The US and Ireland are literally an ocean apart, but that's not always obvious when you compare the cost of living. Living, working, and relaxing in the Emerald Isle is a little cheaper in Ireland, but where you plan to go and what you'll be doing could have a serious effect on how many dollars, or euros, you save.
Part of planning your next vacation or relocating to a new country is finding out how far your money will take you. This list covers nine aspects of the cost of living in Ireland compared to the US. While spending in some areas is similar, others have significant differences, which is why it's so important to do a little research before you set off across the Atlantic.
Cost of Living in Ireland vs US
Experts estimate that the cost of living in Ireland is around 10% lower than that in the United States. This list includes the most important points, including housing and food. As you go through it, keep in mind the exchange rate between the US dollar and the euro. For example, $500 in the US is equivalent to just over $459 in euros.
9. Wages and Salaries
- Average annual salary in Ireland: €44,202
- Average annual salary in the US: $59,428
- National minimum wage in Ireland: €12.70 per hour
- National minimum wage in the US: $7.25 per hour
The average salary is one of the most obvious distinctions between Ireland and the US. The Irish have an average yearly salary that's equivalent to around $48,017, while Americans earn just under $60,000 annually. That difference of nearly $1,000 a month might give the impression that the US is a better place to start your career.
However, the news isn't all good for American workers. Salaried employees may earn more money than their Irish counterparts, but the minimum wage is far lower. The Irish government requires businesses to pay unsalaried workers at least $13.80 per hour, a much stronger wage than the required $7.25 in the US. While individual states within the US can choose to mandate a higher minimum wage, 20 states have opted to stick to the federal rate.
8. Groceries and Dining Out
- Average weekly grocery bill in Ireland: €105.85
- Average weekly grocery bill in the US: $270.21
- Spending at restaurants in Ireland: €15 to €50 per person
- Spending at restaurants in the US: $11 to $40 per person
Regardless of whether you're Irish or American, groceries are probably a big chunk of your budget. Although the average weekly grocery bill in the US is higher than in Ireland, the cost ultimately depends on what you buy. For example, a person who's living frugally in Ireland can get a lot of food at a lower cost by shopping for local products, such as beef.
The two countries are closely related in terms of which grocery items are most expensive. In the US, shoppers spend more on products such as chocolate, meat, eggs, and some produce, such as oranges and peaches. The Irish pay comparable prices for those items and have to deal with the higher cost of foods imported from other European countries or the US.
If you'd rather have someone else prepare your meal, you can expect to spend a similar amount in either country. Both Ireland and the US have casual eateries where you can get a great burger, sandwich, or fish and chips for $15 or less. They also have more upscale establishments that charge premium prices for elegant dishes, both of which could cost you $100 or more per person.
- Average cost of a cinema ticket in Ireland: €8.00
- Average cost of a cinema ticket in the US: $11.75
- Average cost of a concert ticket in Ireland: €60 to €100
- Average cost of a concert ticket in the US: $252
In addition to eating out, you might also want to hit the town and have some fun. A trip to see a movie is slightly less expensive in Ireland than in the US, while tickets to see a live performance at the theatre are very similar. Concert tickets in the US are notoriously expensive, with the average price more than double what you'll spend in Ireland. However, the cost of your entertainment depends on your lifestyle choices. For instance, tickets to a concert featuring a well-known musician cost much more than a local music festival, regardless of whether you're in Ireland or the US.
Both countries also have low-cost or free natural wonders to explore. In Ireland, you can see castles or take in the dazzling views from the cliffs. When you visit or live in the US, you can head to one of the many popular beaches or wander through the thousands of acres of forestland. The national parks in Ireland offer free admission, while most parks in the US charge between $5 and $10 per person.
- Average electricity bill in Ireland: €143.19
- Average electricity bill in the US: $149
- Average gas bill in Ireland: €122.68
- Average gas bill in the US: $63
Knowing what to expect when you receive your first utility bills makes it easier for you to set and stick to a budget. Natural gas comes at a higher cost in Ireland, whereas electricity is slightly more expensive in the US. Depending on how much water you use and which part of the country you're in, you can probably live comfortably in Ireland or America while spending around $250 a month on basic utilities.
Don't forget your other bills, such as internet and cell phone service. The average cost of a broadband internet connection in Ireland is around $48 per month, whereas Americans pay between $60 and $90 per month. When you need to make calls in Ireland, you'll be happy to discover that the average cell phone bill is much lower than in the US, with totals of around $25 and $144, respectively.
- Average cost of Levi's jeans in Ireland: €80.81
- Average cost of Levi's jeans in the US: $50 to $70
- Average cost of Nike's in Ireland: €84.55
- Average cost of Nike's in the US: $66.75
The amount of money you'll spend to fill up your closet in America or Ireland differs based on what types of items you like to buy. The average American spends around $161 on clothing each month, and the Irish spend about the same. However, those costs can be drastically higher or lower based on where you shop.
Popular clothing items like jeans and running shoes have similar prices on both sides of the Atlantic. However, you'll generally pay a higher overall cost in Ireland for name brands such as Levi's or Nike. That's because they import and tax most of those consumer goods.
- Standard sales tax in Ireland: 23%
- Standard sales tax in the US: Differs by state
- Income tax rate in Ireland: 20% up to the threshold, then 40%
- Income tax rate in the US: 10% to 37%, depending on income
Taxes are a fact of life that many people would prefer to forget, but they fund vital services at both the local and national levels. The Irish have to dig deep into their pockets when they go shopping, as the standard sales tax is a whopping 23%. That rate dwarfs the US rate, where the highest state sales tax is still under 10%. Even better, some states have no sales tax at all.
Income taxes in Ireland are more straightforward than in the US, but they're also more expensive for most people. While Americans pay different tax rates based on their income brackets, with the lowest income citizens paying nothing at all, the Irish generally pay 20% up to a certain income-based threshold, after which point they pay 40% of their remaining earnings. Between sales and income taxes, you can expect to dedicate a larger of your money in Ireland to taxes than you would in the US.
- Public health coverage in Ireland: 100% of the population, 37% fully free
- Public health coverage in the US: None
- Average cost of private insurance in Ireland: €160 per month
- Average cost of private insurance in US: $450 per month
Health care and insurance are controversial topics in the US, largely because there's no universal coverage. Families and individuals can purchase insurance from the government marketplace or private companies, but the premiums are substantial. A single person in the US can easily spend $500 or more each month on their insurance premium. This amount could differ based on your health, age, and lifestyle, and some people are eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. Many people in the US can only afford health insurance because their employers contribute to their premiums, which can cut the cost drastically.
Health insurance looks much different in Ireland, which offers government-funded public health services to all citizens for free or at a reduced cost. In addition to their medical card, many Irish people purchase private insurance, which can further reduce their medical expenses and help them pay for additional benefits, such as a private room in the hospital. The average cost of private insurance in Ireland is around $175 a month.
In addition to the significant differences between insurance, it's also important to note the disparities in the cost of health services in Ireland and the US. A typical doctor's visit in Ireland costs around $65, while an appointment with a general practitioner in the US is usually between $300 and $600.
- Cost to run a family car in Ireland: €10,691
- Cost to run a family car in the US: $10,728
- Monthly public transportation in Dublin: $110 to $150
- Monthly MetroCard in New York City: $132
Transportation is one area where the US and Ireland are closely aligned. On average, Irish people spend over $11,000 per year on owning and operating a family car, and Americans spend only slightly less. Because public transportation is unavailable in many rural areas and smaller towns in the US, owning a car is a necessity. Similarly, while the TFI Public Transport Network in Ireland helps connect smaller cities, villages, and towns, 91% of people in rural communities own cars.
In bigger cities, most residents of both countries rely on public transportation to get from place to place. The biggest cities in each country, Dublin and New York City, have fairly sophisticated public transportation systems with buses, subways, and car services. The cost in each city is very similar. You can expect to spend up to $150 for a monthly pass in Dublin, compared to $132 for a 30-day MetroCard in New York.
- Average mortgage interest rate in Ireland: 4.25%
- Average mortgage interest rate in the US: 6.94%
- Average rent in Dublin: €2,307
- Average rent in New York City: $3,661
For many people, housing is the heart of a cost of living comparison. House prices in Ireland and America have increased over the past several years, surpassing $495,000 in the US and $351,000 in Ireland. Americans also tend to pay higher interest rates on their mortgages.
If you don't plan on purchasing a home, you'll need to look closely at rent prices, particularly in major cities. Renters in New York City pay an average of $3,661 for an apartment, which is more than $1,000 higher than the typical rent in Dublin. Residents in each city can expect to pay more if they choose to live in an upper-class community, where rent can exceed $10,000 monthly.
To find the lowest monthly rent in Ireland or the US, you'll need to look beyond the city limits. In rural areas, such as Donegal, the Irish pay rent in the range of $1,100 to $1,500 monthly. Likewise, the national average for rent on a two-bedroom apartment in the United States is $1,317, and rural property owners often charge much less.
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Written by Andrew Gosselin CPA
Read more posts by Andrew Gosselin CPA