How to Live Well on the Cheap in Melbourne
So you are thinking about moving to Melbourne? What you've heard is right - Australia is expensive. Inner city living, especially, can be astronomically costly, but the point of studying, working or moving Down Under is to really experience the culture and lifestyle.
So how, when you have the constraint of a budget? With these tips on how Aussies live well on the cheap in Melbourne, you won't feel like you’re living less just because you have less!
Here are 5 top recommendations for how to experience Melbourne on a budget.
A big tip is to jump in on one of the many apps designed to get you out and about.The Happiest Hour, for example, keeps you informed of the pubs and bars having happy hour, a tradition of often half price drinks around pre dinner time. Select the suburb you intend to visit and cross your ﬁngers, because many of these happy hours offer discounted food, too. China Town.
In the very centre of Melbourne, along Little Bourke Street is the lovely and colourful China Town district. Home to incredible Asian cuisine, one can eat very, very well for practically nothing here. Fill up on dumplings, rice and curries, and discover many tasty treats from all Oriental inﬂuences. Most are BYO (bring your own wine/beer), sometimes with a possible ‘corkage’ fee (from $2 per bottle to $2 per head), which is still more wallet friendly than ordering from the wine list. Eat up!
Melbourne is known as the cultural capital of Australia, and all manner of entertainment, from theatre, festivals and music shows are on offer. If your interests include theatre, many companies offer student discounts, and matinees are generally less costly than the evening shows. Some even offer discounts for bookings of large groups, so get all your friends together and take advantage of this! Melbourne has an extremely vibrant live music scene, with free gigs at the local pub, to arena concerts.
Federation Square, in the centre, hosts free outdoor concerts throughout summer, with a fantastic selection of local talent given a stage. Because of the international nature of Melbourne and it’s culture scene, the city hosts many festivals throughout the year. The Comedy Festival, the Fringe Festival, International Jazz Festival, the Fashion Festival… The list goes on! These festivals often have many free events to attend, all around the city, and guides are easy to ﬁnd both in print and online.
Finally, if dancing is your thing, many nightclubs and open late bars have no cover charge if you arrive early, usually before 11.30pm.
Chances are, you won’t be out shopping every weekend, and although it is nice to walk through the ‘Paris’ end of Collins Street, peeking into the windows of designer stores, and dreaming… However, Melbourne does have shopping options for those on a budget.
Outlet stores, usually in large malls and featuring many different high street and designer sites, are a good start. In places like DFO, Harbour Town and Spencer Street Station shopping malls, you can ﬁnd everything from homewares to shoes, stationary shops and book stores, to general clothes and accessories.
Another option for those so inclined, are the many second hand and charity shops scattered all over the city. Savers is probably the best start, with long opening hours and huge selection of stock. Anything for the home, ofﬁce and wardrobe can be found here, and the store sometimes offers further discounts - 50% off books days, 20% off apparel, and more.
4. Activities Out & About
Getting out and about in the city is great option for those on a budget. Walking doesn't cost a thing, so explore some of the many parks in central Melbourne. The Royal Botanic Gardens is a must see, a beautiful and massive park of many different varieties of fauna, both native and international. Nearby is the Memorial Park, and from here there is an incredible view of the city. Walking along the Murray, the river that intersects Melbourne, is relaxing- watch the rowers go past, and hear the hum of the distant trafﬁc.
Explore Birrarung Marr Park on the north side of the river, and check out the inspiring indigenous rock carvings. For interesting and educational experiences, there is also the Melbourne Flexi Attractions Pass, offering discounts of up to 40% of a range of activities. Options included can be cruises and sports activities, and maritime and local history. There is a time limit, choose with two, three and seven day options, and get your ﬁll on as many attractions in Melbourne as you can!
If you would like to venture further afield you might like to view cheap tours of Australia - book in advance to get the best deals.
Melbourne’s public transport network is quite large, and connects well to all areas of the city. Trains, busses and trams are used, and the access to the network is through an electronic card, called a MyKi. These credit card style passes are available at a concession to international students studying in Australia, dependant of which university you study at, it is necessary to register ﬁrst.
Otherwise, your card can be ‘topped up’ in many different levels, depending how frequently you travel. Some tram lines in the centre of Melbourne are free, and travel just in zone two is much cheaper than zone one (the central zone). When travelling out of the city, perhaps for a day trip, check what the ‘peak’ times are and arrange your travel around this- peak time travel is more expensive!
Melbourne is friendly city, welcoming for all. Student culture is big here, and the city does its best to support those on a light wallet! As you settle into your new suburb, notice how community focussed Melbournites are- events and community activities are advertised everywhere, and if you make friends with your local barista, get the goss from the one in the know!
Don't forget, many free internet spots are available throughout the city, and discounts for students are often available, both in stores and for activities. Don’t hesitate to ask, because Melbourne is more than happy to help make your stay the best (and most fun!) it can be!
By Jade Rudnyckyj