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Bulgaria: Cost of Living 2009

How much does it cost to live in Bulgaria? Further to our most popular article, The Cost of Living 2008 , which has been read thousands and thousands of times since we published it in September of last year, we thought we would bring you an update on an basket of some items here in Bulgaria compared to those back in the UK, together with the real life monthly property and living costs of an expat couple living in the country on a permanent basis.

What is happening in the UK makes horror reading. More than 20% of households in the UK are unable to keep up with bills. The average mortgage is over 100,000 British pounds and the average price for a property is about 180,000. From calculations by accountants Smith & Williamson, income tax and national insurance in the UK now take up a huge 36% of family income. Added to this, Brits have the highest credit card debt throughout nearly all of Europe, with only half clearing their spending each month.

Compare this with Bulgaria where the majority of the population own their property outright, thus having no mortgage and those foreigners who have purchased here have no, or minimal, mortgage. There is little violence, youngsters are polite, you have no fear of walking out at night and you have helpful and friendly neighbours. Credit cards are a rarity, taxation is a flat 10% and road tax about 30 pounds a year. An all round cheaper cost of living with a high quality of life.

This cost of living data is totally up to date as at time of publishing, with the shopping items priced in the last week of July this year and the monthly costs monitored during the whole of the last 12 month period up to 31 July 2009.

"We are a couple with a large dog, living in a small Bulgarian town, working at home, own our renovated three bed detached house of about 110 sq.m, with no mortgage. The house is all electric-based (oven, hob, extractor, washing machine, tumble drier, dishwasher, fridge, freezer, air conditioning, radiators) except for a woodburner for the winter months. We are both smokers and drinkers and eat out or have a drink out once a week. We run a 4x4 Pajero 3.5 diesel with a round trip to Billa supermarket and the local vineyard/winery every two weeks of 144 kms, plus a few small local trips in between. Our lifestyle is not one of "grow your own" as neither of us are keen, or even any good, at gardening. We enjoy a very good quality of life, with excellent food, go out quite often, happily use the car as we need and reckon that in the UK to live in our lifestyle, we would need three to four times the income that we need in Bulgaria. We were recently talking to a friend of ours in Ireland and showed him our bills. He said that on this basis, Bulgaria was overall five to six times cheaper than Ireland for total cost of living."


Item Price BG leva
Price UK £

Price UK leva*

1 litre own brand orange juice 1.19 0.98 2.22
Own brand yoghurt 0.79 0.38 0.86
Lurpak butter 500g 3.29 2.00 4.52
Frozen Puff Pastry 425g 2.89 1.58 3.57
Whole chicken 1.8 kg 6.68 4.62 10.44
Pork joint for roasting 800g 6.20 5.98 13.51
Filet Mignon of Pork 2-pack (1kg) 7.70 8.87 20.05
Best beef mince 528g 4.78 2.20 4.97
Frozen Oven Chips 1kg 2.39 1.95 4.41
9 x beef stock cubes 1.14 1.28 2.89
500g dog biscuits 1.77 0.74 1.67
Branded cup-a-soup x 1 packet 0.54 0.25 0.57
Tin of peeled tomatoes 0.89 0.48 1.08
Large, white, unsliced loaf 0.74 1.00 2.26
Deodorant 225 ml 2.49 0.75 1.70
Nectarines x 4 1.09 1.00 2.26
Large bunch flat leaf parsley 0.40 0.78p 1.76
12 x spreading cheese triangles 1.89 0.98 2.21
6 x free range eggs 1.32 1.09 2.46
Garden peas, 425g tin 0.99 0.44 0.99
Tuna 185g tin 1.89 0.75 1.70
Broccoli, frozen, 1kg 4.18 0.93 2.10
Garden peas, frozen, 500g 1,09 0.79 1.79
Branded Dishwasher Tablets x 20 9.99 5.62 12.70
Premium Lager, 2 litres 2.49 3.30 7.46
3 litres Red wine in box 10.99 11.98 27.07
Total Shop (in leva) 79.80   137.22
Prices end July 2009 from Billa Supermarket, Bulgaria and


"As regards general property and household costs over the course of a full year, we have accurately been monitoring all our expenses on a month by month basis for a 12 month period, from 1 August 2008 to 31 July 2009, to include everything for all of our living costs in Bulgaria. The yearly costs have been averaged to provide a monthly expenditure.

It's all too easy to say xyz is cheaper in Britain or Bulgaria. The key is to compare real like with like and the overall cost of living the whole way through, from day to day foods to council tax to get an overall feel of the total real cost of living in each country.

Many foreigners just buy the cheapest in any given supermarket and do not shop for quality. For us, quality is just as important as price. Locally produced Filet Mignon of pork for three times the price in Britain? No thank you. Of course it may cheaper to buy frozen broccoli at Asda all year round but with their buying power it should be a heck of a lot cheaper.

We prefer with the fresh seasonal and natural produce in Bulgaria which is at least half the price. Frequently, food shopping is a matter of personal taste and cooking style. We ourselves avoid the 'ready meal' way of cooking, preferring fresh ingredients which we can cook for ourselves, rather than mass-produced stuffs where you have no idea where they came from or what products have been used on them. That is not to say we are crazy about 'grow-your-own' or bottling and storing - we are not. However we do try to strike a balance where we can shop 'western style', using the supermarkets for the bulk of our monthly shop, with good quality local fresh ingredients from the market in town to produce home-made meals at a reasonable price.

Given our lifestyle, selecting high quality produce and living well, all we can say is that if you are spending a lot more than this for a lifestyle in Bulgaria, then we reckon there is something wrong.

Here is our breakdown for cost of living in Bulgaria:

Monthly Outgoings:  
Food, Wine, Beer, Household, Cigarettes 750
Ventolin/becotide 30
Disposable contact lenses /fluid 20
Diesel 100
Clothes 90
Eating out 85
Electricity 100
Water 10
Internet and Cable TV 40
Phones 100
Total household expenses per month 1,325
Annual one off expenses:  
House and Contents insurance 800
Car insurance 800
Vignette (road tax) 75
Logs: incl delivery, cut and stack  (8 cubic m) 500
Council tax 23
= Annual expenses per month 183
Disaster funds:  
Miscellaneous 100
Monthly savings 200
Total disaster fund per month 300
Total monthly expenditure 1,808 lv (800 pounds)
Total annual expenditure 21,696 lv (9,600 pounds)

- whilst ciggies and alcohol are cheap, non-smokers and non-drinkers can knock 250 leva a month off the above

- we don't have any savings sat at the ready for emergencies or holidays, so feel it is important to include this in our monthly budget until sufficient funds are built up. However, if you already have savings and don't need a 'disaster fund', again the monthly figure can be reduced by 300 leva

- it is possible to find significantly cheaper house/contents and car insurance but be careful to make sure they will pay out if a disaster strikes

- with no cigarettes, no alcohol, no savings budgeted for and cheaper insurances, the annual expenditure could be reduced by some 11,000 leva, making a total of only 10,686 leva (4,817 pounds) outgoings per annum

- buying wine from a vineyard rather than the supermarket cuts your wine bill in half: only 2 leva a litre compared with 4 leva a litre in the supermarkets

- avoid being tempted to an expensive taste of home. Cans of draught Guinness are my husband's biggest temptation, but at over double the price of back home, it's much wiser to stick to a Bulgarian beer which works out at less than 30p a pint!

- buying bulgarian produce not western brands makes serious savings: cheese spread triangles (President 6 leva v Rossa 1.98 leva)

- buy cheaper western produce if you really have to go 'western', it can still be half the price: Deutschenmarkenbutter 2.90 leva v President 5 leva

- buy the supermarket's own brand which is cheaper and still high quality: large 'Clever' yoghurts from Billa 0.78 leva and excellent

- we tend to buy expensive cuts of meat such as tenderloin; you can reduce your bill by using cheaper cuts

- stick with local brands for things like washing powder, I can tell you there are no differences in the results

- take advantage of discount or loyalty cards

- buy fresh produce locally (eggs, fruit, vegetables, bread) much cheaper than supermarkets and better, iceberg lettuce in Billa 2.50 leva, local lettuce at market 0.50 lv - plus it's good to support your local shops and you can practice your Bulgarian at the same time!"

*Note: Exchange rate used for exchange calculations is as of 25/07/2009 from at £1.00 = 2.26 leva.