What Cost of Living Factors Should You Consider as an Expat

by | Feb 15, 2022 | Global | 1 comment

Being an expat is a wonderful experience. It can help you grow as a person and open opportunities for your career. You may even discover you can retire comfortably and build a new life in your new homeland.

Paying the bills by sharonmccutcheon
Paying the bills by sharonmccutcheon

But being an expat comes with challenges. We must give such a decision some thorough consideration.

The most important challenge that you have to look at is the cost of living in a new country. These can vary significantly per country, but if you know what factors affect your cost of living, it can help you manage your expenses.

To help you get started, here are the factors you need to consider when looking at the cost of living as an expat:

Cost Factor #1: Monthly Utilities

This factor includes all your regular utilities such as water, electricity, internet bills and heating.

For example, in Singapore you can drink water directly out from the tap because it is treated first by the government but in China, you will need to get a water filter to get drinkable water and the consumable filter is expensive.

Cost Factor #2: Food

Every country has its own food offerings, and sometimes if you want something from home, you must import it. Even if the food you like is cheap in your home country, it can be more expensive elsewhere.

Do your research about the price of produce and other food products in the country you plan to move to. You should also check how much it is if you dine out and if you go out, how expensive (or cheap) drinks are if you go to parties or just hang out. Even tipping customs may be very different in your new host country.

Cost Factor #3: Transportation

If your future home is far from your work or facilities like markets and hospitals, look into how much it will cost for you to commute to these places.

You can also look into how much a new car will cost you and how much the gas is in the country. Prices vary and sometimes you may have to pay significant taxes when buying a car.

A good example is a brand new Toyota Prius. In Singapore it costs approximately USD$114,000. It’s only USD$24,325 in the United States for the same car!

Cost Factor #4: Entertainment

When you are in a new country, you will probably be excited and can’t wait to check out the restaurants and attractions. But keep in mind that some of these attractions are oriented toward tourists and priced accordingly.

Cost Factor #5: Education

Checking it all out by guilhermestecanella
Checking it all out by guilhermestecanella

If you are moving to a new country with your children, check if there are schools they can enroll in. Some countries offer free public schools for students, but it may present problems for your kids if they don’t know the language.  For example, public schools in Malaysia and Singapore are extremely difficult to get into as a foreigner.

You can look for a private or international school if public schools aren’t an option. Of course, check if it is near your home and how much you will need to spend on the daily commute.

Cost Factor #6: Health Care

You can’t tell when you will need to avail yourself of healthcare services. To prepare for this eventuality, you need to check what health insurance packages are available and how many health care services and medicines are. Some countries offer national healthcare for all their citizens, including expats. Others require every citizen to have private health coverage if they need to access healthcare.

Cost Factor #7: Travels

Will you travel frequently back home where most of your friends and family live? It can get costly around the holiday season. You may even need to forgo or postpone your trip if the flight fare gets exorbitant.

I can recall one holiday period where I paid an air ticket to fly from Shanghai to Singapore with the price equivalent of a round trip to Europe. 


Moving to a new country is an experience that you will never forget. If you have done your research, you will be able to maximize your financial resources in the country. Remember, sometimes your salary may not be enough to cover your costs of living in a new country, especially if you have to consider expenses for an entire family. Make it a point to research what you will need to spend to budget your money.

What is the cost of living in the place you are living in?  Did you do your research before you moved?

by: Kally Tay