Last week I cast out a half dozen lines into the sea of expats I’ve met online recently, and reeled in some very interesting – and valuable – information concerning the cost of everyday life in Prague.
For those of you who haven’t read my last posts, my current goal is to come up with a budget to live on for at least two months in Prague (and maybe three) with no income. I will need the funds while I find a job, arrange my visa, and find an apartment – I mean, a flat! I will have to say goodbye little compartment “apartments”, and hello to wide, open “flats” instead – the word makes them sound larger in my imagination. (Though I’m sure I’ll probably end up in a place just as small as my current compartment!)
Anyhow, within a day or two of sending out messages, I got back a lot of information – and I mean a lot! Seriously, I have got so much information now, I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. But, for now I’m just going to focus on one topic at a time. Which is monthly expenses. It took me quite a bit longer than expected to sort through everything into an organized and easily digestible format, but here it is at last!
I talked to a variety of people, some who live with a partner, some who live alone, some vegetarians and some not, men and women of varying ages. Though seemed everyone agreed they live rather cheaply as English teachers. (Notably, the one non-teacher I spoke with spent a bit more than the rest).
Real quick I’d like to point out that all of my sources thus far are all expats living in Prague, and as I myself will be an expat in Prague, this will do for now. But I’d be curious to see if the responses might have been different if I’d been quizzing Czech people or even residents in other cities.
A (very) quick overview of what the Czechpats (see what I did there?!) had to say…
“4,000kc a month between the two of us”
“550-750 czk” (per week)
“400-500 kc each week, around 1,000kc probably once a month.”
“at most 10-15 bucks for 2-3 days”
“2,900 on groceries” (per month)
“1,000 Kc for groceries every week”
With a bit of converting, averaging, and adding up to a per person per month amount, my sample survey comes up with an overall guesstimate for a monthly grocery bill of 2775kc per month for one person. For my own budget planning purposes, that’s $110/mo and easily saved for in advance. Whew!
THE GOOD LIFE:
A.k.a. the price of dining out, entertainment, a gym membership, going out for drinks – y’know, fun stuff! (or, a.k.a. the hypothetical sacrificial lamb if my budget looks to be too tight.) That in mind, I’d still like a small amount of reckless revelry if I can fit it into my finely crafted budget. …and that last sentence is how you know I’ve spent the last 52 consecutive Saturday nights at home staring at a computer screen.
I didn’t get as much feedback on this one – to be fair, I didn’t really specify, but it seems people spend an average of 300-800kc a month on eating out or going out for drinks, depending on their habits. A movie ticket is about 160kc, a cheap meal out is about 115kc, a mid-range meal around 300kc, and a cappuccino is 40kc.
Gym membership is something I’m only considering idly, as I use the free gym at my apartments here in Texas. But if all the heavy food I keep hearing about starts to weigh me down *ahem* – it’s good to know that gyms cost around 800kc a month for membership.
So, hypothetically for my budget plan, I would like to have a nice wiggly $150 zone for 2 months light dining out and gym membership. Not my first priority, but of course, I do want to have at least a little fun – so I’m going to plan on saving at least $75. I reckon I can manage that! And anything extra will be a nice bonus.
One other thing I’m going to throw into this category – clothes shopping. I am probably going to need to do some shopping, either before I leave or after I arrive, because I don’t own hardly anything appropriate for cold weather, or looking nice as a teacher. (Current job I wear scrubs, so I never really have to get dressed up for work). From the folks I spoke to, new clothes are about the same price as they are here – though with lower wages, that will mean they are rather expensive.
Luckily, I am told Prague has a decent selection of secondhand shops that I fully intend to take advantage of. Considering that I’m moving with just one suitcase, and that the available Texas gear might not suit my new environment anyhow, it makes more sense to buy better winter clothes after arriving. I am actually quite looking forward to it! After scanning the “Buy/Sell/Trade Prague” Facebook group, I think putting aside 2000kc for some new clothes (well, used, but new to me) – a warm coat, a couple nice outfits for work, and maybe a few other miscellany – is a good idea. So, into the budget goes another $80. (By the way, anyone in Prague who thinks this estimate is way off, let me know – I didn’t do as much research on this particular subtopic).
This one was easy! Everyone told me the same figure – 550kc a month for the Opencard, with a 250kc one time fee, plus 100kc for a passport photo.
For my hypothetical budget, this means 1450kc for two months, or about $60 (or $80 if I want to plan for three months). I can handle that.
Of course, this isn’t taking into account any trips I take outside of the city, but I’m going to save that topic for another post… a blog post with trips to a Czech embassy and an abundance of a particularly heinous four-letter word (hint: rhymes with ‘lisa’). Perhaps several four-letter words if it’s as complicated as everyone is promising me.
RENT AND UTILITIES:
So after reading a lot of articles as well as seeing a lot of numbers thrown around by other English teachers in Prague, I think my original budget of 10000kc was more than I will probably be spending. My goal is to find an affordable studio flat, in the city center would be nice I think – but to be honest, Prague looks very small compared to what I’m used to in Texas, and I don’t think a short commute (anything less than 30 minutes is short to me!) would bother me much. Also, I still have a very vague idea of what exactly the “city center” is, and if I even need to be there? I’ve just never lived in the “center” of anywhere, and like the idea. But I’m flexible.
Regardless, based on the estimates I’ve seen of average rents and what others are paying, I’m going to plan to a rent of 7500kc, or $300. This will give me some room for negotiation later on, and if I end up spending less that will be excellent. It will at least give me some options. Worst case scenario I’ll give up the daydream of living alone, and look into flatsharing. As worst cases go, I’d say I’m doing alright.
After a little investigating, I’ve learned that the standard deposit is one month’s rent ahead of time, and on top of that, if you use an agent to find your place they usually charge the equivalent to one month’s rent as well. Needless to say, I think I have the research skills to find my own place! I’m already plotting, anyhow. So I’m not going to plan on using an agent, but I will plan for the deposit.
For utilities, I found some averages available online (for Prague): 3250-3850kc a month for basic utilities, 400kc/mo for internet, and another 400kc a month for mobile phone, for about 4450kc (let’s call it $175). I didn’t dig any deeper on these statistics, so if they look fishy to anyone, let me know and I’ll investigate further. It does seem a bit high when compared with my other estimates. I intend to anyways, but I wanted to get this blog post up and out so these numbers will do for now.
Cost of Living for first month (including startup fees/deposits):
Groceries: 2775kc ($110)
Eating Out/Gym: 1000-3200kc ($40-$125)
New Clothes: 2000kc ($80)
Transportation: 950kc ($40)
Rent + Deposit: 15000kc ($600)
Basic Utilities + Internet + Phone: 4450kc ($175)
Total: 26,175 kc ($1045-$1130)***
Cost of Living For Subsequent Months (no deposits/startup fees): 16,325 kc ($650)
Total to save for 2 months in USD before leaving: $1690-$1855
Total to save for 3 months in USD before leaving: $2275-$2365
***Important Notice*** Not including any fees associated with the visa/business license, or trips to the Czech embassy for fun and bureaucracy. (Also not including my student loan, or the tuition for The Language House. More things to chew on.)
Super Special Thank You to all the lovely Czexpatriates (too much?) in Prague for helping me out so much, y’all are awesome!
NUMBEO Cost of Living Personal Estimator – This tool was really neat (my monthly expense estimate was 18k crowns a month), but pay attention to the amount of food it presumes one person eats in a month – mine came out to 7000kc! Not because of buying extravagant food, but because of the sheer quantity of food they allocated to one individual. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure if I could eat 8 dozen eggs, 7 kg of chicken, 8kg of potatoes, 10kg of apples, 3kg of cheese (hmm maybe if I tried really hard), 7L of milk, and more (it keeps going!), all in one month. I think they might have mistaken the people in Prague for circus elephants. Either that, or I really have a lot to learn about Czech culture! (Notice how if I use the grocery bill estimate I calculated myself, my new monthly estimate becomes 13500kc, aka the average English teachers salary. I won’t lie, I’m pretty pleased!)