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Projected Monthly Budget - Budapest

Stakan :

..... I never want to live in another panel building again!

Yup, that's about the size of it.   There are lots and lots of these panel buildings in Budapest but they are on the periphery of the city - usually 5-10 of these kinds of buildings clustered together with the basics like a supermarket and a few shops underneath and garages plus (as I said) a shopping mall close by (walking distance), some open space with a car park and children's playground.  I've been to Moscow and all the East European capitals (except Poland) and it's all the same model everywhere I've been in the former communist countries.

It's not to say the buildings in the centre of Budapest are better in quality but they do have character in the centre and the room sizes can be enormous.  Usually you see rough external appearances of classic buildings, poor stairwells but inside the apartments can be very interesting and if well restored, very attractive living spaces (not sure of practicalities).  Wood floors, high ceilings, wood windows etc.  Depends on what people want!

Stakan :

So should I take from this that when people keep telling me that Hungary is a very affordable place to live compared to the rest of Europe they are incorrect? From my research it seems many aspects of life are about as expensive as many other cities in Europe.

If you want to live a purely western Expat lifestyle, it can be just as expensive as western Europe.

If you adapt to local conditions, it can be much cheaper.

Basically, it is up to you, how you live and what you do here.

For me, Hungary is much cheaper all things considered and when averaged out,  For example, I grew up in a warm climate -- heating costs are more here for example (but less than my time in Switzerland), but other costs are less. For example, our property tax was 10,000 HUF for the entire year -- try to beat that in the USA. But that is just me and my lifestyle.

Hungary is cheap for us. Like I stated, we pay no rent and can live well on $500 to $600 a month, we even save from just one SS check from the US.
In the states when we lived for just buying the food while staying with my son and DIL in Vegas, we spent the entire monthly SS just on food and a few small items.
Clothing even designer items of course were so much cheaper in Vegas. So many outlet centers with designer clothing , handbags, everything for a fraction of what they sell for in HU in the malls.
I bought a MK handbag in Vegas a couple visits back for under $130. see them in the mall in Budapest going for an insane $400. to $500. They really are not made all that well to justify paying that much.
Can buy a nice Coach handbag in the outlet centers in the US for under $100.
Food, housing is cheaper in HU but "luxury" items cost and arm and a leg.
I also find it hard to find good quality clothing for a reasonable price most times in HU.
I will spring for a little top here and there but hate to know on many clothing items I am just trowing away money. Jeans for me are almost impossible to find here in HU, I am very tall and slim but aged 62, don't want to be wearing the same jeans as a 20 year old but also don't want Mommy jeans. Clothing is geared for a quick season of fashion or it costs a ton and is to me on the old fashioned side of style, most women my age are sold dresses that cover down to the mid calf, didn't spend the last 30 odd years in the gym to not show off my old gams sometimes.

fluffy2560 :

Lidl I rate far less than Aldi.  Penny Markt, well, hopeless.

Agreed. Today. Five years ago, I considered Lidl better. Even so, our local Lidl still has a better cheese selection than our local Aldi. Since they are right next to each other in the same business park, it is easy to pick and choose what to buy in each for me.

Penny Market has always been hopeless. No change in status.

Stakan :

Our panel building in Moscow was constructed in 1968. It had a 30-year design life. 48 years later it is still in use.

Ah... Well... Europe. Once it goes up, it tends to stay up. Strong resistance to change and differing financial world view on paying for tear down and rebuild versus refurbishing. One must remember, the Eifel tower was also suppose to be temporary.....  ;)

Stakan :

The quality was appalling. Years later we are still fixing the "repairs" that were done.

Happens like that often in Hungary as well. Took me years to get good and competent contractors for our renovation work to avoid this circular pattern.

Stakan :

cigarette smoke filters through all the cracks in the panel seams.

For what it is worth, we had that same problem in our apartment in Switzerland. That is just all too common in older buildings in general -- they leak (internally and externally). And older buildings are just standard here.

Side note:

If you are looking at 1,200 Euro a month for rent, do not discount the idea of just buying. The prices today are not as good for the buyer as 2 or 3 years ago (and you will not get the type of property price deals in Hungary I got 16 years ago), but if you plan to stay in Budapest for at least 5 years, it probably would be more cost effective in the long term.

Marilyn Tassy :

......with designer clothing , handbags, everything for a fraction of what they sell for in HU in the malls.
I bought a MK handbag in Vegas a couple visits back for under $130. see them in the mall in Budapest going for an insane $400. to $500. They really are not made all that well to justify paying that much.
Can buy a nice Coach handbag in the outlet centers in the US for under $100....

Just as an aside....

Overpriced designer goods are a classic money laundering technique. 

Import the bags, sometimes give them away to friends or re-use. They ring them up for cash on the till with NAV receipt, then hey presto, clean cash in the till, tax only paid and no evidence to the contrary.  Clean cash. Tax is just an overhead on ill-gotten gains.

I first saw this on a large organised scale in Belgrade.  The place was suffering economically of course but still Belgrade's main shopping area is full of designer clothes shops and high priced restaurants.  Locals have apparently no money. And not all tourists are millionaires.  Shops are empty of people but are there year after year.

High value goods are a classic.  It's as good as clean cash - declaring it is just overhead.   Import the goods, then take them out again in a suitcase.  Re-import them again later.  Round and around.

Of course bribing the customs officer or tax official just as efficient but sometimes not everyone can be bribed.

klsallee :

Side note:

If you are looking at 1,200 Euro a month for rent, do not discount the idea of just buying. The prices today are not as good for the buyer as 2 or 3 years ago (and you will not get the type of property price deals in Hungary I got 16 years ago), but if you plan to stay in Budapest for at least 5 years, it probably would be more cost effective in the long term.

I would just add to that - one should buy for cash.  Decent house in decent district of Budapest 60M+ HUF.  Apartments 40M+ HUF.  Fancy house, 100M HUF.  Pricey stuff.

Getting loans in HU is quite difficult due to the scandals on CHF loans.  Property is another subject altogether.  Prices are currently rising apparently as interest rates are so low - people are spending their cash as the banks pay nothing. 

However, doesn't apply across the board. Our rented flat costs the same (to buy) as it did 7 years ago.  Our rent has never changed either.   Our house 300m away from our apartment has gone up at least 10% on base price in the 2 years since we started renovating it.

Interesting about the designer clothing/goods scam.
I no longer buy "pricey" items that often these days and never here overseas where I know the prices are over inflated.( More of a fact that it doesn't fit in my budget then I have forgone material items, working on that through meditation, used to be able to justify overspending on stuff but my years left vs costs just doesn't justify too many more pricey items, no one to leave them to when I am gone)
Just interesting though.
Back in 1986 in Milan Italy of all places, I just "had" to have a leather handbag from a small shop that only sold handbags.
Much prompting of my husband and he gave me a wad of cash to buy the bag. My family waited outside the shop, ( husband  is smart that way, if he hides I can't hit him up for more goods!)
The female clerk had her boyfriend in keeping her company, he watched as I paid for the bag.
After the transaction was over with he hit me up for cash!
Never expected such a forward action in a nice shop like that one was.
Of course I just walked out and informed my husband outside in case we were being followed by anyone.

If I may return to the core of the OP...
You state that you are looking at the possibility of moving to Budapest, so it's not a done deal. Just curious why you chose Bp and if you are certain of your income stream.

There are a ton of things to do in Bp, and I think the population size is perfect for the family who wants to make sure there are many urban activities, concerts, etc., but also not too big, still safe. I consider ~2m people to be a great size, but of course that's my opinion. In Bp, and being able to travel relatively easily to many areas around Hungary and in neighboring countries, I don't think you will ever get bored.  Unless your offspring is an emote teen, and then they are preternaturally bored, but will grow out of it.

As far as budget, the numbers have been floating around fast and furious but honestly I think there has to be some reasonable savings to be had over Russia or Bahrain. Personally, I think your rent is high by a third, but then maybe we are looking at 2 different types of flats and locations.  ingatlan.com can help immensely, but it's only in Hungarian. I'd be glad to help with search parameters and translations, just drop me a message directly.  As far as where to live, I am sure you know that Budapest is really 2 cities (used to be 3), with the Buda side being more residential, hilly, and privately green, the Pest side more cosmopolitan, flat, and public parks green.

Aside from rent, and not knowing your lifestyle, I'd say the rest of your numbers are within the realm of sanity. If you come in under those numbers (quite possible), then that's just more savings for you.

And yes, please do refer to http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/ for numbers...

Vicces1 :

If I may return to the core of the OP...
You state that you are looking at the possibility of moving to Budapest, so it's not a done deal. Just curious why you chose Bp and if you are certain of your income stream.

Thank you for your message! It is very helpful overall.

Why Bp? I wasn't specifically targeting Bp, but I was looking for opportunities in the region and one came up here.

And no, I'm not certain of my income stream. This is why I posted the original question in the first place. I am trying to determine what salary I need to get for us to live there.

Stakan :

Why Bp? I wasn't specifically targeting Bp, but I was looking for opportunities in the region and one came up here.

The reality is, basically, if you live in the expat bubble or not.

Every Hungarian I know asks me why, oh why, I moved to Hungary. They think I am crazy to move here. Because they live in Hungarian reality. And that is quite different from the expat bubble. I actually live more in Hungarian reality than the expat bubble, but I am still a card carrying member of the bubble. What that means is my costs are less but so are my expectations. Just something to think about.  :)

I moved to Hungary originally as part of a work transfer.  I moved from Amsterdam to Szekesfehervar on 9/11/2001.  I went from dial-up modem to VoIP phones and high-speed internet. I went from Western Europe speaking 2 widely known languages to Eastern Europe knowing no Hungarian / Magyar.  I ended up spending 5 years there before returning to the US for family matters.  I'm returning to Hungary because the friendships I made there have endured.  I have Hungarian friends who named their son after me, and I am his named guardian if anything happens to the parents.  I now speak a modicum of one of the most difficult languages in the world.  While in Hungary, I have enjoyed everything from dancing all night in a nightclub filled with people of all ages to bungee jumping in Heroes Square, from helicopter rides to go-karts to small plane death spirals, to caves, to spas, Budapest Parades, the opera, concerts, the list goes on and on.
For me, I've integrated fairly well so I try to keep the bubble at a minimum. I haven't really had much of a problem so far. (Working with the government is a while other bag of feral cats, but I think that's similar the world over.)

Vicces1 :

I moved to Hungary originally as part of a work transfer.  I moved from Amsterdam to Szekesfehervar on 9/11/2001.  I went from dial-up modem to VoIP phones and high-speed internet. I went from Western Europe speaking 2 widely known languages to Eastern Europe knowing no Hungarian / Magyar.  I ended up spending 5 years there before returning to the US for family matters.  I'm returning to Hungary because the friendships I made there have endured.  I have Hungarian friends who named their son after me, and I am his named guardian if anything happens to the parents.

It really is about who you have to interact with.

I know some in my local village who have lived here 20 years, but are still considered "outsiders" by those born here. And those "outsiders" are Hungarians.

What you "feel" is not necessarily daily reality in Hungary.

Of course, in a large city, like Budapest, where you are personally less known, it is better. Easier to blend in. Basically living incognito to the nation, within your local Hungarian friend network.

Which is kind of like living in an expat bubble.

In fact, tourists et al. that come to where I live are know locally as "that Budapest crowd". Basically, being an expat in one's own country. Odd, eh? Like being a Californian/New Yorker in Kansas.

Just saying.  ;)

Mrs Fluffy lives in the reality and I live in a tiny Bubble of my own making. 

I don't really get Bubble Blues - I don't know any other expats and do not seek them out.  I just do my own thing.  Many expats are temporary residents for just a few years as they rotate out.  If you've been in HU long enough, you just get to know people anyway.

As I mentioned, I lived in Szekesfehervar first. They viewed Budapesti as almost a country unto itself, a different world.  It certainly is a different life than Szekesfehervar!
But I get the best of both worlds by living in the city and I don't regret the choice at all.

I always say that the expat thing can work in your favor. When you want to tune things out, you can. When you want to be a part of things, you can. You have a choice.

klsallee :

.....Every Hungarian I know asks me why, oh why, I moved to Hungary. They think I am crazy to move here. Because they live in Hungarian reality. And that is quite different from the expat bubble. I actually live more in Hungarian reality than the expat bubble, but I am still a card carrying member of the bubble. .....

I used to get the same when I lived in Austria.  Hungarians would say, why oh why did you move to Austria?  Hungary is 100x better than Austria. Even the Hungarians recognise it.  I think the Austrians might even resent it.

fluffy2560 :

I don't really get Bubble Blues - I don't know any other expats and do not seek them out.  I just do my own thing.  Many expats are temporary residents for just a few years as they rotate out.  If you've been in HU long enough, you just get to know people anyway.

Yep. That is the real expat "Hungarian reality".  :)

When I lived in Las Vegas I didn't even venture to the Vegas Strip, just like some friends who live in Honolulu, they had not seen the beach for years.
I have always lived in my own reality, maybe the only reason I am not on xanax at my age!
My "long lost" cousin who I had not seen since I was 3 years old, came a couple weeks back to Budapest for a tourist visit.
It was actually a bit "horrid" to show him around the tourist areas, had to do it though.
He wanted to treat us to a lunch up on castle hill, we refused, or at least my husband refused to allow him to over pay for everything from food to drinks.
It was hard to be in the middle of them both, my husband told him to do whatever he wanted and he would return when he was done wasting his money.
Wow, two stubborn men and passive/ nice  Thai cousins wife and me, we really didn't give a darn either way.
Just wanted a cold drink  anywhere, took us another 2 hours to find a place that was ok for the two guys, I got weird as I often do and said they were having a, "who's larger then who contest" good thing my cuz has a good sense of humor because not everyone understands my odd ball humor when things get uncomfortable.
I am not in a ex pat bubble, I am in my own world no matter where I live.

Marilyn Tassy :

I am not in a ex pat bubble, I am in my own world no matter where I live.

Agree. I consider myself the same. I talk more to the dog than to the locals. And know few expats personally. Very much the public introvert.

But, generically speaking, the "expat bubble" is a simplistic point of reference/terminology for those that do not interact much with the local population. ;)

klsallee :

....Yep. That is the real expat "Hungarian reality".  :)

Yes, I think you are right. 

When Mrs Fluffy and I were in Austria, we were considered exotic animals and curiosities by the locals.

But after a time, they realised we were just as boring as them! 

I cannot  say we were ever consider exotic in HU!

klsallee :
Marilyn Tassy :

I am not in a ex pat bubble, I am in my own world no matter where I live.

Agree. I consider myself the same. I talk more to the dog than to the locals. And know few expats personally. Very much the public introvert.

But, generically speaking, the "expat bubble" is a simplistic point of reference/terminology for those that do not interact much with the local population. ;)

In Moscow I am an Expat, but my wife is Russian. Therefore we live a very local lifestyle. I know more Russians than Expats. And with the Russian economy over the last couple of years most of my Expat friends have left. Now I really one socialize with Russians.
Like others answering here though, I don't really socialize all that much either!

In Bahrain we were an Expat family. We socialized as much with locals as we did Expats. And we liked to explore. Many times we found ourselves way off the Expat paths and often were stared at as very odd sites. Usually people were very friendly with us, but on rare occasions we were not welcome and it was made clear that we were not.

The only place really where the locals really did seek out our company and we were treated like family was in Hawaii.
My Hu husband and little old me used to sell, or try to sell native American items in a local brand new swapmeet/bootsale, it was a converted airplane hanger from WW11.
We met a young local Hawaiian couple, my husband spent hours with the man while working in stalls next to each other.
We were the only non locals to be invited to his wedding. In fact in Hawaiian custom most guests do not actually attend the ceremony of exchanging vows.
We were part of a small group of close family who saw that part of the wedding, we all drove later to the real party where huge tents were set up, food was served and we partied with over 100 others.
The grooms mother was a professional Hula dancer from Oahu, when she did a special goodbye dance  for her son to say he was now a family man etc. Everyone had tears in their eyes. I never cried at my own wedding but I was a blubbering cry baby at this wedding, it was truly beautiful.
My husband had been invited to other local weddings , he went I didn't go as I was a new mom and didn't fell like going.
Had lady friends, professionals business owners in HI who always invited me on their week long trips to Vegas, never went, would of loved it , maybe next time.
In Hi either people like you right away or they don't, period.
I have been invited at funerals for some of my  local  parents friends too in HI.So much Aloha, it is hard to explain unless one has experienced it. I am considering moving back to HI even if the ocean is now full of rads from Fukushima.
I am old and not worried about it for myself, only for any future grandkids, guess if it is really all that bad then no one can escape.
Been invited to several baby one year celebrations on the Islands, those are really big deals in HI.
My husband was also the only Howlie( term for white outsider) who had "protection" on Maui for no locals to "mess" with him, for some reason the local surfer gang really liked him, he was different, skinny and had spent over 6 months watching them from the sidelines learning how to handle the waves, he was invited to surf the local turf after that.He used to take our red haired baby son with him, they really did find my husband to be unusual. My baby son was born just a couple of weeks after my local neighbors boy was born. If we had stayed on Maui, I am sure he would of had many local friends, even if he was  a red head who couldn't take much sun.
Gosh, in HU the villagers treat my husband like he is from the moon, in HI he was from the moon and they loved him.
Seriously thinking of selling out in HU, packing just my summer items and getting a one way ticket to the Islands.

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