I saved money living in Australia—over $30,000 AUD in less than a year! (Over $17k USD)
Yep, you read that right my friend. Pretty good, huh?
That’s cash money in the bank. Bills paid, fridge full, and no debts in Australia.
Did I FINALLY find a sugar daddy? I’ve been so patient waiting for one of these… (*pay for my shit, please?*)
Perhaps I sold my body on the streets?
OH! I know… I was a drug mule, right?
Nah, I probably would have made way more if I was. Maybe next time? It often involves travel and adventure, so why not? (JK)
But seriously, you’re probably wondering how I pulled off such a feat…
What Visa Do You Need to Work and Live in Australia?
Before you even consider how to save money in Australia, you need to make sure you can legally work in the country. This entails getting a visa that allows you to work and live in Australia. Thankfully, getting a work visa in Australia is not a difficult process for lots of people around the world.
All you need to do is apply for the working holiday visa. Many countries qualify, and you can see if you’re eligible by checking out my ultimate guide to Australia working holiday visa for more info.
The working holiday visa is the very first thing you’ll need to account for in your budget, and this visa costs a chunk of change. You’ll have to pay $485 AUD ($312 USD) for either the subclass 417 or subclass 462 visa and it’s imperative you accurately complete the visa application. There are no refunds!
Make sure this is the first thing you save money for in your budget. You can’t work in Australia without it!
Isn’t Australia Expensive?
Let’s get one thing out of the way. I did this while living in Australia. In case you don’t know, Australia is pretty damn pricey.
In fact, it’s one of the most expensive countries in the world!
And the way I saved so much money in Australia?
I worked for it.
It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. I mean, how else does one save money? There’s definitely a bit more to it, though!
I worked SO hard and was on the clock 40, 50, and sometimes 70 hours a week. And my downtime was spent working on my blog. I was pounding the pavement nonstop.
There was, of course, the few nights a week my boyfriend and I had a precious couple of hours to get lost in one of our shows together and enjoy a beer or glass of wine before passing TFO because we were so exhausted, but that’s about it.
I would say I have never worked so hard in my life, but that’s a lie. How am I abroad now? I worked really hard to get here. I worked three jobs and did nothing else for two years, but I only ended up saving $16,000 USD.
Again, hard work pays off! If I didn’t work so hard during those years, I would have surely failed at my mission to live abroad or at least made my life more difficult. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am right now…
Why Save Money in Australia?
Australia may be one of the most expensive countries in the world to live in, but it offers the world’s highest minimum wage (as of 2019). They blow many other countries, like the US, out of the water in terms of average wages. Also, the quality of life frequently ranks within the top-5 around the globe.
Having the opportunity to work and live in Australia for one or two years is a golden opportunity to make a higher wage and have a higher standard of living for jobs that don’t require a sh*t ton of education. Even better, working two jobs for around 40-50+ hours per week at Australian wages will start earning you major bucks.
Granted, many things in Australia are expensive and you’ll pay a lot in taxes, but this is why you’re here, right? I learned tons of money-saving tips in Australia when I lived in the country, and you can benefit from my experience. That way, you’ll save even more money than I did and leave Australia with a fat bank account.
REMEMBER! It’s not how much you make, but how you limit your spending to save more money.
How to Save Money in Australia
Important details before we start:
- To keep things simple, I’m going to stick with USD as my main currency since more readers can relate.
- This is a general post summarizing “how” I did this. Quick topics, the basic breakdown, and my mindset.
- Check out this in-depth post on my living costs in Australia.
- I also have posts on both cities I lived in, Melbourne and Darwin, with detailed specifics about each.
Let’s get one thing out of the way before we get into all the details. When Garrett and I lived in Australia, $1,000 AUD was equivalent to roughly $750 USD. The currency exchange rate is not the same nowadays, and you’ll have to account for that when figuring out how to save money in Australia.
$1,000 AUD now gets you around $653 USD (at the time of updating this article) and the Australian Dollar has continued to decline over the years. If you come from the US to Australia now compared to when we lived there, US Dollars have more purchasing power.
Obviously, you’ll be earning Australian Dollars when you work in Australia, but it’s something to keep in mind when organizing your budget. Always stay up to date on the currency exchange rates for AUD and your home country to see how the currency you’ll be earning compares to the one you’re familiar with.
My Jobs in Australia
I worked a lot! Are you catching on yet?
In Melbourne, I worked at a restaurant/bar and a cafe. In Darwin, I worked at a restaurant and a surf shop.
I’d work anywhere from 50-70 hours a week. My shifts would always vary, but I would pick up any extra work I could. And I would sometimes get little sleep before working a 15-hour shift the next day.
Extreme? Probably. Worth it? Totally!
Australia is an insanely expensive country and you’ve gotta be dedicated to saving money here.
My Budget While Living in Australia
Make yourself a budget. I cannot stress this enough. You won’t save money efficiently in Australia without being strict with your cash.
Our goal was to keep expenses less than $750 ($1000 AUD) per month – EVERYTHING included. (that’s per person).
As you can imagine, going out and drinking in Australia is quite expensive Having a nice meal? Pricey. Owning a car? Unnecessary and costly. So, guess what? I didn’t do any of these things. Eliminating these luxuries prevented me from seeing a huge dent in my budget and helped save more money while living in Australia.
I allotted roughly $40 USD, give or take, ($50-$60 AUD) for food and drink each week. It was plenty, especially since I learned how to shop the smart way.
Rent included everything and was one price every month. Having your rent set up this year is a huge stress-reliever with no surprises at the end of the month. Transportation was cheap and easy to use. Those were pretty much the only three things I spent my money on.
Limiting My Spending in Australia
I’m willing to bet that you work, right? But how much do you save? That’s the tricky part when trying to save money in Australia.
Everyone works, but not everyone has the willpower to save. It takes determination and conscious thought to put away a portion of every paycheck. It’s harder than you think, and some of us don’t have much pocket change due to having more bills to pay. I know… I’VE BEEN THERE!
Going to work is easy. NOT spending and actually saving money is the challenge.
Want a new dress? The latest Xbox game? The newest iPhone? Yeah, so do I, but I don’t buy those things because saving for those things matters more to me. That dress will go out of style, that game will eventually go on sale, and the iPhone? Eh, your current iPhone probably isn’t that awful and you can deal.
BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t EVER buy nice things. How about saving your money and evaluating at the end of the year what you’d like to buy?
Honestly, I didn’t really have a saving goal. I only had a spending limit, and everything else was pushed into savings. Sometimes I saved $500 a paycheck, and other times it was $1000! This spending limit strategy paid off big time at the end of my year in Australia and helped me leave the country with a fat bank account.
After tallying everything up, I had saved HALF of my earnings!
Cost of Living in Australia
The expenses in Australia can eat you ALIVE!
Again, it’s one of the most expensive countries to live in!
A damn cocktail can run you over $15 USD, AND their standard drink is LESS than ours in the USA (that’s more alcohol needed to get drunk people! Which of course means more $$$).
Want a bunch of bananas? HA! I don’t know why but they are SO expensive in Australia compared to back home. I can literally count on one hand how many bananas I ate in Australia because I refused to pay that much. And bananas are my fav fruit.
What does this mean? You buy the cheap stuff, mate!
OK, not the cheapest of the cheap, we don’t want to eat crap food. But we ate whatever quality food was cheap or on sale. We gave up having our own place and got a roomie to save money (only in Darwin). We bought motorbikes instead of cars because it’s much cheaper (also in Darwin).
Whatever you can think of to cut expenses – That’s what you need to do.
Australia isn’t cheap, but you can definitely live cheaply if you’re smart with your money.
As mentioned, our cost of living was only $750 USD ($1000 AUD) per person per month. This was for rent, food, and a little “extra” money for gas, beer, or a random item that we needed. We kept to this budget for both Melbourne and Darwin. Of course, different cities will have different costs.
Where I Put All My Savings
I’m sure you already know the answer, TRAVEL! That’s the single most important thing I wanted to save for because I’d rather collect experiences instead of things. Don’t get me wrong though, I definitely spent money elsewhere.
One thing I did with that extra cash was upgrading my electronics.
I work online and my computer was over four years old. Goodbye ancient Mac laptop and hello bright, shiny new MacBook Air with a larger screen! I also got a new iPhone! Ha, I know, I told you to wait, but that’s exactly what I did! This was finally the time (my last TWO iPhones were hand me downs FYI). I use it for work as well, so slightly more justified.
Also, this is when I bought my Canon Rebel t6i. I purchased it with money put aside from the blog and didn’t dip into my AUD. But yeah, 2017 was the year of better pictures AND video!
There were some other things I needed and had to shell out money for, but most of my savings went straight to travel. You can spend yours however you wish. Just be sure to budget and accurately allocate your funds so you’ll save plenty of money when living in Australia.
My Savings “Overage” in Australia
The what? The overage?
Ha, sorry if I have you scratching your head at the moment.
I actually lied to you… I saved MORE THAN $17,000 USD! Yes, that’s right. I only told you I saved $17,000 because that’s what I walked away with on the day I flew out of the country, but I actually made thousands more afterward. It received the extra cash around three weeks after I left.
Australia takes care of its people pretty damn well, including backpackers. So, how much more did I get? It was in the ballpark of around $2,500 USD.
Where did this money come from? It was a combination of my taxes and Superannuation money. Superannuation (or Super as Aussies call it) is the equivalent of Social Security. It was in addition to my paychecks, and since I no longer live in the country, they paid it out.
Those two extra deposits were icing on the cake!
Lastly, I spent $1500 ($2000 AUD) on the new electronics I mentioned (laptop and phone). That’s more money other people would have saved because it’s doubtful they’d need a brand new MacBook or iPhone. And technically, I DID save that money, I just spent it before leaving Australia!
That’s another $4000 USD I saved in Australia!!!!! OMG!!!
My Overall Savings in Australia
I saved over $20,000 USD! That’s cash money in the bank, BALLIN! Woop Woop!
SO freakin worth it. I can’t even tell you. I have confidence you can do it too.
It’s not easy and I wanted to quit many times. Working for myself over the previous three years had spoiled me, and going back to the hospitality industry and a little surf shop with teenagers and young 20 somethings wasn’t exactly ideal.
Luckily, I worked with some cool people. Also, seeing those dollar signs flowing in quickly made me change my attitude.
And again- it was SO WORTH IT!
*Side Note* My boyfriend, who was on the saving train with me, did even better. He saved around $34,000 USD! Yeah…!
I saved over $17,000 USD in 10 months living in Australia, do you think you can out save me? 🙂 Let me know in the comments!
>>> EVEN MORE ABOUT TRAVELING AND WORKING IN AUSTRALIA <<<
Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad since 2011 and blogging on Where in the World is Nina? for nearly as long. Nina helps people like you move around the world while making money. She loves talking about how to work abroad and online to travel longer!