Breaking down the numbers: exploring the cost of living in Sydney

aerial view of sydney

Surrounded by beaches, the harbour and the Blue Mountains, Sydney is without doubt one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in the world. And it’s this beauty that attracts people from all over Australia and internationally and as a result (at least partly), it’s one of the most expensive cities globally to live in.

This article delves into some of the costs associated with moving to and living in Sydney including housing costs, transportation expenses, daily expenses, healthcare and education costs, miscellaneous expenses, comparison with other cities, and local insights and tips. The Harbour Bridge. Bondi Beach. The Opera House. The Bondi to Bronte Walk. Sydney really does have it all. But it comes with a price tag also known as the cost of living!

Housing costs

housing in sydney

Talk to any Sydneysider and within minutes of opening a conversation you’ll probably be talking about housing. It’s pretty much an obsession. For most people around the world housing is their largest expense but Sydney is on another level. At a high level, average rents in Sydney are as follows:

  • One-bedroom apartment in the city centre – around $500 to $800 per week.
  • One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre – around $400 to $600 per week.
  • Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre is around $1200 to $1800 per week.
  • Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre – around $800 to $1400 per week.

When purchasing it’s even more expensive. The median house price in Sydney is an eye watering $1.6 million at the time of writing. Around higher socioeconomic areas like the Eastern Suburbs and the Lower North Shore that may not even buy a two-bedroom apartment.

As with all cities, the cost of housing in Sydney varies depending on a multitude of factors. These include things like location, amenities, and property size. Want a view of the bridge or the beach? It will cost you. Similarly, apartments with a swimming pool, gym, or other amenities are typically more expensive than those without. With both local and overseas migration into Sydney booming, the real estate market in Sydney is also super competitive, which can drive up prices.

Transportation expenses

cars on the freeway

Transportation is another significant expense for people living in Sydney. Getting around is not easy at the best of times (the public transport system isn’t considered world class) and it does come at a cost. On average, the cost of public transportation in Sydney is around $200 per month for bus/train. Ferries, a beautiful way to travel, can be even more.

Prefer to drive? Apart from the cost of your car which might run you anywhere upwards from $20k to buy new, you should factor in other items like fuel (around $2 per litre), registration, insurance, and maintenance. Last but not least don’t expect to drive and park around Sydney without incurring some fines – road traffic cameras and parking enforcement is in abundance.

Want to reduce your transport costs? Sounds like common sense but the distance you travel to work, or school can have a significant impact on your transportation budget. Some people ignore this, but the reality is if you live far away from your workplace or school, you will likely be spending more on transportation. That said, if you live close to your employment or education institution, you should be able to reduce the amount you spend on your daily travel.

Daily expenses

two people eating at a restaurant

Want to eat? Go out? Have a good time? Daily expenses in Sydney will definitely eat into your budget. Going to a Woolworths or Coles for your groceries in Sydney has been calculated to set you back $400 per month (for a single person), slightly higher than the national average. You might be able to do a bit better if you shop at the discount retailers like Aldi.

And if you want to dine out in Sydney, you might be looking at $20 for a cheap-ish restaurant or up to $100 per head for the more expensive varieties.  Add movies, events and other leisure activities on top, and maybe a babysitter for those who have kids and it all adds up pretty quickly.

Healthcare and education costs

healthcare in sydney

The cost of healthcare in Sydney includes both insurance and medical services like doctors and dentists. It used to be the case that Medicare would cover you for the cost of a visit to the doctor but that is getting rarer and rarer. Reportedly, the average cost of a visit to the doctor in Sydney is now around $65 out of pocket including costs like medicine at the pharmacy.

Similarly, the cost of tuition fees for daycare, schools and universities is increasing all the time. Daycare costs can range from around $150 to $220 per day although there are healthy subsidies available. Public schooling can be provided almost free of charge by the government, but private schooling is very expensive. It was reported recently that the most expensive private school in Sydney, Kambala in Rose Bay, now charges around $50,000 per student per year to attend. Similarly, whilst universities used to be free (wow the 60’s were a good time to be alive!), most students are now paying HECS fees for their courses which can be a material liability early on in life.

To be clear, the Australian government does provide support and subsidies for healthcare and education costs. For example, the Australian government provides a public healthcare system that is accessible to all residents. The government also provides financial assistance to eligible students to help cover the cost of tuition fees and associated expenses. That said, subsidies and financial assistance are getting less and less as a percentage of the overall funding pie.

Miscellaneous expenses

person using mobile phone

Miscellaneous expenses that should also be factored into your budget include utilities, internet, and phone bills. Some of these are detailed below:

  • Utilities, including electricity and gas per month: ~$100 per month per person.
  • Mobile phone: monthly plan with calls and data is around $50 per month excluding the cost of the phone.
  • Internet for a typical household: around $65 per month

Residents of Sydney may also encounter unexpected or hidden expenses such as emergency repairs. To manage miscellaneous expenses effectively, it is important to budget and plan ahead and stick away a rainy day fund so you’re not having to scramble when these occur.

Comparison with other cities

aerial view of the gold coast in australia

Sydney is absolutely world class but that does come with a world class price tag. It regularly features as one of the top 10 most expensive cities in the world to live in but the actual number differs depending on which report you’re reading. Compared to other major cities in Australia, Sydney is also significantly more expensive than Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide, primarily due to the cost of housing. It’s not all grim reading – employees typically earn more than Sydney which can go some way to offsetting the higher cost of living.

Local insights and tips

To save money while living in Sydney, the number one rule is to speak to the locals and stay out of the tourist traps. They’ll tell you to take advantage of all the free stuff! From the Royal Botanic Gardens, Hyde Park and Bondi to Bronte walk, there’s plenty of stuff to do that really doesn’t cost a lot. Even museums and art galleries like the Art Gallery of NSW will often have free entry on some days.

Of course you’re still going to need to buy life’s necessities. You can save money on groceries by shopping at local markets or discount stores like Aldi. You can also save money on dining out by choosing restaurants that offer specials or discounts and there’s a bunch of apps like EatClub that can help with finding discounts at top places.

If you are moving to Sydney, it is important to research the cost of living and plan your budget accordingly. You can also consider sharing accommodation with roommates to reduce your housing costs, often the biggest part of your budget.

Move to Sydney with Happly

Whilst we’ve tried to break down the numbers to live in Sydney, and the above costs can appear somewhat daunting, we shouldn’t take away from the fact that Sydney is a fantastic city to live in. Not only is it absolutely stunning but the weather is pretty decent all year around, the employment market is strong, and you should be able to find the right mix of housing, transport and other expenses to pretty much suit any budget. As a comparison service Happly can help you keep your costs down in moving within and to Sydney, and from there it’s up to you! 

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