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Cheapest Countries for Expat Families

Today, new research by leading price comparison website MoneySuperMarket reveals that the UK is the most expensive location to raise a family. The running costs associated with a four-person family in the UK exceeded those of Spain, USA, Germany and Sweden due to the high costs of rent, utility bills and groceries.

The data is based on the average monthly cost of property, utility bills and grocery shopping for a family with two children in 10 locations. These locations are some of the most popular destinations for the British public to emigrate to. MoneySuperMarket also ranked the costs against the countries’ average full time salary, to reveal the percentage of salary two working adults must put towards household expenses. In the UK, the average cost of a four-person family is more than twice the combined total of two adults’ salaries.

Popular expat destinations with lower living costs

With lower utility bills (£94.41 per month), heavily subsidised pre-school costs (£230.34) and a standard average monthly rent of £1,149.40, Sweden is the only country analysed where a single parent can comfortably afford to have two children, working out as 87 percent of the average working salary. Based on two adults with two children it’s even more affordable, eating into less than half (43 percent) of the combined salaries.

The full ranking of the affordable global cities to raise a family, including a breakdown of all metrics, can be seen below:

Global cost of raising a four-person family


Country Property Utility Bills Preschool Eating Out Groceries Average Monthly Salary % of Salary (2 Parents)
Sweden £1,149.40 £94.41 £230.34 £114.61 £287.10 £2,163.71 43%
Germany £927.21 £233.78 £372.56 £90.12 £231.96 £1,772.50 52%
Australia £1,218.91 £155.19 £1,321.54 £110.50 £218.64 £2,794.80 54%
New Zealand £1,240.97 £141.02 £954.64 £95.82 £227.04 £2,160.08 62%
Canada £898.17 £131.65 £1,332.45 £108.28 £227.22 £2,166.04 62%
Spain £884.87 £157.42 £772.41 £120.05 £210.78 £1,409.95 76%
France £1,454.67 £166.14 £1,390.56 £144.52 £355.32 £2,051.05 86%
USA £3,101.96 £130.65 £2,952.66 £171.30 £459.42 £3,805.22 90%
Ireland £1,819.77 £184.45 £1,663.60 £147.00 £228.42 £1,997.50 101%
UK £2,004.00 £179.98 £2,399.31 £160.04 £257.16 £2,418.52 103%

Changing costs over time

On average, the weekly food shop has lowered in price for families over the last 16 years, from £236 to £232. However, spending on both housing and utilities, and household goods and services, has increased by 11 per cent overall. In 2001, the average monthly cost of housing and utilities per person in the UK was £277.77, but by 2017 this figure had risen by 13 per cent to £314.82. Due to these rises, the cost of raising a family in the UK has become more expensive.

Kevin Pratt, consumer affairs expert at MoneySuperMarket, commented: 

“Raising a family is a huge challenge, and many parents find themselves struggling to meet the costs they face. On top of that, they are often time-poor, which means they don’t want to contemplate an overhaul of their family finances. But you can potentially save a significant amount of money in a short period with a bit of shrewd online shopping around.

“Take gas and electricity bills. Around 60 per cent of households are languishing on expensive standard variable rate tariffs, and it is highly likely they could save up to £250 by moving to a cheap fixed-rate deal. That’s particularly important as growing families consume large amounts of energy. And it only takes a matter of minutes to trigger a switch.

“Then there’s insurance. The temptation is to allow car and home insurance to roll over with the same firm each year, but again this is squandering potentially significant savings – over £280 with car insurance alone. Again, it’s straightforward to run a quote and find a better deal.

“Parents should also check they’re on a good deal with their credit cards, perhaps moving their balance to a 0 per cent deal to give them a chance to clear existing debt without racking up more interest. Any opportunity to squeeze more out of their income while minimising expenditure on household bills should be leapt upon.”