“It’s getting too expensive to live in this city!”, said a group of Melbournians sitting at the next table.
I almost wanted to give them high-5s in agreement. I’ve been trumpeting my complaint about rising costs in Melbourne for a long time now but it just seems to get more expensive as each year passes by. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised given my beloved city is regularly billed as the most livable place in the world, beating out cities like Paris, London and New York.
It does certainly cost for the privilege of living in such a great city.
The good news is that despite the high living costs associated with living in an international city, there are still bargains to be had if you know exactly where to look. Lucky for you, being a Melbourne resident for the past 15 years, I happen to know of such places and situations where easy savings could be made.
“A penny saved is a penny earned” as they say so here are the 8 things you shouldn’t be paying for in Melbourne.
Stop putting up with account keeping fees
I’d take a guess and say that more than 90% of Australians have a bank transaction account for everyday banking needs, making it an essential component to one’s personal finance armory. Banks that provide this service know this, and they take advantage of the situation by charging to $5 per month in account keeping fees.
If you have been paying these fees, it’s time to put a stop to it. Here’s how to get free transaction accounts :
- Most banks will waive their monthly charge if $2,000 is transacted through the account so make sure you deposit your income or any spare change you might have lying around.
- Open a dialog with the bank and request (in the kindest way possible) to have the monthly charge waived; you will find that most bank representatives would be happy to do so to keep you a happy customer.
- If you are a student, make sure it is known to the bank as most provide concessional rates where account keeping fees are removed.
Are you paying $2 ATM withdrawal fees?
If you ever used a general non-branded ATM like the ones you find at convenience stores, you would know that most withdrawals incurs a $2 fee for the privilege and it adds up very quickly! If you have been ignoring it so far, it’s time to stop!
To easily save $2, use only your bank-branded ATM which is completely free. All the major Australian banks have mobile apps as part of their Internet Banking offering which allows you to search for the nearest bank-owned ATM. It even gives you directions via GPS to ensure you don’t get lost.
Yes it might mean taking a few extra steps to find a bank-owned ATM, but the pain wouldn’t be comparable to the joy of having saved $2 in the process.
Catch the early bird train
If you are an early riser, then it’s time to stop paying for public train transport.
Did you know that traveling anywhere on Melbourne’s train network is free before 7.14am everyday? By taking advantage of the early bird travel provided by Melbourne Metro, you can save as much as $27.30 ($3.90 * 7) a week in travel cost, or $1,419.60 a year.
That’s more than a thousand dollars that could be used to start up that investment fund that you’ve always been thinking about.
Utilize co-working spaces to expand social circle
We can all agree that networking in the right social circles is a key ingredient to business success. Many people pay good money to attend social events just for the networking aspect of it, and while it is undoubtedly useful, it is very expensive.
A cheaper and free alternative for networking are co-working spaces.
Inspired by success stories like Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel, entrepreneurship seems to be the go-to career choice for many young Melbournians. As a result of this, the concept of co-working spaces are springing up across the city . Places like Inspire9, Hub Melbourne, York Butter factory are melting pots of talented entrepreneurs looking to share their ideas with equally driven individuals, and this environment makes it perfect for networking.
Although co-working spaces have varying rules and regulations, most have an open-door policy that welcomes anyone and everyone. Entrepreneurial groups like Startup Victoria – Melbourne’s largest startup community – regularly have information nights for those who operate within said co-working spaces which ensures many talented individuals will be in attendance on the day.
To top off what is always a fantastic networking opportunity, the events are regularly held over pizza and beer. What’s not to like?
Free city walking tours
Every time I visit a new city, the first thing that I like to do is join a walking tour. It allows me to find my bearings, and also gives me the opportunity to learn about the “things to do” without actually having to do the research. But for all those who have been on such tours, you’d know how expensive guided tours can be.
Lucky for us that the City of Melbourne provides a free 2 to 4 hour walking tour conducted by trained local volunteers. I’ve actually been on the tour myself just for the kicks, and to my surprise, I actually really enjoyed them. The beauty of living in a large and diverse city is that every one of its citizens look at things differently, and so being shown around the city from a 3rd person’s perspective taught me new ways of appreciating the wonderful city I live in.
The tour has something for everyone, and is definitely worth a try if you are looking for new ways to enjoy the city.
Give up gyms memberships
I’m sure we’ve all been there before with our new year’s resolution on joining the gym and living a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately for the most of us, the resolution is usually short lived and we won’t have achieved any results except for an expensive gym membership that we can’t get out of. With the inevitable bound to occur, why bother at all to seek a gym membership?
Melbourne is considered considered to be Australia’s garden city with no less than 8 major parks within 5kms of the CBD. So instead of paying for expensive gyms, head outdoors for the fresh air and sunshine. Here are some of the best free outdoor exercise programs in Melbourne :
- Free Fitness at Federation Square – 45 minute sessions that runs on Tuesday and Friday.
- Bike routes and maps – Car-less routes into and out of Melbourne CBD.
- Nike+ Run Club Melbourne – Every Wednesday from 5.30pm starting at Federation Square.
Google App store
It’s time to stop paying for Google apps!
There are many benefits of being connected on the nation’s best mobile network, but there is one that rises above everything else for me. Being a Telstra pre-paid subscriber allows me to purchase anything on the Google Play store for ‘free’! This is how it works.
On a Telstra Pre-Paid Freedom Plus with a $30 monthly recharge, I get the following value :
- Actual value of $30 on my account,
- Included call credit of $700 for domestic calls + $200 for international calls + 3GB of data.
Any calls and data usage on my mobile device will first be deducted from the $700 + $200 + 3GB data allocation. Anything extra will then be deducted from my actual balance of $30.
For an average mobile user like me, the $700 + $200 + 3GB of included value is more than sufficient for my monthly usage. That also means I almost never use my actual balance of $30 which is a good thing because Telstra and Google have teamed up to allow Telstra actual balances to be used as cash on the Google Play store. Using the “Bill my Telstra account” function, I can buy anything on the Play store, from apps to books to movies. I can even use it to pay for a subscription in my favourite note-taking app Evernote.
Essentially what it gives me is the ability to recycle my mobile bill of $30 and into any Google purchases, giving me better “bang-for-buck” on every single dollar I spend.
Who knew the council library could be so much fun?
Spending money buying DVDs at the shops are a complete waste of money. As a matter of fact buying video games, books and music CDs from stores are also complete wastes of money.
Head down to your local council library and rent for free instead. I was ecstatic when I found out that my local library had full seasons of Game of Thrones and Modern Family among others available for rent. It also had PS4 and Xbox games to lend, some of the very latest titles too!
My library membership also gets me access to Zinio, a service that allows me to read thousands of digital magazines from all around the world for free!
So again, why pay silly money for entertainment when it is all freely available down at the local library?