent to be a challenge-yes, I 'import' my own Crisco shortening (ahem..), but the flour here-even self-rising-must be different.  I haven't actually been able to produce a good biscut here, as they simply don't rise properly. :(  On the flip side, you should introduce yourself to Yorkshire Puddings ('yorkie puds').  They're simply lovely, and you can find pre-made/frozen ones.  I hear Aunt Bessie does a good one (ask me again after Xmas, as they've gone on the shopping list! :)).
*Hamburger buns...You won't be able to find them year-round; they're a summer-only product.  And, the ones that I have found aren't completely like in the US-they tend to be much smaller, and for some reason, a bit harder-and never pre-sliced.  The one thing I haven't done is gone the route of 'butty' buns (butty's are simply sandwiches.  as are 'sarnies.'), and though they don't taste like hamburger buns, they are larger-and if you find good ones-would probably be just as good.  Any good bakery would carry them, and likely and larger grocery store would have packs of them year round as well.
*Banquet frozen fried chicken...Banquet doesn't exist here to my knowledge, but the frozen fried chix part won't be a problem.  I can't comment on quality, but a very quick search on the online grocery store I frequently shop at quickly returned a page of results.
*Velveeta...not a chance.  In fact, I've only once seen 'american-style' sliced cheese here, and it was during the summer.  I've never eaten Velveeta, so I can't actually comment on availablity, but at the least, if you google 'american food store' you'll get a  robust list of both brick & mortar and online shops where you may very well be able to buy Velveta.  Price will certanly be an issue (example: most imported, American boxes of cereal in these shops usually run ~$10), but if you've gotta have it, you've gotta have it! :)
*Bacon bits....I haven't seen these, but I don't eat them, so it's possible they're out there.  As a great substitute however, you can easily purchase 'lardons' (think 'bits') of fresh chopped bacon in the meat cases and make your own!

Everything else, you can easily find-or the subsitution would be so close (not sure about 'bosc' pears, but pears for sure..), you'll be fine.

As far as cost is concerned, I think it comes down to a personal preference.  And it's worth noting that some of the things on your list (spices for example..), you'd buy in bulk once at a higher price-but it couldl take months to fully use.
Presuming the above is just for one person, you could very likely go the basic/essential route that many grocery stores are running these days on their private label brands and probably get away with just spending ~£20-25.  However, if you decide to go a bit up-market, perhaps go for a higher level of quality either in the grocery store, or even venture out to a farmer's market, you could go as high as £40-ish.  In general, for Simon & I, I spend~£25 a week at the farmer's market -and that food tends to get consumed in the week-and I then spend another ~£25 a week at the grocery store, and probably half of that is for things with a multi-week span.  Our food shop also involves buying things we can take to work for lunch, so we eat out less for lunch during the week, but do tend to eat dinner out about 3x a week.  However, I almost *always* use a voucher (coupon...), or my taste card (indespensible!), so we rarely pay full price for our meals out!

Great question, Gennifer.  Hope the above helps.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Transferring Money From Your UK Bank to the US: Part 2

I mentioned stumbling across what seemed to be an easy, inexpensive way to transfer money from my UK account to my US bank in a post in January using a website called

Well, I finally got around to doing this a few days ago.  The verdict?  A HUGE Thumbs Up!

The company offered a quick, easy interface to understand,  good rates, low-to no fees, and their customer service was *outstanding.*  Thanks UK Forex!  I'll definitely be using you again.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Transferring Money from your UK Bank to your US Bank

Partially to help me remember where the information is, partially to help others who read this blog, but...

A BIG HUGE thanks to Victoria for this incredibly helpful information.  I've been struggling to do this for the two years I've lived here (like she says in her post, I too still have student loans & a mortgage to pay in the US. ugh.).  Hitting the ATM while in the US to take money from your UK account, only to turn around and deposit in the US is certainly *not* ideal.  Looks like Victoria has found a way to easily, quickly & cheaply transfer money from your UK Bank to your US Bank (or Canadian...) using a service from company called

I haven't tried it yet, but I definitely will in a few months-and will let folks know how it goes.

As a somewhat related may want to read up on what amount can be transferred from the UK to the US before raising eyebrows with your bank-and possibly have to pay tax on it.  In speaking with my tax adviser about this previously, I was told to 'keep it minimal'-ie less than $10k a *year* would be good. But, above that, I'm sure the bank-and the IRS may start take notice.  Or not.  Depends on your situation, I guess.  But, worth a mention, nonetheless..

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Moving to London? Part 2

Well, as expected, after my first Moving to London post, I've had a few other things come to mind that I thought might be worth mentioning. I tried to wait until I had several more things to mention, so there wasn't a constant stream of blog posts entitled, 'oh. one more thing.' :). In no particular order of importance..
1. If you have the luxury/flexibility/budget-and assuming you won't drive, pick a place to live that doesn't force you to rely on *only* one tube line. Especially the Jubilee. With increasing frequency as I've lived here the past (almost) two years, parts of a tube line-or in some cases an entire line will be shut for part if not all of the weekend. Yes, there may be bus-replacement service, but seriously...what would normally be a 15 minute trip for you may be a 45 minute-plus trip. You won't want to deal with this on such an ongoing basis. I have a friend who signed an 18 month lease in Canary Wharf a few months ago. The Jubilee line is the only lie that serves that part of town. He's effectively without tube transport at all on the weekends. Every weekend. For 18 months. Avoid at all costs...
2. Say goodbye to your American clothes dryer and hello to your new best friend-a clothes rack. Most London flats don't have the space here as in the US. I realize that's stating the obvious that most people know already. But, what most people don't know (I didn't until I moved here...) was that that in the never-ending pursuit of space-saving appliances in Britain, the invention of the combo washer/dryer simply means that your clothes will never, ever get dried in the machine. Not unless you wish to dry a load of clothes for well over three hours. Which, let's face it: who has the time-or budget to run such an appliance? Instead, you'll end up buying one of those multi-tiered clothes racks, just like you used to have in college. Joy.
3. With that being said, what not having a proper dryer also means is that your jeans will never fit you tightly again (god, how I miss the miracle-jeans-shrinking my American dryer provided).
4. will become crucial to you knowing what tube lines are open at any given time during the week and on the weekend. You will save yourself endless amounts of frustration if you sign up to receive the weekly email that provides details on all the weekend line closures.
5. Customer service. I know this is one of the things I've talked about several times in this blog-especially early on, but I'm just going to come out and say it: The customer service is so bad-and there is so much to take care of when you first arrive-that the first three months you're in the UK, you will simply be perpetually pissed off. When I first moved here, I reached the point after having so many bad experiences, that I *started off* my calls to customer service already in a bad mood-and I'm definitely of the 'catch more flies with honey' belief. It simply couldn't be helped. Perpetually pissed off...
6. Timeout website. For me, it's an infinite source of information when trying to find a new place to eat, new pub to try, movie information...basically, all things entertainment. There are a ton of websites that go into more detail on individual topics, but for one-stop-shopping, Timeout is a great source of info.
7. I am soooo not a tax advisor, but I implore you: talk to a tax professional about something called the 'DDR.' It's a special (and somewhat unknown-though, I certainly don't understand why...) deduction that expatriates who *intend* to live in the UK for under two years-and who have been moved here by their employer-are allowed to take. The DDR effectively allows you to deduct all of your basic living expenses (rent, most utilities, council tax, food...), transportation to work costs, and transportation 'back home' costs. This is NOT an inconsequential deduction-most of your out of pocket expenses in the UK are for these very items. This can mean the difference between kissing 42% of your paycheck goodbye or keeping most of it. If there is one thing you do before moving to the UK, seek tax advice from someone who specializes in US Expatriate tax returns, and talk to them about this. DO IT.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Moving to London?

It seems like 'tis the season for expats moving to London. I've had two seperate conversations with people this week who are moving here and in the course of answering some of their questions have realized that though I talk 'around' some of these things in my blog, I've never directly come out and stated a few things I've figured out since being here.

In the spirit of one of the reasons I started this blog, it's never too late to disclose my top 'hindsight 20/20' thoughts on the topic. So, in no particular order, if you're moving to London, here are my tips/thoughts-for what it's worth...

1. Furniture...Most flats in London come furnished-even down to the toaster & tea kettle & utensils. So, unless you simply have a piece of furniture you *can't live without*, I'd strongly encourage you to sell it/give it away/store it...something. Just don't bring it. Aside from possibly not needing it, it may be too big to even fit! :) An American Queen size bed=a British King size bed, and many flats are multi-level non-elevator. Think about how difficult it was just to get your Queen mattress into your 3rd floor apartment in the US-that accomodates larger things. Now, cut that hallway width in half, add a few turns up the stairs, and imagine trying to cut the corners. It can't be done.
If, for some crazy reaon you end up in a flat that isn't furnished, I have one simple word: Ikea.
2. Appliances...Regardles of what the label says it will accomodate-in terms of voltage-very few US appliances will properly function/charge here in the UK. The only thing I've been able to use without any problems (though I have had to use both a plug & voltage converter) is my Wii and my Blackberry charger (though again, I've had to use a plug converter). Leave everything else at home. Yes, especially the TV-voltage aside, US TVs will simply not receive a picture in the UK. Also...if you're keen on bringing your US DVDs, know that you will need to buy a DVD player here that is either 'multi-region' or can be programmed to play DVDs from just the UK.
3. Prams (Strollers)....People here seem to use prams for one of three reasons (sometimes all at the same time): to transport their children, to transport their shopping, or as a weapon. I somewhat joke about the last one. Only somewhat...
Nonetheless, unlike in the US, where it is expected that past just a few years, kids will toddle around when they're out with their parents, the reality in London is it's not possible. Sidewalks are too crowded/unstable, people are too agressive, and ultimately, children will be too slow. So, people here seem perfectly fine continuing to use a pram even when toting around a child of 4 or even 5 (at least, a few look this old). My point is, if you're moving here with children under the age of 5-and planning to live *in* London, you may seriously want to consider bringing your stroller.
4. One of the best information resources for financial, utility, shopping, coupons, deals...anything: Money Saving Expert. Find the website and save it as a favourite. You will want & need to refer to it often!
5. Shoes...Unless you will have a car here, or won't be walking 3+ miles a day...leave your heels at home. I'm not talking stilettos. I'm talking anything over a one-inch heel-perhaps two for special occasions. You will simply ruin your feet. I brought a pair of wedge shoes with me that were comfortable. Right. Comfortable in the US when I drive and park two blocks from the building I'm going in. Not when I'm in London and have 2 blocks to walk just to get to my nearest tube. Save the space in your closet-and your feet.
6. Mobile phones. Unless you're going to have a phone provided/paid for by your employer, don't bother getting a contract. 18 month contracts are the norm here-you can find some 12 month contracts, but it's rare, and more expensive. And really, as cheap as a pay as you go SIM card is, you'd be hard pressed to save any money by going on a contract. Also, you can't get a contract unless you have a UK debit card/bank account (more on that in a moment..).
5. Coffee. Sadly, it breaks my heart to say this: Starbucks in the UK is no bueno. On a normal day in the US, a drip coffee from Starbucks would do me just fine. But, flavour palates here are different, and as such, SBUX drip here is pretty awful. Save yourself and just pay a few pence more and get an Americano. Also, if you tend to like your coffee a bit strong-skip the Starbucks (oh, the pain...) and go to Nero. Nero is another coffee chain here who makes the best coffee-for a chain...
6. Banking...For the love of god: if you're transferring with your employer, DEMAND that they help you get sorted with your bank account-AND a credit card. If possible, even prior to your arrival here. You will simply not be able to funciton without a UK bank account-there are many things (mobile contract, montly gym membership, etc...) that you can't even get without a UK debit card. And credit cards?....Get one if you can at the time you're getting your banking sorted. It will help build up your credit rating here-should you decide to stay for any lenght of time.
If possible, work to have your bank applications started-and completed before your final deparure to the UK. And, most importantly: your first ATM/Debit card and Credit Card will have to be signed for upon delivery-not that you know when it's going to be delivered. So, unless you work at home every day: have the card either sent to your local bank branch or to your work address. Trust me on this one. I had to learn the hard way.
7. Banks...not to be confused with 'Banking'...I personally bank with NatWest. Wasn't my choice-it was who my employer had the relationship with. But, hindsight and choice allowed?...I would suggest Barclay or HSBC. They're a bit more 'global', and I think provide better features than NatWest. But, beggars can't be choosy.
8. Getting around...if you're not fortunate enough to have a phone that has either built in GPS or you've been able to download some type of GPS application, get yourself an AtoZ" (prounounced A to Zed). It's a tiny book of all London roads-indexed. It was invaluable for my first year here in being able to get around. You should be able to grab them in any book store-or online at (hint, hint.. ;)).

OK. That's the brain dump. I'm sure that's not it. Likely a few more things will come to mind, and once I've save up, I'll post again.

Friday, June 27, 2008

By the Numbers-an Update

This Tuesday marks the four month point of my move to London-where has the time gone?!? Feeling a bit nostalgic, I was puttering back to a few of my old blog posts today and came across the 'By the Numbers' post. It got me thinking about what the reality has become, so I thought an update was warranted. Though the details have changed (both for better and worse...), the outcome is still about the same. ughh. Old versus New numbers are below.

Monthly take home pay (post taxes): 4300
LESS:Rent 1500 (this is just my half assuming I have a roomie & we're crammed into 700 sf)
401(k): 200
Insurance: 50 (rental)
Medical: 50
Transportation: 300
Food: 300
Travel: 500 (yes, I plan to do this A LOT)
Utility bills (power, mobile): 200
Entertainment: 300
Clothing: 200
"Stuff": 200
Total expenses: 3800

Monthly Take Home Pay: 3700 (but, I'm still awaiting a tax refund for being an expat-long story...I think the final amount will be more like 3900)
Rent: 1565 (this includes Council Tax)
401(k)-here, a 'Pension': 200
Insurance: 10
Medical: so far, 0. Insurance is free.
Transportation: 250
Food: 300 (this doesn't count beer. see Entertainment)
Travel: 500
Utility: 150 (still just a swag. long will probably be another month or two before I've a firm grip on these costs)
Entertainment: Also known as beer:200 (hey, it's a drinking culture!)
Clothing: so far, 0. This doesn't count Seattle purchases, though! :)
'Stuff': 50
Total Expenses: 3225.

Which, still leaves me with ~£500 a month left over.

I gotta admit, I'm surprised I was able to swag the outcome like I did-4 months ago! Now that I'm fully settled in though, I do think some of the above will change a bit...I need to work a bit to get the Beer number down a bit, and hopefully, the Utility number isn't as high as my swag. I'll update again in a few months to see if my updated estimates are still holding true.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

By the Numbers

When making the decision on whether to move to London or not-and especially when negotiating my salary & other 'moving benefits', the biggest question I had was: how much was it going to cost to live there. Really. And for the cost, what exactly am I getting. Really.

I had played tourist in London many times, most recently as of June 2007, and from these experiences, I knew that cost of living-if it approximated what it cost to be a tourist-was at least 2X what my Seattle (or even general US) cost of living was. Ouch.

It goes without saying that I wasn't successful negotiating a 2X salary increase (but it would have been great if I could have), and so I've really been scratching my head the past few months of, "*how* exactly do I make this work?" From other research, I do know that, just like in the US, I will make more than the average Londoner, but that's really it. Information I was able to find on the web was either so dated (2005), made for students planning on studying abroad, or so generic that it was really hard to put it all together. So, in the effort to maybe help some poor soul who may eventually stumble across this blog, I've decideded to give a peek into the true London cost of living-and yes, be a bit forthcoming about my salary & taxes along the way.

So, warning: If you DON'T WANT TO KNOW MY SALARY, STOP READING this post now.

Currently, my back of the envelope calculation tells me the following about my monthly income and expenses. These are just guesses now based upon what my general current monthly costs are, and factoring in lifestyle changes like more travel, less eating out & clothing shopping. The realities of these costs will bear themselves out over the upcoming months, and I will update actual costs as regularly as I can. It will also be interesting for me to see just how far off I likely am on this initial guess...All numbers below are in pounds.

Monthly take home pay (post taxes): 4300
Rent 1500 (this is just my half assuming I have a roomie & we're crammed into 700 sf)
401(k): 200
Insurance: 50 (rental)
Medical: 50
Transportation: 300
Food: 300
Travel: 500 (yes, I plan to do this A LOT)
Utility bills (power, mobile): 200
Entertainment: 300
Clothing: 200
"Stuff": 200
Total expenses: 3800

So, in theory, I should have 500 pounds left over at the end of every month for savings. Which, I hope to god I do, because I will continue to have US expenses (mortgage of $700 that exceeds my rental income, storage costs of ~$30, and I'm sure another $100 for 'stuff' like insurance). So, when all is done, if the numbers above are sold, I'll almost break even every month. Which is a far cry from my lifestyle here in the US. And, a little scary.

Stay tuned. I'll either be OK, or buying Ramen in bulk.