Cost of Living in Australia: My Personal Experience

I was warned about the high cost of living in Australia before moving here, though luckily it is not as bad as I thought it would be. Perhaps it is because I came directly from France rather than the US, but I feel as though the only expense that is very high in Australia is rent. Yet keeping in mind that there are only 20 million people in this entire country (roughly the size of the US minus Alaska) and that most of them live in the big cities near the coasts, it’s understandable that the rents would be higher in a city of millions of people compared to 50 thousand, which was the average size of cities where I’ve previously lived.

Australia vs. USA

Rents have also increased in recent years due to the mining boom and the strength of the Australian dollar, which is now a few cents stronger than the US dollar. For comparison, it was 1 USD = 1.50 AUD ten years ago. Once you leave the large cities and head to the countryside, prices are much cheaper and similar to what I’ve found in the Midwest. Yet living in the countryside in Australia is a bit harder than in the US because of the lack of people, which means a lack of certain infrastructure facilities and services. Many of the small towns only have populations in the hundreds.

However, cost of living is only half the story. Incomes also need to be taken into account. It doesn’t really matter what the cost of living is or how much you make; what matters most is how much money you have left over each month. In France, my bills were high but my salary was incredibly low. In Australia, my bills are still high but my salary is 50% more than what I made in France – and keep in mind that my income in Australia is a living stipend that is just above poverty level, whereas my income in France was for a full-time job that required a Master’s degree. So I am much better off financially in Australia.

For anyone who is interested in living in Australia, here is what I currently pay living close to Adelaide (only about 5 miles/ 8 kms from the city center):

Monthly Bills

Rent (includes water): $1300

– two-bedroom, furnished 60 M2 apartment run by a student housing company that is 2 minutes from campus so I can walk to my office. Obviously I could cut this in half if I had a roommate but I quite enjoy having the whole place to myself. (Other big cities have higher rents; luckily Adelaide is not as expensive as everywhere else.)

Electricity: $50 for most of the year; $100 during “winter”

– there is no actual heating system in the apartment so I have electric heaters, which means that this bill is higher in the winter months but I do not have air conditioning because 35° C / 95° F is the perfect temperature to me. No gas in this apartment (only electric stove/oven), but I have heard it is cheaper.

Internet: $30 (but will be reimbursed)

– for 10 GB of data per month, but you can definitely find cheaper/more data. Since I’m in student housing, it was just easier to use their pre-paid internet. Some companies do offer unlimited ADSL internet (no data caps) for about $60 a month. Home internet costs will be reimbursed by the research degree fund at my university so technically internet is free for me!

Cell phone: $25 (pre-paid, which I rarely use)

Groceries: $150

Transportation: $15 (about half off normal fares thanks to my student ID)

Laundry: $8

Renter’s insurance: $14

I have no telephone line, cable TV, car or car insurance/maintenance costs and my university scholarship pays for my health insurance (and I could get extra coverage for optical, dental, etc. for $25 a month). I may eventually get a car when I move further away from campus, but for now I can get by without one.

  • Total monthly bills: about $1600

UPDATE: I now live in a house and own a car (which I don’t use very often), so here are some revised monthly calculations:
Rent (incl. water): $1580
Electricity/Gas: $100
Internet: $60
Groceries: $180 (I have a cat now and his food is expensive!)
Car Registration + Insurance: $85
Gas/Petrol: $40
Cell/Mobile Phone: $25
Supplementary Health Insurance: $22
Renter’s/Contents Insurance: $14
My monthly bills are around $2100, but I also started teaching French at the university so I make a little more than the poverty level now.

Yearly Bills

No residency card because my visa is valid for the duration of my PhD.

No income taxes because my living stipend is tax-free.

No occupancy tax on my apartment.

  • Total yearly bills: $0

Prices for other things such as clothes, books, electronics, etc. are more expensive than in the US but it is quite easy to find sales and discounts. Some stores such as Kmart and The Reject Shop have more “normal” prices as well. Telecommunications are more expensive than France but comparable to the US. Bundles for home phone/TV/internet are around $100-150 a month. Food items can be hit or miss, especially fruits and vegetables, depending on the weather. Bananas were $15 a kilo when I first arrived because the crops had been wiped out by cyclone Yasi in Queensland, but now the prices are back down to less than $2 a kilo.

Price in July 2011

Staples such as bread, milk, and pasta are quite cheap but cereal, yogurt and cheese are more expensive than I would have expected. Gas is just over $5 a gallon ($1.33 a liter) while eating at restaurants and going to the movies are pretty much New York prices. Since Australia is an island that is rather far from everywhere and has strict import and quarantine rules (to protect from diseases or pests further destroying the native populations), higher prices are reasonable for some things. But with the strength of the Aussie dollar and the ease of shopping online nowadays especially at US stores, there is more competition for local stores to lower prices.

If anyone would like specific prices for certain things, let me know.

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  • Gladys

    Hello. we’d like to get more informations and suggestions from you. me and my sister are planning to go to Australia. for work and study. Please e-mail me at golfindia87@ymail.com
    Thank you so much. I would appreciate your speedy response. I’ll just wait then.

  • http://www.facebook.com/diane.thee.double.oh Diane Too

    Hi Jennie, that is a very thorough write-up on Australia’s cost of living. You have taken a step back from a focusing on a particular state, to cover all the important details we have to know about Australia. It is great to know how the economy runs for a typical household in Australia, especially when I intend to live away from home next year. I understand that this was posted awhile back. I do have one query with regards to the changes that may have occurred over the 2012-2013 period. The value of the AUS dollar seems to be staying strong, do you think this situation will affect the market prices of our household necessities?

  • Janhavi

    hi jenny, we thinking to move to Australia, my husband is getting opportunity to wrk there, almost in Perth, can u inform me about thecost of living in Perth, we are having kid of 3 years. both of us are Engineers, Mech. me and Husban civil. How is job positin for Mechanical Engineering, and which school is best for my son. Can we get daycare centers nearby . thanks . i hope u willdefinately help us. bye
    Janhavi-Dubai

  • Kim

    Hello and thank you for this very useful post. I hope to commence studies in Australia soon and this has helped to give me a clearer picture of the cost of living there.

  • priya

    Hi, I am also looking to do that along with my husband in next year and want to know the IT jobs in Business analysis/technical communication etc. Could you advice the job prospects please?

  • Rock longrich dickson wwc

    Hi dear jennie if i want to work and live in australia melbourne how get the visas job??and i want to know how cost living in melbourne??thank you..im frm malaysia!

  • arsela

    HI,
    My name is arsela i m working as a radiographer in aga kan university and hospital i have one baby me n my husband deided to come to australia but i m really scared after reading and when i herad that cost of living in australia is too much high??i m planning to apply on student visa as i need to study more in this field pls anyone guide me regarding this country…

  • mats

    hi
    allot of people on here dont take into consideration our tax income brackets and dwelling prices in capital cities. like yourself im single with no kids on a good income but our dwelling prices are the big killer.
    if you take all that into consideration i d love to know what your calculations would be like then.

  • arlene

    thank you for sharing your story there in australia,i wish i can go there too and teach primary pupils…

  • ColoradoMark

    Hi Jenny,
    I might have an opportunity to relocate for a few years to a sister company in Adelaide in the next few months and I had a few questions that you might be able to answer. I was thinking of living near the beach (i.e. easy walking distance on a regular basis), but still relatively close to the city center and to work. My questions are: what beach area would you recommend that is close to Adelaide International Airport (work) and the city center? What would a 1 or 2 bedroom fully furnished apartment run (ballpark)? How is the public transportation system? How is the bike situation in the city, as I think I will be rising my road bike to work and most places? Also, not sure on this one, but do you know roughly what the wages are in Adelaide as compared to the USA? I live in Denver, CO as an accountant and would be taking on a manger role in Adelaide and have no idea where to start salary negotiations. Thanks for any help!
    Mark

  • http://www.ielanguages.com Jennie Wagner

    Glenelg, Henley, and Grange are the closest beaches to the airport and city. I’m not sure of prices there since I live on the other side of the city, but you can look at realestate.com.au for current listings. I paid $300 a week (includes water) for a furnished 2 bedroom apartment when I first arrived. Now I live in a 3 bedroom (unfurnished) house for $355 a week (includes water). Public transportation here is not that great – buses tend to be late. You should be able to bike into the city though; they’ve been creating new bike lanes. Wages here seem higher than in the US (maybe not NY wages, but definitely higher than what I’m used to). I don’t know about accountants, but for university lecturers (even post-docs) the starting pay is usually above $60k. Minimum wage here is like $15 an hour or just over $30k a year. Vacation is 4 weeks a year too, not a measly two weeks.

  • Ahmad Al-Gendy

    Hi
    I’m thinking seriously to move to Australia, you really transferred a positive figure for living there.
    Could you please send your valuable recommendations for the best cities to move to, in which prices & rents are reasonable, climate is moderate no matter to be at city center off-course but in which I can have a job or make business.

    P.S: I’m married & have 2 daughter (8 & 4) and I’m already running my own business (supplying medical products to hospitals & medical centers)
    Thanks a lot & really wish more progress
    regards

  • Ahmad Al-Gendy

    Hi Jennie
    what about jobs and business at Adelaide, what is the suitable salary in which a family of 4 persons can live?

    thanks in advance
    regards

Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.

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