A question I get asked all of the time is: what is the cost of living in Australia compared with the UK? Now I can’t tell you about the cost of living in Perth, or how much it costs to live in Sydney, but I thought it might be useful for me to write a post that outlines our living costs in Brisbane in full detail. This will give you an idea of the cost of living in Brisbane, Australia for a family of five but I hope it gives you a good starting point to think about what your living costs in Australia might be for your family beyond your moving costs.
[This post about our living costs in Brisbane was updated in June 2021 with up-to-date living costs.]
Living costs Australia: The cost of living in Brisbane, Australia
This post is about MY own living costs in Brisbane and it relates to our lifestyle in Brisbane. Please remember, everybody’s spending and lifestyle are totally different. Some families love having a top TV package with all of the movie channels, and others are happy with freeview. Some people love an expensive mobile phone and others prefer a basic phone on pay as you go. Some love eating out in restaurants, and others always eat at home. Some families like a posh car, others (like mine!) drive beat up old cars! For this reason, I can’t tell you exactly what your cost of living in Australia is going to be, but hopefully this post about our monthly outgoings when living in Brisbane will get you thinking about what your living costs in Australia might be.
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The cost of living in Australia vs the UK: Is Australia more expensive?
I often hear people talking about how expensive Australia is and how the cost of living in Australia is much higher than the UK. I do feel that the cost of living is higher here but our wages are higher so that evens it out for us.
I also think there are some things you need to bear in mind. If you move from a small village in Derbyshire to central London you would find it expensive. If you move from that small village to central Sydney you would find it expensive. If you move from London to Sydney, the cost of living will be more comparable. Sometimes when people talk about how expensive it is in Australia, they are comparing their lives in very different locations. Some of Australia’s cities ARE very expensive, I’m not going to lie. But it is costly to live in central London too, so keep things in perspective.
Want to learn how to reduce your energy consumption and save on your electricity bill in Australia? Check out this post!
Comparing our family’s cost of living in Brisbane, Australia vs UK cost of living
When I compare our cost of living in Australia vs UK, some of our living costs in Brisbane are much higher than they were in Hampshire in the UK and others are a bit lower. We have higher outgoings here overall, but that’s mainly because we’ve made some lifestyle choices to spend more money on some extra things – these are things we couldn’t afford in the UK (like running a second car and sending our kids to a private school). Our income here is more than double what it was in the UK so that allows for the extra expenses and the higher costs in some areas. We don’t feel any better off financially or any worse off but living in Brisbane we are leading a totally different lifestyle – one which we absolutely LOVE! So while living costs are important, it’s also really important to think about the lifestyle benefits you’ll gain after you’ve moved too – to me they are priceless.
Try not to worry too much about living costs in Australia. What I mean by that is read this post, but don’t let it panic you if the figures seem high. Until you get here, it will be very difficult for you to predict exactly what YOUR outgoings are going to be – much of it will depend on which suburb you move to as rental costs can really vary even in the same city. Plus you likely won’t know what your income is going to be yet, so checking out Brisbane house prices and Brisbane living costs (or whichever city) can be stressful until you get a clear idea of what salary you’re likely to earn so it can be hard working out the cost of living in Brisbane for a family of 3, 4, 5 or more before you arrive.
When we were researching moving to Brisbane, I remember reading a list of somebody’s Australian living expenses in a forum and it freaked me out. I felt there was no way we’d be able to afford to live in Australia and for a long time we stopped looking into it. All because I read one person’s post. I don’t want you to read my outgoings and make assumptions about whether you can or can’t afford it – I just want to give you some basic information as a starting point.
If you’re a family moving to Australia or worrying about your upcoming Brisbane living costs, the chances are you will be able to afford it over here. Families just like yours live here quite happily. Sometimes (in more expensive cities) it might involve some compromises (living further from the city or further from a beach etc.) but you can make it work. Try to stop comparing dollars to pounds too. As soon as you get here, you will need to start thinking in AUD anyway and the dollars you earn will convert into dollars that you spend. Pounds (or US dollars or whatever other currency you’re moving from) won’t matter anymore.
Want to find out how to maximise your money when you make the move to Australia? Check out this post about transferring money to Australia.
Brisbane living cost versus other cities in Australia
When we were planning our move to Brisbane, affordability, weather and lifestyle were all important to us. Other cities such as Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra do come with a higher cost of living. We looked into job opportunities and decided that salaries for Matt’s occupation weren’t going to be much higher in those cities yet our outgoings for rent/mortgage would be higher. We chose to move to Brisbane because there were more work opportunities for Matt plus the cost of living was reasonable and it ticked all of our other weather and lifestyle boxes. It turned out to be a great choice for us.
Every occupation is different – some people may need to base themselves in a certain city for their type of work. Do your research. Check out house prices, cost of living and salaries (plus all of the extra things like weather, crime levels, access to beaches/parks/cafes etc – all of the things that matter to you).
Something to remember is that it will always cost more to live closer to the city so bear that in mind as you’re online looking at the average cost of rent in Australian cities. Again it all depends on the type of lifestyle you’re searching for – city living might be important to you so you might be happy paying more to be close to the CBD.
We live about 45 minutes outside Brisbane in Moreton Bay because that allows us to have a bigger house. If we lived even further out of the city, we could afford a much bigger plot but then you are adding to your daily commute time so it’s all a balance.
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Living costs in Brisbane, Australia
Want a budget template so you can create your own monthly budget? Click here to get access one in my FREE Resource library. This is where you’ll find lots of PDFs and downloads to make your move easier.
So what are the costs of living in Brisbane Australia? Here is a breakdown of our living costs in Brisbane. If you’re thinking of moving to Brisbane, please remember – these are our living costs. Yours will be different. Just like in the UK, one family might have outgoings of £1500 a month and another £3000 per month. Everybody lives different lifestyles. I think we are pretty frugal. I have many friends here who spend more than us and many who spend less than us. I think that you tend to end up spending what you have and your lifestyle grows or shrinks to fit your income.
Cost of living, Brisbane: Here is the breakdown of our bills
Please note: we bought a house after about seven months in Australia so these costs are based on us being homeowners. We rented initially in Scarborough in Moreton Bay, so where possible I’ve listed the costs applicable to renting too but those figures are now a few years old.
Cost of living, Brisbane
Car registration (known as ‘rego’ in Australia) – one of our cars costs $740 per year and the other $950. You can pay these as a single annual bill or pay six-monthly. In Queensland, you can also pay in installments too.
Car insurance (you can also choose to pay this annually for a discount if you prefer) – one car costs $950 a year and the other $1000 a year. (Costs vary depending on what inclusions you choose i.e. hire car, what excess you choose, replacement costs of your car etc.) Our insurance costs are quite expensive but it’s because of the things we’ve chosen to include/cover ourselves for.
Water (including usage for a family of five and standing charges) $420 – $520 per qtr. In Queensland, you only pay for water usage when renting so rental water charges will be much lower than this figure – find out more here. For water in other states, Google ‘water charges renting’ + the state. Our bill fluctuates depending on how much rainwater we have stored for topping up our pool and pond – during dry spells we have to use our hose pipe which increases our water bill.
Electricity – $150 – 450 per qtr * We have solar panels which massively reduces our electricity bill but it does depend on the time of year. We only have one aircon/heating unit (not ducted). Our bills vary depending on how much we’ve used the air con or heating, and in winter we produce less energy so our bills increase quite a bit as we’re producing less.
If we didn’t have solar, I think our bill would be around $750+ per qtr.
Energy bills can vary a LOT depending on the house, the time of year, how much insulation you have, whether your hot water is fuelled by gas or electricity, whether you have a pool and how energy efficient your pool system is, whether you have solar panels and so much more…
Gas cylinder hire – $80 a year plus gas cylinder refills as and when required which is only very occasionally as we only use it for cooking on the hob. It’s so rare that I can’t even remember the cost but think it’s about $130 per refill. In our rental, gas heated our hot water system so our usage bills were higher there. In the area we live, mains gas supply isn’t common.
Rates – $515 per qtr. In Queensland, you only pay rates as a homeowner – you don’t pay rates when renting in Queensland.
Mobile phones – we just signed up to a great deal to get cheap phone plans (one from Woolworths and one from Coles) for about $10 a month paid annually (there’s no handset included in this price).
Internet, home phone with international calls and basic TV package – $95
Netflix – $20pm
Health insurance for our family of five – $120* We get subsidised health insurance through my husband’s work. Before this we had a package that cost us $260 a month through Bupa again, health insurance will be wildly different in cost depending on factors such as your age and health, whether you want pregnancy cover and what extras you include.
On a PR visa, health insurance isn’t mandatory but there are benefits to taking it out. You can find out more here.
Buildings and contents insurance – $100pm (again this will vary a lot depending on your rebuild costs, excess and inclusions).
Mortgage or rent – Everyone’s mortgage payment will be different depending on the size of your deposit and what rate you are able to secure (if you’re thinking about buying a house in Australia, check out this post to learn about the mortgage broker I partner with who has lots of experience helping expats get a mortgage and he’ll be able to give you an idea of your mortgage repayment costs). Brisbane house prices are going a bit crazy at the moment and I know in our area rentals are quite competitive right now. Our rental when we first arrived (in 2014) was a 4-bedroom, modern property and it cost $440 a week in Scarborough, Qld. It was an amazing deal and most similar houses I see in the area now seem to cost more than this (more like $500 – 700 pw). This is in my local area of Moreton Bay – closer to the city, costs are higher. When it comes to buying a property, in Moreton Bay where I live a family home is likely to be about $500k – 800k as a very rough guide. Have a look on RealEstate.com.au for info on buying and renting.
Life insurance/trauma cover/income protection insurance – how much this costs depends on what level of cover you decide to take out. You can take this out as a separate policy or include it within your superannuation.
Brisbane cost of living: Lifestyle expenses to budget for
Fuel – petrol costs are lower here than in the UK. It tends to be $1.30 – $1.50 per litre (but it can really vary very quickly!) Motormouth is a good site to check local prices.
Takeaways and eating out – we find eating out and buying take aways more affordable here. (Dominos pizza is my kids’ favourite take away – the pizzas are smaller than in the UK, but they start at $4.99 per pizza and $7 for two sides which is cheaper than we used to pay in the UK).
School – if you’re on a temporary visa in some states you will need to budget for school fees (read this schools post for more info). If you’re on a PR visa or are moving to a state that doesn’t charge temporary visa holders for schooling, you will still need to budget for the voluntary contribution fee even if your children go to a state school. This fee will vary between schools. You’ll also need to budget for books, stationery, school trips/camps and uniforms.
If your kids go to a private school, you can usually set up a payment plan to suit you (fortnightly, monthly or termly). Sometimes private school fees can include books/stationery/ipads/camps/excursions/swimming lessons etc. – it all depends on the school. Private school prices can begin from around $2/3k per child per year in primary (for some church-subsidised schools) with prices going up from there. You can usually get sibling discounts if multiple kids go to the school.
Days out – we find days out here much cheaper. Annual passes are more affordable at attractions so you can buy them once and then enjoy a year of visits – and the passes usually bring extra perks like discounts on food and drink and in the shop so they have usually paid for themselves by the second visit. As a guide, Australia Zoo costs $139 for an adult annual pass and $99 for a child. At Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, a family pass (2 adults and 3 kids) is $148 which is an absolute bargain!)
Sports and activities – if your kids take swimming lessons, tennis lessons, scouts etc. you will need to budget for this. Classes are usually $17 – $25 per session per child. Some involve uniforms (like the surf club Nippers where a vest was $20 and cap $20 each). Sometimes these can be paid weekly, sometimes monthly and other times termly depending on the activity.
Holidays – if you want to save for an annual big holiday, budget for short breaks or want to save for a visit back to your home country, you will need to allow some savings towards your holiday budget. For holiday inspiration in Australia, check out my Discover Australia section.
Hairdressers – I LOVE my hairdressers – Beautiful You in north Brisbane (if you ever go, tell them I sent you!) Follow the link and check out their price list to give you an idea of pricing. I pay about $180 for a cut and colour. My husband pays about $30 for his haircuts and generally gets a beer with his. The kids’ hair cuts are about $10 – 15 depending on where we take them.
Clothes – Kmart, Target and Cotton On Kids are my main go-to stores for the kids for clothes. I personally think kids’ clothes are good value here but I know other people who feel Tesco and the supermarket options were cheaper in the UK. I love Myer for their dresses and I tend to stock up when they have a sale on. We aren’t big spenders on clothes so I don’t really allow a monthly budget for it. Through summer my kids mostly just live in swimwear anyway. They rarely wear socks and my boys hardly ever wear t-shirts in the house, let alone jumpers or jeans! Our clothes spending here is much much less than what it was in the UK. For shoes, outside of school my kids tend to live in thongs (flip flops!) which are super cheap!
Click here to get access to my FREE Resource library. This is where you’ll find lots of PDFs and downloads to make your move easier, including a blank budget template so you can create your own monthly budget for your life in Australia.
Food prices in Australia
A while ago I published the post below on Instagram and got a huge reaction to it from people who were astounded at how little I spend on food shopping. I feel we eat really well and I definitely buy plenty of luxuries but I think I keep our cost down by shopping fortnightly. I did the same in the UK too. We have a big fridge freezer here so I can buy lots of bread and the dates on things are usually good enough to last between shops. I pop back to the shops for bits when I need to, but the bulk of our food is bought in those two big shops a month.
Can you guess the price of my food shop?! This lot will keep us going for two weeks (family of 5 including all meals as everyone has packed lunches at work and school). I mostly shop at Coles (like Tesco) and do click and collect (usually costs me about $300 per fortnight) but this week I went to Aldi. I know I should go there more often as it is definitely much cheaper. I got loads more because, you know, it’s Aldi. It was still $299 but I got lots more than normal and stocked up on lots of things so I’d say that was a bargain. This price doesn’t include booze because you can’t buy alcohol from supermarkets in Queensland (you get that from a bottle shop, affectionately known as a bottle-o.) What do you think of that price? Do you think it’s a good deal or does it surprise you? #foodshopping #aldi #aldimum #coles #Australia #familyshop #pomsinaus #pomsinoz
The trolley above was worth about $300. I’ve upped my spending since then as I now have three kids at school who all need a fruit break snack, morning tea and lunch (plus as my boys are getting older they are eating more!) so now I probably spend about $400 per fortnight. I’ve run out of time for shopping at Aldi which is definitely much cheaper, so now I order online via Coles or Woolworths which is another reason I’m spending a bit more.
I have friends who easily spend $1200 a month on food though, so I don’t think we do too badly!
This shopping doesn’t include alcohol as you can’t buy that from the supermarket here. We don’t get through lots of booze at home now though anyway since we cut back on drinking a while ago.
Living in Brisbane: Can you afford it?
I hope that walk through our bills and our cost of living in Brisbane helps you to feel more in control of your move and gives you an idea of the average cost of living in Brisbane. Remember your living costs in Brisbane will be different from mine – it all depends on where you live, how far you commute, how many cars you run and what your lifestyle is like. When you get here and get a job, you’ll know what your budget is going to be and you’ll create a lifestyle that fits that budget. Don’t let the living cost in Brisbane put you off – stop thinking of the Brisbane living costs in pounds or your local currency and just get out here so you can live in Australian dollars!
Don’t forget: Click here to get access to my FREE Resource library. This is where you’ll find lots of PDFs and downloads to make your move easier, including a blank budget template so you can create your own monthly budget.
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Do you require a yearly car inspection (MOT)? I know all garages charge different amounts, just wondered what the rough cost is?
Many thanks in advance.
[Comment has been edited to reflect the facts] Hi Leanne, There is no equivalent to the UK’s MOT in Queensland so we are not required to get our cars inspected annually here. Different states have different rules regarding vehicle inspections. You would need to investigate in the state you are moving to as I’m not sure of costs or what is involved.
Hi Leanne, Be sure to check Rachel’s comment in the post – it seems that some states DO require some annual vehicle checks depending on the age of the vehicle. I’m not sure how comparable to an MOT these are (in depth or in cost) as in Qld we don’t have them so I don’t have any experience of it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_inspection_in_Australia Thanks to Rachel for making me aware!
Isn’t a pink slip a bit like an mot Karen?
You are right – I’d Googled to check before I answered Leanne and found a number of sites saying there is ‘no equivalent to an MOT in Australia’ on a number of sites but having now searched ‘pink slip’ I see NSW does require an inspection when a vehicle is over 5 years old. Qld doesn’t have this and may other states don’t. Thanks for making me aware – I know that every state has such different rules for things especially car ownership and selling vehicles.