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Aussie mumsnetters - how expensive is it?

(130 Posts)
feeltheforce Tue 09-Apr-13 20:34:29

We have our visas and are planning to move later this year/early next year but people keep telling us - don't!

Several people we know who have visited family have said it is eye watering and their relations are struggling to make ends meet.

I am now having serious second thoughts as the salaries in my husband's profession seem lower. I'd really like some honest advice from the ground smile

Thank you.

chloeb2002 Wed 10-Apr-13 00:09:36

Hi we alive in Brisbane. It does depend where you choose to live .. just like anywhere in the world. Sydney peaks the charts and others are in between. It depends what your quality of life needs are.. I will argue as will my dh (who has frequent trips to Uk) that its swings and roundabouts. I was told by fairly new expats it takes 5 years to get used to a new way of life. They were right. We initially had an income of 100k only one of us working. In most families both adults do work. Now we have a much bigger income but have also increased our outgoings a lot! now have 4 kids not 1.. bought a house, private school, renovation of the house.. new cars.. for us day to day stuff is as cheap as i make it. I buy in season from the fruit barn. We don't go out often but mostly as we have young kids! we have an au pair for childcare as its cheaper and more flexible than day care.
Highly produced stuff is expensive. Chocolate, crisps, etc.
fuel is cheaper than uk
electric and water are expensive ( we have solar and tank rain water will soon sink a bore)
Life is different here.. come enjoy it.. adapt give it 5 years.

Mutley77 Wed 10-Apr-13 07:33:47

It is v expensive. We combined the move with me giving up work as I am now nearly 30 weeks pg (moved 6 weeks ago). However DH got a big payrise to move and if we convert he earns the same as our joint income in the UK. However we are really finding we have had to tighten our belts (1 car instead of 2, can't afford a cleaner, much less eating out and general frivolous spending). I do think if (when) I work it will even out a bit.

If it is just about money I wouldn't come - especially if you are preparing to bring money with you. We made the call to leave our house and other assets intact in the UK and live on the income we have here - obviously if we stay long term we will have to review that decision. We knew it was going to be expensive and DH is Australian himself - was desperate to give family life here a go so it was a bit of a wider decision for us.

We live in Perth and I thought it was fairly accepted this is the most expensive city - even above Sydney - due to the mining boom. DH is from Melbourne and his relatives say it is def a lot more expensive than Melbourne and some of his colleagues were re-located here from Sydney (also say it is more expensive here).

Tortoiseontheeggshell Wed 10-Apr-13 07:45:52

Where are you trying to move to, OP? It's like any country - some bits are much cheaper than others.

I suspect that it is more expensive for a certain standard of living, but it's a better place to be poor. The posts I read on MN about struggling to find enough money for food, heating, etc., are eye opening to me. I don't know anyone over here (I'm in Adelaide) who really struggles like that.

But food is more expensive, although less likely to contain horse meat and in most places, the income: housing cost ratio is much worse than the UK.

On the other hand, we have a much more stable economy than the UK, we still have our AAA+ rating, and our standard of living is excellent.

Here are some actual stats:

Australia is third most expensive country to live after Norway and Switzerland but has the second highest standard of living in the world, also after Norway.

Mosman Wed 10-Apr-13 13:15:09

I've said many times we are struggling financially, will you have PR because that makes a massive difference.
WA and Perth seem to be more expensive than everywhere else and the extra 10-15 grand in wages makes no difference.

feeltheforce Wed 10-Apr-13 14:31:07

Hi, we have visas for Melbourne. DH will almost certainly have to work in CBD. In the UK he earns v well here and I don't work currently as LO are young still. We have a v nice house and a big garden, kids go to independent school. Life is Ok.

We wouldn't sell up initially because of the exchange rate. When I look at real estate agents in Melbourne it looks like we can afford a little three bed bungalow with a patio - not quite the house and pool I imagined sad As I say DH earns a lot more here than he would get in Melbourne based on the recruiters he has been speaking to. So I can't see us being able to afford private schools either and again people keep saying the state schools aren't great.

So I just don't know we are doing the right thing confused. I am trying to understand if day to day living is so much more and if so how ordinary Australians afford it.

feeltheforce Wed 10-Apr-13 14:33:07

tortoise how is the standard of living excellent when it so costly? Do you mean the general ambience and things to do?

Mutley77 Wed 10-Apr-13 14:58:33

The trouble with Australian cities (and knowing Melbourne well I know it is definitely the case) - is that to live a "nice lifestyle" in a suburb where you have easy access to amenities is very expensive. There are less options in terms of places to live - in the UK you can live in any number of towns/villages. In Australia if you work in a city (one of five realistically - Adelaide, Melb, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane or Canberra) you have a limited choice of where is nice to live near to the centre of that city.

How do Australians do it day to day? They don't - many "normal" Australians live in suburbs far out of the city (massive urban sprawl) which IMO don't offer a great lifestyle - although to Australians it is perfectly nice as it is what they are used to, just as they probably wouldn't value our lifestyle in the UK. And if you want to live in a nice suburb with the amenities that would be available to you in many places in England the money you would buy a good property for in England will only buy you a small property with a tiny garden. You could live further out and buy a "palace" with a pool (often no garden again) but there would be nothing easily accessible and the commute for your DH would be long - dep on whether there is a train line out to the suburb. What areas are you looking at?

Also the Australians who live here day to day have been living and saving in this economy therefore not trying to buy a house with their vastly reduced in value British pounds.

Mosman Wed 10-Apr-13 15:12:24

For me it's a case of making hay whilst the sunshines I'm paying the mortgage down in the UK and riding out the recession but am I taking on the $750,000 mortgage is need here to buy a comparable house in Manchester, no chance.
If your DH has a good secure role in the UK I would think twice about Melbourne it's hard to get around with a pushchair, parking is a nightmare, there's plenty to do but not much of its free. You are 2 hours drive from a decent beach.
The education however is seen as being of a higher quality in Victoria but compared to the rest that's nothing to shout about.
The Australians I've met are friendly but not friends, you find yourself gravitating to the other outcasts new immigrants english or Chinese or Brazilian in my case.

RunningBear78 Wed 10-Apr-13 15:19:19

We are British and moved back from Melbourne a couple of years ago after four years out there. Things changed a lot whilst we were out there, but basically we found utilities to be expensive (gas, electricity, water, phones, broadband), cars are expensive to buy but cheap to run, housing used to be cheap, but is now stupidly expensive within 10-15km of the city centre. Local food in season is cheap, imported and processed food (including chocolate!) is expensive, but eating out, and coffee, is generally cheaper. Public transport is quite cheap too. Very few of my friends still living there can afford to buy houses, many are moving out to small country towns.

Melbourne is a funny place to live, mixture of amazing and awful. The footprint is about the same size as London, so it can easily take an hour's drive from the city centre to the edges, even on the freeway. Which can be a shock if you've lived in a smaller town in the UK. Oh, and no roaming on footpaths in the countryside - stick to footpaths in the National/State parks only!

The best places to live are down by the beach, so you are about 10-15km from the CBD, with public transport access and good bike paths (cycling is fast becoming the easiest way to travel around the inner city). You can be 30 minutes from town but then have the open space of the water front close by. But, don't expect a big house, pool and garden. To get that you'll need to be out in the 'burbs, which means LONG commutes from the CBD and being surrounded by neverending housing. The far north and east of the city towards the National Parks are quite nice to live in, but again, long train commutes into the CBD.

There are some good State schools, but many middle class parents choose the Catholic schools which are lower fees than the private schools but better quality than State schools, only downside being the Catholocism! But as a rule, don't expect a high level of literacy from childeren in Aussie schools!? (Expects to offend someone, but I found it to be true!)

On the plus side, there are gorgeous 50m open air/indoor swimming pools all over the city so if you like a swim it is a great place to be. Coffee is also generally good, and cafe breakfasts are looooovely!

And remember, Melbourne gets VVVVVV cold (and dry) in the winter. 4 degrees there feels like below zero here. Also, they aren't into double glazing and central heating is unknown, so your house will be cold. Your backyard pool will be appreciated when you get weeks in the 40's though. Oh and the sea around Victoria is cold. All year round. Very similar to the south coast of the UK.

Sorry, didn't mean to write an essay, but always love to remember my time out there! Enjoy smile

Sibella1 Wed 10-Apr-13 15:21:17

We moved to Melbourne nearly two years ago after living in the UK for nearly five years (we are South African). We live in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne and yes it's very different from the UK in that you generally have to drive everywhere. That said the train ride to the city is about 40mins which isn't too bad and on weekends we like to drive in and it takes about 30 mins, parking is affordable over weekends (for example $6 per day at Crown) and the city is much easier to drive in than London.
We are renting a large 4 bed plus study house with good sized garden for the same price we paid for a luxury 2 bed apartment in Guildford - so it obviously depends on where you live in the UK and then again in Melbourne. Melbourne is much bigger than I anticipated. Check out Coles and Woolworths for online shopping prices and google myschool for Naplan results of schools to give you an idea of good schools in various areas. Good Luck!

echt Wed 10-Apr-13 18:36:01

Catholic schools are not automatically better than state schools.
Every house I've lived in in Melbourne has been properly heated.
There are plenty of decent beaches unless you need surf, in which case a drive is needed.
The sea is not cold all year round.

Tortoiseontheeggshell Thu 11-Apr-13 01:25:46

Feeltheforce: the link has a lot of detail, but it's basically the UN Human Development Report, which measures a lot of indices including a comparatively high level of education and literacy, low crime, equality for women and minorities, good access to health care, longevity of life, good quality food, housing, etc.

SavoyCabbage Thu 11-Apr-13 03:53:09

Like anywhere else though it depends on areas. On 'Wanted down Under' in Melbourne the houses are in terrible areas or three hours from the outskirts.

I think it's expensive. You get nothing for free here. Ambulances, school swimming. Museums. $40 for a bottle of antihistamine. Our 'voluntary' school 'fees' have just tripled. Our school dress is $50 and the polo shirt is $45. In a state school.

My dh works in the CBD. He gets the train in which takes 40 minutes. We do not like in a good area. It's not posh and our rent is $560 a week. We could live in a palace for that at home.

We are half an hour from the most spectacular beach I have ever seen though.

Mutley77 Thu 11-Apr-13 07:19:21

savoycabbage - you are so spot on with "wanted down under" - DH and I have watched it literally screaming at the TV going Where TF is that?? !! Then our UK friends will say wow did you see "wanted down under" last night, those houses are amazing, why don't you move back there! - Takes us ages to explain it.

Now we are in Perth which is similar but not quite as restrictive so we are spending quite a lot to live 10 mins drive from the beach and 15 mins from the city. As we are only here short term it is doable but not sure how or where we would afford to buy a place big enough for us & 3 kids and sustain it long term.

chloeb2002 Thu 11-Apr-13 13:57:12

I guess a lot of it is what you want and where you want it. In Brisbane we are yes 45 mins from Cbd and in an area that's an improving demographic. But there's no way e could live on acreage under an hour from say Leeds in a 6 bed house.. For us it's worth it. Private school here is much cheaper than uk.

feeltheforce Thu 11-Apr-13 13:59:35

I wanted to ask about health. DH will be on a good salary (I hope). DS1 has some health issues that mean we have to see specilialists every so often. I was a bit concerned as I don't really understand their healthcare.

Also, people in Melbourne, has it lived up to expectations?

Sibella1 Thu 11-Apr-13 14:49:11

Look for the first few months I wasn't so sure if it was worth it. But the weather is 100x better than the UK, it is autumn now and we have beautiful 25 degree days, we are heading to the Mornington Peninsula this weekend to make the most of it. Winter is much better than the UK - around 15 degrees and not as gloomy as the UK although it does rain a lot.

There are loads to do in and around Melbourne (and lots for free - always something on at Fed Square, the Botanical Gardens and all the Park Victoria sites are free) and it's much easier to get around - I've never really been stuck in a traffic jam while it happened lots of times in the UK. The beaches are amazing and you can be on an great beach (natural beach - not a building in site!) in an hour and we are quite far out.

Our house is very spacious and we are surrounded by bush / farmland - we see horses, cows and llamas every day on our way to school, also Cockatoos, galahs and other parrots flying around - beautiful. But then we are also 10, 15, 20 mins away from large shopping centers and like I said 30 mins from the city. I do miss the community feeling of living in a town like Guildford for instance.

Regarding healthcare it's a bit of a mixed bag but looking at the state of the NHS at the moment it does make sense the way Australia does it - they pay some and you pay some. When you get here you apply for Medicare which is a bit like NHS except you pay upfront and then claim the money back from Medicare where you normally get half back, except if the GP you see bulk bills which means you don't pay anything. But those GP's aren't usually the best places to go too but good for emergencies.

Most people do have private health insurance as well (ours is around $240 per month for a family of five) and this is good for dentistry for example (expensive and not covered by Medicare) and if you want a private hospital. This will also reduce your waiting time for surgery.

I'm not exactly sure how specialists work but Medicare might also cover a bit - here is a link which explains it quite well:

But you need to be careful and shop around! For example my daughter needed x-rays and the place the physio recommended would have charged me quite a bit, luckily I saw and ad in the newspaper for bulk billing x-rays which didn't cost me a cent! Also when we arrived we didn't have private health insurance and I was pregnant. I did not pay anything for my clinic visits or for my c/section at a public hospital and it was a great experience. Only two ladies to a room and excellent service from the nursing staff. Some people say that the state public hospitals are better as they are training hospital so have the best staff and facilities. But it is definitely a tricky system to understand and I am still getting the hang of it.
Also medication is charged but with everything if you struggle or pay a lot for medication you will receive government assistance.

Sorry for the long ramble - at first I thought it was very expensive as things are really cheap in the UK at the moment. And some things are like eating out, annual car registration fees (around $600 per car) and good quality clothes and shoes. But the fruit & veggies are cheap and beautifully fresh as it's all local (they are big on buying local) and op shopping and internet shopping for clothes are a biggie (I buy online from M&S and Next). Lots of sales on as well all the time.
Private schools are much more affordable than the UK - one of my kids just started at an excellent Christian private school and the fees are around $400 a month which is quite affordable. The attached high school charges around $900 a month. My other daughter is in Year 6 at a public school which is also very good and all the schools around here get good results. Also my daughter who is quite bright and did well in the UK in an 'outstanding' school is a bit more average here so I would definitely not say that the kids here are behind the UK. Look at the betterschools website as well for info on top schools - it all depends on choosing the best school for your child.
Each person has their own perspective on things. I feel like I'm still settling in and it's taking time, but we have more than what we did in the UK. More stuff, more things to do, more space. Good luck with your decision!

echt Thu 11-Apr-13 23:14:48

feeltheforce, Melbourne has worked out very well for us, but to be fair, our circumstances were quite privileged, and settling in was easy, apart from the homesickness.

Sibella's post is very good, especially about the healthcare - saved me some

Savoycabbage is spot on about the horrific cost of school uniforms.

Local and seasonal shopping for fresh produce is commonplace, as soon as a fruit/veg is out of season, we don't buy it as we only buy Australian produce. You soon get used to it, and it's wonderful when the stone fruit season is on and suddenly the most heavenly cherries, nectarines and peaches are everywhere.

Weather, especially now, in autumn, lovely, and the winter not fearsome as described, though you will hear Australians complain about dark, cold Melbourne winters. This is just before they exit for the sun at the Top End during the September/October spring school break.

There's a ton of stuff going on in arts, theatre and music; the idea of Australia being some cultural desert is laughable. I'm not able to say much about how things are those with younger DCs as my DD is nearly 18, but can see how much revolves around sports, football, AFL, cricket, basketball, netball, surf life saving all generate intense activity and plainly make for social bonding.

chloeb2002 Fri 12-Apr-13 08:42:30

I love the healthcare options here .. Coming from within both the public and private sectors as a nurse and the mother of a child with health problems and sn. Great choices .. Services and resources.

feeltheforce Fri 12-Apr-13 14:33:06

echt my kids are not v sporty (in fact eldest has some minor mobility problems so will never be a surfer). Do you think that is a hindrance in such a sporty nation?

Mutley77 Fri 12-Apr-13 14:52:51

feeltheforce - I have mixed feelings about Australia but tbh one thing I will say is that there is a really positive sense of encouragement to the children through education and activities. There is a much better focus on what they can do and developing them as people IYSWIM - kind of more positive in attitude I think. Very difficult to really put my finger on but definitely I think not being sporty wouldn't be a problem - they would probably be encouraged in developing an element of sport that they could do but in a positive way. And other activities are encouraged. Choice of school is probably important though - DD's school isn't great on music which is a shame as it is something she really likes/is good at. In England I took it for granted that music is fairly integral even at primary.

I figure we will pay for e/c activities as necessary and assume that opportunities will be better in high school. That's if we stay which isn't a definite outcome!

chloeb2002 Fri 12-Apr-13 20:42:39

Ds has amongst other issues cerebral palsy. So... Sport isn't his top thing! However all kids seem to find something. I agree choice of school is very very important. ..

echt Fri 12-Apr-13 23:00:45

feeltheforce I mentioned sport because it was suggested to us as a way of getting to know other families, seeing as we moved here when DD was 10. We neither of us are sporty in the joining in sense, preferring activities we can do alone, but surf life saving was good until DD didn't want to go anymore at about 13. I'm sure there are things for the non-sporty type.

Secondary schools are very hot on debating, chess, drama, environment and music. The whole joining in, getting involved is promoted far more than I saw in schools I taught in in the UK.

The school's the thing, so look around. A sad aspect of government schooling is the increased funding of music in less well-off areas, by reducing it at other government schools, none of whom can be described as any less than underfunded.

Don't get me started about the funding inequities in Oz schooling. angry sad.

Mosman Sat 13-Apr-13 09:23:02

Our kids school PTA raised $1,000,000 and it's not all that. I fear for the others in less affluent areas tbh

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