Australia is considered to have one of the best standards of living in the world with a relatively low price tag, although costs have increased in recent years and some expats are surprised to find that their spending power is not as great as they had anticipated. As in most countries, the larger cities such as Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide are more expensive than rural areas. However, the backpacker tradition remains strong in Australia and there are always bargains to be found.
With no shortage of space available, accommodation in Australia is predominantly detached housing or bungalows, although there are more apartments and flats (known as units) in the cities. For academic jobs, many universities provide accommodation for international staff, but this is less common in other industries. Most expats rent property at least for a short period. Costs vary across the country, but as a guide median weekly asking rents range from:
- A$250 (≈£139.22) to A$550 (≈£306.28) per week for units
- A$310 (≈£172.63)to A$700 (≈£389.81) per week for a house
Source: www.globalpropertyguide.com (accessed May 2014)
If your move to Australia becomes long-term or permanent, you may wish to purchase a property. Like many countries, Australia has suffered a house price dip in recent years, but prices are beginning to recover. As well as direct sales, property auctions are quite common in Australia, so contact a local estate agent to find out more about buying property in your area.
While rents can be freely negotiated between landlords and tenants, most Australian states have restrictions on how many weeks’ rent can be requested in advance or as a deposit. Letting agents will be able to advise you on the law in each state. Once a rental cost is agreed, it cannot be changed without the tenant’s consent within the first 12 months.
Council rates are charged to cover the cost of local services such as waste disposal and road maintenance. The way they are calculated depends on the state, but typically it is based on the value of the property.
On top of your accommodation and rates, you will need to budget for utilities including water, gas, electricity, telephone and internet. Again, utility supply varies from state to state. In some areas there is only one supplier available, but in others there are several companies providing services. If you have several options, use a website like youcompare.com.au to shop around for the best deal.
Australia no longer has a TV licence system. There are several networks broadcasting free to air channels, while paid cable and satellite services are also available. To compare cable packages, visit the Compare Today website.
Healthcare and medical costs
Healthcare in Australia is available through the Medicare scheme. Funded by a combination of private contributions, government subsidy and a PAYG levy on workers’ earnings, it gives Australian citizens, permanent residents and visitors from countries with reciprocal care agreements access to a range of primary services. The Medicare levy is a fixed percentage for much of the population, although low-income workers may be eligible for discounted rates. Higher earners may also be required to pay a surcharge to their Medicare levy.
Although the standard of care is good, Medicare does not cover all healthcare services, so make sure you check what you are entitled to. Private health insurance can also be arranged in Australia and usually covers a wider range of services. The government may offer rebates to people who are eligible for Medicare but also hold private cover.
Australian shops cater for a wide and diverse consumer base ranging from locals to tourists, and choice is excellent, particularly in the major cities. Prices are not as low as they once were, particularly not for international brands, but healthy competition between retailers means that shopping around really pays off.
Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a value-added tax that is typically charged on goods and services in Australia. The current rate of GST is 10%, and prices may be quoted with or without GST included so make sure you check any quotes carefully.
- Rent on 1-bedroom apartment in city centre – A$1,795.59 (≈£1,005.17) per month
- Rent on 1-bedroom apartment outside city centre – A$1,324.63 (≈£741.53) per month
- Price of apartment in city centre – A$7,610.52 (≈£4,260.38) per square metre
- Price of apartment outside city centre – A$5,045.46 (≈£2,824.46) per square metre
- Loaf of bread – A$2.93 (≈£1.64)
- Milk (1 litre) – A$1.56 (≈£0.87)
- Bottled water (1.5 litre) – A$2.66 (≈£1.49)
- Draught beer (0.5 litre) – A$6.50 (≈£3.64)
- Packet of cigarettes – A$19.00 (≈£10.64)
- Petrol (1 litre) – A$1.52 (≈£0.85)
- Cinema ticket – A$17.50 (≈£9.80)
Source: www.numbeo.com (accessed May 2014)
Budgeting and savings
If you are looking to save while you are in Australia, keep an eye on the Savings Guide website for budgeting and money saving tips. Although not yet a comprehensive resource, Money Saving Aussie may also help you find the best deals on utilities and other regular expenses.