Much as I’d love to pretend this trip is free, we’re obviously having to budget and make smart choices about spending. The vacation mentality we can have for a week or two wouldn’t translate well to living abroad for eight months!
Here are some details about money and shopping more generally in New Zealand:
-the smallest bill is a $5. Dimes, nickels, quarters, one, and two dollars are all coins. Also, NZ money is pretty.
-most people seem to pay with cash or EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at point of sale).
-The US dollar is doing brilliantly against the NZ dollar, which is good for us. At this writing, 1 New Zealand dollar = .67 US dollar. So if we spend NZ$180 on groceries, it’s actually costing us just over US$120.
-Listed prices on everything already include tax. So while GST (Goods and Services Tax) on many items is around 15%, shoppers don’t get that sticker shock when the item you thought you were getting for one price shows up on your receipt for 15% more. When a kid’s meal is on the menu at $8.99, that’s the price you actually pay.
-Restaurants pay their servers a fair wage for their work, so tipping is not expected or required in most establishments. Although some people do tip for exceptional service, it’s not standard.
So far we have not done a lot of shopping. Mostly just for daily essentials (groceries, clothing items, house supplies like fire pellets, etc.). We have found the stores to be not that different from US stores. Also, people (particularly near a university like where we are) show just as much disregard and impoliteness when it comes to standing in the center of aisles at the grocery store, checking smartphones in front of the very item one needs to reach, and group shopping.
In short, I think most American readers would probably not find a whole lot surprising about shopping in New Zealand stores. The organization is sometimes confusing/different, but overall the systems in place (aisles, signage, checkout lanes) do not pose major challenges.
Cost of Living
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of homeownership in the world. They also love their cars and camper vans. According to this site, New Zealanders own 6 cars for every 10 people (not just driving age–all ages). That’s a lot of cars.
Gasoline is pricey and sold in litres. A gallon of gas is about 3.8 litres, so a gallon costs about NZ$8/gallon.
In contrast, right this moment I am eating one of the most delicious apples I’ve ever tasted and it cost just 40 cents per pound.
For more specific items and how much you’d expect to pay in New Zealand for them (say, a pound of meat, a glass of beer, a pair of jeans), check out this site.