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Cost of living in Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne is one of the most famous cities in Australia, and is the perfect location to move to if you are into brunch, fashion and can brave the cold weather in winter.
Students can find a number of good universities here such as RMIT, Monash and the University of Melbourne. Young adults will find the city lively with decent nightlife and shopping. And families will find a heap of family friendly activities in and around the city.
Being one of the bigger cities in Australia, and Australia in general being more expensive than countries such as the US, you can expect to pay a bit more for living expenses here. However with the increased cost of living you’ll also find you’ll get paid a lot more if you’re seeking full or part time work.
See more cost of living breakdowns and other helpful posts on our Moving to Australia resource page.
What does it cost to live in Melbourne?
A laid-back city on the water, Melbourne offers diversity, culture and plenty of thrills. Melbourne is also Australia’s second most expensive city, ranking second to Sydney.
Your first few weeks in Melbourne may be the most expensive mainly because of the one-off expenses. These may include temporary accommodation, furnishings, buying a car and getting a driver’s license. However, this doesn’t mean expats or students from abroad can’t stick to their budget and enjoy a low(ish) cost living.
It’s possible to still enjoy the big city life in Melbourne without spending all your hard earned money. There are plenty of opportunities to save money in Melbourne too, particularly with regards to groceries and electronics.
Accommodation makes up the biggest expenditure for expats in Melbourne. Rental prices for housing close to the city center can be rather high, although shared accommodation is generally cheaper. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center goes AUD 2,000 monthly, while a three-bedroom apartment goes for AUD 3,500.
As with most cities, the farther outside the city you live, the more money you will be able to save. Outside the city center you can find a one-bedroom apartment for AUD 1,500 and a three-bedroom for AUD 2,200. That said, there are certain highly priced areas even an hour or more outside of the city’s main hub of activity.
A good option for students studying abroad is to live in student housing. There are inner city rooms in apartments that go for under AUD 250 per week.
To be honest, you don’t really need to live in the city center to be close to the nightlife. There are late night buses that run in the early morning hours on weekends servicing certain routes. If you want to save money even while going out a lot, choose a suburb serviced by these buses.
As a tenant, you will need to pay for utilities such as gas, electricity, internet and cable services. The basic total monthly utilities for a small apartment would be around AUD 200.
Monthly internet rates are about AUD 60-80, while mobile call rates per minute average at AUD 0.20. A basic monthly prepaid phone package goes for AUD 30 which is inclusive of data, calling credit and unlimited texting.
You may need gas depending on what your home runs on, and this retails at AUD 150 per month. Electricity goes for AUD 100-200 monthly if you live in a house, but this of course depends on your consumption. For the best deals on internet and electricity, turn to companies such as iSelect who will help you compare options for free.
Your bills will become bearable if you share the accommodation as you will be able to split the expenses. These expenses may be included in your rental if you are living in a homestay, student accommodation or residential college. Ofcourse, sharing a property isn’t a great option for families, but you can still keep costs down by unplugging appliances when they’re not in use and be careful of power usage in general.
Food & Drink (Eating Out)
It goes without saying that cooking your own meals is the best way to save money in any 1st world city. Nonetheless, it doesn’t hurt to treat yourself to a decent meal at a local restaurant every once in a while.
In addition to its fine dining restaurants, Melbourne offers an array of amazing places to eat without breaking the bank. There are restaurants that serve great food for little more than the price of a fast food meal ($10-12), you’ll just have to do a little searching. At the other end of the spectrum, you can also find such eateries in the suburbs and city center with a 3-course meal for two at AUD 85.
The locals are proud of their city’s cheap eats and may be happy to offer recommendations if you ask. A basic lunch including a drink within the business district should set you back AUD 17.
While households have grappled with a big rise in the cost of utilities, the overall grocery bill has remained manageable. The typical weekly grocery bill in Melbourne stands at AUD 263 for a family, while singles and couples could be looking around $80-200. A good way to save money on groceries is to by in bulk by the month so you avoid buying extras, and keeping an eye out for sales as you move around the aisles.
The prices of groceries in Melbourne match the average pricing in the rest of Australia. You can get a dozen eggs at AUD 4 and a liter of milk at AUD 1.30. A kilo of rice goes for AUD 2.75 while a kilo of chicken breasts retails at AUD 2.60.
Expats looking for fresh produce, lower prices and a lively atmosphere should visit the outdoor markets. There are fresh food markets located in the city center and suburbs all around Melbourne. Taking the time to visit such markets will be well worth your while.
Public transportation is the cheapest and most convenient means of getting around in Melbourne. Options include the bus, tram or train. The taxi rate per kilometer is AUD 1.65, while buses and trains within the city center average at AUD 4.30. Uber is also a popular way to get around Melbourne and is handy as you’ll know roughly how much you’ll pay upfront.
If you are an expat that travels regularly via public transport you can save money by purchasing a monthly pass. A monthly ticket for public transportation goes for AUD 147. Students may also apply for a student pass that will entitle them to discount travel on public transport. With an iUsepass, international students may be eligible for a 50% discount on Myki prices (transport card).
Cycling is also an option for students as most universities offer convenient bicycle parking. Many expats avoid owning a car altogether just to avoid the traffic jams, high parking fees and fluctuating fuel prices. If you do happen to buy a car, learn which days are cheapest for buying fuel and plan around these.
Entertainment and Travel
In Melbourne you will find entertainment to suit any taste or budget. Being a large city, Melbourne offers a large amount of great bars and clubs, ideal for a drink and DJ sessions late into the night. A cocktail drink at a downtown club in Melbourne goes for AUD 18. For a bottle of local beer you will pay around AUD 8. For cheaper drinks find out when happy hour is as most bars and clubs will have specials early on in the night.
The city also boasts the largest concentration of live music venues in Australia. Here local and international bands cover everything from techno and grunge rock to jazz and blues.
For a fun night out, watch a cabaret performance or a comedy show starring local and international comedians. With two tickets to the movies going for AUD 39 you can easily see the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Or visit the Crown Entertainment Complex that’s home to Australia’s largest casino, discos, cinemas and designer stores.
Clothing, Electronics and Other Personal Items
Cosmetics and technology items can be pricey in Australia. You can find a basic laptop at AUD 230, and AUD 400-1000+ if you use it for editing software.
However, you can save money by purchasing items from Asia over eBay and other online stores., this is what we call the grey market in Australia. For instance, a camera going for AUD 1,200 can sometimes be purchased brand new from China on eBay at AUD 800. These products come with a warranty and are normally of the same quality as Australian products.
You can also purchase clothing and cosmetics affordably at Australian chain stores. Chemists and Priceline offer cheap to moderately priced cosmetics, which are even cheaper during sales.
A mid-priced summer dress retails at AUD 66 in stores such as H&M or Zara. A quality pair of jeans goes for AUD 99, while a pair of sports shoes goes for AUD 152. Designer clothes tend to be more expensive in Australia than in the United States, especially imports from overseas designers.
Don’t let Australian prices put you off moving to Melbourne as there are many ways to reduce your cost of living in the city if needed. Don’t forget to check out our Moving to Australia section for more advice on living in Australia.