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Breathtaking landscapes and seascapes, vibrant urban life, laidback lifestyle—these are what pull people to Sydney. However, Sydney is not just the biggest city in the country, it is also the priciest. In fact, the UBS ranks Sydney as among the ten most expensive cities to live in. Basic expenses alone already cost around $2,500 for a family with one to two children. Ten years ago, a 2010 survey by the Sydney Business Chamber indicated that half of the survey respondents believe they need $100,000 or more per year to live comfortably.
But how much does it actually cost to live in Australia’s largest city?
The Cost of Living in Sydney
Everyone knows that Sydney is a city of opportunities. It’s a huge metropolis with thriving economic sectors that open plenty of employment prospects. Wages are also quite competitive and even a mere waiting job can get you $20 – $25 an hour. Work on weekends and holidays get paid extra and average $35 an hour.
However, it can still be quite a challenge to save even with more than decent wages, free healthcare, and free education. The cost of living in Sydney is even higher than that of London and San Francisco, with rental alone reaching $500-$800 per week. To help give you an idea of how much you’d need to live comfortably in Sydney, here’s a list of the usual expenses for basic necessities.
The Cost of Food in Sydney
Grocery items are quite steep in the city, especially in convenience stores. A budget of $300 – $400 per month for groceries is very common. Most people take advantage of deals and use coupons from major grocery stores such as Coles, Woolworths, Aldi, and Independent Grocers of Australia. For fresh produce at cheap prices, Harris Farm Market is the best place to go.
Here are price ranges you can expect for common grocery items:
- Loaf of white or multigrain sandwich bread: $1.30 – $4.00
- One dozen eggs: $3.00 – $6.00
- Full cream milk: $1.30 – $2.50
- Two pounds of apples: $3.00 – $5.00
Take note that prices of food fluctuate due to climatic conditions. For instance, fruits and vegetables usually cost more when there is a drought while meat tends to come cheap.
If grocery items are pricey, dining out is even more expensive. Something as simple as scrambled eggs on toast can already cost $12. Meals with a burger and fries from a fast food joint can set you back $17. Expect to shell out around $30 to $40 for dinner with friends at a local pub or in a mid-range restaurant. Fancier restaurants cost hundreds of dollars. If you’re having dinner at Tetsuya, for instance, expect your bill to be $250 or more.
The Cost of Utilities in Sydney
Utilities amount to around $500 per month. Depending on the providers, basic utilities such as water, electricity, heating, cooling, and garbage can cost anywhere between $100 to $340. Mobile phone and internet services will cost another $100 per month. Moreover, winter requires extra heating and causes electricity bills to shoot up.
The Cost of Public Transport in Sydney
Petrol prices in Sydney range from $1.24 to $1.50 per litre, while diesel prices are even higher. With infamously bad traffic and limited costly parking, many prefer taking public transport anyway.
The Sydney public transport system is (mostly) reliable and convenient. Buses and trains run late so you’d have no trouble getting home after a nightcap with friends.
Here are the fares you can expect to pay for transport services:
- Train: $3.54 for trips up to 10km
- Bus: $2.20 for a 3-km ride
- Ferry: $6.01 for 0 to 9 km
- Light rail: $2.20 for the first three kilometres
- Taxi: $3.60 hire charge plus $2.19 per kilometre
With such steep prices for necessities alone, a budget of $1,000 per week may be needed to live a comfortable life. That leaves hardly enough money for savings and for building your retirement fund. It may be challenging to save but it is possible.
Here are some money saving tips to help you live comfortably in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Ways to Save Money in Sydney
1. Look for great deals on food and groceries.
The best way to save on food is to buy groceries and cook your own food instead of dining out. Large supermarket chains like Aldi, Woolworths and Coles often hold promotions and offer great deals. For fresh seafoods at cheap prices, head to the Sydney Fish Market in Pyrmont.
When dining out, avoid touristy areas of Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, and the Rocks where food is expensive. Go to inner-city suburbs like Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Redfern, and Glebe instead. Many local pubs also offer specials. On Tuesdays, the Soda Factory in Surry Hills has $1 hotdogs and El Camino Cantina on Argyle Street has $2 tacos. For $1 oysters, go to the Morrison Bar and Oyster Room on George Street on Wednesdays.
2. Find watering holes with cheap drinks.
Beer usually costs $10 a bottle while cocktails go for around $20 per glass, but you can find Aussie watering holes that offer cheap food and a good drink. For just $12, you can share a jug of craft beer with a friend in Dove & Olive in Surry Hills on Thursdays. Beach Burrito in Bondi slashes beer prices down to $4 from 4 to 6:30 pm on weekdays. Pyrmont Bridge Hotel also has a similar deal offering $6 beer from 5 to 6 pm.
3. You don’t have to leave a tip.
Tipping is not customary in Australia. All workers are paid decent wages so there is hardly ever any need for tips. You won’t be accused of being a cheapskate if you don’t leave 10 to 20% for tip. It’s fine to simply round up the bill. If your bill is $94.80, you can leave $100 and still be thanked for your generosity. If you’re particularly impressed with service, you can leave a tenner but it really isn’t required.
4. Be a bargain hunter.
There is always a bargain for something you need somewhere in the city or on OzBargain. Hone your bargain shopping skills and always be on the lookout for end-of-season clearances and weekend markets. For fashion, crafts, jewellery, and gifts, head over to Paddington Market at Oxford Street on Saturdays. It’s also a good place to get bakery products, chocolates, and coffee.
5. Get an Opal to save on transportation expenses.
An Opal card guarantees cheaper fares and makes it more convenient for you to use different types of public transport. You can use it on the metro, train, bus, ferry, and light rail. It lets you travel as much as you want and never pay more than $50 a week or $16.10 per day. It also grants you 30% discount on off-peak metro fares and many other benefits.
6. Appreciate art for free.
Many museums in Sydney offer free entries so you can appreciate the arts without putting a hole in your pocket. Check out the Nicholson Museum in Camperdown, the Rocks Discovery Museum, the Australian National Maritime Museum, and the Sydney Tramway Museum for a glimpse of Australia’s history. Local galleries like White Rabbit in Chippendale, Blender Gallery in Paddington, and Black Eye Gallery in Darlinghurst let you appreciate fine art for free. The Art gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art provide free entries to some art exhibitions as well.
7. Watch movies on a budget.
Movies in Sydney cost approximately $23 but tickets are typically cheaper on Tuesdays. Another way to save on movies is by going to Dumaresq Street Cinema in Campbelltown or Ritz Cinema in Randwick where you can score tickets for less than $10. On top of that, there are also free outdoor movies in various locations during the school holidays.
8. Enjoy the great outdoors.
Outdoor fun doesn’t have to cost you a dime. Sydney has a lot of beaches and parks where you can enjoy the great outdoors for free. Hit the beaches at Bondi, Coogee, Manly, Balmoral, Tamarama, and many other beaches where you can swim for free the whole day. There are also plenty of parks where you can ride bikes or go on hikes without having to pay any costly entrance fees.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can I save on mobile & internet bills?
Manage your mobile and internet bills better by using just one provider. Service providers usually offer a cheaper plan when you bundle services for your mobile phones, tablets, and internet connection. If you have separate mobile and internet accounts, use apps instead of your mobile phone to save on calls. Turn off mobile data when at home and just connect to your own WiFi.
2. How can I save money on electricity bill?
Among the most common ways to lower your electricity bill is to turn off and unplug appliances when they’re not in use. You can also decrease heating expenses by wearing warmer clothes and socks inside the house and by lowering the temperature of your water heater. To further lower your bill, rely on natural light as much as you can during the day. Better yet, install some solar panels and cut your electricity bill significantly.
Also, choose an energy supplier that can provide good service at low costs. You can compare plans and prices for electricity and gas from different energy suppliers through the website Energy Made Easy.
3. How can I save money on my water bill?
Taking shorter showers and turning off the tap when brushing your teeth are simple and easy ways to reduce water consumption. You can conserve more water by installing a dual flush on the toilet, using a water-efficient showerhead, and using grey water from washing clothes to water your plants.
Most importantly, check your water meter and monitor your consumption. A spike in usage without changes in your routine indicates hidden leaks. Fix these or any obvious plumbing leaks immediately.
4. How can I save money on a low income fast?
Having low income doesn’t make it impossible to save. By living within your means and lowering your expenditures, you can manage to squirrel away a little bit of savings each month. Choose a bank that offers no minimum deposit amounts, no account keeping fees, and no overdrawn fees to reduce the amount of bank fees you need to pay in maintaining a savings account.
To help develop a savings habit, check if you qualify for the Saver Plus Program of ANZ and the Department of Social Services designed for low-income families. If you’re eligible, Saver Plus will match your savings up to $500 for education-related expenses.
5. What is the 30-day rule?
The 30-day rule is a method of controlling impulse spending. When you feel the urge to buy something you like but is non-essential, stop and wait 30 days before deciding whether to buy it or not. Write the name and price of the item you want to buy, post the note where you can see it daily, then spend the next 30 days thinking about whether you really want the item or not. More often than not, you’d realize you don’t actually want the item after 30 days of waiting.
6. How can I save money living in Australia?
Saving money living in Australia is the same as saving money living elsewhere. You just need to live within your means, keep track of your expenses, set aside savings before budgeting for expenses, and find the best deals on food, utilities, and services.
Rent a house in the outskirts where rates are cheaper. Buy groceries online and take advantage of discounts. Pay bills on time to avoid late fees. Reduce vices such as smoking and drinking. Lessen unnecessary expenses such as gym memberships, cable services, and frequent dining. These are all effective ways to save money in Australia.