Cost of Living in Australia (East Coast): A Personal and Local Experience

australiaHow much does it cost to live in Australia? Depending on whether you live in a big city like Sydney or a regional town like Bendigo, the answer to that question can vary. I’ve written this as a follow up to the Cost of Living in France: A Personal Experience, but this time I’ve got a local’s experience to add to the mix.

On the ‘cost of living in Australia’ scale I am definitely on the more expensive end, living in Melbourne (the second largest city in Australia and now one of the most expensive cities in the world). Sydney is probably the only city where the cost of living would be more than Melbourne, but I’ve never lived there so I can’t say that for sure 🙂

My calculations are based on my share for expenses, I live with 3 other people which really helps the cost of living.

Monthly Bills

Rent: $650/month – for a brand new, two-story townhouse in a nice residential suburb (about 20-30 minutes to the CBD by train). With a small courtyard, 4 bedrooms, garage, kitchen with dishwasher, laundry, two toilets and a bathroom.

I will note that the rent is only my share, because we split the rent four ways. This means the monthly rent in total is $2,600 a month

Bills: $15-20/week (for gas, electricity, water, internet and home phone)

Groceries: $35-50/week (my share between 4 people) I try to shop at Aldi, so much cheaper than Coles or Woolworths

Petrol: $30-50 per week

Oil for my car: $20/month (I have an old car, and the oil needs to be changed regularly)

UPDATE: Just got a new car recently, and don’t need to put oil in it anymore! 😀

Mobile: Free with work (but would usually cost around $30/month, some suppliers have deals such as free texts and calls to people who are with the same provider

Car insurance: $120/month (would be half  the price if I didn’t live in a city, this is also fully comprehensive insurance including insuring my car for an agreed value rather than market value)

Public transport: About $30/month. My Myki transport card can be used on all buses, trams and trains. I’m not using public transport as much as I used to since I now have a car. When I didn’t have a car and I was a student, I was probably spending about $25/week on transport (concession prices). However that was on the old system, and the new Myki is ‘supposed’ to be cheaper.

Contents insurance: $28/month (for about $35,000 worth of insurance)


Hairdresser:  This is where my ‘local’ knowledge comes in handy, instead of getting my hair done in Melbourne I go back to my home town in Ballarat where it is so much cheaper. It’s not so much the  cut that that is expensive in Melbourne, it’s if you want to get a colour as well – especially if you’re a woman.

In a large shopping centre like Chadstone, the hair salons will charge $190+ for a cut and colour (yikes!), if you avoid these places then you can get it done for our $100-140 in suburban shopping strips (since their rent is a lot cheaper), but for me this is still really expensive. I can get my hair cut and half a head of foils for $75 in Ballarat, it still works out cheaper even with the cost of petrol.

As a general guide, as a woman you will need to budget about $80-$120 every time you want a cut and colour.

Gym: $65/month (access to gym facilities and group classes)

Going Out: A night out in Melbourne (public transport into the city, drinks, entry fees, taxi home) I usually budget $60-$80 for the night.

Yearly Expenses

Car registration: $580/year (and that’s the concession price!) In Melbourne car registration is a very big bill everyone gets a year, a full fare is almost $700. The good news is that if you are on a low income you get $100 off and you can pay in 6 month installments (so around $300 every six months)

Car Service: About $100 once a year

Dental Check ups: $150-300/year

Australia is still unfortunately one of those countries that sees dental work as ‘cosmetic’ and is not covered by the public health care system for most procedures.

There have been some improvements in recent years, such as Government rebates for children, but for most people you need to either have the money or have insurance. A lot of people, particularly  young people, don’t bother with health insurance and just budget a few hundred dollars a year for the check up.

Ambulance cover: $40/year for a single person


Income Tax

The only real yearly tax we have in Australia is income tax, unlike other countries a percentage of your salary is taken out every week rather than paying a bill at the end of the year.

There is a tax-free threshold too, so a lot of students usually don’t pay any tax, or if they do pay any tax through a part-time job they will mostly likely get all of it back.

I’d say about $30 a week goes out of my wage for  tax, at the end of financial year I do a tax return and depending on how much I’ve paid, I’ll get all of it back – but as your wage goes up you’ll only get a portion of it back. There are ways to get more tax return, by claiming things such as charity donations, work and school expenses.

No ‘taxe d’habitation’ like in France

No TV liscenses


Health Care Card: A Health Care Card comes in handy if you make less than minimum wage, you get discounts on doctors, transport, movies, some medicines and lots of other things.


Even though I love Melbourne as a city, there are times when I crave the cost of living in the country. Towns of 80,000-150,000 people are so much more affordable. The average rental price is 50% less, car insurance costs less, registration is cheaper, you don’t need to drive as far so you save money that way. It’s the price you pay to live in a big city!

So I ‘d say if you want to live comfortably on the east coast, in a city like Melbourne on a fairly ‘low’ income of $30,000-$45,000 a year (the average wage of a university grad or student) it is definitely possible if you get a few housemates and share the cost of living. So my advice is – GET A HOUSEMATE! And you will probably find you can live fairly comfortably, even in a big city like Melbourne 🙂


2 thoughts on “Cost of Living in Australia (East Coast): A Personal and Local Experience

  1. Holy moly rent is expensive in Melbourne! My three bedroom house is $1580 a month, and only like 8 kms from Adelaide (though it’s not brand new). I definitely agree getting a housemate is one of the only ways to survive if you’re low income. At least the tax-free threshold was raised to $18,200 last year (and will increase to $19,400 in 2015) so most low income people won’t pay much in taxes. Plus university scholarships are tax-free. 🙂

    Another alternative for cheaper haircuts is getting it done at TAFE beauty salons. Students do the cutting, but they are supervised by their teachers. In Adelaide, it’s only $10 for a cut and blowdry. They also do manicures, waxing, massages, etc.

    • Funny story about my housemate’s sister who came over for dinner last week, she’s living in the CBD on Lygon street (a famous food street in Melbourne) she say’s she’s paying $120 a week and living with 2 other girls. When I asked her how that was possible, she revealed her ‘bedroom’ was the corridor 😛 LOL

      I have thought about going to an apprentice for cheaper haircuts, especially since I hate forking out the money in Melbourne! Rent is definitely expensive, most students or those on a low income are paying at least $100-$150 a week, but that is sharing with 3 or 4 people, for people who are single and on a low income I don’t know how they do it.

      And even though I know the rent is expensive, I can compare it to places like New York and London where the inhabitants know they’re forking out a lot a money to live there – but it is ‘fabulous’! 😉

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