USA versus Australia: Price Comparisons

If you read Monday’s post called The Grand Canyon and Uluru Compared, you will know that I spent the first couple of weeks of this month in the US on holiday.

It wasn’t cheap for us; the Aussie dollar against the US dollar is at a bit of a low. We were only getting about 68 cents US for a whole one of our Australian dollars.

Not good.

So we didn’t find things very cheap in America and we all know that the US is a cheap country, don’t we? Or is it?

Here’s a picture of a trash can…

Trash CanYes, I’m Talking Rubbish again, but only briefly this time.

First though, I want to explain that for this post I’m not going to use the measly 68 cents we got for each of our Aussie dollars, because that does represent a six year low. I’ve just looked at a ten-year graph, the lowest was 60 cents and the highest was $1.10.

Even looking at the graph, 85 cents looks to be the average, and as it is the average of those two sums, that’s what we’re going to use. We are going to convert at the average rate of 85 cents which is representative of the last 10 years, rather than the low of today.

Back to rubbish.

I took that picture of the above rubbish bin in Target in the USA. We have Target here in Australia as well. When my wife and daughter said they wanted to visit Target in the USA I thought to myself “We’ve travelled over 11,500 kilometres to go to a Target!

Apparently, my two girls wanted to know if Target USA was any different from Target Australia.

It wasn’t. Apart from the prices. Here is the bin for sale in Target Australia. We know it’s the Australian one because it is not called a trash can anymore, it’s a pedal bin…

Pedal BinI do spoil you with some wonderful images, don’t I?

So the US Trash Can costs $69.99 USD, that’s equivalent to $82.37 AUD when adjusted using the 10 year average mentioned above. Whereas here in Australia, the Pedal Bin costs $59 AUD.

Unfortunately for me, when I looked at the photographs closely, the US bin is 45 L, the Australian bin is 30 L. So in the US you pay 40% more for a 50% larger bin.

But you don’t have a choice in either country, Australia doesn’t sell the 45 L bin and the US doesn’t sell the 30 L bin, the bottom line is in the US you’re still going to pay 40% more for your bin, but you are being forced to ‘max it’ by going large; at least in McDonald’s they ask you first.

I’ve not finished yet though. Then there is sales tax. Yes we have sales tax in Australia as well, we call it GST, but it is included in the price you see on the sticker.

In the US, it’s added at the till. We travelled around a bit, sales tax varies, but most commonly it was around 8%. I’m sure there would be sales tax on that Trash Bin.

If it is 8% tax in this case, now this bin costs the equivalent of $88.95 AUD. 50% bigger, but 50% more.

Now let’s go to McDonald’s.

Macdonald’s ice creams

This is the price of a softserve ice cream cone in McDonald’s USA…

US icecreamCrikey and strewth” said my daughter when she saw that, she knows How to Talk Australians now, “in Australia the ice creams are only 30 cents“.

Aus IcecreamYes, she was wrong, they are actually 50 cents, but she was unlucky. Up until 14 October last year they were actually just 30 cents here in Australia. They are now 50 cents, but the US ice creams, with the rate adjustment are the equivalent of 81 cents Australian.

So, in the US, McDonald’s softserve ice creams are 62% more expensive, or maybe again they are bigger? I don’t know if there is sales tax on McDonald’s ice creams, but if there is, that makes them about 70% dearer.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Instant Film Camera (Pink)

The next thing to catch my daughter’s eye was a Polaroid camera which she saw in a shop in San Francisco; it was $99 US. Of course, add the sales tax, adjust for the 10 year exchange rate, and that becomes $125.84 in Australian money.

Here, in Australia, they cost $100. That’s just two random shops though, so I just checked online.

  • Amazon USA – $65.00 plus sales tax plus currency adjustment equals the equivalent of $82.62 AUD
  • I found the same camera, quite easily, here in Australia for $73.50

So, already Australia are edging it in these random items, but it gets much worse for the US when you go out to eat in a restaurant or just have a drink.

Eating and drinking out in the US

Because the US is BIG BIG BIG on tipping, here in Australia, it’s just not part of our culture. Try tipping anyone here in Australia, whether that be in a restaurant, a bar, your hairdresser, the milkman (just kidding, they don’t exist here anymore either), even taxi drivers, and they will look at you as if you have a flower growing out the top of your head.

On the other hand, tipping in the USA, I think it’s fair to say, isn’t even a voluntary thing, it’s pretty much mandatory.

Here’s how it works:

  • 10% = a bad tip, a very bad tip
  • 15% = a below-average tip, but acceptable
  • 18% = this is what is expected, the average tip
  • 20% = this is what you give when you feel you have had a better than average service

Tipping 25% or more is not uncommon, especially if you want to get preferential treatment in a busy bar or restaurant. I spoke to one waitress who told me that some people tip her 50%.

Tipping in the USA is, as I’ve said, very big.

A quick drink

We were in a very average cafe/bar in San Francisco and we took advantage of happy hour where drinks were $4 a go. I had a beer, it wasn’t very big, at best it was 16 ounces in US terms, that’s 473 mL.

Cheap at four dollars? Well, we have to add sales tax, we have to add 18% tip, it’s expected, and then we have to convert it to Australian dollars.

Happy hour beer = $6

The fun occurred when I went to get a second; happy hour had finished, the same beer was now $8.75. Now admittedly, that’s not the usual price a beer will be in the US, San Francisco is apparently one of the most expensive cities, if not the most expensive city in all of the US.

Now $8.75 with all the add-ons is $13.10 AUD.

Sydney is our most expensive city, probably, but nobody would pay that much for a beer in an average cafe in that city, or even one overlooking Bondi Beach.

Expect to pay $7 here, maybe maximum $9, no tax added, no tip expected.

Eating out

Eating out is the same problem. The price you see on the menu might look pretty good, but then once you’ve added the sales tax and given the expected 18% tip, you’ve added 27% to the bill.

Then, when you’re adjusting for Australian currency, even using the 10 year rate, the total percentage add-on becomes exactly 50%.

Once you add on that 50%, I can assure you that eating out in the US from my limited experience, even using the 10 year average figures, is certainly no cheaper than eating out in Australia.

For us though, with the exchange rate so low, our add-on was actually around 87%, so for us, eating out wasn’t cheap. Drinking out wasn’t cheap.

The USA wasn’t cheap.

What was cheap in the US?

Petrol, or gas as it’s called in US, that must be cheaper, mustn’t it?

In San Francisco, we paid $4.12 per US gallon. In LA it was $3.59 and it was a bargain $2.47 in Arizona. The difference is, incidentally, all down to state taxes.

Let’s call the average price of a US gallon of petrol $3.39, the average of the above three figures.

One US gallon equals 3.79 litres, so that’s 89 cents US per litre. I’m going to use the current conversion rate on this one, because petrol prices are very much linked to the current exchange rate.

So 89 cents US is equivalent to $1.31 AUD.

EXACTLY the same price we are currently paying here, in fact, today I can buy petrol for $1.20. So, turns out now that I’ve done the maths, that petrol is no cheaper in the US, unless, maybe, you are in Arizona.

Even I am surprised at that one.


The US produce some wonderful ales, I enjoyed many a fine IPA during my stay. Most sixpacks (similar sized bottles to our sixpacks) cost around $9 USD, so about $11.50 AUD with tax and conversion at the 10 year rate.

Here, most sixpacks are about $18 or so. But here, you can get a 24 pack much cheaper, $40-$50. But most of these US beers were very strong, 6% to 8% or more, you can’t buy those for $50 here in 24 packs, it’s more like $80.

Beer in the US is much cheaper and the range and quality is unmatched.

Shorts though, that was an eye-opener. You can buy a 1.75 litre bottle of vodka or gin for something like $12-$16, including tax. No tip required, it’s a supermarket.

That works out at a stunningly low Australian equivalent of $9.40 a litre.

Here, in Australia, a litre of the same will cost roughly $42.00.

Maybe I should be applying for my green card then?

Disclaimer blah blah

I only spent a couple weeks in the US, I know nothing really. This is a lighthearted cost comparison, all I’m saying is that I expected things to cost a lot less.

Strikes me though that when you take into account Australia’s undoubtedly higher average wage, then maybe the idea that the US is really cheap is just a myth.

But of course, life isn’t all about trash cans, Polaroid cameras, eating out, drinking and McDonald’s ice creams. We also have to take into consideration little essentials like food, housing, keeping warm in the winter, education and health services.

So I’d love to hear from residents of the US, let me know what you think, is the costs of living in your country cheap? Have I made any major mistakes here?

Please do have your say in the comments below, comments are open to everyone no matter where you live.

Visa Assessment Service
Visa Assessment Service
{ 41 comments… add one }
  • Chrissie April 29, 2018, 10:53 pm |

    Friend of mine recently spent a few months in Boston (US) now is in Brisbane and said that Brisbane is much cheaper even after conversion than Boston!

  • Dr. Kate L July 5, 2017, 5:31 am |

    I live in the US Midwest for a reason. It certainly isn’t the mountains and it’s certainly not the ocean! It’s the cost of living. I’m as sticker-shocked visiting either of our coasts as you were, and San Fran has to be the most crazy expensive US city I’ve visited except for Honolulu. All large cities including those in the Midwest are higher than my smallish town of 100,000. I sure hope I get to compare prices in person in Australia one day. Peace, Kate from Springfield, IL

    • BobinOz July 6, 2017, 6:37 pm |

      Yes, I’m sure you are right, San Fran did seem to be a particularly expensive city, wouldn’t surprise me if it makes the top 10 for high prices in the US. Very much a place for tourists and we know what that means when it comes to prices.

      We have a similar thing here though, go to a smaller city away from the beach and prices, especially for housing, get substantially cheaper. My wife’s cousin has just visited us from the US, he lives in San Diego, he said he found most prices here in Brisbane to be more than reasonable and quite a few things he said were cheaper here than back home.

      Peace to you too 🙂

    • Collins July 28, 2017, 12:24 am |

      San Francisco prices don’t represent the USA. Cost of living is extremely high there in comparison to most of the US. Overall, California is higher and San Francisco is outrageously high. Most people can’t afford to live there. 🙂

      • BobinOz July 28, 2017, 11:35 pm |

        Funnily enough, we did notice that there didn’t seem to be any children there at all. So I do agree with you, looks like families can’t afford San Fran for sure as well as most of the others you mention. 🙂

        • Genghiz November 24, 2017, 2:39 am |

          That’s correct. San Francisco city is a geographically limited area – unlike Sydney or Melbourne. Most people in the Bay Area live outside “The City” in the South Bay (Greater San Jose), Peninsula (between SF & San Jose) or the East Bay (Fremont, Oakland, Tri-Valley, etc). I know if many who commute into SF or San Jose from 2-3 hours away (each way).

          We live about 100 km east of San Francisco and the cost of living here is lower than SF – but significantly higher than the rest of the USA. Having lived for some lengths of time in the Midwest, South East, New England, and Mountain States before we moved to Northern Cal/Bay Area – I can tell you that life in CA (northern or southern) is just much more expensive compared to rest of the country -except maybe Hawaii and Alaska 🙂

          In summary, I’d wager that every day life in the US in cheaper than AU – comparing apples to apples. From what I’ve heard, the premium one would pay to live in AU is more than compensated by the better quality of life.

          Thanks for the article and comments. Enjoyed reading different perspectives.

          • BobinOz November 24, 2017, 7:56 pm |

            And thank you for your detailed analysis of the expense of living in California 🙂

            Glad to hear you have enjoyed this article and the comments, and yes, as I’ve said elsewhere, I think the quality-of-life here in Australia is very good, and in my opinion, a step up from the US.

  • Cynthia Fong June 21, 2017, 2:37 am |

    I am finding it difficult to price out rooms in Australia (Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast in particular) Every time I find a good price they add on a charge for extra guests. As a family of 4 in a room that sleeps 4 why are they charging more?

    • BobinOz June 21, 2017, 7:01 pm |

      The more people staying in a room, the more work required, and more cleaning, more bed linen, more towels. Not sure where you are looking, in terms of through which portal, but not everybody charges extra for four people, so it is worth keep looking.

  • Marc May 7, 2017, 9:28 pm |

    Interesting comments. I am a US expat who has been living in Sydney since 2008. When I first moved here, the difference in prices almost made me want to move back!! But over the past decade things have approached parity. Some things are different…such as real estate in Sydney being very high vs health care in US being exorbitantly high. I would venture a guess and say that cost of living is pretty much the same. Australia may have an advantage as wages here are higher than the US.

    • BobinOz May 8, 2017, 6:56 pm |

      I moved here about the same time you did and I thought the same at first, I remember thinking ‘what have we done?’ Prices here appeared to be so much higher than in the UK. But once you get the hang of it and you realise salaries are higher here and that certain things are much cheaper than in the UK, life starts to feel good again.

      And over the years it has got better and better. Mind you, I’m in Brisbane, houses are almost half the price here than they are in Sydney, so if you were to move here Marc you’d be laughing all the way to the bank, as we say.

  • Jean September 8, 2016, 5:23 pm |

    Well said – having just returned from Europe, the UK and the USA, we found Aust cheaper on most things excluding petrol (gas). The added tax and tip pushed US food above Aussie costs.

    • BobinOz September 9, 2016, 12:06 am |

      Thanks Jean. Yes, petrol was certainly cheaper in the US as was alcohol (which was ridiculously cheap by comparison to Australia) and probably cigarettes were as well, although I didn’t check that one.

      Most other things though we found were more expensive, especially with those tips and taxes.

  • Frederick Beckley May 20, 2016, 10:22 pm |

    Thank You for the timely reply. Do you drive on the left as I believe you do. Took me a while to adjust while driving in GB. What is the price of a sturdy vehicle, such as a good all wheel drive or 4×4? I own a big yank tank truck now, which I would sell if I immigrate. I drove a left hand drive Hillman while stationed in GB, it was a challenge to pass. I could not find the immigration agent you mentioned. The temperature range here in upstate NY is about +90 F to -20F. Can I still maintain my USA citizen ship if I were to move to Tasmania?

    • BobinOz May 23, 2016, 5:59 pm |

      Yes, we do drive on the left.

      You can check out the price of cars, well, as it says, everything on my page called The Cost of Living in Australia of Everything.

      I do believe you can maintain your USA citizenship, but hopefully you are also fully aware that you would need to get a visa to allow you to live here in Australia. You may want to speak to a MARA registered migration agent about that, they will also be able to tell you whether you can keep your USA citizenship.

  • Frederick Beckley May 20, 2016, 7:14 am |

    I am retired USAF and live in a small town in upstate NY. It get as cold as -20 F here in the winter. Could you recommend a smaller town, with a mild climate, and a lower cost of living. I was stationed in GB for 3 1/2 years. Cheers.

    • BobinOz May 20, 2016, 9:01 pm |

      Tasmania might well be a good place for you. It does have a much cooler climate, nowhere near as cold as your place gets though, and it’s just a stunningly beautiful place to live.

      Hobart is the capital, the next biggest town is Launceston, but you would call both a smaller town. It will remind you quite a bit of GB, especially the Lake District if ever you went up that way.


  • Pete May 13, 2016, 2:23 pm |

    Having been born/raised & spent my entire life in LA (58 years) I am, of course disillusioned at what my home nation has become in terms of inflation & other repressive fashion. I would retire to Australia because it still hopefully has some quaint elements left in the small towns. This is not so much true anymore in USA, even though it’s a selling point for home hunters. This may be because I’m sensitive. I want the whole tomato. I don’t want to be reminded of developments like big boxes & other subtle things that get in your face & cause you to lose the fantasy.

    Yes I admit that fantasy goes a long way for me. The old Dr Doolittle movie musical has corny fantasy for children. The newer one is too realistic. I am a true Disney child at heart & not afraid to admit it. Odd for a person who grew up at Studio City. You would think I’d have matured into tolerance of all things fashionable. Quite the opposite. I dream & keep dreaming. I’m also a classical/jazz musician. Not married to hip in the least. My idea of a good time is sitting in with an Elk’s club small jazz ensemble for a jam on Sunday complete with pot luck dinner. Given the players are good. You know, like music used to be when we were kids. I guess that’s the hazard of having been a child talent: I was often invited to play with old swing musicians during the 60s.

    Somewhere is a town without corporate USA-isms around every corner. Maybe it’s here in a remote corner of the USA. But chances are (telling me) it would be easier to find in AUS. Sorry, it’s just that things creep in. I’m gonna have to demand, for example, that no TVs are allowed in my retirement house. It’s important to have a lifestyle dull enough that the dinner pary has meaning.

    I visited Australia’s major cities in 1978 on a music concert tour (I’m a pianist). A few of the musicians (successful session players from LA) decided to move. One lives in a suburb of Gold Coast. He hasn’t retired though; still producing music such as for the croc hunter show, video games etc. I would, however be retiring. My preference would be to live in a small town. With a local butcher (noted from one of your articles) & other quaint small town amenities not found in more progressive areas.

    Quiet means a lot to me. We also toured NZ & I found Aukland (1978) to be adorable. Ditto Perth at that time. The weather (not as humid on the west coast?) is also a large factor. Wondering if much has changed as far as too much growth like USA. I would have moved already (to try it out) except my wife said no way. Too many snakes, she says.

    • BobinOz May 13, 2016, 6:05 pm |

      Well, I certainly wasn’t here in Australia in 1978, but I do know that a great deal has changed since then. That said, we have hundreds if not maybe thousands of very small towns with a population of just a few hundred to less than 10,000.

      If you avoid the major cities in Australia and live in a more rural area, I’m sure there is a town with your name on it. And if you liked New Zealand, you might want to check out Tasmania, I’m pretty sure you would find that adorable as well.

      As for snakes here, they are very timid, we very rarely see them. I see about one year and I’m looking for them. Well, you can try telling that to your wife, not sure it will change her mind though 🙂

      Good luck, Bob

  • S. August Salm October 29, 2015, 10:49 am |

    Ha. The petrol here in Florida can be $2.40 at the highest and $1.99 the lowest.

    • BobinOz October 29, 2015, 11:30 pm |

      Ours can swing, over the months anyway, from about $1.20 to $1.50, but that’s for a litre though, yours is for a gallon. So you would have to multiply our price by about 3.7 to compare them.

  • Fred September 24, 2015, 7:48 am |

    Hi Bob,

    I have not traveled that much outside of the US, yet. So all I can compare is the costs here with those in the two places I’ve been. One is Canada. Going out to eat, to have a few beers etc. costs about the same when you take the exchange rate into account. Of course, that was not true when I was there when the exchange rate made Canadian dollars worth more. But all in all I would say it was close to the same cost wise for everything. Somethings, such as clothes, I found to be cheaper with the exchange rate favorable to the US dollar but dining out was about the same again factoring in the exchange rate.

    Bermuda has their dollar tied to the US dollar so there is no exchange rate to factor in. I have been there five times and each time when I told someone that I was going there, they would say that everything was expensive there. I live near Boston and worked there for 41 years and I would have to say that Bermuda is no more expensive than Boston, New York or Washington, DC.

    All of the times I have been to Bermuda I have gone by cruise ship and each time there were people who were on the cruise who would not get off the ship in Bermuda because they heard that everything is expensive. Yet they would not hesitate to tell us of the different restaurants they had gone to in New York or Boston that were, in my opinion, more expensive than many I had gone to in Bermuda.

    I will find out whether Australia is more or less expensive or the same in November when I visit.


    • BobinOz September 24, 2015, 7:41 pm |

      That is often the case Fred, the exchange rate has more impact on whether people think a place is expensive or not, but clearly the exchange rate does not affect the people actually living in that place and earning in local currency.

      As for that Bermuda thing, that’s crazy! Fancy not even getting off the ship just because somebody ‘told you’ it’s expensive. And yes, some big cities, the ones you mention and also London and Paris for example, they can be significantly more expensive than other towns and cities in the same countries.

      If you get the chance, let us know what you think about prices in Australia in November.

      Cheers, Bob

      • Fred January 7, 2016, 10:38 am |

        Hi Bob,

        I would have replied sooner but we returned home a couple of days before our Thanksgiving holiday here and then there was Christmas to get ready for. Now that we are all caught up I can tell you how we found Australian prices. All in all my wife and I found that it seems to be about the same. There were some things that were a little more but they were offset by the things that cost a little less.

        It may be that someone who only visited as a tourist and stayed in the touristy areas might find it expensive. The only hotel we stayed at was in Sydney and it was not in the CBD. We stayed at a small hotel in Cremorne, a ten minute ferry ride from the Opera House. In Brisbane we stayed with my cousin and in Cairns with friends and in neither place did we spend most of the time in tourist venues.
        We did see the Great Barrier Reef, but the son of our friends got us a deal where we only had to pay the tax because he knew the owner of the tour company. In Brisbane we mostly visited with my cousin and her husband though we did walk around on the south bank of the river through the Arbour, I think it was called that, and saw the Lagoon. Part of our stay was also up at their beach house in Coolum.

        Have a Happy New Year, Bob.

        • BobinOz January 8, 2016, 9:41 pm |

          Yes, I agree with you entirely. My experience in the US was that San Francisco (touristy area) seemed more expensive than Australia. LA, bit of a touristy area, certainly the bits we went to, also seemed more expensive.

          For us, the added state tax and tipping for so many services made many prices far more expensive than Australia. When we went to Arizona though, there was not much in it, as you say some things were more expensive and somethings were cheaper.

          Swings and roundabouts.

          I hope you enjoyed your stay here and happy New Year to you too. Cheers, Bob

  • Virginia G September 18, 2015, 12:25 pm |

    Hi Bob. I hope you enjoyed your trip to the American west. I’ve lived in San Diego, CA, for four years, and I’ve also lived in Atlanta, GA, Tennessee, Texas, and Illinois (really small town). Now I’m living in Seoul, South Korea. So I have a little perspective.

    First, as you point out, prices vary wildly from place to place, as do taxes. In Tennessee, Texas, Florida and probably some other states, there is no state income tax. The sales tax tends to be high in those states to make up for the lost income, but it isn’t always. In California, cost of living is high due to a combination of politics, desert living, and desirability (people want to be there, which drives prices up!). I would say that San Francisco, LA, the Grand Canyon, etc. are also tourist areas, which means that prices get ratcheted up even a little higher. So you probably were sampling near the top of the price range for a lot of items.

    That said, living here in Korea, I share your perception that the U.S. is cheaper, so I was surprised by your comparisons. Certainly groceries are more expensive in Korea, and gasoline is more than double the price (although, as you saw, there is HUGE variation in gasoline prices from state to state). Dining out is equivalent here, but beer, wine, and liquor are EXTREMELY expensive compared to the U.S. (except for soju, the local favorite). Housing is also much more expensive per square meter here in Seoul compared to most of the U.S., but Australia and America have approximately a million times more land per person available than Korea does, so I guess that makes sense. Like Australians, Koreans don’t tip or expect tips.

    If gasoline and housing are excluded, we find our cost of living here to be about equivalent to the U.S. Electricity is much more expensive, but food and transportation costs are much lower. For example, in the U.S. my husband and I EACH drove about 12,000 miles (19,300 km) per year. In Korea, we’ve driven 12,000 miles COMBINED in 2 years, and the rest is cheap public transportation. Electronics are comparable here, as long as you’re willing to choose local brands. Same for clothing, assuming you fit into the average size 2 (American) sizes of the clothes.

    Where I find the biggest difference, though, is variety of items for sale. In the U.S., I can find a huge variety of every kind of item at many different price points. This includes imports. You mentioned Amazon, which is a go-to in most situations, but the flexibility of locations is a big bonus. We spend more in Korea to get exotic items (like meat, or spices) than we do in America.

    I wonder if the same situation applies to Australia? That the U.S. has more variety, and therefore you can find items at lower prices if you’re willing to look? I’m not sure, but your blog is definitely busting my preconceived notions of expensive Australian living!

    • BobinOz September 18, 2015, 6:18 pm |

      Good point Virginia, yes, I did travel mostly in touristy places, and for sure San Francisco was ridiculously expensive, even compared to the other places we went to.

      That said, most of my travels in Australia have been to the major cities, like Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Darwin and Hobart etc. I also live in Brisbane, all of these places are more expensive than many of our smaller and more rural towns, so in a way I’m comparing like with like.

      I’m not surprised what you are saying about Korea, I think any country where people are living in confined spaces is going to be more expensive, I imagine Korea is a bit like Japan in that respect.

      I take your point on petrol and distances as well, petrol is far more expensive in the UK than here in Australia, yet I’m sure I spend more on petrol here than I did in England simply because I’m a 20 minute drive away from anything, where as in England I was a 20 minute drive away from three or four other towns.

      The variety in the US though, that is undoubted. My wife wanted to buy a new pair of boots and simply couldn’t find anything she liked here in Australia. So we decided to wait until we got to the US and the first day we went shopping for boots, she found a pair she fell in love with. So yes, there’s definitely more choice in the US than here in Australia, for pretty much most things.

      I’m glad my blog is helping you to understand that Australia isn’t as expensive as many people think it is, because simply, it isn’t.

      Cheers, Bob

  • Alex September 17, 2015, 8:28 pm |

    And again a great post in your blog! Thank you. We have been to the US for 2 times now (back in the cheaper days in 2008 and 2009), i hope we make it to Australia soon. I read a lot about your beautiful country on your site and it really makes us curious about it.

    Cheers, Alex

    • BobinOz September 18, 2015, 6:09 pm |

      Thanks Alex, and I hope you make it to this country sometime soon. Good luck, Bob

  • Lucinda September 17, 2015, 6:45 pm |

    Couldn’t agree more! I was only in the US for a couple of weeks too, but I really didn’t find it any cheaper than Australia. Food looked cheaper, until you add on the tip and tax. I had some spare time to go shopping, but didn’t find much that was really cheaper than Australia. Got a couple of bargains, but then, I get plenty of bargains here too. And I was outlet shopping – it was no better there than in Australia.

    People also say all the time that the meals are so much bigger in the US, but I didn’t find that at all. Did you notice this?

    • BobinOz September 18, 2015, 5:59 pm |

      Same happened to us, we went outlet shopping, didn’t buy a thing. Once we had adjusted for the current exchange rate, things were actually more expensive so there was no point.

      As for the meals, generally speaking in the restaurants, no, they weren’t that much different in size. The soft drink cups in the fast food outlets though, now that’s a different story, they were like buckets!

      Same with the coffee sizes, their small cup was plenty big enough for me.

  • Matt September 17, 2015, 11:01 am |

    We immigrated from America just six months ago. I totally agree with you, Bob. I have pleasantly found that, when it’s all said and done, the price of goods and services are very similar between the two countries.

    Your shining example of the rubish bin was quite on point. We’ve made many small-ticket purchases since the move. After additional sales tax and exchange rate, the difference is essentially nil. In fact, we ended up doing better in Oz on several items.

    Even some big-ticket items, like our practically new car, turned out to be exactly what we would have payed back in the US… once you do the math.


    We did end up dropping more money on a brand new washer, dryer, and fridge. This is mainly because the sale prices on these types of items are way better in the US and there is more room to negotiate. I would also attribute this to supply.

    On the other hand, I got some wickedly fantastic deals on slightly used portable air conditioning units and a bbq off gumtree. On average, I payed only 20% of the MSRP. These were all practically new. Of course, i bought them in winter… that helped, too.

    I also picked up a typically expensive 4-piece outdoor set for only $100. The family was moving to Scotland and had to get rid of it quick.

    Yes, taxes are a bit higher in Oz compared to the US, and real estate is pricey, but it’s so worth it. We’ve had to make some small sacrifices but I find the quality of life is better, by far, here in Oz. Oh yeah, and people here don’t loose EVERYTHING if they develop a serious illness.

    • BobinOz September 17, 2015, 5:42 pm |

      It’s quite strange really Matt, Australia has got itself a reputation for being a very expensive country to live in. So many people believe that the UK is far cheaper, but that’s a theory that I have never subscribed to.

      I’ve compared prices between the UK and Australia on many items, and I know how much it costs us to live month-to-month here compared with back in England. The only conclusion I ever come to is that it swings and roundabouts, some things are cheaper here, some things are cheaper there, but all told, there’s just not much in it.

      But the US, I thought, would be different. The perception here is that there are only around 20 million of us, we are a little isolated, maybe shipping costs to us are more expensive, maybe there is less competition here, but for whatever reason, most people in Australia naturally think stuff here costs more.

      Compared with the 400 million or so who live in the US, and the obvious extra competition in the retail market, it is easy to assume prices would be cheaper there. But now I’m beginning to wonder whether it is just another case of swings and roundabouts even between Australia and the USA.

      What you are telling me seems to confirm that it is, which is a big surprise to us all here, but a pleasant one.

      Cheers, Bob

      • Phil September 20, 2015, 4:46 am |

        Great piece Bob, I think you nailed it perfectly. Both have their pros and cons when it comes to cost of living. While it depends upon where one lives in the U.S., Australia arguably has more affordable forms of diversion. Just taking a train over the Sydney Harbour Bridge is priceless, and if one is a nature enthusiast running into a monitor lizard or even one of those ugly Huntsman spiders is pretty entertaining. The Australia beaches are of course incredible. We have a great deal of beauty here in the states as well, it is just not always as readily accessible. Also enjoyed the review of the Grand Canyon and Uluru. Both are incredible. I would also add that the Olgas are awe-inspiring as well and right around the corner from Uluru. Thanks for the great work!

        • BobinOz September 21, 2015, 1:02 pm |

          Thanks Phil and yes, I agree, I sometimes think that some of Australia’s best entertainment is free so they are very much affordable forms of diversion.

          The only reason I didn’t mention the Olgas is because I can never remember the name of the main one, Kata Tjuta. (I Googled it).

  • Todd September 17, 2015, 8:47 am |

    America is expensive. The kind of expensive varies substantially by state and region. I live in rural Upstate NY. Property taxes are over $6000 on a home at 3/4 of the national median values. These taxes are split between local municipality (Town with no village), County 1300 square kilometers with less than 50,000 residents and school taxes for a small (less than 450 pupils kindergarten through year 12) school. The only service provided by that is highway maintenance on a tar and stone road, and county sheriff patrol. State income tax pays for State Police patrols and general public welfare services. Federal income tax provides support for the other governments, national programs and defence. State colleges run $12,000 to $20,000 based on commuting or living on campus. The local well known college is $55,000 a year before the average $25,0000 financial aid (including loans). Each of those figures is per year.

    Most of us pay private health insurance. I work in health care and pay $120 a fortnight for a plan that does not cover the first $6000 out of pocket for my family per year. Dental is another $45 a fortnight and covers 2 routine visits a year and 50% of major work.

    My home phone and internet (DSL) is $115 per month. Electric is $120 a month (all LED lights, wood heat, gas cooking)

    As you can see, eating out is not too expensive as you have no cash to do so, lol.

    Can’t wait to get to Geelong.

    • BobinOz September 17, 2015, 4:47 pm |

      Gosh, your property taxes are pretty steep, see…

      to compare them to the UK and Australia.

      It was quite an eye-opener to me Todd, especially the price of petrol. I really thought it would be much cheaper in the US, but it was just the same. Hopefully you will find things less expensive here, and who knows, it’s also likely you will earn more here, so you may be able to pop out for the odd meal now and then in Geelong.

      Cheers, Bob

      • Todd September 18, 2015, 9:07 pm |

        Thanks, Bob. That is the plan.

        Prices vary substantially. The new gas station by my office has a gallon at $2.15. The one “out in the country” on my way home is $2.40. Over a 10% difference in 10 miles. Clothes are all over the place. At the whole sale club I can pick up khaki pants for under $20. In a departments store, comparable quality, but different brands can run $70. tends to be the great equalizer and much of the sundries I need week to week come from there. I think the “cheapness” of America comes from the wide variety of any item. You can purchase most anything at whatever price point you can afford. Quality items can run to very expensive without much effort.

        • BobinOz September 21, 2015, 12:42 pm |

          Shopping wisely, as always, seems to be the key. Amazon; wish we had one here in Australia, I mean a proper one, not the digital thing we currently have.

Leave a Comment

If your comment doesn’t get answered, find out why…..
FAQs and Comment Policy.