We had dinner at a very expensive restaurant in Brisbane last night that left me feeling a bit robbed on the way home. Sure, the setting was nice enough (looking out over the river at the Story Bridge), but the service and the food were ho-hum. Because we only get to dine out about twice a month, I was hoping for something special, especially given the prices we paid. That got me to thinking about a question a lot of people back in the States asked me when I was there last—is it expensive in Australia?
Well, the simple answer is yes. Keep in mind that the exchange rate right now (more on this in a moment) is about $1 Australian = $0.92 U.S. A bag of M&Ms in the vending machine is $2.20, as are all the candy bars. A small bottle of soda is about $3.00. A large cup of coffee (a flat white) is $3.75. Lunch on campus costs me $8-$10/day. Child care is about $45/day. Gas hit 126.4 cents/liter this week. That’s a gallon of regular gas at A$4.78 or US$4.40.
The real answer to this question, however, is more complicated. I am paid significantly better here than I was in my equivalent job in the States. And, if one considers the drastic rise in the exchange rate since I was offered the job, I have had over a 20% pay rise in American dollars since Feb. We also live more cheaply than we did in the States because of the activities associated with our new lifestyle. Parking at the beaches, for example, is free. Our utility bills are much lower. Car insurance is about half the price it is in the U.S. There is less taken out of our paychecks on payday. There’s no tipping. And meat is generally much cheaper.
So, in the end, moving to Australia has probably had no real net effect (positive or negative) on our finances. Of course, the money lost when getting rid of our belongings, the cost of setting up a new home here, and the fact that we are still paying the mortgage on our unsold home back in Atlanta means we have had an overall drop in our net worth this year. But I am hoping that once I start my American-style peanut butter business, things will improve!