Planning your family budget as an expat in Australia

Global Citizen By Libby Hakim January 15, 2020

Australia has long-been known as the land of opportunity — an attractive place for people wanting to live a peaceful and happy life.

And in fact, this reputation is very well-founded. Australia boasts 28 consecutive years of annual economic growth, has three cities in The Economist’s top 10 most livable cities in the world, and is ranked fifth in the Global Entrepreneurship Index.

However, to take advantage of these opportunities, you also need to prepare for the realities and challenges of everyday living, like planning the family budget. The budgeting process, in particular, can be a little more daunting than usual as an expat, so take a look at our helpful guide to creating this all-important plan.

Understanding cost of living

With 7.692 million square kilometres of land, more than 10,000 beaches, a strong economy and a relatively low rate of unemployment, it’s no wonder Australia is an enviable place to live.

Like all good things, though, there are costs involved. While living in the land down under, here are the basic costs you’ll need to add to your family budget:

  • Mortgage payments or rent (the national median rent is $450/week while average mortgage repayments come in at $539/week)
  • Council rates (if you own your own home, you’ll need to add these to your expenses)
  • Electricity, gas, water and other utilities
  • TV, internet and phone
  • Car and transport expenses (don’t forget to include tolls and registration)
  • Food and groceries
  • Medicines, eye care and dental treatment
  • Insurance: car, home and contents

Maintaining good health

The cost of staying healthy and receiving medical treatment will depend on your home country and the type of visa you hold. If you’re a permanent resident, you’ll be eligible for Medicare. This is a government-funded health care service that covers (in full or in part) some doctor’s services, treatment in a public hospital and medical tests.

Also, if you’re from a country that has a reciprocal health care agreement with Australia, you’ll be covered for the cost of medically necessary care. According to the Department of Human Services, Australia currently has agreements with Belgium, Finland, Malta, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

If you’re not from one of these countries and only hold a temporary visa, it may be worth considering overseas visitors’ health care. There are a number of Australian insurers that provide this cover.

Raising a family

With plenty of opportunities for outdoor play, a public education system, and a relatively safe and cohesive social environment, Australia is a great place to start and raise a family.

Those hoping to hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet soon will also need to plan financially, too. Giving birth at a public hospital can cost up to $1,500; and if you plan for a birth at a private hospital, expect to pay significantly more.

Once you’ve welcomed your little bundle of joy to the big wide world, reports suggest it costs $17,000 a year on average to raise two children, with the costs rising each year they blow out another candle on their birthday cake. That amount covers public schooling, so if you have your heart set on private schooling, you’ll need to expand your budget.

Preparing your budget

Running through the costs can seem overwhelming, but sitting down and preparing a budget can help you feel more in control. A budget helps you plan, prioritise and make better financial decisions.

Start off by deciding which time period works best for you — weekly, fortnightly, monthly or yearly. Next, jot down all the money coming in, including wages and interest. If the amount varies, use an estimate based on averages from the last periods.

You may also be eligible to receive government payments, rebates or other benefits. Family tax benefits, parental leave pay, child care subsidies, carer payments and one-off crisis payments are just some of the ways the Australian government offers financial support.

When listing expenses, it may be helpful to use an online tool — such as the one provided by the Australian Securities & Investment Commission — that provides a template for the various living expenses you’ll need to record. Remember to be realistic and give yourself some freedom to enjoy leisure activities and other wonderful things about living in Australia. At the same time, you can also look for ways to start saving money. Preparing your own food, researching free community activities, and being energy efficient are just some of the ways to stretch your money further.

And notably, if your budget stretches to sending money to family or friends abroad, consider mobile solutions like the Western Union® app, making it easy to reliably send and track your financial transactions.

Once you’ve prepared your budget, print it out and use it to guide your financial decisions. That way, you can ensure you get the most out of your life in Australia.