sydney cost of living
November 8, 2009 5:24 PM   Subscribe

CostOfLivingFilter in Sydney: I am 35 year old, professional in Sydney with a salary around AU$100K. I have no dependents, leading a normal modest life with no extravagant expenses. Why do I still feel the life is out of my reach?

I am 35 and I think I am old enough to settle, stop living like a student. Maybe buy a property. I know mine is not a huge salary and I also think it is not very little either for a single person. I realized it seems that it does not look possible to buy a decent house/apartment closer to city without having to go "out west". Also, saving for a deposit is very hard while paying a rent even for an average place in the city.

I am not originally from Australia, been here for couple of years only, so please help me realize where I am placed financially in this society?

Thank you
posted by neworder7 to Work & Money (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should also note salary is base before tax, excluding superannuation, no family support.
posted by neworder7 at 5:29 PM on November 8, 2009

I know mine is not a huge salary

Your salary is significantly higher than average adult full-time earnings in Australia.

Sydney real estate is extremely expensive and the agents here are fascist goons, but you're in a much better position than most.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:38 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

It is impossible to answer this without more details. I don't live in sydney, but I own a place in downtown Toronto and know how expensive things can seem. How big is your apartment? What kind of car do you have? How much do you spend eating out? How much do you spend on cable TV, internet, cell phones, etc? How much do you travel? Are you paying down debt? Is it interest on debt that's keeping you down? How much clothes do you buy?

Seriously, track your expenses. You're probably living beyond your means (or within your means, but not saving). If taxes in Australia are similar to Canada's, you're pulling in $6-7K after taxes per month. You're "blowing" it on something.

Raking in that much, you're probably spending more than you should on something. Financial sites like Get Rich Slowly, among others, show how people get out of debt and move up like how you want to. If you're out of debt right now, it'll tell you how to get a move on for the future.
posted by hylaride at 5:40 PM on November 8, 2009

Have you googled the median income for an Australian? Not the average--rich guys skew that. It's a useful reality check.

Also, you might want to join Fight Club.

Ahem. More seriously, rent just makes rich guys richer. Move into the cheapest place you can stand to rent and start researching housing options. Including the small house movement.
posted by shetterly at 5:43 PM on November 8, 2009

Fiasco da Gama beat me to it.
posted by shetterly at 5:44 PM on November 8, 2009

I am from Australia and can tell you $100,000 is a pretty decent chunk of change - even for Sydney. Myself and most of my friends earn much less than that and feel we're doing pretty OK so I'm unsure why you'd feel life was out of reach somehow based just on the money you're earning. If you're thinking about buying a home perhaps looking at some property calculators could give you an idea of how much you could afford to borrow and how much repayments would be?
posted by t0astie at 5:52 PM on November 8, 2009

It's not you, it's Sydney. If you want to live in Sydney, you have to pay the price, literally. But if getting settled into a place of your own is your priority then moving to a cheaper another city is your best option. That or find a partner in Sydney and buy a place together.
posted by Kerasia at 5:54 PM on November 8, 2009

Well, I'm from the US. I live in NYC, which is one of its most expensive cities, excluding Hawaii and Alaska.

Generally speaking, in first world countries such as Australia or the US or Canada or the UK, the largest cities are also the most expensive, and hence have the highest salaries.

You are probably suffering from a form of self-selection bias, in which you compare your financial condition to other Australian elites and think that you are not doing well. However, if you compare yourself to the average or even the median Australian you're likely doing quite well.

The set of people to whom you compare yourself (the demographic) is important. Your perspective is likely skewed.
posted by dfriedman at 5:56 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In addition to my previous comment see also the ABS paper on Household Income and Income Distribution. Table S.4 in the summary is useful if you want to compare yourself financially to other Australians, and go straight to the data in the PDF and excel files if you want to be overloaded with information.

I realized it seems that it does not look possible to buy a decent house/apartment closer to city without having to go "out west"

That's correct, there's an overall shortage of housing in Sydney and it's most acute in the inner city and inner west. If you're someone under the age of 35 and you want to own property within 5-10km of the Sydney CBD, you should plan to have somebody in your immediate family leave it to you as an inheritance.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:42 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

For $100 000 a year you can get all that you want - if you're prepared to move further out. I find people who rarely go there have a strange idea of "the west", this is compounded by working with North Shore yuppies who view anything west of Bondi as some kind of Morlock enclave.

For $100 000 salary you can get a mortgage - and have a chance of paying it off - of around $450k. Pay-offs will be large but quite doable. You will be able to buy a 1-2 bedroom apartment in that price range in many, many suburbs within 16km of the city, varying from newish and tiny to large-ish and old.

I suspect you are under-rating incidentals. How much do you go/eat out? Eating out all the time and drinking can burn an almost shocking amount of cash. Do you drive? Pay for parking etc. Don't let keeping up with the Jones's at work fool you into thinking that there are no options for someone of your salary in Sydney, there are tonnes. :)
posted by smoke at 7:32 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify some points that you asked: I think my biggest expense right now is my rent, I live by myself in the city in small apartment. Paying AU$2000 a month, ordinary place. I even feel a little embarrassed to invite people over. Saving a little bit only.

The reason I placed this question was I guess I am going through life crisis (early mid-life crisis maybe?) feeling utterly unsuccessful, have came to this age and still can't seem to afford the life to live like a "grown up", ie. living in a nice place without having to share. Definitely I do not mean to have luxurious/glamorous/exclusive places, but i thought by now I should be able to afford a "middle class" living in an average apartment/house around the city.
posted by neworder7 at 7:48 PM on November 8, 2009

Go West young man.

Put at least ten stations on the Western or Bankstown train lines between you and Wynyard and you will halve your rent and inestimably increase your standard of living.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:56 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I just did literally a ten second search on and got these results for postcode 2000



There were even cheaper results, pages of em. Now I, personally wouldn't pay that much for any of those properties - I think the city is tremendously overpriced, especially at the lower end - and its charms are over-rated once you leave your twenties. However, what you're looking for is clearly there, and affordable. Knowledge followed by action is the best way to overcome crises of any variety. :) Start searching.

And 'success', seriously wtf is that? Success is being happy dude, and if having a huge salary is gonna make you happy, well, you're pretty easy to please. $100k salary is not middle class, fyi. Middle class is people like teachers on 65k - after ten years of work! You're upper class, like me, and the fact you can't feel or appreciate it should clue you in to the likelihood of another $30k or whatever doing the trick.
posted by smoke at 8:00 PM on November 8, 2009

It would be helpful if you explained what kind of lifestyle you think is appropriate for somebody of your means and also the kind of place you would like to live in.
posted by quosimosaur at 8:05 PM on November 8, 2009

Your income is quite healthy in comparison with the Aussie average (or median), as others have pointed out.

However, I'm a bit shocked that you're paying about $500/wk in rent & you're wondering why you can't seem to break into the housing market.

You should be able to find a place in the inner city (within a short commute or bike ride, or maybe even a decent walk or jog) for half that cost. And that's if you want to fork out for somewhere that's reasonably nice.

If you're serious about saving, then I'd advise going cheaper still (aim for maybe $150/week for a room in a share household), put up with the relative discomfort for a year or two (it's not even that bad) and build up your deposit. If that means living for a while in a style below your middle-class expectations of how you'd ideally see yourself living, well, tough. That's what it takes to break out of renting & into owning your own place.

Along those lines, if you eat out regularly, don't. Cook your own food at home. If you drink in bars regularly, don't. Cut back, buy from the bottlo or brew your own. If you buy lunches at work, don't. Bring leftovers from home or make sandwiches at work. If you buy a couple of coffees a day, don't. That's $1,500-$2,000 a year for something you can easily make for yourself (to 90% of the quality) for peanuts.

These things add up, and you simply can't afford to treat those kinds of luxuries as necessities unless you want to rent all your life. Either you live the middle-class lifestyle dream in Sydney, or you own your own place, but especially as a single person, you can't have your lamington & eat it too.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:39 PM on November 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

That's Australia for you, and Sydney especially. I'm absolutely with you on feeling like you should be able to live like a grown up by now - I moved from the States to Australia with mr. po, and our (currency exchanged) income more than doubled, but our savings rate went from 40% to less than 5%. And we're not even in Sydney, and we're sharing an apartment (whereas we were living in a 3-bedroom house back in the U.S.). I can't imagine what it's like to be paying Sydney-city rent, and frankly, though I love the city, don't want to find out.

That said, I think the stigma of "out west" is ridiculous and farcical, perpetuated by certain North Shore snobs whose SUVs got their first-ever coat of dust several weeks ago (and who haven't washed it off since, because they like pretending those SUVs might someday go off-road!). You say "Definitely I do not mean to have luxurious/glamorous/exclusive places," but I would suggest that living in inner Sydney -is- glamorous and exclusive, if not always luxurious. There simply aren't enough apartments and houses in the CBD for everyone who wants one and thinks that out west is beneath them; therefore, rents and prices are astronomically, awfully, ridiculously high.

Yes, being close to the city is nice. Is it worth pissing away your potential savings for? That's the question I think you need to consider, because it looks like there are many more affordable, nice dwellings further out, which would help to alleviate your concerns about living in a nice place without having to share and having more disposable income to save or spend on other luxuries that might make you feel more successful.
posted by po at 8:52 PM on November 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

UbuRoivas took the words out of my mouth. You live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and you make a pretty decent income but at the same time, if you want to buy there, guess what, you're going to have to live within your means and find a way to save. We've all been in the same boat. It may mean not going out so much, it may mean (shock, horror) living with someone else to do so. It may mean lowering your kinda high expectations and moving a whole 5km out of the city or living in the inner west.

You know what, most people's first place isn't the palace they'd like to live in. But you compromise a bit, buy what you can afford, live there for 5 years, wait for it to increase in value along with your income and the next place you buy will be more to your standards. No one gets it handed to them on a silver platter unless you inherit or marry, and I can guarantee you will appreciate it more because you made it happen yourself. I know, everything I wrote is exactly what I had to do. It really isn't out of your reach. People with much less than you have easily pulled it off - go for it!
posted by Jubey at 8:58 PM on November 8, 2009

Are you sure he'd be able to find a rental that cheap in the inner west, Ubu? I've got friends who had a hell of a time finding a decent rental in the past year. Stories of 20+ people at each inspection, people bribing the agents or offering higher rent, etc. So while I agree with you that $500/wk seems quite high, I wouldn't go so far as to say neworder7 will waltz right into a $250/wk place next weekend either.

>> If you're someone under the age of 35 and you want to own property within 5-10km of the Sydney CBD, you should plan to have somebody in your immediate family leave it to you as an inheritance.

Not quite true. I'm under 35 and I bought a 3br townhouse two years ago within walking distance of the CBD. (Granted, that's with a partner.) I have two single girlfriends who each own their own tiny flats in Newtown and Darlinghurst though. None of us are particularly rich. It's definitely possible.

In addition to the other good money-saving tips other folks have given: if you can get by without a car, DO IT. We're in GoGet and it's brilliant. A car is a huge, huge expense. If you're going to live close to the city, take advantage of public transport, car sharing, and your own two legs and save the cash.
posted by web-goddess at 9:02 PM on November 8, 2009

That rent just sounds extortionate, even for Sydney. There are loads of places cheaper in the 2000 postcode and surrounding suburbs listed at and Places around the $300 mark look pretty pleasant to me. YMMV, but moving somewhere cheaper could help you save for a house deposit.
posted by t0astie at 9:12 PM on November 8, 2009

I've heard the same stories as what web-goddess wrote - about how many people are competing for rental properties. However, I stand by my claim that $150 is achievable, and $250 will get you somewhere quite decent, even if you have to fight for it.

I should qualify that: my figures are for shared households. If feel you really deserve to rent a place on your own, then that just brings me back to my point about living a fantasy lifestyle versus being realistic. If you really want, you can always pay the same for a solo flat as you would in a shared household, but you're simply not going to get as much value for your money (eg appliances, garden, carspace, quality of finish, whatever).

And taking over an empty room in an existing household is easier than competing for a new lease from scratch - especially at the end of the academic year (starting now) when there's a lot of churn.

Most people I've ever known in Sydney have rented for roughly $150-$250 per bedroom in the inner city (in today's dollars). Somebody paying above $300 - in my circles - is really seen to be living it up, and $500 is just pure self-indulgence. And I'm talking uni graduates, professionals etc.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:23 PM on November 8, 2009

Ahhh, fair enough. Yeah, there are always dozens of signs on light poles along Broadway offering what sound like very nice rooms (in places like World Square and such) for less than $250, usually with furniture and utilities thrown in too. So that's definitely an option, if you don't mind living with a students. :)
posted by web-goddess at 9:44 PM on November 8, 2009

I've never lived in Sydney, but I have in NYC, and was making right about what you are while there. Most people (both here and in Australia and NZ where I lived for a few years) are living off of quite a bit less than half of what you pull in annually. I'm sure that if you sit down and track all of your expenses you'll discover a few things;
1)You have a lot of miscellaneous expenses (5 dollar lattes, picking up the tab at the pub with your mates, etc.)
2)You're either knowingly or unknowingly competing with the "Joneses", or in this case, the mates in your social circle who are perhaps earning around what you earn and do their best to spend it all on flash and miscellaneous other things.
3) You have a ton of debt.

If you discover that any or all of these things are the case, then you'll tank your finances. Yes, you live in one of the most expensive cities on the planet (right up there with Tokyo, London, NYC and San Francisco among others) but 100K is still very good money. You're definitely ending up with at least 50K free and clear after taxes. That's roughly 2,100/month after your rent. Add up all of those trips to the pub or the cafe, plus a car note and a few credit cards? You'll scare the hell out of that $525 a week. Making your annual salary is like hitting the lottery for a smallish sum (say a million or two). If you're smart, and don't live beyond your means and put some to savings (at least 10% but even more would work nicely) you can have the makings of a very comfortable future. Certainly better than perhaps 7 or 8 out of 10 of your fellow Australians. Good luck.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 10:27 PM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yup, the easy answer is "stop paying $500 a week for rent". That's just ridiculous. Yes, you feel like you should be able to live like a grownup, and you could if you lived just about anywhere else, but not in Sydney. Go out of the CBD in pretty much any direction just a little, and you'll be able to reduce your rent. Live like a student for a couple of years and you'll be able to afford the deposit.
posted by kjs4 at 10:35 PM on November 8, 2009

Your problem is that you're living in Sydney. Move down to Melbourne and watch the standard of your life drastically improve.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 3:02 AM on November 9, 2009

The thing is that Australia is in the grip of vicious class warfare between those who own property and those who don't. There is a smaller battle being waged between those who are able to eliminate their tax liabilities through clever financial structuring and those who earn a salary and have to pay it all (at least if you only got here recently you probably don't have a HECS debt). I think you've noticed who's losing.

$100K p.a. sounds good, but thanks to the crazy capital gains tax exemption it is less than what you could have earned each year for the last several just by owning an average home and living in it. It's true that a homeowner has to sell to realise their gain, but having a huge amount of equity is really useful even if it's tied up. It's also true that a lot of people are much, much worse off than you are. But if median income took tax exemptions and increases in property value into account, your after-tax pay would be a lot further down the heap than it looks.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:52 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is why I left Sydney. I have lived in Sydney earning half of what you make, and 3/4 and back. But I have always lived there with a partner.

I got sick of people telling me I would have to move to Campbelltown to buy my first home, because that's what first-homeowners apparently deserve: a soul-sucking 2 hour each way commute. No thanks. The only friends of mine who have bought closer to the city did so either 15 years ago or had money from their parents.

I decided if I was going to blow all my money on an expensive city I might as well do it in a city that was worth it, so I moved to London. My partner is Sydney born and raised, so it wasn't an easy decision.

Moving to an apartment in Newtown might save you about $100 a week, but then you're out transport costs. UbuRoivas - $250 for somewhere decent? Not likely. Last time I rented I ended up having to pay 150 a week rent more than before and was competing against 50 couples for every place. The search took 3 months and we were rejected for about a dozen places because others offered more than the asking price. So we, eventually did too. It was horrible.

web-goddess ... or if you don't mind paying 250 per week to live with 10 other people.
posted by wingless_angel at 7:45 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am in very similar circumstances to you age & income wise, and I can afford a 1br apartment within 10 minutes walk of the Queen Victoria Building.

Firstly, a decent < $400k 1br/studio isn't just going to jump into your lap. You'll have to look for a while, but they're there (MeMail me if you want to know about a specific building which is a hidden gem). Secondly, you'll quite easily pay $500/week for an apartment "in the city" but it'll be one of those awful new Meriton buildings on George St and don't do that, you'll just encourage the property developers. What you want to do is go a bit further out to Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Woolloomooloo, even Chippendale. That's where you want to be for city nightlife and urban chic anyway, the CBD is dead and boring on the weekends.

Thirdly, Sydney (all?) real estate agents are... low in my estimation as valid, productive human beings. Avoid them altogether by staking out a particular building that you like, going to all the open houses, then send a letter to the owners of the apartments you want to buy saying something along the lines of "Hi, I'm neworder7, I really like your building and I'm wondering if you're interested in selling your apartment. If we deal directly with each other instead of going through a real estate agent, we can save ten or fifteen grand in transaction costs and avoid having to deal with real estate agents. Here's my number if you're interested in having a chat..."

You'll be amazed with the number of responses you'll get.

Finally, don't go directly to a bank for your loan, use a mortgage broker. Mine got me a loan from a bank whose first-line phone monkeys said they wouldn't touch me when I called them direct.
posted by m1ndsurfer at 11:19 AM on November 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Moving to an apartment in Newtown might save you about $100 a week, but then you're out transport costs.

Yeah, like a couple of sets of brake pads, some chain lube, a puncture repair kit & various miscellaneous accessories - about $100 per annum. But that's a different story. Weekly train tickets are probably around $30/wk these days, plus you get time to read.

or if you don't mind paying 250 per week to live with 10 other people.

That's not the experience of anybody I know or have known. Foreign students sometimes cram themselves in, two or more people per bedroom (like young Aussies in London) but that's in order to pay far, far less than $250.

Typically, there are two main trends these days amongst people not (yet) buying their own property:

- plenty of young, HECS-burdened graduates stay with their parents until their late 20s, working & saving for as big a deposit as they can; and

- share households of, say, 2-4 people, each with their own bedroom. Places like Surry Hills, Newtown, Glebe, Randwick, Potts Point, Rozelle, Marrickville, Annandale, Petersham, Bondi Junction etc are close to the city & popular with young people. I can't speak to the places north of the Harbour, because nobody in their right mind would ever want to live there. And unlike the slummy terraces of student days, these households are often nicely set up, and comprised of office workers & professional types. Incidentally, the fact that no apartment is built, or house renovated, with anything less than a 1:1 ratio of bedrooms to bathrooms is testimony to the shift towards these kinds of shared households.

But wingless_angel is correct about the competition for new leases, which is why I'd suggest moving into an established household.

Overall, though, in regards to the question "how am I financially placed within Australian society" my answer is that $500/wk in rent is way out of whack compared with what Sydneysiders expect for themselves. That's living it up now at the expense of your future.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:37 AM on November 9, 2009

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