Cost of living
Cost of living is a deceptively simple element to be evaluated so it is likely to be taken lightly in one direction or another.
Sometimes we hear that in some exotic country you can live with a euro per day; maybe it's true, if you are glad to eat doubtful food, cooked in the street without any rule of hygiene. Or, on the contrary, we find that a rental home costs twice that in Italy, but perhaps we are comparing the center of Las Palmas in August with a town in Aspromonte in November.
We have to use cautiously national averages, even if they come from authoritative bodies: they serve to take macro-economic decisions but can not be applied uncritically to all the particular situations.
As we learned in elementary school, we have to compare apples with apples and pears with pears, so first we establish the conditions within which to make a comparison and then we do not limit ourselves to the final figure, but we try to understand in detail how it was built and by whom. We identify which are, among food, shelter, clothing, transportation, personal care and entertainment, the goods and services most important to us and we increase their weight in the calculation of the final result. Let's be clear on the accommodation that we want: in a big city or in the countryside? Sea or inland?
Given this, we can use an Internet service dedicated to the comparison of the cost of living. Two services widely used are Expatistan and Numbeo, but you can easily found other.
As an example, we asked to compare Sofia to Milan and we found that Sofia is 51% cheaper than Milan. How reliable is this estimate? As seen in the figure, they were used 14,223 price entered by 1,361 different people and the last update of a price is 4 hours before. Okay, it is quite reliable.
If we ask the esteem of a small village in the province and we find less than 100 prices, or less than 10 people, we would do some additional checking choosing two or three nearby towns and checking that the estimates do not differ too much between them.
Completed this level of analysis, we try to go a step further in-depth.
Expatistan breaks down such 51% in the categories we listed before; for example, it says that housing costs 69% less while the transport cost (only) 28% less. If we think that the cost of accommodation for us will weigh more than the transport sector, then our economy will be higher than 51% (precisely between 51% and 69%); otherwise our economy will be a little less than 51% (between 28% and 51%).
Finally, if we click on the buttons with the "+" on the left of the categories, we have the full details of the charges: an apartment of 85 m2 furnished in a standard area normally costs € 285, 76% less than in Milan, while its consumption of heating, gas, electricity for two people in a month costs € 82, 36% less than in Milan.
Doing some test, we can build a fairly clear and reliable picture. It is worth repeating that this data are only preliminary, and nothing can replace our direct experience.