Author Topic: UK Mustachian life basics?  (Read 19423 times)

Kwill

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UK Mustachian life basics?
« on: January 10, 2016, 08:26:13 PM »
I'll be moving from the US to England (about an hour from London by train) in a couple weeks or so to start a new job.

What are your recommendations for . . .

banking

cell phone service (I have an Android smartphone that should be able to take a SIM card, but what companies are good?)

groceries

other shopping (clothes, shoes, bicycle, etc.)

transportation

housing

anything else?

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2016, 03:58:22 AM »
Housing should be top of your list - your costs there will absolutely dominate everything else, but of course your location makes a big difference to that. Transportation costs also depends a lot on where you live and where you work.

Taking a local example for me, if you live in Cambridge & work in Cambridge, you can cycle (everyone does) and don't need a car to get anywhere. If you live in Cambridge & work in London, you need to get a train season ticket (few k per year). If you live in a village too far from Cambridge to cycle, with no public transport, you need a car.

Groceries/shopping generally more expensive than the US. Aldi/Lidl cheap, Waitrose expensive (but they sell nice stuff!)

Bank accounts are typically free here (only charges I pay are for foreign currency transactions) but you can shop around for visa cards with cashback, accounts which pay bonuses on things etc. Expect hassle in opening an account - you typically need to prove who you are (passport) but also where you live (hard to get utility bills until you have a fixed address). Hopefully your employer can help with this.

Where are you moving to? Where will you be working?

former player

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2016, 05:15:04 AM »
I agree with ceratonia that in the South-East of England housing is the biggest issue and the biggest expense.

Which? does product reviews and advice.  For instance, they've got comparisons of bank accounts here.  They have a two months for 1 introductory offer, which if you started now would give you a bit of advance information plus a few weeks of working things through once you are here.

If you are working in London a pay as you go Oyster card is the way to go for public transport, unless your season ticket is part of that system.  Check up on the zones to get what works for your particular geographic situation.

There are London mmm meetups, although I've not managed to attend.

Welcome to the UK: I hope you have a great time here.

Be frugal and industrious, and you will be free (Ben Franklin)

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2016, 12:20:32 PM »
Thank you for these helpful responses and for the welcome. I'll be in Cambridge. I just arranged this morning to take a "study room" (which sounds like a dorm room) in one of the colleges for the first several months. So that gives me some time to learn the area, and I will have an address from the day I arrive.

I will check out Which. That sounds very helpful. An Oyster card would probably be useful, even if I don't need to be in London on a regular basis.

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2016, 01:09:45 PM »
Thank you for these helpful responses and for the welcome. I'll be in Cambridge. I just arranged this morning to take a "study room" (which sounds like a dorm room) in one of the colleges for the first several months. So that gives me some time to learn the area, and I will have an address from the day I arrive.

I will check out Which. That sounds very helpful. An Oyster card would probably be useful, even if I don't need to be in London on a regular basis.

I work in Cambridge and have lived in the area for nearly 20 years, so let me know if you have any questions. If you're in a college room, you'll want to look into getting a bike when you arrive - this is not a car-friendly city. It's an expensive place to live by UK standards, but (because it's a student town) also a lot of opportunities to live frugally and a lot of cultural & historic stuff that you just can't do elsewhere.

Oyster card pretty much pays for itself in a single visit to London.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2016, 01:41:19 PM »
I work in Cambridge and have lived in the area for nearly 20 years, so let me know if you have any questions. If you're in a college room, you'll want to look into getting a bike when you arrive - this is not a car-friendly city. ...

Thank you. I'm sure I'll have questions. I'll look into the bike once I'm settled. I think I'll be able to just walk the first few weeks anyway.

So far it seems like "Three" has SIM cards and the cheapest pay-as-you-go cell phone rates. It also looks like they have a store in Cambridge. I'm hoping the phone I already have will work.

Is there a particular bank or credit union that is good in the area? I've heard of international students having trouble opening bank accounts, but I hope that maybe it will be not be so hard if I am there for work. I looked at Which? and TSB seems good there. http://www.which.co.uk/money/bank-accounts/reviews-ns/bank-accounts/best-bank-accounts-if-you-always-stay-in-credit-/

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2016, 03:59:42 PM »

Thank you. I'm sure I'll have questions. I'll look into the bike once I'm settled. I think I'll be able to just walk the first few weeks anyway.

So far it seems like "Three" has SIM cards and the cheapest pay-as-you-go cell phone rates. It also looks like they have a store in Cambridge. I'm hoping the phone I already have will work.

Is there a particular bank or credit union that is good in the area? I've heard of international students having trouble opening bank accounts, but I hope that maybe it will be not be so hard if I am there for work. I looked at Which? and TSB seems good there. http://www.which.co.uk/money/bank-accounts/reviews-ns/bank-accounts/best-bank-accounts-if-you-always-stay-in-credit-/

Walking is definitely also a good way to get around; much of the city centre is closed to traffic and nowhere is that far.

I am the wrong person to answer your other questions. No smartphone for me and I very rarely use my pay-as-you-go phone. Whether your existing phone works really depends on what protocol and frequencies it supports. There is free public wifi provided by the university all over the centre of town, if that's useful. My kids seem to mostly get sims online - they arrive in the post next day, rather than going to collect.

I still have the bank account I opened when I started at university and have never shopped around for a better option, not much to choose between them as far as I can see. All of the banks in that Which report have branches locally, so I would probably go with TSB as suggested. The banking setup is different to the US (or at least how US banking used to be) in that we have a smaller number of very large banks who operate across the whole country; many services are shared between them so that you can use your card to get money out of other banks' ATMs, almost everything can be done online and there is rarely a need to visit the bank itself (I haven't been inside one for many years.) There is a local building society (the Cambridge Building Society) which is maybe closer to a savings & loans or credit union, which is owned by its members, but there's no real advantage to doing that.

The difficulty of opening an account is not that you're a student or a wage-earner, but that in an attempt to clamp down on money laundering, you have to prove who you are and where you live. Who you are is easy - you can use your passport for that. Proving where you live generally requires showing bills for water, gas, electricity, or bank statements, or tax bills or similar - and that's hard to do when you've just entered the country. Any bank in Cambridge should be used to dealing with this - they may need an official letter from the college to confirm your address, for example. Cambridge has a very cosmopolitan (and transient) population, large proportion of people are from elsewhere in Europe, plus plenty of north americans, australians etc. so a lot of services are geared to coping with your situation.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2016, 07:08:31 PM »
So far it seems like "Three" has SIM cards and the cheapest pay-as-you-go cell phone rates. It also looks like they have a store in Cambridge. I'm hoping the phone I already have will work.

Is there a particular bank or credit union that is good in the area? I've heard of international students having trouble opening bank accounts, but I hope that maybe it will be not be so hard if I am there for work. I looked at Which? and TSB seems good there. http://www.which.co.uk/money/bank-accounts/reviews-ns/bank-accounts/best-bank-accounts-if-you-always-stay-in-credit-/
Whether your existing phone works really depends on what protocol and frequencies it supports. There is free public wifi provided by the university all over the centre of town, if that's useful. My kids seem to mostly get sims online - they arrive in the post next day, rather than going to collect.

I still have the bank account I opened when I started at university and have never shopped around for a better option, not much to choose between them as far as I can see. All of the banks in that Which report have branches locally, so I would probably go with TSB as suggested. The banking setup is different to the US (or at least how US banking used to be) in that we have a smaller number of very large banks who operate across the whole country; many services are shared between them so that you can use your card to get money out of other banks' ATMs, almost everything can be done online and there is rarely a need to visit the bank itself (I haven't been inside one for many years.) There is a local building society (the Cambridge Building Society) which is maybe closer to a savings & loans or credit union, which is owned by its members, but there's no real advantage to doing that.

The difficulty of opening an account is not that you're a student or a wage-earner, but that in an attempt to clamp down on money laundering, you have to prove who you are and where you live. Who you are is easy - you can use your passport for that. Proving where you live generally requires showing bills for water, gas, electricity, or bank statements, or tax bills or similar - and that's hard to do when you've just entered the country. Any bank in Cambridge should be used to dealing with this - they may need an official letter from the college to confirm your address, for example. Cambridge has a very cosmopolitan (and transient) population, large proportion of people are from elsewhere in Europe, plus plenty of north americans, australians etc. so a lot of services are geared to coping with your situation.

Ceratonia, belated thanks for this information. You're right about the banking. I just arrived yesterday and ran into this trouble of giving the right documents. I think what I will do is wait until after I start working on Monday and either have more documents or can ask for a letter. Metro Bank is open until 8 pm on weekdays and much of the day on Saturday and Sunday, and they can print out a debit card and generate a PIN on the spot as soon as an account is open, no appointment needed and no fees. Metro Bank might not be the best choice in the long term, but for now, it seems like the easiest option.

My US cell phone doesn't have a SIM card slot, so that plan did not go as smoothly as I'd hoped. It uses the wrong type of network. I'm trying to decide whether to buy a smartphone or go with something simpler for the time being. I can only do pay-as-you-go plans until I have a bank account, but now that I also need to buy a phone, it complicates matters that I can't get a bank account yet. In the short term, I've added $10 to my Skype account. I can use my US Republic Wireless phone on Wi-Fi for sending and receiving calls to the US and Canada, and I can use Skype over Wi-Fi to make calls to UK and other numbers. I could get a UK number for Skype, but it seems unnecessary if I'm planning to get a local cell phone within a week.

I'm looking forward to forgetting about the phone and the bank account for a few days and just being a tourist until Sunday. A tourist with jet lag. I wonder if there's anywhere to safely go and get a meal at 2 am . . .

Ukwhat?

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2016, 11:56:18 PM »
For smart phones / sim only and also other items like Internet and online shopping etc check these few websites out if you haven't already.

Www.hotsimonlydeals.com for good comparison of cheapest sim only deals.
Www.hotukdeals.com for user submitted deals found at different places, everything from cars to food. Phones are popular on here.
Www.quidco.co.uk for cashback on purchases, can be over 100 back on phones etc.

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2016, 01:28:24 AM »
I wonder if there's anywhere to safely go and get a meal at 2 am . . .

Welcome to the UK :-)

AFAIK, the only place that might be serving meals at 2am would be The Regal (Wetherspoons pub) which has a certain reputation - cheap but not very good food and cheap beer attracts a certain crowd. You might also find one or two places selling takeaway pizza and/or chips (fries to you) or kebabs to drunks on their way home in that general area - market square/regent street.  Cambridge is generally pretty safe, but most people out at that time of night midweek will have been drinking. Big supermarkets are all open 24hrs except Sunday, but maybe not that convenient to get to in the night-time without a car.

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2016, 02:24:20 AM »
Welcome to the UK.

If you want a basic smartphone Amazon has the Vodaphone Smart First for 19, on pay as you go. You can buy 'bundles' starting from 10/month that give you a monthly allowance of calls, text and data, or buy a sim-only contract when you have your bank account sorted out. Better, second hand phones will be available if you look, and payg sims start from 1p. Ask people in your college which networks have service where you are (or where you will live), you can also check out the virtual networks (Talktalk, Tesco, etc) that piggyback on the main networks, as they can be cheaper.

Metrobank is pretty good for service and opening hours, but other banks have better credit interest rates if you are interested and want to play games. You can get up to 6%, on a limited balance. Moneysavingexpert.com is a good place to look.

For groceries, the Cambridge centre mini markets have higher prices on some items than a bigger version of the same store brand (Tesco, Sainsburys). Online shopping means you get the cheaper prices and they deliver to the door (possibly the college front door rather than a room door). Are you in a catered college and do you have access to a proper kitchen?

For the bike - there are normally signs up around town for second hand bike sales - I aimed to spend more on the lock than the bike when I was a student.

How long are you here for?

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2016, 04:39:52 AM »
Ukwhat?, thank you for the links. It's helpful to see all the plans on one site. Yesterday I stopped in at Carphone Warehouse and looked a little bit online there and at Three, but it seems like all the phone companies make it hard to figure out exactly how much you would be paying.

Ceretonia, thank you for the late-night info. I ended up just eating a snack bag of peanuts I'd brought in my carry-on, but I had a nice walk for 15 or 20 minutes. I asked the Porter here where it might be safe to go at 3 am, and he suggested staying away from the city centre because of the people leaving pubs, as you said.

Playing with Fire UK, thank you for these tips. I picked up some basics at Sainsburys this morning, but I'll have to figure out where the larger markets are. I have a decent kitchen to use, but as yet, I don't have much to cook in.

By the time I figured out that I ought to bring kitchenware, I'd already packed most of it in boxes I won't see again for a couple months. So, I have 1 cereal bowl, 1 frying pan, 1 mug, 1 table spoon, 1 tiny yogurt spoon, 1 pair of chopsticks, spatulas, measuring cups, measuring spoons, and 1 microwavable Tupperware lunch dish. I think I'll be making eggs and stir fry for awhile until I get more dishes. Are there thrift stores or similar places to find very basic household goods? I don't want to get much since I have a lot of stuff being shipped, but a saucepan, flatware, and a plate would be very nice to have.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2016, 04:53:46 AM »
How long are you here for?

I'm on a 5-year visa. If the job is a good fit, I could be here much longer. It's a strange feeling to suddenly be in the position of the immigrant. I read The Chronicles of Narnia, The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, etc., and I've watched Dr. Who and Downton Abbey. But I'm not the sort of Anglophile American who dreamed of coming here. I'm sure I'll get used to things, but at the moment I'm still staring quizzically at the coins whenever I buy something. The twenty pence coin keeps throwing me since it's the same size as a nickel (5 cents) but is more like a quarter (25) except that there aren't any quarters. Then the five pence coin is the same size as a dime (10). The penny is familiar, but the two pence coin seems strange. It all seems simple enough written out like that, but it's confusing when it comes time to pay. When I'm in a store in the US or Canada, my hands just know which coins I need to pay whatever amount.

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2016, 05:04:39 AM »
If you PM me your address I'll send over some kitchen stuff I don't use any more.

The big Tesco at Milton (beyond the science park) will sell kitchen bits. I don't recall seeing kitchenware in charity shops, but haven't been looking. Aldi will sometimes have picnic plates and saucepans in but the homeware stock changes over pretty rapidly, it is closer to Sainsburys than the big Tesco (North of Castle St off Histon rd).

Suggestion: watch the opening scenes of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader after you've been in Cambridge for a while and can figure out where it was filmed. Also the Theory of Everything and Chariots of Fire.

Our money is crazy, but how crazy is it that all your bank notes are the same size and colour?!?!

Doubleh

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2016, 05:41:41 AM »
Welcome to the UK, and in particular Cambridge which is one of my favourite parts of the country.

If you're still awake and hungry tonight I'd not pay too much heed to the Porter's warnings - yes you may see some high jinx and rowdiness in town but honestly I've never felt as safe walking around after dark anywhere as I did in Cambridge. Gardi's (formally The Gardenia Restaurant) on Rose Crescent, just off the town square is a late night institution and should be open at 2, go for the Greek burger. The Van of Life and Van of Death, on opposite sides of the market square are also good late night options in spite of the names.

Metro Bank seems a good option if they are able to help you, they are new but consistently get good reviews for customer service. The other bank that is consistently rated top for customer service is First Direct. It has no branches but a good website and excellent call centres - calls are answered within 2 rings by a native English speaker who nearly always fixes the problem there and then. Plus you get paid 100 for opening an account. Doesn't matter that you don't have a branch as you can use any cash machine in the country for free.

If you are still running into address problems the other alternative is an offshore account. When my Mrs came here from USA she was set up with an offshore account at Natwest by her settlement agency, no UK address needed. Any of the big banks ie HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds should be able to do the same but you may need to contact their offshore call centre rather than go into a local branch.

Phone wise you'll probably need PAYG as you won't be able to pass the credit check for a contract; no matter PAYG tend to be the cheapest options anyway. Good options are 3 and GiffGaff, I'd suggest 3 as you can also use minutes in about 20 countries including USA, France for no extra cost so good if you're travelling while you're here. A burner phone should set you back about 20 or you may be able to find one in a charity shop or scrounge from someone in college.

Are you able to tell us which college you're at or what you're going (roughly) there? There's a few alum on here and it's great to hear the stash is spreading!

Friar

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2016, 06:31:30 AM »
calls are answered within 2 rings by a native English northern speaker

FTFY. ;)

I can highly recommend First Direct. I've been banking with them for years and never had a problem.

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2016, 07:59:05 AM »
For cheap kitchenware, I might suggest walking across Christ's Pieces and checking out the shops outside of the Grafton Centre, on Burleigh Street & Fitzroy Street - perhaps Argos, Poundland, Primark. Not sure whether it would be any less than supermarket prices though. Possibly worth going to TK Maxx on Market Passage. I rarely go to the shops :-)

In most places, Wilko is good for cheapo kitchenware, but the nearest one is in Ely (worth a visit on the train, but not worth going just to shop there.)

spuggy

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #17 on: January 29, 2016, 08:02:33 AM »
Welcome to the UK :)

Just to add, if you're looking for considered advice on the best deals, as well as Which, the Money Saving Expert website is a pretty good bet. Some banks offer current accounts with savings accounts attached to them, and those accounts are usually at a good interest rate for the UK. Lots of people go with a Santander123 account, but I can't vouch for that because I'm still stuck with my (perfectly functional, but making me no money) basic current account.
I hope you enjoy Cambridge.

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #18 on: January 29, 2016, 08:06:53 AM »
The big Tesco at Milton (beyond the science park) will sell kitchen bits.

That's a small one :-) There are much bigger Tesco stores on Newmarket Road (by The Wrestlers) and on the Cherry Hinton bypass and both are easy to get to on the bus.

We should perhaps also collectively assure Kwill that the weather isn't generally as bad as it is today.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #19 on: January 29, 2016, 01:13:30 PM »
Thank you all for these suggestions! There's such a wealth of knowledge coming out here.

I got a cell phone today at EE. They had a free one available for PAYG starting at 1 pound per 7 days for 25 minutes of talk and 50 texts. I let myself be upsold to a 5 phone by Nokia, but it seemed a good starter option. My plan is to mostly use the UK phone for emergencies, UK texts, and incoming UK calls and then rely on my US smartphone for email and Internet and US/Canada calls over Wi-Fi. I was told I could bring the phone number over to a different phone and plan or a different carrier later, so I'll just see how it goes.

Playing with fire UK, I sent you a message. Thank you for the offer!

The weather yesterday was lovely, and today wasn't bad. I was living in New England, where at this time of the year, your face might hurt from being outside in the cold and wind. I was delighted to see daffodils and trees and bushes all in bloom. It's like going straight from Christmas to May.

With the banking, it seems like all the banks are advertising to have people with established accounts elsewhere switch. So the trick may be just to get established and then worry about getting interest or the best deal later. I'll look up First Direct.

I'll have to explore more of the shops tomorrow. Today I ended up having lunch and then coffee with my local faith community, which was a nice chance to meet people. Otherwise, I've just been walking in a pretty small area and looking at the shops inside the Grand Arcade. That was pretty helpful for cell phones since so many companies are there, but it doesn't seem the best place for cheap basic necessities.

I've got some food now in case I wake up hungry in the middle of the night, but it's good to hear that the city is pretty safe. :-)

Doubleh, I'll be working in one of the libraries. I'm not a member of a college here, just renting a room in one through June.

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #20 on: January 29, 2016, 02:01:04 PM »
looking at the shops inside the Grand Arcade.
Be sure to look at the floor while you're in there! There's lots of carved stone animals round the city - lions, unicorns, seahorses, dolphins, a sloth, a mammoth and all manner of other things (not forgetting the grasshopper clock), but the polished stone in the grand arcade is full of fossils.

comp@26

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #21 on: January 29, 2016, 02:29:53 PM »
Learn about self select stock and shares Isa accounts

Doubleh

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #22 on: January 29, 2016, 03:50:13 PM »
Learn about self select stock and shares Isa accounts

Sorry to be a downer but while this is normally great advice for in the uk, it doesn't work for us citizens. Assuming you're a us citizen or tax payer most places in the uk won't allow you to open an investment account due to fatca (us rules on reporting foreign holdings) any index funds you buy over here will be subject to form filling and punitive tax under the usa's pfic regime - and after all that you'll still have to pay tax on your isa.

Instead stick with a pension if your employer offers you one, that will be exempt from any tax in USA, and outside that keep up with your usa based ira or taxable brokerage.

Sounds like you're settling in nicely - if you're enjoying the weather now you'll love spring!
« Last Edit: January 29, 2016, 04:39:43 PM by Doubleh »

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #23 on: January 29, 2016, 11:58:16 PM »
Learn about self select stock and shares Isa accounts

Sorry to be a downer but while this is normally great advice for in the uk, it doesn't work for us citizens. Assuming you're a us citizen or tax payer most places in the uk won't allow you to open an investment account due to fatca (us rules on reporting foreign holdings) any index funds you buy over here will be subject to form filling and punitive tax under the usa's pfic regime - and after all that you'll still have to pay tax on your isa.

Instead stick with a pension if your employer offers you one, that will be exempt from any tax in USA, and outside that keep up with your usa based ira or taxable brokerage.

Sounds like you're settling in nicely - if you're enjoying the weather now you'll love spring!

Oh! Good to know. I rolled over my 403b from the former employer to a Vanguard IRA before coming, but I hadn't started thinking about what options I might or might not have here. The employer offers pension options, but I don't know all the details yet.

As a US citizen, I think I can't contribute to an IRA with money earned abroad and subject to the foreign earned income exclusion. As far as I could understand so far, I think I'll need to pay whatever taxes I'm subject to in the UK and then I can either exclude the income from US taxes by filing an extra form or report the UK taxes back to the US to get credit for already having paid however much. There is a limit to how much one can exclude, but it's high enough not to be a concern for me.

I've revised my estimate of the weather equivalent to April rather than May, but it's good to hear your actual spring is even nicer.

Doubleh

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #24 on: January 30, 2016, 01:30:18 AM »
Your understanding about taxes and iras sounds about right. If you Google about pros & cons of using the foreign exclusion vs foreign tax credits there's benefits to each, if you want to pm me I can send you a paper on this from my wife's expat tax advisor. But in very simple terms if you pay as much or more taxes in the uk as the amount you would pay in the USA then you have the option to  use credits for the uk tax paid to cover your us tax liability. Because you didn't exclude your income you're still eligible to contribute to an ira. But there's other things to consider so definitely do your own research or talk to an advisor.

Uk pensions work like a 401k in that you get tax relief on your payments and pay tax when you withdraw funds from the pension. Recent changes to the rules have made pensions much more flexible so you no longer have to buy an annuity. Do be aware that unlike a 401k there is pretty much no way I've found of accessing the funds in your pension early (current minimum is 55 but likely to increase towards 60 before you get there) without punitive tax penalties - like 50% tax. All that said the benefits are well worth it and you should get at least the maximum your employer will match. Additionally academic institutions are among the few employers still offering final salary or defined benefit pensions to some employees. Not sure whether your library does but if it does sieze it with both hands.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #25 on: February 05, 2016, 05:03:26 PM »
First week done! I've been in the UK 8 days now. I've started some potential friendships, met dozens of people, attended talks and a formal dinner, mostly enjoyed the first week of the job, got a mobile phone and a bank account, called to start the process for a National Insurance number, went swing dancing, and climbed dozens of flights of stairs.

I'm giving up on coins smaller than a pound now that I realize I can just throw all my change into the self checkout at Sainsbury and not have to awkwardly puzzle it out in front of a cashier. I've had some culture shock but about different things than I might have expected. I haven't got around to being a tourist yet -- other than looking around at the buildings and scenery as I walk -- but tomorrow I am going into London for a walking tour. Which I guess will be just walking and looking around at buildings except with a guide.

Thank you to all of your for your advice. Special thanks to Playing with Fire UK for lending me kitchen things. It's very nice to be eating off a plate with a fork and knife again.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #26 on: February 20, 2016, 04:20:05 PM »
Three weeks in now. I've found the public library, more or less figured out the currency, and sorted out some of the basic questions of where and what to eat and do, etc.

I finally bought a bicycle today, so now I can explore a bit more. I got a used bike for 75 that came with lights and mudguards and a bell and relatively new tires. I know very little about bikes, but it seems like it should be alright for awhile. I got a big heavy chain lock for 30, which will hopefully last a long time.

I've experienced a little more culture shock than I was expecting. It comes and goes. But things are good. I think it will help having the bicycle; I'd been missing my car.

worms

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #27 on: February 21, 2016, 02:08:09 AM »
... relatively new tires...  I've experienced a little more culture shock than I was expecting.

These are, of course, tyres that you've got! ;)

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #28 on: February 21, 2016, 02:14:48 AM »
... relatively new tires...  I've experienced a little more culture shock than I was expecting.

These are, of course, tyres that you've got! ;)

If you say so. I'm learning all sorts of new words and trying to relearn punctuation, etc. Thank goodness for country-specific spellcheckers. At work, Word corrects my Americanisms. I guess I should fix the browser on my personal laptop to look for British English.

worms

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #29 on: February 21, 2016, 03:10:38 AM »
... relatively new tires...  I've experienced a little more culture shock than I was expecting.

These are, of course, tyres that you've got! ;)

If you say so. I'm learning all sorts of new words and trying to relearn punctuation, etc. Thank goodness for country-specific spellcheckers. At work, Word corrects my Americanisms. I guess I should fix the browser on my personal laptop to look for British English.
Best of luck with that!  I'm afraid most of us in UK have a constant struggle trying to stop software converting everything across to American!  Could be worse, though, Word refuses to accept my everyday Scottish words and phrases!

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #30 on: February 21, 2016, 03:07:46 PM »
New question . . . Housing. What do I do about finding long-term accommodations? I love living in a college room so far. I can walk to work door-to-door in 10 minutes or less. But the room is only mine until the end of June, and I have household goods arriving from the States in two weeks. I can put the stuff in storage for a few months, but at some point, I'm probably going to get sick of living in a student room and want my own space and my own stuff.

What are the options? I haven't seen any ads for unfurnished rooms, which I would find preferable to furnished rooms, if I were to try a room in a shared house. I'd like to rent or buy a studio or one-bedroom flat, but the prices around here are too high.

What do you all think of shared ownership? The few affordable flats I've seen online are on that kind of system, and it sounds kind of suspicious, if also appealing.

NewbieFrugalUK

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #31 on: February 21, 2016, 03:21:04 PM »
Hello! Glad you are settling in ok! Try Gumtree for shared houses/flats. If you can avoid dealing with an estate agent you will save a lot of money as they fleece tenants with all sorts of fees. Good luck!

former player

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #32 on: February 21, 2016, 03:50:12 PM »
What do you all think of shared ownership? The few affordable flats I've seen online are on that kind of system, and it sounds kind of suspicious, if also appealing.
Shared ownership is all above board (it's usually under the auspices of either the local council or a housing association) but you need to be totally on top of the conditions: do you qualify for it, what sort of scheme is it (there are various) and are you prepared to hold it long term -  you probably won't be able to sub-let and finding someone to sell on to may not be easy although the housing association may buy back from you.

In a heated housing market like Cambridge, try word of mouth - put the word out to colleagues, put a wanted ad up on any work or college noticeboards, if you hear about anyone moving on ask about their housing in Cambridge.
Be frugal and industrious, and you will be free (Ben Franklin)

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #33 on: February 22, 2016, 04:55:35 AM »
What are the options? I haven't seen any ads for unfurnished rooms, which I would find preferable to furnished rooms, if I were to try a room in a shared house. I'd like to rent or buy a studio or one-bedroom flat, but the prices around here are too high.

What do you all think of shared ownership? The few affordable flats I've seen online are on that kind of system, and it sounds kind of suspicious, if also appealing.

If you rent a house, it is often unfurnished (because mostly done by families, who have their own stuff and also because landlords have responsibilities to get safety certificates for furnishings, applicances etc.) If you take a room in a shared house, that will usually be furnished because it wouldn't be practical for each person to bring their own oven, fridge etc.

Shared ownership is all above board, but is really intended as a way for long-term residents who can't afford to buy a home to buy somewhere. You typically pay rent on the %age of the house that you don't own and have some limitations when it comes to making alterations, repairs, selling the house etc. You may struggle to get a mortgage for a while, in any case.

You'll find prices are significantly less outside of Cambridge (although these days, you may need to be a few miles away to notice much difference.) St. Neots & Haverhill are much, much cheaper, but little public transport. Places like Ely (train) or St. Ives (guided busway) are cheaper and have better public transport links. Commuting by car can be fairly bad - my 9 mile journey to work (on the edge of town, so I don't come into the city centre at al) can take anywhere from 15-60 minutes by car in the morning. Basically there are 250 000+ people working in Cambridge and ~100 000 residents, with a road system that mostly pre-dates cars, so everything is a compromise.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #34 on: February 22, 2016, 03:29:06 PM »
Sigh. I don't want to live where I have to commute. Not when I don't have any family or friends around here. I have acquaintances now through work and church and dancing, but what would I do further out of the city?

Tonight I had an interview for an unfurnished room in a co-op that's cheap and close to everything. The people seemed friendly, and the rules and overall situation seem reasonable. I'll have to wait and see about that. I also responded to an ad for a new shared ownership flat that is being built. It looks like I'll be able to talk to their representative this week and possibly see the show flat this weekend, so even if that doesn't work out, at least I'll have a better idea about it. I still have four months to find a place.

In a city like this in the States, there would be fewer shared rooms offered by landlords and more unfurnished flats being split up by flatmates who chose each other and looked for a place together. An unfurnished flat typically already has a refrigerator and oven in the States. Tenants just bring the furniture and small appliances (microwave, toaster, etc). To me it seems nicer to have the tenants choosing their own flatmates, though the downside of that is that if one person becomes delinquent on the rent, the other flatmates are responsible because they are all on the lease together. And if one person leave early, the flatmates have to find a replacement, cover the difference in rent, or make the person who left keep paying.

I got rid of my dining room table and kitchen table and armchair and so forth, but I kept my bedroom furniture and also my pots and pans and dishes. I figured if I got my own apartment I would buy more furniture, but I didn't quite realize how much too much stuff I was still bringing.

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #35 on: February 22, 2016, 04:08:23 PM »
To me it seems nicer to have the tenants choosing their own flatmates, though the downside of that is that if one person becomes delinquent on the rent, the other flatmates are responsible because they are all on the lease together. And if one person leave early, the flatmates have to find a replacement, cover the difference in rent, or make the person who left keep paying.

That is the most common setup for twenty-somethings sharing a house here, too. Maybe thirty-somethings also, these days. I guess you need to be at the point where you have friends that you want to house-hunt with.

Cambridge housing market is unusual in several ways; it has a relatively transient population, with relatively few locals. The housing in many of the most attractive areas is mostly owned by the university, who often let it at way below market rents. There are large numbers of young workers from other EU states, particularly from southern and eastern Europe - you won't find many British people serving you in pubs, restaurants or shops, for example. There's also a high number of millionaires.

Apart from gumtree, estate agents, word of mouth etc. (all good options) you could also try the university accommodation service http://www.accommodation.cam.ac.uk/findahome/  (if you work for the uni that is.) They won't talk to landlords or make any arrangements for you, but are very good with advice and putting you in touch with people.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #36 on: February 22, 2016, 04:56:10 PM »
Following! I don't live in the UK and don't intend to, but reading the little details of resettling are really interesting. Hope you don't mind a bit of good natured lurking, Kwill! And congrats on the big move!
My journal: Hiding in the Ferns
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rozsi

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #37 on: February 22, 2016, 05:35:49 PM »
I spent a wonderful year as a broke grad student in Cambridge in 2010-11. If you're a food lover, I highly recommend checking out the veg at the General Market (326 Market Hill Cambridge CB2 UK) in the center of town on Market Square (Mon-Sat 10am-4pm). It at least used to be pretty cheap and also a fun experience/exploration opportunity.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #38 on: February 24, 2016, 12:18:39 PM »
Hi Bracken_Joy. I guess this is sort of turning into a journal . . . this resettling is still an adventure after nearly a month here.

Rozsi, I'll have to spend more time in the Market Square and look at the vegetables. I've walked around the area, but I've not actually bought anything there.

I haven't really bought anything much anywhere beyond what seemed necessary and/or unavoidable -- except I've spent some money going to dances and joining people for food or coffee. I should get some of my relocation expenses reimbursed soon and also get paid for the first time. Will try not to go crazy and buy all the fanciest vegetables and souvenirs at that point.

Ceratonia, I may have found my current room via the University Accommodation Service. Trying not to overshare on social media but it's probably a lost cause at this point. But anyway, what I had in mind in terms of type of place, location, and budget seems somewhat unrealistic now, even with access to the nice Accommodation Service website. There's a waiting list for the university-owned flats, but it's not at all clear how long the wait could be.

Things are good, though. Seems like the best thing to do is just be patient, enjoy this season of living simply in the middle of a vibrant community, and keep my eyes open for the right place at the right time.

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #39 on: March 04, 2016, 01:17:15 PM »
Today I rode my bicycle to the bank during lunch and requested a chequebook. This is free but available only by request now because everyone is supposed to be electronic these days.

I am trying to buy a ticket to a locally-organized lindy hop dance in a nearby town, and the organizer asked me to mail a cheque for it. This was last night, and only then did I realize that I still had no way to write cheques in this country. When I opened my current account -- which was not at Metro in the end -- I was told it was like a checking account in the US. But I didn't think to ask for a checkbook/chequebook, figuring that it was either part of the deal or else not needed in this country. Now it seems that it will take five business days to get a chequebook, even with my request flagged as a priority, and the dance is next Saturday. I'm considering asking an acquaintance to take cash and let me use a cheque for this, but this seems awkward even if I ask the people I will be riding along with. How awkward would it be to ask that of people I know through work in this culture? What are my other options? A money order? Where does one get money orders? I need to write back to the organizer and say something, but it's an odd problem.

But things are good. After all, there is a vintage lindy hop dance to attend. Tonight I'm on my way to another free ballroom dance session, and there's tea and goodies at church tomorrow and Sunday.

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #40 on: March 04, 2016, 01:37:57 PM »
I'm considering asking an acquaintance to take cash and let me use a cheque for this, but this seems awkward even if I ask the people I will be riding along with. How awkward would it be to ask that of people I know through work in this culture? What are my other options? A money order? Where does one get money orders? I need to write back to the organizer and say something, but it's an odd problem.

I'd expect most people (knowing that you've not been in the country long and don't have a chequebook) would be happy to write a cheque for you if you gave them the cash, although equally most people don't carry chequebooks with them these days. Not like it costs them anything, or has any risk.

Equally, surprised the lindy-hop organiser won't let you just pay cash on the door if you've been in touch to ask for a ticket (bit of a pain having to take a load of cheques to the bank rather than just using electronic transfer.)

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #41 on: March 04, 2016, 04:12:19 PM »
I haven't asked yet about paying cash at the door. I guess that is the next, most obvious question, or I can maybe ask someone at church tomorrow about giving cash for a check at some point in the near future. Tickets are only available in advance, apparently.

The organizer forgot to attach the flyer as a PDF in his first email and then said something about having had "a senior moment" when he did attach it. Maybe it is easier for him to take checks to the bank and mail out tickets on paper than to set up a website to take electronic payments or something like that. Some cultural differences could be generational rather than national.

shelivesthedream

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #42 on: March 05, 2016, 04:15:11 AM »
I'm a bit late to the party but welcome to Cambridge! Enjoy!

Cheque are still the main way in which student societies and events operate, unfortunately, although most will take cash. I haven't written a cheque since I graduated, but I went through two chequebooks at university!

+1 to the vegetables at the market. Good prices, good selection.

+1 to the central library in the shopping centre.

If you want to get out more, have a walk down Mill Road. Odd shops, interesting restaurants...

We don't have thrift shops in the UK, but if you type "charity shop Cambridge" into google maps you'll have loads.

Cambridge at night is busy but generally not dangerous if it's just students. They're young and dumb but not violent. However, Saturday night (and sort of Friday night) as known as "townie night", and I did see some punch ups then. It's no more dangerous than any city, though, so just be sensible. If you're a woman, though, we were CONSTANTLY warned about rapes, so do take the free rape alarm from the JCR and don't do anything stupid. Taxis are cheap because the distances are so short.

melaniesuzanne

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #43 on: March 05, 2016, 08:29:23 AM »
Are you using GiffGaff for your mobile plan? It is super cheap and great!

dreams_and_discoveries

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #44 on: March 06, 2016, 02:22:15 AM »
Welcome to the UK Kwill -glad you are enjoying it.

That's so old school with the cheque book, the only times I use mine are with really small businesses - namely my cleaner and the cattery.


Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #45 on: March 06, 2016, 06:36:53 AM »
Welcome to the UK Kwill -glad you are enjoying it.

That's so old school with the cheque book, the only times I use mine are with really small businesses - namely my cleaner and the cattery.

Thanks, Dreams & Discoveries. I had to look up cattery just now. I'm learning so many words and concepts: clotted cream, cattery, crumhorn, pritt stick, pigeonhole, plimsolls, and many others. Also the fact that pants and trousers are not synonyms in this country (fortunately I heard this early on as a cautionary tale from another American).

cerat0n1a

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #46 on: March 06, 2016, 07:00:41 AM »
Thanks, Dreams & Discoveries. I had to look up cattery just now. I'm learning so many words and concepts: clotted cream, cattery, crumhorn, pritt stick, pigeonhole, plimsolls, and many others. Also the fact that pants and trousers are not synonyms in this country

I think most people would know that Americans use pants differently to us (or at least, the word "pants".) Also suspect your average Briton wouldn't have a clue what a crumhorn was.

As for clotted cream, yum, one of my favourite things. When marathon training in the past, I've run from Cambridge to Wicken Fen, had a cream tea (clotted cream + scone + a cup of tea) at the National TRust cafe there and then run 10 miles home. Possibly not the best re-fueling method.

dreams_and_discoveries

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #47 on: March 06, 2016, 08:13:21 AM »

Thanks, Dreams & Discoveries. I had to look up cattery just now. I'm learning so many words and concepts: clotted cream, cattery, crumhorn, pritt stick, pigeonhole, plimsolls, and many others. Also the fact that pants and trousers are not synonyms in this country (fortunately I heard this early on as a cautionary tale from another American).

Have to admit I've no idea what a crumhorn is either.....

worms

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #48 on: March 06, 2016, 10:39:49 AM »
...and what is the American for pigeonhole?

Kwill

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Re: UK Mustachian life basics?
« Reply #49 on: March 06, 2016, 03:03:58 PM »
...and what is the American for pigeonhole?

Mailbox. It's a mailbox because it's a box where you get your mail. It's not a place where pigeons live. Right?