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A Lidl grocery store in Dublin. Photo by: Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland

The Irish Homecoming: The cost of living in Ireland

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A Lidl grocery store in Dublin. Photo by: Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland

A few weeks ago I penned an article on the realities of moving back to Ireland with a family. I spoke about our positive experience since our return. I also listed a few helpful tips on what to research and organize before contemplating the big move home.

Since the article went viral I’ve been inundated with emails from people all across the United States looking for more information on living in Ireland. Some of those inquiring are undocumented and living in all parts of the U.S., thinking about heading back to the land of their birth and setting up home there.

Others inquiring are U.S. residents with a heavy heart.  They are missing their families back home and want to return to the lives they left behind.

And another 40 to 50 percent of inquiries came from Irish Americans who dream of someday living in the land of their ancestors.

I’ve answered as many individual questions as I could privately via email, but I think it’s best here in this column if I delve a little deeper into the regular day to day costs of living in Ireland for a middle class family of four. Those of you who asked how much it is to fill our car on a weekly basis, or how much do we pay for satellite TV subscriptions, will have a deeper understanding of all bills associated with life in modern day Ireland.

I’m going to provide examples from our own lives. My husband John and I and our two children (Colum, three, and Sadie, two) live in a small village in Co. Tipperary called Newport.  It’s 16km (10 miles) from Limerick City.

John works five miles away and I travel across Ireland with my job as a sign language interpreter. I also published a local bridal magazine ("Brides of Limerick") last September so I work part of the week at home in our home office.

We just moved into our new home back in October, but the household bills I’m going to list are an average over the 12 months of the year.

For the purpose of this article I’m going to list everything in euros because it’s relative to our lives here. If you want to know the dollar equivalent then multiply it by 1.35 (€1.50 x 1.35 = $2.05)

Our day to day costs are minimal. We shop weekly in one of the major supermarkets leaving only a top up on bread and milk most days.  A loaf of bread can cost anything from €1.15 to €2.50. A liter of milk is approximately €1.80. So we spend approximately €5 a day on additional items which also may include a packet of biscuits or a bottle of soda.

Our weekly shopping comes to on average €110 a week. We do about 70 percent of our groceries in the European food chains Lidl or Aldi and another 30 percent in Dunnes Stores, Tesco and the local butcher. Lidl and Aldi have pastas for 75 cents, sauces for €1, and cleaning products for half the price of Dunnes or Tesco.

We also buy a lot of fruit and veg there but sometimes the selections are limited. We find big brands like Kellogg or Heinz are more expensive in Lidl and Aldi and more affordable in Tesco and Dunnes.

Sadie is still in diapers and we shopped around for good quality brands. We were disappointed with the bigger names like Huggies and Pampers and found that the Lidl diapers had better soakage and were cheaper.

We would not have had an issue paying more money for something as important as diapers, but being genuinely honest we found the cheaper European diapers the best. It’s €6.19 for a pack of 55.

We live in a 1,900 square foot. four-bedroom home. It’s a detached house with a kitchen cum dining room, a separate sitting room and an office.

Renting a home in our side of the country at the moment varies from €600 to €900 a month. This depends on the size of the house you require. If you wanted suburbs of Limerick like Raheen or Caherdavin rents may be a little higher than places like Newport or Caherconlish.

Our electric bill is approximately €90 a month (we pay bi-monthly). Our gas bill (there are no open fires in the house. We have one gas fire and one electrical fire) is approximately €100 a month.

In the previous home we were renting we paid approximately €1,600 a year for oil. The house was about 2,500 square foot.

Because we have a mortgage we are compelled to have life and home insurance. The life insurance package (and there are many) is €44.90 a month. The home insurance (and again there are a few options) is €41.50 a month. We pay €25 a month for refuse collection. We have one regular and one recycling bin.

For the basic Sky satellite television package we are currently paying €20 a month, but we rarely use it so we may very well soon be getting rid of it.

Between John and I we are paying €80 a month on mobile phones. We have unlimited access to texts, calls and the Internet on the mobiles.

We don’t have a house phone.  We pay an additional €25 for home Internet use.

As previously mentioned we have two children and we both work full time. When we returned back to Ireland from New York the kids attended day care five days a week. It was costing us €255 a week, more than our mortgage now.

After reviewing the cost and speaking to friends who hired live-in au pairs we finally went down that route and we now pay €100 a week to Freya, our wonderful 19-year-old German au pair. This was one of the wisest decisions we’ve made since returning home. We also love her to bits so there is the emotional factor too.

Colum is in pre-school three mornings a week. In Newport it’s €10 a day (three hours). It’s slightly more in the city (up to €15 for a morning). In September he is eligible for a free-year (a government initiative) so he can attend pre-school five mornings a week at no cost to us.

John drives a ‘06 Volkswagen Passat and I drive a ‘08 Ford Focus. He uses the car mainly for going back and forth to work, driving in the city and at weekends doing some road trips.

John spends about €180 a month on diesel for his car. My fuel cost can vary from month to month depending on how many miles I do on the road for work.

My car insurance is €980 a year – full comprehensive insurance. When you return back to Ireland after not driving here for a few years you lose your no-claims discount. John has third party fire and theft. His car insurance cost is €480. John’s car tax is €646 for this past year and mine is €334 for the year.

We have health insurance with Laya Healthcare through John’s company. The standard package for a family of four is €1,300.80 and the high end comprehensive package is €2,814.84.

And those, folks, are our main outgoings. It gives those of you who asked an idea how much it is to live in modern day Ireland. Naturally there are ways to scale back on the above.

In terms of socializing and its cost, it varies greatly. It’s about the same price to go to the movies here as it is over in New York. For two tickets, two popcorns and two drinks it can run up to €25.

I take the kids at the weekends to a kid’s club. It’s €2 a ticket and food is greatly reduced also.

A nice meal out can cost anything from €15 per person for a 3-course meal (mainly early-bird specials) to €50 per person.

A pint is approximately €4.90 and a soda about €2 in Limerick. If you like going to the theater tickets can go from €20-€35. Keith Barry, an illusionist, will be in Limerick in May. I bought two tickets for €52. The "Dirty Dancing" West End Show is on in Dublin in the summer and it’s €60 for two tickets.

Weekends away in Ireland can also vary depending on where you go. We watch out for special offers online and grab something that looks good. If you shop in Tesco and have a loyalty card they offer money off several local and national attractions including entry to Dublin Zoo, the National Aquarium to name but a few.

The cost of clothes shopping can depend on the brand you want. Designer brands are more expensive in Ireland than in the U.S. but if you’re not a slave to names then the style in Penneys and Dunnes often outshines any designer. Boutique shopping can still be expensive.

So there you have it. A month in the financial life of the Mooney family. It’s just a guide, but I sincerely hope it answers a lot of your queries about the cost of living in Ireland.

Get in touch if you have any other questions at April@irishvoice.com

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