Two questions I’m constantly asked are how much does it cost to live in Australia and also is Brisbane expensive to live? 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 Australia. This will give you an idea of the cost of living in Brisbane, Australia for a family of five but hopefully it is a good starting point for you, where ever you are moving to in Australia and however many people are in your family.

Australia living expenses: The cost of living in Brisbane, Australia

It is difficult to write a post about living costs in Brisbane because 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. For this reason, I can’t tell you exactly what your cost of living in Australia is going to be, but hopefully the post below will start you thinking about what your living costs in Australia might be.

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I have also created a download to accompany the post, so as you read my post you can create your own monthly budget.

The cost of living in Australia vs the UK: Is Australia more expensive?

Pinterest image: Can you afford the lifestyle you want in Brisbane with a pool and sunglasses

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 think there are some things you just need to bear in mind. If you move from a small village in Derbyshire to central London you will find it expensive. If you move from that small village to central Sydney you will 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 totally different lifestyles. Some of Australia’s cities ARE very expensive, I’m not going to lie. But it is costly to live in central London too. I know in the UK, we couldn’t have afforded to live in London even with higher wages.

Cost of living – Brisbane, Australia

If we’re considering our family’s cost of living in Brisbane, some of our living costs in Brisbane are much higher than they were in Hampshire in the UK and others are considerably lower. We have higher outgoings here overall, but that is mainly because we have 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. We don’t feel any better off financially or any worse off but we are living a totally different lifestyle here.

Try not to worry too much about living costs in Australia. Read this post, but don’t let it panic you. 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. When we were researching moving, I remember reading a list of somebody’s outgoings in a forum and it freaked me out. I felt there was no way we would 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 are a family moving to Australia or worrying about Brisbane living costs, the chances are you will be able to afford it over here. Families just like yours live here quite happily. If families couldn’t afford the cost to live in Brisbane, they would leave! Try to stop comparing dollars to pounds. As soon as you get here, you will need to start thinking in dollars anyway and the dollars you earn will convert into dollars that you spend. Pounds won’t matter anymore.

Brisbane living cost versus other cities in Australia

When we were planning our move to Brisbane, affordability and lifestyle were 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 weren’t going to be much higher for my husband’s occupation in those cities yet our outgoings for rent/mortgage would be significantly higher. Every occupation is different – some people may need to base themselves in a certain city for their type of work, and their salary might be a good deal more in the major cities which balance it all out.

Something to remember is that it will always cost a lot more to live closer to the city so bear that in mind as you’re online looking at the average cost of rent in Brisbane/Sydney/Perth/Melbourne/wherever city you are considering. We live about 45 minutes outside Brisbane in Moreton Bay because that allows us to have a bigger house. If we lived an hour out of the city, we could afford a significantly bigger house but then you are adding to your daily commute time so it is all a balance.

Living costs in Brisbane, Australia

So what are the costs of living in Brisbane Australia? Here is a breakdown of our living costs in Brisbane (in May 2018 unless otherwise stated). If you are thinking of moving to Brisbane, please have a look at these prices but don’t let them scare you. They are just my own living costs. Yours will be totally 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 my breakdown of our bills

Please note: we bought a house after about seven months in Australia (you can get some free mortgage advice here if you want to buy a home 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.

Cost of living, Brisbane: Annual bills to budget for 
Car registration (known as ‘rego’ in Australia) – one of our cars costs $660 per year and the other $870. You can pay these as a single annual bill or pay six-monthly. In Queensland, you can also pay in instalments at the Post Office too.

Car insurance (you can also choose to pay this monthly) – one car costs $600 a year and the other $720 a year. We are just about to explore whether a multi-car policy will save us some money but as one of our cars is a Japanese import it can make it tricky to do cost comparisons as it isn’t recognised on the comparison sites.

Gas cylinder hire – $80 a year plus gas cylinder refills as and when required which is only very occasional as it is only used for cooking on the hob. It is so rare that I can’t even remember the cost but assume something like $130 per refill. In our rental, gas heated our hot water so our usage bills were higher there.

Cost of living, Brisbane: Quarterly bills to budget for
Water (including usage for a family of five and standing charges) $370 – $480 per qtr. In Queensland you only pay for water usage when renting – find out more here.  For water in other states, Google ‘water charges renting’ + the state. Our bill fluctuates depending on how much rain water 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.

Rates – $490 per qtr. In Queensland, you only pay rates as a homeowner – you don’t pay rates when renting in Queensland. 

Electricity – $130 – 230 per qtr * We have solar panels which massively reduces our electricity bill. We only have one aircon/heating unit that we use for short periods – we don’t run it all day. 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. In our 4-bed rental without a pool our electricity bill was approx. $440 per qtr. In our 5-bed home with a pool our bill was approx. $670 per qtr before we had solar panels installed. So energy bills can vary a LOT depending on the house.

Brisbane cost of living: Monthly bills to budget for 
Mobile phones (iPhones) – $35 each per month including international calls, minutes and data but excluding handset charges

Internet, home phone and basic TV package – $80

Netflix – $18

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.

Buildings and contents insurance – $60

Mortgage or rent – I won’t list the cost of our mortgage as everyone’s will be different and it will depend on the size of your deposit and what rate you are able to secure. Our rental when we first arrived (in 2014) was a 4-bedroom, modern property and it cost $440 a week in Scarborough, Qld which works out to about $1905 per month. It was an amazing deal and most similar houses I see now seem to cost more than this (more like $500/600 or more if you want a pool).

Life insurance/trauma cover/income protection insurancehow 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 the UK. It tends to be $1.30 – $1.50 per litre.

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 so much cheaper than we used to pay in the UK).

School – if you are on a temporary visa in some states you will need to budget for school fees (read this schools post for more info). If you are on a PR visa or are moving to a state that doesn’t charge temporary visa holders for schooling, you will need to allow a budget for the voluntary contribution even if your children go to a state school. This fee will vary between schools. You will also need to budget for books, stationery and uniform which can add up quickly. If your kids go to a private school, you can usually set up a payment plan to suit you. We pay our private school fees fortnightly to spread the cost.

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 on the second visit.

Sports and activities – if your kids take swimming lessons, tennis lessons, scouts etc. you will need to budget for this. Classes are often $15 – $20 per session per child. Some involve uniforms (like the surf club Nippers where a vest was $20 and cap $20 each).

Holidays – if you want to save for an annual big holiday, budget for short breaks or want to save for a visit back to the UK, you will need to allow some savings towards your holiday budget. For holiday inspiration, 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 swimmers 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 school my kids tend to live in thongs which are super cheap!

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 milk and the dates on things are usually good enough to last between shops. I use up perishable things during the first few days (like bananas) and then the kids get longer lasting fruit towards the end of the fortnight (apples, oranges and grapes etc.) It works really well for us anyway.

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

A post shared by Karen Bleakley ✈️???????? (@smartstepstoaus) on

If you click through to see the comments, you will see that this trolly full was worth about $300. I have upped my spending a bit 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 $350 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 am spending a bit more.

I have friends who easily spend $1200 a month on food though.

This shopping does not include alcohol as you can’t buy that from the supermarket here, and we have actually mostly stopped drinking at home apart from the odd expensive bottle of wine every now and again as a treat (I feel so much better for it too!)

Can you afford to live in Brisbane?

I hope that walk through our bills 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 as a family and what your lifestyle is like. When you get here and get a job, you will know what your budget is going to be and you will create a lifestyle that fits that. 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!


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