21 May 2014

Cost Of Cruising In New Zealand

Of course you've decided to read this post because, let's face it, who doesn't want to know how much other people spend cruising! When we started thinking about cruising full-time, I did all sorts of research nosing around to see what the cost of cruising for other folks was in order to get an idea of how much it might cost us. It goes without saying that everyone's costs will be very different depending upon a whole slew of factors - size of your boat, where you cruise, how many people are in your crew, your lifestyle on land prior to moving onto your boat, the condition of your boat etc. So, while we're happily sharing our numbers for cruising in New Zealand, please keep in mind that you might spend oodles more than we did or a lot less. 

Before we get into the numbers, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1.  All prices are in New Zealand dollars. 

If you think in US dollars, I generally use an exchange rate of .80 - so for every Kiwi dollar, you only get 80 American pennies. To be fair, the Kiwi dollar has been pretty high lately so you might want to use the current exchange rate. But I tend to be more conservative when I do my conversions.  

2. December and April are shorter months.

I've used 15 December 2013 and 4 April 2014 as my cut-off dates for our numbers. Although we didn't officially move onto the boat full-time until the end of December, we were spending money on the boat from mid-December, as well as spending a lot of time out cruising on her. 4 April is when we handed our boat over to her new owner. 

3. Not everything is captured.

This is a really important point. Certain things aren't reported in our numbers, but we still have to spend money on them. When you're looking at people's cruising costs, you're not always comparing apples to apples. People slice and dice their data different ways and consider some things cruising costs that other people don't. 

So what have we excluded? Our airfares to the UK and the States, any costs related to the apartment we had in Auckland during December and how much we spent on booze that we drank on the boat. We didn't include the first two items because we wanted to keep our numbers purely about what we spent in New Zealand cruising. And the booze...well, we're just not telling. But we do like wine and gin, so rest assured some money was spent in that particular category.

4.  Our boat was a "for now" boat.

We bought a Raven 26 in December 2012 as a "for now" boat that we would use to do coastal cruising in New Zealand. Lovely as she was, Rainbow's End was never intended to be our "forever" boat. As a result, we didn't spend any money making her look pretty, changing her to suit us or doing any longer-term maintenance. As long as the engine worked and she was safe to sail, we were as happy as Larry. I imagine when we buy our next boat, we'll end up spending a lot more money on her.

Cruising Costs

So, now to the nitty-gritty. Overall, we spent $6,878 cruising in New Zealand this summer over a period of 16 weeks. That comes out to roughly $429 a week. We spent the biggest percentage of our budget on food, followed closely by entertainment. We spent the least amount of money on clothes and medical. I guess that will give you idea of what our priorities are! 

Here is breakdown of how we categorized our spend and other tidbits that might be of interest. There is a table at the end of the post which summarizes our spend against each category by month.

Groceries - Overall spend = $1,717. This includes everything you put in your body in terms of food and drink (but not booze). I had stocked up on a lot of canned goods and other provisions prior to December, so the overall cost of what we spent on food and drink is probably a bit higher. I'm always quite shocked about how much groceries cost in New Zealand. We really weren't eating a lot of meat this summer so I thought the food bill would be lower, but we did have to re-provision from time to time in general stores in more remote places where the costs are higher. 

Personal & Household - Overall spend = $146. This includes all those household goods (like paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning products, ziploc bags etc) and personal items that make you smell nice and look pretty (like shampoo, soap etc). I looked back to see what in the world we spent $82 on in January because I thought that was high. It included things like laundry powder ($4), plastic bins so that stuff doesn't fly around the boat ($16) and a mirror ($5). Stuff like that really adds up when you're not paying attention.

Communications - Overall spend = $135. This includes the costs of our pre-paid cell phones. We each have a New Zealand cell phone. Scott just tops his up from time to time and I'm on a monthly pre-paid plan which gives me a set amount of data, texts and national minutes. My mobile was the only way we could get internet while out cruising, but there were a lot of times we couldn't get reception. Which probably wasn't the worst thing in the world as every time I got online to check email or see how the blog was doing, it just gobbled up my data. 

Medical - Overall spend = $56. I include over-the-counter and prescription meds and doctor visits in here. The money we spent this summer included things like ibuprofen, a repeat prescription from my GP and the cost of filling my prescription. New Zealand has a fantastic medical system. Medical care is considered a basic human right and is accessible to everyone. It isn't completely free (there are costs for visits to your GP, certain prescriptions etc.) and yes, you might have to go on a waiting list for procedures or tests, but it sure beats the heck out of some other systems I can think of. Having said that, we're permanent residents, so I'm not sure what the medical costs would be for folks with different types of immigration statuses.

Entertainment - Overall spend = $1250. This is where we capture every penny, nickel and dime we spend on eating out, having drinks out, going to the movies, getting a coffee at a cafe etc. Okay, they don't have any pennies, nickels or dimes in New Zealand, but you get the idea. We seem to have spent a lot in this category. Hmm. The big surprise is the fact that we spent $214 in four days in April. How is that even possible? Basically, you go out to eat a lot because you're really, really, really tired of cooking on a boat. Anyway, I can safely say that the $1,250 we spent on entertainment this summer was well spent. We had a great time!

Transport - Overall spend = $150. Although we have a boat, from time to time you need transport on land. We don't have a car in New Zealand, so when we need to get around we take buses or taxis.

Travel - Overall spend = $536. This includes costs related to traveling to and from other countries. We had to spend a chunk of change this summer on renewing our American passports and then getting New Zealand Immigration to transfer our residency stickers to our new passports. We also renewed our Irish passports earlier in the year, which also cost us a lot of money. Thankfully, we're all sorted on the passport front for ten years.

Clothes - Overall spend = $54.  It is just what is says on the tin - money we spent on clothes. I would like to point out that the whopping $54 we spent this summer was all for Scott. I bought nothing. Aren't you proud of me?

Other - Overall spend = $1,056. This is just a catch-all category for stuff I didn't know what else to do with. Things like showers and laundry at marinas, a marine medic course that Scott went on, renting a storage locker and post box etc. 

Boat - We've divided our boat expenses up into a number of sub-categories.  

(a) Mooring & Marinas - We spent $736 on moorings and marinas this year. Probably more than I thought we would. We ended up spending a bit of time in marinas hiding out from ex-cyclones, or as a base for exploring towns (like Whitianga and Whangarei) or because we had some commitments in Auckland. It was a great opportunity to do laundry, take a proper shower and get free wi-fi (when at Westhaven). It is relatively cheap to stay at marinas here, so we did. But when we start cruising in more expensive parts of the world, we'll probably need to do a lot more anchoring out.

(b) Diesel & Petrol - We spent $261 contributing to global warming this summer. Not sure if that is good or bad? It doesn't seem like a lot of money in the scheme of things...but what do you think?

(c) Maintenance & Repairs - As this wasn't our "forever" boat, we only did what we needed to do in this area. And thankfully, nothing broke this summer - yeah! The $274 we spent was on things like changing the oil, pipe tape, grease etc. 

(d) Equipment & Gadgets - Again, we deliberately didn't spend a lot of money in this category. We did get things like a solar shower, headlamps, a hacksaw, petrol can etc., which all added up to $254.

(e) Miscellaneous - Another catch-all category for boat-related stuff adding up to $253. Our big spend this year was $115 for our annual New Zealand Coast Guard membership. If you need help, a tow or you've stupidly run out of gas, they're there for you. We had already paid for our third party insurance earlier in the year, so those costs aren't included here. But if you're curious, it cost us around $300 for a 12 month policy. I've also chucked in the cost for LPG ($51) and charts ($53) into this category.

So there you have it - $6,878 will buy you enough freedom chips to go out cruising on a sailboat in New Zealand!

If you have any questions or thoughts on our cruising costs, please leave a comment or email us. Keen to know what you think


  1. Ellen, it's great to be able to compare budgets......thanks for sharing.

    1. No problem - I'm always curious about how much other people spend, so figure only fair to share as well :-)


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