How to manage finances in Australia as immigrants?

Australia is an expensive place for Indian, Asian and Middle East immigrants. If you do plan to move here, save! A lot!

New immigrant to Australia from India, Dubai, Asia or Middle East? The standard of living is very high in Australia

Here is a small comparison of expenses in Sydney versus Dubai, where I’ve lived prior:

High cost of living

When I moved here with my husband and toddler in mid April 2018 without jobs, I had to say pass to many little luxuries that I didn’t even have to think twice before swiping my credit card for in Dubai (fyi, I had a direct debit so the credit card was just for the

sake of raking up reward points and not the most expensive debt rates). Here is a comparison of some of the expenses in Dubai versus Australua:

  • Rent

    For a shiny newish 2 bedroom within 25 minutes to the Sydney CBD, you can be expected to pay $600-$700 a week. Older apartment with 1 bathroom will be much cheaper.

    It is round about the same you’d pay in Dubai though you can get cheaper rents in some places like Dubai Silicon Oasis, Dubai South, Ghusais etc. Also Sydney is round about 20% more expensive than other Australian cities for almost everything.
  • Food

    Food is an expensive affair in Australia. I love eating out but I’ve had to hold myself back on many occasions since moving here.

    For what I would pay for a takeaway at the food court in Sydney (say $10-15 per meal per person), I could go eat at a restaurant in beautiful La Mer in Dubai or have a delicious Biryani feast at Gazebo.

    Though alcohol is much cheaper in Australia (about $12 for a vine glass in Dubai vs $7 in Sydney in 2018). In Sydney a curry (like butter chicken) will cost you $16 – $18 and a naam $2 – $3, which is double of what you would pay a similar mid-priced restaurant in Dubai.

Buh-bye daily Friday mini-tiffin breakfast (for $5 a head) in my favorite South Indian restaurant in Dubai. Sniff sniff.

  • Domestic help is expensive

    You are looking at cleaning services of AED 35 per hour in Dubai versus $ 30 per hour in Sydney. Happy scrubbing toilets yourself!

    I’ve developed a strong liking of the lingering scent of all-purpose cleaner. Perhaps my body’s way of coping with the lack of house help.
  • Transport

    A lot of jobs are in the CBD, public transport is the go to. No more driving to work like Dubai. Dragging your car to the city in the heavy traffic means tolls and a hefty $20ish parking per day.

    Train, bus and ferry it is. As of July 2018, I spend $4.40 every day for a one way commute from the North to CBD. It’s now capped to $50 a week.

    In Dubai, many have the luxury to drive to work. And a similar Dubai metro trip in Standard class would cost about AED 7.5, which is about 38% cheaper.

I can easily add more to the list such as clothes, retails, furniture, electronics and more.

But all is not lost- the government lends a land when you have a family and less or no income to start with- someone was kind enough to tell us to check what payments we would be eligible for. You can do that with the payment finder at .

Centrelink can take about an hour to answer the phone but make that call or visit the centre and ask.


Why is Australia so expensive?

I will give you my very layman understanding of this. There is a minimum wage and salaries are among the highest in the world means labor is expensive. So expensive labor combined with expensive property/rents push up the prices for everything.

How to manage your finances in Australia?

Australia has complicated laws for everything and in terms of finances, there is income tax, foreign income tax and superannuation (is like a pension that you can access only after a certain age). I was lucky to bump into a fabulous recommendation in a mum’s facebook group (these groups warrant a post in itself – as I felt they had prepared me for Australia much before I landed here) for an amazing book that will introduce you to the basic financial matters of of savings, investments, superannuation, taxation, insurance buying a home etc based completely on the Australian system.

The book is ‘Barefoot Investor’ by Scott Pape and his tagline is ‘The only Money Guide you’ll ever need’. Translation in hindi would be ‘nange paaon niveshak'(not trying to make any point here, just sounds nice). He recently released a book focusing on families called ‘The Barefoot Investor for Families: The only kids’ money guide you’ll ever need’

What I like and don’t like about the Barefoot investor book

I have to warn you that the book will make you laugh (not sleep fortunately), he has this hilarious way of putting across things that will make you forget it is a book on finances, sneakily introducing you to eye opening financial concepts in Australia and in general! Mind you, he has very strong recommendations- all of which I personally agreed with except for the part of splitting your earnings into so many accounts or buckets as he calls them. I just have a current account and a savings chunk, but you agree and can get your head around the many accounts he suggests to maintain.

The rest really resonated with me, such as his basic concept of what should matter in your life and what you should save for (basically what will work you and your family and not for showing off to the rest of the world- this I strongly believe in). He introduces you to the concept of compounding, shares investment, tips to save up for a minimum mortgage deposits (the concept of LMI), importance of Super and much more.

Why I recommend the Barefoot investor book so much?

I can only speak for myself so my recommendation is based on where I am in terms of my knowledge. But I can tell share why I personally loved the book:

  • Concepts

The book introduced me to concepts I couldn’t have possibly learnt or understood so easily if it wasn’t for his book. And the smiles and laughs courtesy of his examples and anecdotes are a bonus. For instance, I did bump into superannuation (your budhape/old age ka saathi) when trying to understand how much of my income I loose in tax. But he drills down to explain what a superfund truly means, how to choose one, why you should maintain one superfund and how salary sacrificing to super is a smart tax saving (up to the annual limits and now 5 year rolling limits by the ATO).

The book is specific to Australia. So even if you are a pro in finances in any other country, it introduces you to the Australian side.

  • Bargaining works in Australia

The book opened my eyes that ‘bargaining’ is a real thing in Australia. My last memory of bargaining was my mom haggling in a saree / clothing materials shop in Mumbai. Her final trick was to tell the shop keeper I want it for x price and if he doesn’t agree, get up and start to walk away slowly. 9 out of 10 times the shopkeeper will say ‘sister, tell me your last price.’ Fast forward to now, the exact same thing happened with me and my husband unintentionally at the car dealer in Australia- not a second hand dodgy one, with a official new (chamkeela) car showroom dealer.

This is what Scott bhai has mentioned in his book for financial institutions. The trick is to say ‘fine, I am leaving, I am getting a better offer elsewhere’ and watch the salesman say ‘so what can I offer you.’ After arriving in Australia, I learnt you can bargain with banks, insurers, car dealers and also for big ticket items like electronics and furniture. Many places also ‘price match'(mostly electronic store), so you can do a google search for the price of an item before buying at the price in front of you.

Groceries saving tip (Bonus from NRIinOZ): But remember bargaining doesn’t apply to groceries and salons. DO NOT go to Coles and say Aldi is selling the same item for half the price- you will only get a blank stare, not a bargain. Our weekend grocery trip is to pick whatever available from our shopping list in Aldi and buy the rest from Coles or Woolworths. Also Coles and Woolworths labelled inhouse items are always cheaper than their corresponding branded items. Examples: As of August 2018, Coles Tissue box under $1 when almost $2 for other brands.

  • Scott Bhai will make you look smart

The Barefoot investor book actually helped me know about Super, the student debts and about Australia in general to make me look more knowledgeable and smart at work. Babli khush hui (Babli became happy)!

Where can you buy the book?

Amazon Australia

Amazon USA – They ship internationally and for free!

Now, I have to say I can earn commission if you click on these links and ultimately buy something from the link. But the costs of running this website, financially and time-wise, are indeed real; so this helps Babli to keep writing.

Useful Links

Even though I have poured out my love for Scott bhai’s book, remember, the book is start a starting point to understanding financial matters in Australia as a new immigrant or anyone for that matter. You still need to do your research around your circumstances and I am leaving you with some links to research further:

Disclaimer: Any information herein is not intended nor does it constitute health, financial, tax, legal, investment, or other advice. Before making any decision or taking any action regarding your health, you should consult a qualified Medical Practitioner. Before making any decision or taking any action regarding your finances, you should consult a Financial Adviser.

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