How do we live in the most “expensive” city in South Africa?
How do you live in the most “expensive” city in South Africa?
This is a question I get asked so often since Kyle and I decided to move down to Cape Town. So, I have decided to share a little about what we have learnt since moving down here.
To start off, there are so many conflicting articles out there on how expensive it truly is to live in Cape Town. The last one I read found that Cape Town is the cheapest in comparison to New York. I don’t know how helpful that is, because Kyle and I have found that a lot of what is out there isn’t really accurate and mainly looks at living in and around the tourist areas.
Kyle and I currently survive on one regular salary as I build my new company so we have learnt to be very creative with our budget.
Here are the things we have learnt and how we make our money stretch while still having fun.
This is more expensive than in most cities in South Africa. The main thing we found down here is that there are very few places that are rented out directly by the property owner. This means that you have to go through an agency. This is where you really get nailed in terms of costs. Most agencies need you to earn 3 times the value of the rent and they need 2 month’s rent as a deposit and one month rent in advance. We were able to negotiate our deposit down to 1 and a half months rent for our deposit.
Rent varies greatly from area to area. Places in the city bowl can be twice as much as somewhere out in the neighbourhoods. Rent can also vary within a neighbourhood depending on what you are looking for. Kyle and I do spend a bit more on rent because we wanted a place that was close to Kyle’s work and was in a secure complex with 24-hour security. We live in a complex that is part of a secure neighbourhood which means our rent is about R3,000 more than the rest of the neighbourhood. Rent is also more if you want a pet-friendly place and for a view.
The best advice is to know what you are looking for as well as what you are willing to compromise on. Flats down here are very spacious, so downsizing is a great option to help save money.
Water and Electricity:
Most rental contracts down here include water in the rental price. If it is not then it can work out more expensive. This is due to the fact the Cape Town is a water scarce region (even when there isn’t a drought). We are always under stage 1 water restrictions and this changes depending on the rainy season. This means our water costs are on a sliding scale therefore, the more you use the more you pay per kiloliter. This can increase your costs substantially if you are not water conscious.
Electricity costs are set depending on the value of the property that you stay in. Most properties in Cape Town have pre-paid meters which makes it easy to budget. If this is not the case then I strongly suggest that you try and get your landlord to install one. Unfortunately, that is not an option for Kyle and I and electricity has been a constant struggle for us. We finally got it sorted this year.
A Checkers is a Checkers is a Checkers. This is great because chain supermarkets generally keep their prices the same throughout the country. This mainly applies to your dry goods. Fruit and Veggies also stay about the same. Obviously, we get major savings on grapes. We also seem to get better savings on meat and sometimes milk as well.
There is so much to do in Cape Town and I am sure that Kyle and I could do something new every month and not run out of things to do for years. I have found that theatre prices and international shows seem to be in line with the rest of South Africa.
The great thing that Cape Town has are their free evenings. Our favourites are Museum Night and the Silo District concerts. But there is also First Thursdays which allows you free access to different art galleries on the 1st Thursday of the month.
Most parks are safe and free as well as the beaches. Kyle and I often buy a takeaway to share and have a picnic on the beach. Or take an ice-cream. (A beach tent is a good investment)
A few of the tourist attractions have discounts for South African residents. For example, there is a sunset special to go up Table Mountain in the evening for half price. If you do your research you are bound to find specials, especially in winter.
The other awesome thing to do in Cape Town is drink wine. Kyle and I are trying to go to at least one new wine farm a month this year. Most tastings and pairings are pretty reasonable. Our most expensive one we have done was R90 for a wine and Turkish delight pairing. I am sure there are more expensive ones out there but we haven’t found one yet. Purchasing wine from the farms is also a great way to save, however their flagship ranges are usually quite expensive. We have splurged in the past spending about R300 on a bottle but generally, we spend about R60 for a bottle of red.
Eating out can be expensive in Cape Town. There are hundreds of restaurants. As my Dad always said, “eat where the locals eat and you will save”. This does apply in Cape Town and if you avoid the tourist traps you can get a decent dinner out for about R500 for two people.
However, if you do want to enjoy one of the many 5 star restaurants available in and around Cape Town wait for winter. Most of the popular restaurants have a winter menu. This can be either a set menu at a cheaper price or a discount on the usual meals. Some restaurants also do special winter food and wine pairings.
Petrol in South Africa is expensive. Luckily petrol is slightly cheaper at the coast however there is no 93 unleaded petrol.
Traffic is a major problem especially when you want to get into the city bowl. And that should also influence where you want to stay. However, it is relatively safe to ride around on a bicycle if you stick to the main routes. Kyle rides to work most days. Cycle paths are clearly marked.
There is also MyCiti bus routes. They run between all the major neighbourhoods and the city bowl. Kyle and I have never used it though, to be honest, but a lot of people in Cape Town use it quite successfully.
I am sorry this blog is so long but it is how we survive in this awesome city. Kyle and I honestly believe that this has been the best thing that has ever happened to us. Hopefully, this goes a long way to encourage people to not see Cape Town as too expensive to visit or live.