This isn’t my first time moving to the land down under. I lived in Australia previously on a Working Holiday visa about 5 years ago and just last month I relocated back here with Jack, on a very different and difficult visa process – stay tuned for more coming on that. Moving to Australia the first time was definitely achieved on a backpacker budget, however i did have the security of starting work straight away. Moving here the second time, we were a little more prepared budget wise but we had to brace ourselves for my three months of unemployment, due to current visa restrictions. With only one wage coming in, we needed to be wise with money and get ourselves set up in Melbourne on the cheap. See some of my main tips below for getting set up on a budget below.
Securing accommodation in Melbourne
The first time i lived in Melbourne, i stayed in Base hostel and then i moved into shared accommodation with some friends. Shared accommodation is a great way to meet people and keep your rent costs low. This time round however, Jack and myself felt it was time to adult by ourselves and finally get our own place after years of having housemates.
Securing a place with no recent Australian rental history and my situation of currently being unemployed didn’t help our case as competition for rental properties here is fierce. My top tip for securing accommodation is to download the Tenant app to keep your viewings organised and in one place and search on websites domain.com.au or realestate.com.au to set up as many viewings as possible (all in the area you want to live). We literally spent days racing around to viewings that were all minutes apart from each other. When applying for a property you really want, write a detailed cover note explaining your situation (if you’re currently in a tricky one) and try and get talking directly to the property manager by dropping by their office or giving them a call. If you really want a specific place, keep pestering the property manger because remember there could be 20 other people applying for the same property and you want to be top of mind. I literally plagued our property manager with phone calls until she had enough of me and gave us the cute one bed apartment we wanted in St Kilda. Yay for being an annoying human!
Furnishing your place
Yes, my friends most places in Melbourne will come unfurnished. And we can all appreciate the furnishing an apartment/house can be costly procedure. If you’re not a particularly fussy person, you should try the below options:
Hard Garbage: Literally this is going to be the cheapest way to furnish your apartment, keeping in mind that you can not be at all fussy if you are willing to go rooting through someone else hard garbage. All Melbourne residents get one free hard garbage collection a year. Before it’s actually collected by the City of Melbourne, residents usually leave out their households items weeks in advance so that others can take a peak through and nab some items. Honestly, you’d be surprised what you come across. We picked up a decent couch for our living room, some fancy glasses and even a clothes horse on a rampage one day.
Join Facebook groups: Free stuff Melbourne is great group for literally nabbing free stuff that people no longer want/need and Irish in Melbourne group is another great group for finding places to rent, items to furnish your apartment and make friends.
Gumtree: Searching on Gumtree Melbourne is also worth your while too for both free items or items people are selling for cheap. We picked up a nice little kitchen dining set for $50 on Gumtree.
Kmart: Oh wouldn’t our lives be a lot simpler if there was a Pennys/Primark was in Melbourne. Well, Kmart is kind of the next best thing. Its cheap as chips and they actually have some stunning home decor pieces too. Definitely worth checking out if you want your place to look pretty on a budget.
Joining a gym
While joining a gym might not be on the priority list for everyone moving to Melbourne, seeing as i was going to be unemployed, i needed something to keep me occupied for an hour each day. Make sure to shop around for a gym thats right for you or ideally make your way around a few different gyms for a free trail. The majority of gyms in Melbourne offer 1-7 free day passes, so this is a great way to avoid paying a gym membership for the first while. However, if you’re looking for a sweet gym in the St Kilda area, Fernwood is my absolute go to! This is the same gym i went to the first time i lived here and i couldn’t wait to come back here. It’s all female gym, with lots of modern equipment, extremely friendly and motivating staff and a great variety of fitness classes. It costs $39.10 a fortnight and if you keep an eye out for deals, they sometime waiver the $199 joining fee.
If you choose to live close to the city or one of the main hubs, then walking everywhere will be perfect for you. You can also make use of the free tram zone in the city that operates around the CBD. Otherwise, you’ll need a MyKi card for travelling on trams, trains and buses which you can purchase for $6 and top up as you go or preload with a certain amount. A full fare in zone 1 and 2 is $4.40. If you’re really strapped for cash, you could always hop on a tram for free and hope that there wont be an inspector on board (however, you did not hear that recommendation from me).
Driving in Melbourne
When you first land in Melbourne, you will be able to drive on your full overseas licence for up to three months. After that, you can then convert your licence at Vic Roads by appointment for a small cost. As i only have a learners licence from Ireland, I’m not allowed drive over here. So, that means i have to start from scratch and do my test for my learner permit here, which is coming up in under two weeks. I actually cant believe I’m nearly 29 and haven’t a full licence. But that’s one of my biggest goals I aim to achieve before I reach 30 is to get my hands on that licence. Watch this space lads!
I used to shop at Coles the first time I lived here and pretty much only ever bought own brand items ( well, it doesn’t get cheaper than that). Now we have started shopping at Aldi and our weekly shop comes to about $100, which is pretty decent for two people with very large appetites. Aldi’s also a great place for buying cheap ass wine, with prices for as little as $3.99. It tastes pretty good too, but i can’t promise that the next day hangover won’t actually kill ya!
Experience the free things Melbourne offers
Melbourne is such a beautiful city and while an expensive one, there is lots to do here on a tight budget. Some of my favourites freebies below:
See the penguins at St Kilda Beach: No need to trek to Philip Island just yet, head down to St Kilda pier and take a peak at little black and white cuties. They are fricken adorable! The best time to see them is in the Summer directly after sunset.
Go to the beach or a park: Melbourne has lots to offer in both beaches and parks but some of my favourites are Brighton beach, Elwood beach, Half Moon Bay beach, Albert Park and Royal Botanic Gardens. You could literally visit a new beach and park every day. Actually, that sounds like a really good challenge!
National Gallery of Victoria: There is always new exhibitions on at this famous art gallery and their permanent collection is always free to visit. We can’t say no to that!Wander the many laneways: You wont wander too many laneways in Melbourne without stumbling across a cute coffee shop and some impressive street art. Definitely try to get lost and see where you end up.
I hope this post helps any of you who may be making the move to Melbourne on a budget. Let me know if you have any other tips I should include in the comments below or in general if you are planning on moving to Melbourne.