Tag Archives: cost of living

Cost of Living in Australia: My Personal Experience

January 2015: Updated to include living costs for all three places I have lived in the suburbs of Adelaide.

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.

Sizes of Australia and US compared

Rents have also increased in recent years due to the mining boom and the strength of the Australian dollar, which was just a few cents off the US dollar in the 2010’s.  For comparison, it was $1 USD = $1.50 AUD ten years ago. (By 2015, the AUD had decreased in value to about $1.20 for $1 USD). 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.

Cost of Living in Australia

For anyone who is interested in living in Australia, here is what I have paid and currently pay living close to Adelaide (only about 5 miles/8 kms from the city center) for three different locations. Keep in mind that I am single with no kids AND prices are much higher in Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane so if you are planning on moving somewhere else in Australia and you have a family, these costs may not help you much. If you are a student in Adelaide, you can expect to pay between $130 and $180 a week (about $560-$780 per month) if you rent a room in an apartment or house, and that usually includes utilities such as electricity/gas, water, and internet. Check your university’s accommodation website for listings, as well as realestate.com.au for current rents.


1. Monthly Bills for apartment near campus

Rent (includes water): $1300

– two-bedroom, furnished 60 M2 apartment run by a student housing company that is 2 minutes from campus so I could walk. Obviously I could have cut this in half if I had a roommate but I quite enjoyed 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 was no actual heating system in the apartment so I had electric heaters, which meant that this bill was higher in the winter months. No gas in this apartment (only electric stove/oven).

Internet: $30

– for 10 GB of data per month, but you can definitely find cheaper/more data. Since I was in student housing, it was just easier to use their pre-paid internet. Some companies do offer unlimited DSL internet (no data caps) for about $60 a month, but their customer service is not the greatest.

Cell phone: $30 (pre-paid through Telstra, which I rarely use)

Groceries: $150

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

Laundry: $8

  • Total monthly bills: about $1600

2. Monthly bills for house near campus + car (2012-2014)

Rent (includes water): $1540

– three-bedroom house, within walking distance to campus. I had one or two housemates for some of the time to reduce costs.

Electricity/Gas: $100-$150

– gas stove and hot water heater plus ducted heating/cooling; having both gas and electricity means paying two supply charges of over $70 each quarter in addition to usage charges

Internet: $60

– for 150 GB of data per month (DSL connection through Internode)

Cell phone: $15 (pre-paid, which I rarely use)

Groceries: $180-$200 (I adopted a cat in 2012 and his food is expensive because he is spoiled)

Gas/Petrol: $40-$50 (I didn’t have to drive much since I lived near campus)

  • Total monthly bills: about $2000 (maximum without housemates)

3. Monthly bills for house near campus + car (2014-2015)

Rent (includes water): $1250

– three-bedroom house, within walking distance to campus. I have one housemate (but she was gone for 6 months so I paid full rent during that time).

Electricity/Gas: $200

– gas oven/stove and hot water heater plus one heater in lounge; having both gas and electricity means paying two supply charges of over $70 each quarter in addition to usage charges. This house is a bit older and very drafty so it’s insanely cold in winter and the heater uses both gas and electricity.

Internet: $73

– for 50 GB of data per month (I couldn’t get DSL in this location so I had to get a cable connection)

Cell phone: $15 (pre-paid, which I rarely use)

Groceries: $180-$200

Gas/Petrol: $40-50 (I don’t have to drive much since I live near campus)

  • Total monthly bills: about $1800 (maximum without housemates)

Yearly Bills

Private health insurance (optical/dental): $264

Renter’s insurance: $170

Car registration: $600

Vet plan for cat (consultations/vaccinations): $280

No residency card because my visa is valid for the duration of my PhD. (Though I did pay $550 to get the visa in the first place.)

No income taxes because my living stipend is tax-free, and currently income up to $18,200 is not taxed either.

No occupancy tax on my apartment or houses.


There are other costs to factor in, especially if you move to a new place, such as disconnection and reconnection fees for electricity/gas, cancellation fees for breaking contracts, and new phone line installation for internet connections (even if you never plan on using the phone line!). When I moved between houses in 2014, I had to pay around $150 for electricity/gas to be moved and $358 for a new phone line in order to get cable internet connected. I also bought a lot of furniture and appliances since the houses I lived in were not furnished (except for an oven) but you can find really inexpensive stuff on Gumtree.

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, especially after Christmas and during the end of the fiscal year (June-July). Some stores such as Kmart and The Reject Shop have lower 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 in 2011 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. Look for food that’s labeled “quick sale” – the expiration date will be that day or the following day so you’ll need to eat it quickly but it will be much cheaper.

Cost of Living in Australia: Bananas were really this expensive in 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 USD a gallon ($1.33 AUD 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.


Cost of Living in France

Cost of Living in France: My Personal Experience

How much does it cost to live in France? I’ve received a few e-mails inquiring about the cost of living in France, so here is a listing of my monthly bills and yearly taxes. Hopefully this information will be useful for those who are looking to move to France and want to compare the costs. I do not live in Paris, where the cost of living is especially high, but I do live near the Alps and Switzerland in one of the more expensive areas of France. My city is the capital of its department, and has a population of about 50,000. I live with my PACS partner, David, so most of my expenses are cut in half.

 

Monthly Bills

Rent: 550€ total / my half: 275€

– one-bedroom apartment in old building (with poor electrical installation; can’t use hairdryer and microwave at same time for example…) about 10 minutes from train station and city center; 52 meters squared with two balconies and storage space in basement. Most apartments in this area are much more expensive (700-800€) which we couldn’t really afford so we chose the cheapest one possible.

Electricity & Gas: 65€ total / my half: 32.50€

– We have a gas stove & oven, but luckily regular radiators instead of those expensive electric ones (so heat is included in our rent.) Our hot water heater only heats at night during off-peak hours.

Water: 20€ total / my half: 10€

– washing machine but no dishwasher; hot water heater only holds 100 liters which is just enough for two showers and doing the dishes

Internet, phone, & TV: 30€ total / my half: 15€

– ADSL internet + land-line with free calling to US & Canada and free calls to land-lines in many, many other countries + basic “cable” channels

Groceries: 250€ total / my half: 125€

– Even shopping at Aldi and Lidl! We are trying to reduce this obviously.

Gas/Tolls: 150€ total / my half: 75€

– We only use the car once or twice a week – to get groceries or visit David’s parents. Our car is an automatic that takes the most expensive gas though.

Car Insurance: 30€ total / my half: 15€

Renter’s Insurance: 10€ total / my half: 5€

*Cell phone: 15€

– I just buy prepaid cards and very rarely need to use my cell phone thanks to the internet.

*Mutuelle: 30€

– This means my prescriptions and contacts are “free” and I get another 30% of consultation fees reimbursed. Government-run healthcare that almost everyone has (la sécu) generally reimburses the first 70%.

When I used to commute to work (100 km round-trip 4 days a week), I paid about 250€ per month for gas and tolls. David walks to work and I work at home now, so we have no public transportation costs. For reference, a monthly bus pass in our city costs 30€ while a monthly passe Navigo in Paris is between 55€ and 123€ (depending on which zones you need). However, it is now law in France that your employer must pay 50% of your public transportation costs for your commute to and from work.

  • Total Monthly Bills:  600€ (*cell phone and mutuelle are the only bills that I do not share with David)

Yearly Taxes

Residency Card Renewal: 110€ Unless you have the 10 year carte de résident, you must renew the yearly carte de séjour for a price of 110€.

Income tax: 611€ for my part.  Since I am PACSed, my income tax is lower than for a single person plus I received a credit of 194€ for the prime pour l’emploi. The amount of income tax I paid was 5% of my imposable income (about 15% of my gross income minus a 10% deduction). In France, la sécurité sociale which includes health insurance, unemployment & retirement benefits is automatically taken out of your paycheck, but income tax is NOT. I calculated that 18% of my gross income was deducted for la sécu. I have no other source of income in France because I am not eligible for CAF, or rent assistance for low-income individuals or families, that most language assistants and lecturers receive. To be on the safe side, most people say you should save almost one month’s salary to pay for income tax.

Taxe d’habitation: 368€ for my half out of 736€ total. This is a renter’s tax that you must pay on the place where you are living on January 1st, even if you move out on January 2nd. (If you own your house or apartment, you pay la taxe foncière.)  The amount of la taxe d’habitation depends on the city where you live, the size of your apartment, your income, etc. so it can be hard to know how much you will have to pay until you receive the bill in October or November. In general it should be around one month’s rent. Added to this taxe is the TV tax (or Contribution à l’audiovisuel public as it is now called) which is 121€. Every household that owns a TV must pay it. Two ways of ensuring you do not have to pay this tax is by living in university residences managed by CROUS or renting a furnished room (not apartment) in a person’s home. Sometimes you can get this tax decreased if you have a low income by explaining your situation to the tax center (a dégrèvement).

  • Total Yearly Taxes:  1,089€

At the very least, I need more than 8,300€ to survive in France each year and the above figures do not include any extra expenses such as clothes, books, entertainment, birthday & Christmas presents, etc. We never go to the movies and rarely eat at restaurants – and when we do, we use David’s tickets-restaurant. In addition, every two years we have to pay 80€ for the vehicle inspection (contrôle technique) and every year our car has needed about 600€ worth of repairs (it’s a 1986 Renault Super 5 automatic with a manual choke.) And another expense that was free in the US is a checking account. I pay 33€ a year for my account, debit card and checks.

Cost of Living in France

Personally I don’t feel that life is that much more expensive in France compared to the US. Internet/phone/TV is definitely cheaper here and cell phones can also be cheaper if you rarely make calls since receiving calls is free in France. However, clothes, books and especially electronics are definitely more expensive than what I’m used to. Movies and restaurants are comparable to larger cities in the US, but expensive compared to the area where I come from. Groceries, gas, and tolls are more expensive than what I used to pay in Michigan – though gas in general is much cheaper in the US and Michigan only has freeways. It’s harder to compare income tax since I’ve always received a refund in the US and never paid much attention to how much was taken out of my paychecks. And a renter’s tax just doesn’t exist where I lived.

Nevertheless, even if bills and taxes are similar and we receive great benefits in France with regards to unemployment and health insurance, the main difference I see with the US are the incomes. It is very frustrating to know that I earned roughly the same amount working full-time in France that I earned working part-time in the US. A lot of people working full-time only earn minimum wage in France, which is 12,600€ net per year. When I was an English assistant, I earned 5,460€ and only had a 7 month contract. When I was an English lecturer at the university, I earned 14,640€ per year before income tax and the job was considered full-time (I wasn’t even allowed to get a 2nd job if I wanted to) and required a Master’s degree. Most fonctionnaires (civil servants) start out between 14,500€ and 19,000€ per year. They may have their job for life, but the incomes do not increase much even after years and years of experience. French people who make American-like incomes work in Switzerland and Luxembourg, where they average 48-72k per year. French people working the same jobs in France tend to average 18-30k.

That being said, France does a good job of taking care of people who are extremely poor. People who earn minimum wage tend to receive a large prime pour l’emploi and monthly benefits from CAF. Even unemployed people get special discounts on public transportation, library subscriptions, museum admission, etc. Young people (under 25) also get a LOT of nice discounts and families with children receive very generous benefits from the state. Once you’re over 25 and earn just above minimum wage however, you get nothing. Being PACSed or married definitely helps with regards to income tax, though it also tends to make you ineligible for CAF. In a nutshell, there’s not a whole lot you can do in France to earn more money, but you can decrease your bills by living with a roommate and/or getting PACSed.  If I were single and living in the same apartment, I’d probably end up paying 900-1,000€ in monthly bills (depending on how much I used the car) with a higher rate of income tax plus the full amount of the taxe d’habitation. So my advice to everyone is get PACSed!