Thursday, January 24, 2013

Gas costs how much?

What are the real costs of relocating? Jamie and I have been asking ourselves that question a lot lately. Before moving we really worried about the emotional cost of relocating, leaving family, etc. In truth there are times when it is really tough but with Skype and phone calls I feel totally connected. Every once in a while I’ll see pictures of the little cousins together and wish that Kellen and Ella could have that same relationship with them but I know that it won’t be too many more years before they do get to have that. I’m lucky that my parents have visited multiple times and while I wish we didn’t have to make the trip we did in August it did give us a chance to spend time with extended family.

The financial cost is harder to gauge. The biggest financial change in our situation was when I quit my job in order to relocate. That is obviously a big hit financially but when I consider that Ella is 17 months old now and I’ve been able to be home with her the whole time I don’t think I would count that as a loss. The chance to enrol Kellen in all of his sports classes or the fact that I get the full run down each day from Patrick as soon as he walks through the door are invaluable. One of the moms I have gotten to know just went back to work 3 days a week and she said that while they were fine with her staying home she wanted to be able to get a haircut without feeling guilty. I thought that was a perfect way to describe it, a second income is the ability to do all the extras without as much budgeting.

Until you have gone through a relocation, or more specifically an international relocation, it’s hard to appreciate the cost of that transition. We were lucky to have a generous relocation package but I don’t think we fully understood the real cost of having to essentially get rid of anything electrical and replace it here. Having owned for a long time I didn’t really think about deposits on rental houses and things like that. There was the selling of cars and then purchasing them all over again here, etc.  Through the process I have gained a better understanding of what I need. Turns out you don’t need a kitchen aid mixer and a full size Cuisinart, a hand mixer works just fine or you can even stir things yourself. It also turns out that I do need a slow cooker so I’m not totally appliance free.

Then there is the cost of living aspect of it all. Having always lived in Seattle I had never moved to a higher/lower cost of living area. We had read and been warned that the UK was a high cost of living. There are a few basics that shock me when I stop to really think about it. The cost of gas, right now gas is about £1.40 per litre; there are 3.78 litres per gallon so the cost per gallon is £5.29. That’s $7.90 per gallon of gas! Based on a quick search right now gas in Seattle is around $3.15 per gallon. The home energy prices are also about double here. The good thing is that most vehicles are much more fuel efficient because that’s what the market demands.  As far as food goes it’s harder to compare but I think food costs are about the same. Pork is a lot cheaper and beef is much more expensive. Lamb is much more readily available and seafood seems about the same. One nice thing is products that would be ‘artisanal’ in a US grocery store are basic and affordable here so we always have good cheese and cured meats. One day I tried to give Kellen a turkey sandwich and he was horrified and explained that meat doesn’t look like that it should be red and round.

There were also some conscious decisions we made before coming out here. Travel is a lot cheaper and we feel like we don’t know how long we will have access to all these amazing places so it’s a priority to try and do and see as much as possible. I was complaining to my Dad one day and he was teasing me that all we do is go on vacation. Our attitude is that we better be going on vacations or there is no point in being here. If we aren’t going to see anything then we should be home in Seattle with our family. These are the intangibles that make it hard to gauge the cost of relocating. How much is it worth to see an Italian Nona in Rome walking Ella around the back kitchen, or Kellen sipping apple tea in Istanbul, hearing Patrick talk about his school trip and trying to remember if that day was in Germany or France? That’s why we did it and I think we would both agree that it was the right choice for us as a family.

As Jamie is passing the year and half mark in his current role people are starting to have career conversations with him and opportunities are being mentioned here in the UK, but also in Singapore, Sidney and Seattle. Now this is all theoretical and there are no specific jobs and it seems that more often than not there are a lot of theoretical conversations before a real job is actually available so for the time being we don’t have to make any decisions. But having just gone through a big relocation we are asking ourselves what the real cost is of doing it all over again. I think going into it again we would have a much better idea of what to ask for in a package and we also understand that while all of the moving expenses are paid for there is a lot more involved as you get settled into a new place. I’m torn between the feeling that we are already out in the field so might as well maximize this time, see different places, and get different experiences before we go back home and settle again. The other side is that we are settled here and the thought of selling and rebuying half our things and then figuring out a new location feels daunting.

So back to the cost, it’s not cheap to do this; we are not being responsible and saving large sums of money to put towards retirement. I think it’s worth it when I consider the time I’m getting with the kids, the travel and the experiences they are getting. I sometimes wish we had a second income and more disposable money. Other days I’m so glad we aren’t living the same lifestyle we were before. Is it worth it? For us this move was worth it. Do I want to spend 10 years buying and selling the same things over and over again? No. Could we do it at least once more? Yes, probably, maybe…

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