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The Cost of Living 2008 - facts and figures - Page Two

Adding luxury items

We all know how easy it is to wander around the supermarket and add in all of those little items, which titillate the palate. What are often considered luxury items in the UK are often inexpensive in Bulgaria; a bottle of good red wine costs only 4.99 lv. here compared to an equivalent quality red in the UK, which retails at GBP 6.99 or 16.91 lv. Indeed, for this price you could select a premium, award winning red wine in Bulgaria. Smoking is a horrifically expensive pastime in the UK with a packet of Marlborough Lights retailing at GBP 5.22 or 12.63 lv., whilst in Bulgaria this same brand would only cost 4.00 lv. and if you can wean yourself onto the Bulgarian brands, which most expat smokers do, you can pay as little as 2.40 lv. – that’s 99p a packet! Local brand beer is also significantly lower priced at only 2.39 lv. for 1.5 l. compared to Becks at GBP 1.80 (4.35 lv.) and that’s only for a litre. It’s not just luxury items like cigarettes and alcohol that are lower in price compared to the UK; toiletries especially make up is significantly cheaper as is fresh meat and organic fruit and veg.

Premium Western Brands

It’s so easy to live in a foreign country and dream of comfort foods that remind you of home. The selection of Western brands now available in Bulgaria has grown considerably and there are few foods that are not available here now. However the cost of these items is considerably higher than Bulgarian equivalents where available and if the truth be known, some of the Bulgarian equivalents could not compare to the delicious taste of Heinz Baked Beans or Nestle’s Coco Pops.

A tin of Heinz Baked Beans, a staple in most British homes, where it retails at the equivalent of 1.28 lv. costs a staggering 2.99 lv. in Bulgaria – that’s the equivalent of GBP 1.23 per 400 gr. tin! Another British staple, Heinz Tomato Ketchup costs the equivalent of 1.40 lv. for a 300-ml. bottle compared to 2.75 lv. (GBP 1.13) in Bulgaria. If you can do without ketchup, but cannot live without Heinz HP Sauce on your bacon sandwich, then you will be even worse off – a 250 ml bottle costs 4.35 lv. in Bulgaria compared to 1.42 lv. in the UK – making it a complete luxury at GBP 1.79! Foreign butter like Lurpak or the delicious French President brand also carry steep price tags – 250 gr. of President butter costs 5.49 lv. compared to an equivalent quality brand in the UK, which would cost 2.87 lv. Breakfast cereals, a must in most British households come in at a higher price over in Bulgaria. Nesquick Choco Pops cost 7.99 lv. for a 450 gr. packet compared to 5.39 lv. in the UK for a 500 gr. packet.

Our Monthly Outgoings

We all spend at different levels and add different things to our shopping basket based on personal tastes, but it is surprising how little you need to live on in Bulgaria in comparison with the UK. The biggest expense in Bulgaria appears to be petrol, but with all of our interviewees living outside of a main town or city, this is not surprising, yet it is still much cheaper than in the UK and when you take other household bills into account, life here costs much less.

Barbara and Ian Burchell and their two sons, Neil (14) and Stuart (18) moved to Bulgaria a year ago and have found the savings phenomenal. Their monthly food bill comes to 1,200 lv. a month. Barbara says that the things they miss most from the UK are custard powder, Bisto gravy granules, PG Tips and marmalade and the products she can’t do without are Heinz Baked Beans and HP Sauce. The Burchell family are all non-smokers and teetotal, but they allege that money others spend on booze and cigarettes is spent on satisfying their sweet tooth. In addition to their monthly food bills, they pay an additional 888 lv. on water (38 lv.), electricity (130 lv.), telephone and Internet (120 lv.) and petrol (600 lv.) All in all, the Burchell’s total monthly outgoings are 2,088 lv.

Bulgarian family, Victoria and Jivko Vjekov and their two children Stella (17) and Peter (12) live far more economically than our British family. They spend 70 lv. a month at the supermarket and around 5 lv. a week on fresh bread from the local shop, bringing their total monthly food bill to 90 lv. a month. Victoria explains that they grow a lot of their own produce and all of their meals are homemade, they also and have free-range chickens, which provide plenty of eggs. Their additional outgoings add 82 lv. each month to their bill with water at 15 lv., electricity at 35 lv., telephone and Internet at 32 lv. With no car to run petrol is not an expense they have to worry about. Their total monthly outgoings are 172 lv.

Nicola and Alan Hayes moved to Kichevo a year ago and find Bulgarian living extremely cheap. They spend 150 lv. at the supermarket every month then around 15 lv. a week at the local food shop for extras such as fresh bread, making their monthly food bill a mere 210 lv. a month. Nicola says that she includes foods like milk chocolate, and Domino sauces as part of life’s little luxuries, but the products she misses the most are mature English cheese, milk (it just doesn’t taste the same here), Galaxy chocolate and wine gums. Both Nicola and Alan are non-smokers and drink very little, but they do have the added expense of three dogs. Extra money is needed to pay for utility bills and the like and the Hayes couple spend 370 lv. on top of their monthly food bills with water at 20 lv., electricity at 90 lv., telephone and internet at 60 lv. and petrol at 280 lv. Their total monthly outgoings are 660 lv.

Bulgarian couple, Tanya and Michael Dimitrov like to indulge themselves with fine wine and good food and both are smokers. They spend 300 lv. a month on food and say that their cigarettes push up the bill. They live in a large house particularly by Bulgarian standards and their other monthly outgoings amount to 30 lv. for water, 70 lv. electricity, 46 lv. telephone and internet and 150 lv. for petrol. Their total monthly outgoings are 596 lv.

Obviously additional to each month’s outgoings are those one off payments for car tax, insurance, repairs and council tax.

All costs were calculated at an exchange rate of 2.42 lv = 1.00 GBP. Product comparison was between Piccadilly Supermarket Bulgaria and Tesco UK.