After nearly two years of living and working in Australia, I’ve found some great ways to save money for the next leg of my travels. Here are my top ten money saving tips!
In just over one month, I’ll be leaving Australia. That’s so horrible to type! I arrived in July 2015 without any real clue about what I wanted to do or see in this huge country. Soon, I’ll be leaving with incredible memories, loads of work experience and a decent amount of savings to see me through the next three months in Southeast Asia. If you’ve arrived in Australia on a working holiday and need to save some serious cash, these tips are for you- all tried and tested by yours truly.
Living Down Under is seriously expensive, there’s no getting around it. If you’re lucky enough to have arrived after travelling through Asia or South America, the insane prices in Australia may have sent you into a panic. Instead of huge $2 servings of street food and $1 beers, you’re looking at $25 burgers and $12 pints. Yet every year thousands of backpackers manage to travel here and often leave with a healthy bank balance- that’s the dream! Luckily, as far as dreams go, this is an easy one to achieve.
My Top Ten Tips for Saving Money in Australia
No one wants to come away on the trip of a lifetime and start looking for a job straight away but it’s necessary. If you’re in a part of the country that’s popular with backpackers, competition for casual jobs can be high. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible- I found my first job within twelve hours of arriving in Australia! On the plus side, working in Australia is one of the best ways of meeting other travellers and getting to know the locals.
Embrace backpacker life
There’s a reason backpackers are notorious for drinking goon (cheap boxed wine) and playing beer pong: it’s cheap as hell (and super fun!) If you’re coming straight from living the high life back home, hostel life might come as a bit of a shock. There are no Waitroses here. You’ll learn to tolerate the Aussie supermarkets’ own brands (Black & Gold fo’ liiiiiiife!) Pasta will be on the menu far too often. You’ll become daringly creative with the hostel’s ‘free food’ shelf. One day, you’ll have to choose between doing laundry and buying goon (and you’ll choose the goon.) Embrace it.
Search for cheap nights
My absolute favourite night of the week when I was living in a working hostel in rural Victoria was Wednesday. Wednesday night was Parma Night at the pub next door, where you could get half of a huge parma for $10. Honestly, in hindsight, I’m quite concerned with how excited I got about my weekly half parma but that’s what four months of grape picking will do to you. The point is, wherever you go, from the smallest town to the cities, you’ll find cheap meal deals and awesome happy hours aimed at backpackers.
Choose your hostel wisely
Unless you’re staying somewhere for months at a time and move into a shared house (I highly recommend this to save the most money) you’ll probably end up living in a hostel. I’ve found anything above a 7.5 rating on Hostelbookers to be pretty decent and if you’re serious about saving money (and you don’t mind eating toast every single morning) go for a hostel with a free breakfast. If you can drag yourself out of bed early enough, it’s well worth it! Also, free wifi. Data is hella expensive.
Never miss an opportunity for free wifi
Hopefully, you’ll have taken my above advice and opted for a hostel with free wifi. A hostel with a decent free wifi connection is the Holy Grail. When Tim and I first arrived in Perth with less than $20 in our banks, the super fast unlimited wifi at City Perth Backpackers kept us sane and made job hunting and spending the rainy days watching Netflix so much easier.
It’s no secret that it’s cheaper to travel with someone rather than solo. When I was travelling with my best friend, we shared the cost of a car, food and even toiletries. Now I’m travelling and living with Tim, we have a joint bank account and share the cost of everything. Of course, this only works if you really know and trust your travel buddy well. Also, if you have completely different tastes in food it may just cause disagreements!
On your bike
Somehow I managed to bring my 15kg bicycle with me in a huge bike bag all the way from the UK to Australia- for free! With my backpack and a suitcase, it definitely took me over my weight limit but the lady on the check in desk didn’t charge me anything. What a gem.
Depending on how long you decide to stay in a place to work and whether or not it’s a reasonable distance, you could invest in a cheap bicycle from Gumtree and save loads on public transport. Just sell it on when you leave. This won’t work everywhere though. For instance, I wouldn’t have dreamed of cycling around Mildura (drivers on remote regional roads are definitely more reckless) but here in Margaret River, the cycling conditions and infrastructure are great.
Get to know the locals
This is how I’ve found a few of my jobs on my working holiday and it can work just about anywhere. In some places backpackers get a bad rep amongst the locals for never leaving the hostel and not wanting to spend money in local businesses, so just getting out and being friendly can go a long way. Open job positions are often filled through word of mouth, especially in smaller towns, so get sociable!
The art of the ‘spend-free weekend’
I read this great blog post about a ‘spend-free weekend’ being a way of saving money for travel. Well, it definitely works! There’s so much to see and do in Australia that if you get a bit creative and learn to enjoy the simple pleasures in life, you’ll easily save some money. Some of my favourite days while I was in Queensland were the ones I spent cycling to the beach and topped up my tan while reading a cheesy novel.
Get out of the city
Wherever you are in Australia, you can guarantee you’ll be getting a fair living wage (unless you’re working somewhere dodgy!) It’s just the cost of living that varies wildly. Cities, unsurprisingly, make it really hard to save money through a combination of higher prices and there being way more temptation to spend money. It’s a fact: the more rural you get, the less temptation there is. I saved so much money working in a regional town in Queensland because there just wasn’t all that much to spend money on! However, I was never bored because there were beautiful beaches and awesome people to hang out with. I fully recommend spending a good portion of your working holiday in regional Australia to top up your savings (and get the true Aussie-living experience.)