Which is exactly why one Aussie — upon returning to Australia after three years overseas — pondered the question: "How on earth do you guys afford to stay alive?"
Aussies quickly flooded the comments, sharing their own similar experiences — with the post racking up over 1,000 replies after just 12 hours. Some offered advice for keeping costs down, others lamented the things they've been forced to give up, while many also compared Australia's cost of living crisis to their experiences living overseas.
Here, we've collated some of the most interesting responses.
On keeping costs low and growing your income:
1. "Shop smart. I know the meat markdown times at my local shops and regularly fill my freezer with meat that's up to 90% off. For Coles and Woolies, I go through all the half price sales each week and stock up enough to last a month or so. Only buy seasonal fruits and veg."
"I rarely eat out — and if I’m too lazy to cook, I find offers. Recently, I was getting 40% off Doordash and when you do that with pickup instead of delivery, you’re getting cheap takeaway.
I don’t go out to movies anymore. Not to say I stay home all the time, but I’ll take the dog to the beach, go for a hike, go to a friend's house rather than participate in things that cost money.
Sure, it’s not a lavish lifestyle, but with a newborn and single income family for now, these were pretty easy ways to save money without a big compromise on lifestyle."
2. "Housemates, bulk purchases of rice, pasta and meat, go to a proper green grocer, drink at home, get an android box for the telly, swap all lights to LED, use a solar hot water system, use the ceiling fan instead the AC, trackies and socks in winter, make large meals and eat leftovers, ditch snack food, make your own washing detergent and buy the best quality clothes you can afford — op shops rule for quality stuff."
"Learning to cook is a huge money saver. Spaghetti, curries and chilli can be made large and cheap. Add lentils to bulk 'em up if need be. Use extra rice and pasta too. Grow your own snow peas, beans and peas. Super easy and way more flavour."
3. "Job hop! Hop, hop, hop. Can't stress this enough. Do not stay at a workplace that gives you less than inflation, plus housing costs. Older people have tiny loans or no loans. It's only the younger, under-40 people who are getting royally fucked here. And the only solution isn't to ask for more money — it's to simply job hop."
"Australia's population is ageing, there's nowhere near enough people. It's a massive problem in first world countries. The solution is have more kids, but governments don't want the status quo to change — so they are trying to balance trickle-feeding enough funds for people to live and only have two kids and scrape by. The result has been a super tight labour market which is only going to get worse over the next 30 years. Job hop. Go for big jumps like 20, 30, 50% level of increases every couple of years."
4. "When life is tough, you give up on things which are less than essential. I'd say maybe if I had to decide between the mini golf, the takeaway and the gym membership, I'd go with the gym membership. If I had to pick between a night out at the club and a weekend up the coast camping, I'd go camping. Obviously a lot changes based on where you live, in some states it's hardly as difficult, but if you live in Sydney you're straight-up fucked."
On how Australia measures up to other countries:
5. "I recently returned to Australia after living in Tokyo for the past five years and I think Japan is quite a lot cheaper to live. Much better and cheaper food options, events and activities, way cheaper rentals. I'm really not enjoying my time here in Australia as much — it’s boring and way too expensive. Even if you work full time on an average salary in Japan, I think it’s easier to save, as your company pays for your transport each month, you don’t need a car and rentals are cheaper."
6. "As an Australian living in Japan, I don't think I'll ever be able to afford to live in Australia again. Housing here is just so much cheaper. I can't imagine being able to rent my own apartment for under $500 a month back home."
7. "I live in Hamburg, Germany and think my standard of living is significantly better. Granted, I am one person, but working in the same industry in a similar position here as I was in Australia, I earn a significantly lower number, but have a higher percentage remaining from my salary every month."
"I mean, the fact that I have anything significant is already an improvement. On top of that, rental security is not even comparable, workers rights are so much better that I don't think I ever want to work in Australia again — and the social safety net is significantly better, as is the healthcare system. I mean, the weather is shit. But apart from that, it's all around way better than Australia — and because everything is more affordable, I can fly to Spain or Greece or Italy like twice each winter without making much of a difference to my bank account."
9. "I moved to Norway a few years ago from Brisbane. Norway has the same problems with the increase of living costs, but not to the extent of Australia."
10. "I'm back in Sydney after being gone a while and I am stunned at the cost of groceries. Just restocking my fridge (no meat or alcohol) has cost me $200. Before COVID, my weekly shop was around $70. So in short, I'm fucked."
11. "I'm from Europe (I lived in Ireland and Serbia) and I've lived in Australia for the past three years. I think Australia is definitely the most well off country out of the three. Even though prices here recently have increased (eggs are so expensive!), I think that the quality of life here is still better than in most other countries."
12. "Just got back to Australia after living in Canada for six years. I'm absolutely stoked! Wages are insanely high in comparison and necessities are cheaper here. I keep getting my phone out and checking for items in Canadian stores to compare to the prices here and it’s cheaper here. Australia gets a lot of hate — and don’t get me wrong, things are getting more expensive — but we do have it really good here and have for so long that I think this inflation has hit people harder, simply due to having it good for so long."
13. "I’m a Kiwi living in Australia because I can’t afford to live in New Zealand. The cost of living has risen in Oz, but it’s diabolical in NZ. I genuinely don’t understand how my friends and family manage."
"Aussie who moved to NZ and cost of living here is mental. Costs me $150 to fill up my ute, $350 a week for groceries (have a baby so formula/nappies don’t help), but VB is cheaper here than in Melbourne at least. We scraped together a deposit for a '60s house just before lockdown and are we lucky — the supposed value is hovering around $800K now. We couldn’t possibly afford even a modest home in 2023."
14. "I moved back to Australia during the pandemic after eight years away. Thankfully, I got a very well paying job while I was back, but fuck me living costs are out of control, Medicare is being broken apart and taxes are still sky high and provide fuck all now. I caught the first flight out once the border was reopened. Don’t get me wrong, I love Australia, but something is deeply wrong with the cost of living."
On what they've given up:
15. "Housing is so unaffordable, so people literally don't give a shit about their savings or debt. There's no point conserving when there's nothing to conserve."
16. "I have just given up on any prospects of owning a home or having kids — which five years ago, I had listed as my main goals in life. It is incredibly demoralising knowing I have almost nothing to look forward too, so I might as well just spend my savings and enjoy what I can."
17. "The only reason I have a roof over my head is because of my parents — and I'm at an age where it's beyond embarrassing. It's survival mode at the moment for so many. I love this country, but seriously, the cost of living situation is fucking bullshit. We need change."
18. "It’s getting tough. Our weekly grocery shop came to $320 last week and my partner cried in the car on the way home. If I couldn’t work extra overtime when I needed, I don’t know what we would do."
19. "I’ve probably been out for dinner three times in three years. No alcohol, no entertainment, only shopping at Aldi, buying second hand clothes — shit's crazy."
20. "The GP system has gone to shit too. My GP was bulk-billed until this year, now they charge a gap for every single appointment. I saw the doctor twice this week, the second time to get test results they had requested in the first appointment — and got charged twice even after I raised my objection that getting results should be bulk-billed only. This is on top of food, housing, fuel — I predict Australia's health will decline pretty quickly."
Every single GP visit should be bulk billed by the Australian Government. If it isn’t, hospitals will continue to be overwhelmed- so many can’t afford even a $20 gap to see a GP. Healthcare is a human right. @Dom_Perrottet @DanielAndrewsMP #Auspol2023
21. "I’m on a relatively good income, as is my wife. But we have three kids. Can’t afford shit. It’s to the point that I consider how much fuel I’ll use and how much it will cost before we plan to go anywhere. I feel so sorry for the poor in this country. I do some occasional volunteer work and, now that my kids are not toddlers, I’m planning on doing more. That said, I even had to think about how much fuel it will cost me to drive across town to do it."
22. And finally: "Australia is a very wealthy country run by people who don't want to share that wealth. Over the past two decades, segments of the population have gotten stupidly wealthy, while the majority have seen their standard of living stagnate and decline. There are enough people that have an interest in keeping that gravy train flowing though. Proposing laws to fix negative gearing and taxing our biggest industries (mining) has lost elections. If the proceeds of that tax had been put back into the economy instead of Swiss bank accounts, Australia would look very different right now."