When it comes to New Zealand cities, Auckland gets most of the attention. This is logical since it’s by far the biggest and definitely the best well-known Kiwi city. If you look further to the south, namely New Zealand’s South Island, you’ll find Christchurch. It’s the country’s second biggest city (with an urban population of 377,900 people), but to those who call it home, second biggest definitely doesn’t mean second best.
When it comes to New Zealand cities — Christchurch is relatively inexpensive. The bare minimum living expenses for a family of four will be just under NZ$5,500 per month (including the cost of rent or your mortgage repayments). Singles and couples could live on NZ$4,000 and more. Christchurch is home to some great real estate bargains.
But what makes Christchurch an appealing place to live? The reduced cost of living is one drawcard, but it’s just one of many. Sure, it’s NZ’s second biggest city, but by the time you finish reading this article, CHCH (as it’s often written) will be at the top of your list of places to move to.
How expensive is living in Christchurch, New Zealand?
According to Numbeo, the online database that determines the cost of living index for multiple cities, Christchurch ranks quite low on a global scale and very low when it comes to the Oceania region. For example, it has a cost of living index of 68.6 vs 76.3 in Auckland.
How does this break down to the costs you’ll experience when living there? Naturally, the cost of living can be dramatically different from one person to the next, but there are some average prices that can be extremely helpful. For example, you can expect to pay a minimum of NZ$480-NZ$500 per week for a two-bedroom unfurnished house. I pay NZ$475 weekly for a two-bedroom townhouse near the city center. Read more about rent prices in New Zealand.
A typical utility bill is around NZ$180 per month (covering electricity, heating and internet) for an average-sized home. Expect to pay more for electricity during the winter because Christchurch gets pretty cold.
New Zealand’s groceries only fluctuate slightly from place to place, although Auckland tends to be the most expensive (like with most things in NZ). Some pantry essentials (like potatoes and rice) typically cost less in Christchurch than in other NZ cities. Dining out is similarly (slightly) cheaper. Expect to pay around NZ$22 for a basic meal out at a restaurant.
An average supply of groceries can range from NZ$600 to NZ$1,200 per month, depending on the size of the household. Read more about the food prices in New Zealand.
The country’s public transport network is a bit behind the times compared to comparably sized cities in Europe and the US (particularly with train connections). In Christchurch, you will need a car unless you are a student and live next to campus. Busses do exist, but the schedule is very inconvenient for most people. An average used car will cost you from NZ$5,000 to NZ$20,000, depending on your preferences.
Fuel price is worth considering because it’s not cheap at all! Today, petrol costs at least NZ$2.88 per liter, and Unleaded 98 is selling for NZ$3.22 per liter.
If you decide to rely on a bus network, the unlimited public transport in Christchurch will only cost NZ$79 per month.
Luckily, healthcare is generally free if you have a residency in New Zealand. If you don’t yet, you will need health insurance; check out Cigna Global, it’s one of the most affordable options for internationals.
Christchurch housing costs
Real estate in Christchurch is significantly cheaper than New Zealand’s other cities (especially Auckland). The average price of an entry-level townhouse in Christchurch is between NZ$539,000 and NZ$660,000. You can rent this property for approximately NZ$520 per week. Read more about rental prices.
Christchurch has a wide range of neighbourhoods, and house prices range within. In Sumner, for example, it’s not uncommon to pay over NZ$1,000,000 for a home.
For renters, you can rent a one-bedroom home (a flat) for around NZ$480 per week in the central city, with the price dropping significantly in the outer suburbs (with an average of NZ$400 per week). A single room is even cheaper — and will cost about NZ$200 – NZ$300 per week for a central location.
That said, Christchurch doesn’t have a wide range of single-bedroom homes, most people rent a large house and share it with others. For that reason, it’s much easier to find a room to rent than an apartment.
If you want three bedrooms, your weekly rent should still be around NZ$550 – NZ$600 per week (the price remains similar for both two or three-bedroom homes. The average purchase price for a three-bedroom townhouse in Christchurch is NZ$750,000 and up. This price increases significantly for a house and land but should still be less than NZ$1 million.
NZ$1 million may sound like a lot, but remember that the New Zealand dollar is much weaker than its foreign cousins. NZ$1 million is around US$584,630, or AU$922,980.
Cost of living in Christchurch for students
University students can have an easy life in Christchurch, even if it’s not the most cost-effective way to live. Students at the University of Canterbury may apply to live in the Halls of Residence. This means that your accommodation and most expenses are covered by a single fee.
In addition to a furnished room (with a shared bathroom), the rental fee for a place in the Halls of Residence includes electricity and heating, wi-fi, meals (cooked for you or use of the residence’s kitchen), and laundry facilities. It’s not exactly cheap, though, since the fees start at NZ$9,992 (without provided meals) for the 41-week academic year. This price goes all the way up to NZ$20,023 for the halls with more amenities.
Depending on the type of the hall, it costs between NZ$166 to NZ$306 (self-catered) and between NZ$431 to NZ$645 (fully-catered) per month. Additional charges like administration fees, parking, etc, aren’t included in this price.
Cost of living in Christchurch for singles
The cost of living for a single person in Christchurch has been estimated at NZ$1,512 per month without rent. If you are renting, expect to pay around NZ$2,000 per month if not sharing. Hence, the average cost of living for a relatively frugal single in Christchurch is around NZ$3,500 (US$2,032) per month.
If you like to eat out and splurge on shopping, add NZ$500 per month. As is always the case, your own living expenses in Christchurch could be higher or lower, depending on your lifestyle, interests, and dietary needs.
Cost of living in Christchurch for couples
Couples can save some money by sharing accommodations. Also, if you have a combined income, you can live quite comfortably in Christchurch. So, if you rent a house for NZ$500 per week, you can split the bill and pay NZ$250 per person.
The average weekly grocery bill for a couple (without children) in the urban areas of the South Island is just under NZ$250 or about NZ$1,000 per month. That brings us to a total of about NZ$3,500 – NZ$4,000 for a couple living in Christchurch. This sum excludes nice things, such as going out, shopping, gym or travel. So, make sure you budget an additional amount.
Due to extensive rebuilding following the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, there are more centrally-located one and two-bedroom townhouses than ever. Couples wanting to live centrally should check out the streets around Latimer Square – plenty of decent houses, and it’s near the CBD.
Cost of living in Christchurch for families
Christchurch is a fantastic place for families. Not only it’s close to fantastic natural reserves, has great schools and universities, but also affordable! An average family of four should budget at least NZ$5,500 per month for basic necessities and NZ$7,000 for a better quality of life. A typical grocery bill for a family can run from NZ$800 to NZ$1,500 per month.
Childcare in Christchurch costs less than other New Zealand cities, and even less than smaller cities like Tauranga or Hamilton. A placement in private childcare costs around NZ$1,086 per month. This is per child, so a family with two children can expect to pay double this amount.
Christchurch, just like the rest of the country, offers an early childhood education subsidy. Called the ECE, it provides 20 hours of kindergarten level care per week (at no cost) to eligible parents. If you and your partner’s working schedules mean you need more than 20 hours of childcare per week, you simply pay the difference.
How much money do you need to live comfortably in Christchurch?
Living comfortably in Christchurch costs much less than in other NZ towns and cities. Using the average monthly expenses for a single person (NZ$1,512 per month, excluding rent) as a starting point, you can factor in the average rent for a one-bedroom home of NZ$480 per week (or NZ$1,920 per month).
This gives you (roughly) expenses of NZ$3,432 per month. Yes, you’ll want to earn more than that in order to be truly comfortable, and it’s the same for families. If the average monthly expenses of NZ$5,433 (for a family of four) are combined with a rent of NZ$520 per week (NZ$2,080 per month), your minimum costs each month will be around NZ$7,513 if you want to live comfortably.
Average salary in Christchurch
Salaries range depending on your field and qualifications. Most people living in Christchurch are tradies and earn between NZ$50,000 and NZ$65,000 gross per year or NZ$41,250 and NZ$51,485 net (NZ$3,434 – NZ$4,290). Yes, that’s not incredible, but this wage is suitable for this cost of living.
That said, people who move to Christchurch tend to work in higher positions and have a university degree. They can generally expect a higher salary. Compensation for a software engineer, for example, averages from NZ$70,000 to NZ$133,000, depending on your experience. Read more about salaries in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
Moreover, the income comparison website Salary Expert gives the average annual salary in Christchurch as NZ$77,174. Sure, this is more than enough to live comfortably as a single (and at a stretch—as a couple).
A family with two or more children will need to have a total income considerably higher than the average, but this can easily be achieved with a combined income if both parents are working.
Cost of living in Christchurch vs Auckland
The base cost of living for a single in Christchurch is NZ$3,500 vs it’s at least NZ$4,000 in Auckland.
Anyone who lives in Christchurch will wonder why anyone would want to live in Auckland. The reasons become more obvious when you crunch the numbers. Overall, consumer prices in Christchurch are 17.7% lower than in Auckland, and this percentage even includes rent.
The average rent in Christchurch is an impressive 26.1% lower than in Auckland. Food is also considerably cheaper.
Your weekly shop at a Christchurch supermarket will cost 10.5% less than the same purchases in Auckland. Dining out is good value for money compared to Auckland, too, and costs 8.8% less.