Thursday, October 09, 2008

You’re Welcome: The cost of living (Part 2/2)

This is the second part of my answer to CW’s question about the cost of living in Geoje.


Generally, it is a little cheaper living here in South Korea than in the US.  A meal out at a modest Korean restaurant around Geoje can coast as low as 5-8,000 (more if order alcohol).

Drinking is cheap if you are drinking soju.  Soju, Koreans native and ubiquitous alcoholic beverage (its not strong enough to be called liquor).  Costs about 1,500 for a small bottle.  Beyond two bottle of soju and you are on your way to intoxication.  Hence, the streets being littered with drunk men too incapacitated to talk home without falling.

Beer or western liquors are quite expensive.  A .75 bottle of Jim Beam whiskey goes for about 25,000 to 30,000--when you can find it.  A 1.75 liter plastic bottle of Korean beer goes for about 5,000.

Western food is more expensive.  I have an ad Domino’s taped to all the doors in my hall and the large pizza’s range from 19,000 for pepperoni to 32,000 for a “Double Crust Steak” pizza.  Pizza prices are reduced 20% if you pick up at the store rather than have delivery.  However, that discount goes away if you eat the pizza in the restaurant.

Western staples like bread, butter, peanut butter, and cheese are also more expensive since they aren't part of a Korean's normal diet.  A half-loaf of so-so white bread goes for about 1,500.  Cheese is at least 2-3 times the cost in America with a smaller selection.


Electricity is much cheaper.  I was amazed--about a third of what I paid for my studio apartment in the states.  For July, when I ran the air conditioner almost constantly, my bill was a little over 80,000.  However, with no air conditioner, its usually half that.   The gas, which is used to heat water and the room is more expensive--those bills can run between 25,000 in the summer when I just use it for cooking and heating water, to 80,000 or so when its also heating the floor in the winter months.

Internet/Cable runs about 45,000 a month.  And the internet is blazing fast.  That’s nice.  The prices are similar to broadband prices in the US, but the speed is much faster for what you pay.  My phone bill is about 15,000 a month (and that's without a rate plan!).


A city bus costs 1,000 won.  A ferry to Busan costs 22,000.  A bus to Seoul costs 31,000.  The taxi rate in Geoje starts at 1,800 during normal hours (morning-11pm).  I can get from Gohyeon to Okpo for just about 9,000.  That being said, I usually take the bus.

Overall, without any careful budgeting, I've been able to send about half of my paycheck home most months.  The past few months, I've been budgeting much tighter and have been able to send about 1,300,000 home.  That's still not living too tightly.  Spending about 15,000 a day to buy groceries or eat out and using the rest for utilities.

If you are budgeting to send money home for savings or paying off debt, you have to keep the exchange rate in mind.  Its not good right now in the slightest.  the first year I was here, it was pretty steady at about 1,000 won to $1.15-1.20.  As of today its at 1,000 to $0.71!  So, keep that in mind when doing mental calculations.  The previous rule of thumb of 1,000 to $1 doesn't work any more when you are thinking about sending money home.

You’re welcome.

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