Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Cost of living in Queenstown for a season

A very long time ago, somebody asked me how much money does it cost to live in Queenstown for a season?  How much money do you need to set yourself up?
So let’s say you've decided to move to Queenstown for the winter. Maybe you're a veteran snow bunny or a total newbie. Perhaps you’re not even sure you want to Ski/board, you just want to come over at that time. It doesn’t matter.  All people are the same; you need somewhere to sleep at night and put your stuff.  Everybody needs a home, it’s too cold to sleep on the streets so don’t even think about it. First cost on the list is;
A decent home
Unless you want to stay living in a hostel for the duration for your stay, most long term accommodation, whether you’re leasing a whole house or just renting one room, requires upfront cash.  Getting something decent can also seem daunting.  In an ideal world you’ll have time to pick out the right rental, but that’s easier said than done.  When you’re living in a hostel, working 14 hour shifts, you become desperate for a home of your own. And at certain times of year, like the beginning of the ski season, competition can be fierce.

 The first place I went to view was a house I can only liken to squat.  Suffice to say I jumped at the next premises out of fear I’d end up somewhere dark, dirty and loud.

In Queenstown, I rented a room with Zim in a three bedroom house. It was located in the centre of town, had a spacious bedroom, big TV and a great view of the lake.
For this we paid $275 per week including internet, water, TV channels and a cleaner once a week.
Before moving we had a bond of $550, which worked out to be two weeks rent.
In addition to this we paid a power bond too, which was a round $200

After the bonds (which if you are a good tenant you will get back!) and weekly rent, most places do not include your power.  It’s my opinion that this is the real pain in the bum when living in Queenstown for winter.  In recent years, this town’s population has boomed, and to accommodate a large temporary population, a lot of cheap builds took place.  Houses that are fine in summer but once the days get shorter and the temperature plummets you realise your mistake. There is no insulation, central heating is unheard of and double glazing is nowhere to be seen.  We moved into such a house, with nothing but expensive electric powered heaters in the bedrooms and a heat pump for the living room.  And don’t rely on the sun to warm your home. It rises late and hides behind the mountains from as early as 3pm.
Our bills ranged from $70 per person to $400, per month so watch out.  I’ve heard of people racking up power bills as high as $1000 bucks per person.

Queenstown is a small town that you can easily navigate by foot. It is only if you are living in the outer areas like Frankton, fern hill, sunshine bay and Arthur’s point that you’ll need to heavily rely on your own car or public transport.
Local buses in the Queenstown area are expensive. To get from Queenstown centre to the out of town shopping centre and airport cost $15 return.  Last season this was also the price of buying a bus ticket from town to the local ski fields.
A lot of people hitch hike and if you’re comfortable doing this is a way to save money. However, its not a reliable way if you’re in a hurry.

Food in Queenstown seems to be more expensive than the rest of New Zealand, even from the supermarket.  Cheapest place is new world, however this is at the out of town shopping centre and therefore requires an expensive bus ride if you don't have you own car.  I think I budgeted around $70 a week per person for food, but you can do it for less or more.  Note that the price of some veg and fruit fluctuates, so pick your time to buy them. I saw the price of Capsicums go as high as $8 and tomatoes can also fetch a high price. Go seasonal.

Ski Field
It will be no shock to you guys when I say skiing is a big financial commitment, but if you’re in town for a season, it can work out relatively modest. I won’t go into too much detail on the costs of setting yourself up snowboarding or skiing (another blog post perhaps), but the big expense is the season pass.  If you’re not working at the ski field, buying an early bird pass helps cut down the cost by a few hundred.  Take into account the price of buying a board or getting yours shipped here, and insurance for any broken bones. Cheapest season pass is about $800.

Going out and having fun
Saying how much socializing costs in Queenstown is like asking how long a piece of string is.  It’s down to personal preference. But as a party town you’ll probably end up spending more than you’d like.  However, as a set up price, I’d say leave the hard core partying until you’ve got a job. That doesn’t mean you should spend your first few weeks hiding away, I’d recommend everyone to make the most of the town.  Have enough in your budget to have a few drinks once a week or to go out and have a coffee or two. So let’s say add $30 minimum per week for a little luxury.

So in Summary….
If you’re smart you’ll turn up with enough dough to get you through job searching and committing to a home. You’ll need over $1000 ($500 per person) to move into a leased room.  A clever person will also have enough dosh to get them through at least a month or two of job searching. So with it all added together (except ski prices) its another $2000 per person, and you’ll probably want to add more just in case. So in answer to the question, for peace of mind turn up with $3000, as long as you’re hoping to find work in a few months.

However, I will leave you to bear this in mind.  When we got to town, we didn't have this much for the pair of us. We were in a hurry to be reunited and came to Queenstown a little ill prepared. Enough for bonds and a few weeks surviving, but that’s it.  But because we weren't too fussy what jobs we initially took, we got work pretty soon and lots of hours.  It could've gone the other way, the one where we’d find ourselves homeless in a cold and lonely Queenstown. Down to sheer luck it didn't happen that way, but just goes to show it can be done…

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