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How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life in Adelaide? (As a Couple)

fire life adelaide weizhang

Photo credit: weizhang on Pixabay

How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life in Adelaide?

Hello, and welcome to interview #22 in the How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life interview series! Part interview, part spending report, this series will introduce us to FIRE* seekers from all over the world.

They’ll reveal their essential spending and money-saving tips—all to help us learn new ways to save on our own expenses. As a bonus, we’ll also get to discover the unique advantages and challenges of living in different places around the globe.

*FIRE stands for financial independence, retire early. It’s also known as FI—financial independence. For more info, see my FI School series—it’ll teach you everything you need to know about FI (and FIRE).

About the interview series

I created an intro page for this interview series to help explain what it’s about, what’s included (or not) and why. I’ll also link to all the interviews from the intro page—so check back there to see the entire collection.

Jump to the series intro: How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life? (The Interview Series)

Disclosure: These interviews may include affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a commission if you make a purchase through my links—at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

Interview #22: Sarah and Laura from Adelaide

I’m super excited to be interviewing my first-ever guests from Australia! Today, we’ll meet Sarah and Laura from the Keepin’ It Frugal blog. They live in gorgeous Adelaide, South Australia, with their adorable pup, Bonnie. 

I met this lovely couple through my friend, Court from Modern FImily, and I’m so glad she introduced us. (Court also interviewed Sarah and Laura on her blog: Pursuing FI With Multiple Passive Income Streams in Australia.)

Like me, Sarah and Laura are big on frugality, sustainability, and FIRE (just to name a few common interests). No wonder Court thought they’d be a good fit for this series!

About Keepin’ It Frugal

On Keepin’ It Frugal, Sarah and Laura write about the topics mentioned above as well as: saving money, goalsetting, wellbeing, DIY, giving back, and travel. In addition, one aspect of their FIRE journey that’s particularly appealing to me is their focus on SideFIRE

I know some people complain about all the different versions of FIRE out there, but I say the more, the merrier! If hearing about SideFIRE inspires someone to pursue FIRE, how can that be anything but a great thing? 😉

I hope you’ll take some time to check out Keepin’ It Frugal as well as Sarah and Laura’s food blog, Wandercooks. The tone on both their blogs is friendly and uplifting, and feels like chatting with good friends over coffee and treats! 

BUT, before you zip over to Keepin’ It Frugal or Wandercooks to learn more about Sarah and Laura, stay awhile to check out their interview. I think you’ll enjoy their FIRE story and fantastic money-saving tips!

Part 1: Getting to know you

fire life adelaide sarah laura

Laura (left) and Sarah (right) from Keepin’ it Frugal

Tell us about yourselves

Laura and I are full-time bloggers, wifeys and pup-mums to our cavoodle, Bonnie. We’re both in our early thirties and love everything food, travel and outdoors.

Sarah is the lover of numbers and business ideas, and Laura is the grounded half who loves yoga, family time and baking cookies. 

Where are you in your journey to FIRE?

We’re around 6 years into our FIRE journey and hope to hit our full FIRE number in 5–10 years. We earn a modest income from our businesses, focusing more on the time and flexibility it gives us along our journey, so our path is more along the SlowFI lines. 

We currently class ourselves as SideFIRE—where our blog covers all our expenses and any extra is invested towards full FIRE. The blog’s income is semi-passive, so it has a lot more flexibility for us than a service-based business or corporate job.

What type of FIRE are you aiming for? (FIRE, Lean FIRE, or Fat FIRE*)

How Chrissy defines FIRE, Lean FIRE, and Fat FIRE

Some people define Lean FIRE as under $40k in annual spending; FIRE as $40–$100k in annual spending; and Fat FIRE as $100k+ in annual spending.

However, I prefer looser definitions that are not based on hard numbers. That’s because $100k could be Fat FIRE in a small Canadian town but Lean FIRE in San Francisco. That said, here are my definitions:

  • Lean FIRE: The essentials with little or no discretionary spending.
  • FIRE: The essentials plus a comfortable amount of discretionary spending.
  • Fat FIRE: The essentials plus a luxurious amount of discretionary spending.

We’d love to have our investments covering our Lean FIRE amount (all personal expenses, no mortgage), but we plan to continue blogging, so it will be FIRE–Fat FIRE with the blog.

Tell us about your living situation

We live in a semi-detached single-family home on a 350sqm block. We currently own it with a mortgage, and have so far paid off 45%! It’s a 5-minute walk to the marina, train station or closest bus stop and a 10-minute walk to the supermarket. 

We’re around 25 minutes from the city centre, it has a nice suburban feel with little traffic. It’s also only a 10-minute drive to a large amenities hub with the local library, cafes, supermarkets, restaurants and farmer’s markets.

Why did you choose to live in Adelaide?

We both grew up on the peninsula in Adelaide, and love being by the beach. We’re both close to our families too, and catch up with them often, so it’s nice being able to walk or ride to visit them.

Adelaide is one of the cheapest and most livable cities in Australia, so it also fits our frugal lifestyle. Owning a home so close to the beach for under 350k would be laughable in Sydney or Melbourne, where the prices for a home our size would be closer to double or triple the price.

Part 2: The expenses

In this section, Sarah and Laura share their essential expenses and best money-saving tips. But before we get started, let’s review some important notes:

Important notes about the numbers

  • Only essential expenses are included.
  • Discretionary expenses (e.g. travel, gifts, etc.) are not included.
  • Expenses are rounded to the nearest dollar. 
  • Expenses are displayed in the interviewee’s home currency.
  • In this interview, the home currency is Australian dollars (AU$).
  • For your convenience, I’ve included a currency converter for each expense.

For detailed explanations about which expenses are included (or not) see my How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life intro post.

1. How much does housing cost in Adelaide?

living room yehleen gaffney unsplash
Photo by Curtis Adams on Pexels

Mortgage (AU$1,270/month; AU$15,240/year)

If you have a variable rate on your mortgage, touch base with your bank every 6 months to see if there’s a better rate. For a 5-minute email or phone call, it can save you thousands.

Sometimes it also pays to shop around each year to see if there’s a better offer from another bank. This can involve more time and paperwork, but again, you can end up way in front if it shaves off 0.5% or more off your current interest rate—not to mention shaving years off your loan.

Land tax (AU$82/month; AU$984/year)

If you can, check out the average tax rates depending on your council, area and size of the house. We purposely chose a property with a smaller land footprint than most homes in the area which means a) we don’t have to look after as much and b) the taxes are less. Win, win!

Strata/HOA fees (AU$0)

We’re lucky in that while our house is strata, it’s one of only two—joined straight down the middle. So we don’t have to pay any extra fees, we just discuss any changes to the property that affect the two of us such as fencing etc. 

Home insurance (AU$74/month; AU$888/year)

Our insurance is broken up into two parts. The building insurance is shared between us and our neighbour as it’s semi-detached, then we have our contents insurance separately. 

Get new quotes yearly from other insurance providers, as these amounts easily shoot up over a few years. We halved the amount we were paying for our contents insurance by doing this!

Home maintenance (AU$100/month; AU$1,200/year)

This category includes: home maintenance, repairs, cleaning, and improvements; household goods and supplies; furniture; and appliances.

We do most of the maintenance around our house ourselves and outsource anything dangerous or beyond our skillset. 

Looking after your home and appliances with regular maintenance can save you both money and time, as well as maximise the life of each item. 

In case there is something large that needs to be replaced or fixed, we put a portion of this monthly amount away to tap into and cash flow the repair or replacement required.

Home equity opportunity cost (AU$8,000/year)

About the home equity opportunity cost ‘expense’

This category was suggested by The Economist from FI Garage. The intention for sharing this is to calculate the opportunity cost of home ownership versus renting.

In other words: if you invested the amount that’s tied up in your home equity, how much would that be worth after one year of investing (based on a conservative 5% return)?

$160,000 x 5% = $8,000/year in opportunity cost after one year of investing.

2. How much does transportation cost in Adelaide?

transportation paris 16 flickr
Paris Shared Bike, Bus and Taxi Lane” by EURIST e.V. is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Vehicle loan (AU$0)

Always pay cash for cars, the interest rates on auto loans are incredibly high here—think between 5–14.99%! No thanks!

Vehicle insurance (AU$108/month; AU$1,296/year)

While you can’t control registration costs, you can still shop around for your car insurance. 

Keep excess (aka deductibles) high to save on costs, as anything small that would need repairs you would just pay out of pocket rather than claiming any little thing and pushing your premiums up.

Gas (AU$50/month; AU$600/year)

Working from home and living near most amenities means we either walk or ride our e-bikes to save on fuel, only using the car a few times a week.

One tip that can save you hundreds a year is using a fuel price app. Sometimes petrol can be $1.65/L at one petrol station and 500m down the road be $1.19/L. If you get 50 litres of fuel—that’s a difference of $23 for one fill. If you fuel up twice a month—you’ve just saved yourself $552/yr. 

Vehicle maintenance (AU$25/month; AU$300/year)

A family friend is our mechanic, so costs are pretty low for our maintenance. He also details the car inside and out, so we get a free clean too! 

It always pays to check your oil and tyres (pressure, tread and wheel balance) if you haven’t in a while as these areas can lead to big issues if left long enough. 

Bike maintenance (AU$0)

We maintain our e-bikes by giving them a quick wipe down, keeping them charged, recalibrating the disc brakes and fixing any punctures ourselves. YouTube usually helps us fix any little things rather than taking it to the bike shop.

Parking and tolls (AU$0)

We avoid these most of the time. We don’t have tolls in our state, and there are usually enough free parks in the city or you can park just outside and catch the free city tram into town. 

Transit (AU$0)

No public transport used. 

3. How much does food cost in Adelaide?

grocery store gemma unsplash
Photo by gemma on Unsplash

Groceries (AU$300/month; AU$3,600/year)

Running a food blog (as well as Keepin’ It Frugal), we cook A LOT! This saves us so much money on eating out, as most of the time we know we can cook double the amount for half the price of eating out—and it tastes so much better!

We shop around to keep costs down, supporting local bulk wholefoods, Asian supermarkets, Farmers markets and Aldi.

Eating out (AU$150/month; AU$1,800/year)

Every Monday morning we have a coffee by the water at a local cafe, this is a little ritual we have that makes us look forward to the start of the week. Working from home as well, it’s good to get out of the house and be in a different environment for a while.

We eat out or get takeaway a few times a month, usually as a catch up with friends and family.

4. How much do utilities and bills cost in Adelaide?

utilities jason richard unsplash
Photo by Jason Richard on Unsplash

Natural gas (AU$67/month; AU$804/year)

Most of our gas is used over winter for our central heating. We keep the thermostat low, and only heat to take off the chill in the house. Otherwise, a few layers and we’re plenty warm enough!

The rest of the usage is home cooking on the stove, which we’re happy to pay for! 

Quick tip: Wash your clothing in cold water.

Electricity (AU$79/month; AU$948/year)

Sarah’s brother replaced all the lights in our home with LEDs as soon as we moved in. This is a great money-saving switch if you haven’t made it yet.

A few things we do to keep costs down:

  • Switch all appliances off at the wall when not in use.
  • Only keep the light on in the room we’re using.
  • No television. 
  • Dry our clothes outside, and don’t own a dryer.
  • Newish fridge (bought second-hand) which is energy efficient to run.

Water (AU$83/month; AU$996/year)

Australian summers can be hot, so water usage doubles to look after our garden. While this is a big cost, we value our outdoor space.

Garbage and recycling (AU$0)

Garbage collection is included in our land taxes.

Internet (AU$70/month; AU$840/year)

This is covered by our business.

Home phone (AU$0)

We don’t have a home phone—it’s an unnecessary cost these days.

Cell phones (AU$30/month; AU$360/year)

Also covered by our business.

We’re both with Aldi. This is one of the cheapest plans available yet still on the Telstra network. It includes 3GB every month, and any unused data rolls over into the next month!

Technology is changing at such a fast rate, it always pays to see if there’s new plans or SIMs available that suit your lifestyle for a cheaper rate.

Streaming entertainment and cable TV (AU$0)

We don’t have any at this stage. 

5. How much do other essentials cost in Adelaide?

clothing polina tankilevitch
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels

Life and disability insurance (AU$40/month; AU$480/year)

This comes out of our Superannuation (the Aussie version of the 401k or RRSP) each week and is much cheaper than organising the insurance outside of our Super.

Medical insurance (AU$216/month; AU$2,592/year)

Australia has a fantastic public healthcare system, however, once you turn 31, it’s highly recommended to get private health insurance as well. 

If you don’t, you get what’s called healthcare Lifetime Health Cover (LHC) loading—where if you decide to get private healthcare at a later stage, you’ll pay +2% on the annual price for EVERY year over 31. So if you wait until you’re 34—that’s a premium increase of 8%. 

By having private health, it means we’re covered if we ever need to call an ambulance, and for basic hospital + extras. The extras cover two sets of glasses yearly for the both of us and 60% off our dentist visits and chiro as we need it. This works out cheaper for us than if we were to pay cash upfront. 

Out-of-pocket medical expenses (AU$50/month; AU$600/year)

The only out of pocket is the remaining 40% from our dentist and chiro visits that aren’t covered by private health, as well as any visits to the doctor.

Clothing and footwear (AU$40/month; AU$480/year)

Most of our clothing is purchased from op-shops (aka thrift stores). Otherwise, we usually buy a new set of basics (socks etc) and a couple of pairs of shoes each year as they wear out. 

If we do purchase new, we buy quality over quantity, which is where our costs can add up the most.

One tip is to keep a list of things you think you’ll need to replace or you’ll need for an upcoming season. Keep an eye out for sales or at op-shops, so you’re not urgently needing the item and having to pay full price instead.

Personal care (AU$25/month; AU$300/year)

This category includes: haircuts, toiletries and grooming services and supplies.

Most of our personal care expenditure is our shampoo bars and natural deodorant ($100/yr) so we’re plastic-free and our haircuts ($80/yr)—which we only go once a year! Everything else like toilet paper and soap, we buy in bulk, so we save quite a bit in this category. We don’t wear make-up etc so no unnecessary expenses here!

Technology (AU$0)

This category includes essential technology: software and hardware purchases, upgrades, maintenance, and repairs. Non-essentials (video games and consoles, e-readers, security cameras, etc.) aren’t included. 

All of our technology is covered as business expenses. This includes our computers, photography gear, phones and computer subscriptions. 

One of our favourite benefits is being able to claim these items on our business, as not only does this keep our personal costs down, it helps to bring down our income which means less tax for us to pay.

Part 3: Adding it all up

Now that we’ve detailed all of Sarah and Laura’s essential expenses, it’s time to add everything up in some nice, organized tables!

Important notes about the numbers

  • Only essential expenses are included.
  • Discretionary expenses (e.g. travel, gifts, etc.) are not included.
  • Expenses are rounded to the nearest dollar. 
  • Expenses are displayed in the interviewee’s home currency.
  • In this interview, the home currency is Australian dollars (AU$).
  • For your convenience, I’ve included a currency converter in each section. I hope you find it useful!

For detailed explanations about which expenses are included (or not) see my How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life intro post.

How much does it cost to live the FIRE life in Adelaide?

1. Housing

ExpenseMonthly (AUD)Annual (AUD)
Mortgage$1,270$15,240
Property tax$82$984
Strata/HOA fees
$0$0
Home insurance$74$888
Maintenance$100$1,200
TOTAL$1,526 (with mortgage)
$256 (no mortgage)
$18,312 (with mortgage)
$3,072 (no mortgage)

Home equity opportunity cost: $8,000/year

Note: jump to the Home equity opportunity cost section for details on this optional ‘expense’.

2. Transportation

ExpenseMonthly (AUD)Annual (AUD)
Vehicle loan$0$0
Vehicle insurance$108$1,296
Gas$50$600
Vehicle maintenance$25$300
Bike maintenance$0$0
Parking and tolls$0$0
Transit$0$0
TOTAL$183$2,196

3. Food

ExpenseMonthly (AUD)Annual (AUD)
Groceries$300$3,600
Eating out$150$1,800
TOTAL$450$5,400

4. Utilities and bills

ExpenseMonthly (AUD)Annual (AUD)
Natural gas$67$804
Electricity$79$948
Water$83$996
Garbage and recycling$0$0
Internet$70$840
Home phone$0$0
Cell phones$30$360
Streaming entertainment and cable TV$0$0
TOTAL$329$3,948

5. Other essentials

ExpenseMonthly (AUD)Annual (AUD)
Life and disability insurance$40$480
Medical insurance$216$2,592
Out-of-pocket medical expenses$50$600
Clothing and footwear$40$480
Personal care$25$300
Technology$0$0
TOTAL$371$4,452

Grand totals

ExpenseMonthly (AUD)Annual (AUD)
Housing$1,526 (with mortgage)
$256 (no mortgage)
$18,312 (with mortgage)
$3,072 (no mortgage)
Transportation$183$2,196
Food$450$5,400
Utilities and bills$329$3,948
Other essentials$371$4,452
TOTAL$2,859 (with mortgage)
$1,589 (no mortgage)
$34,308 (with mortgage)
$19,068 (no mortgage)

Part 4: Other expenses

This is a special section that’s just for fun! It’s the place for my interviewees to mention any expenses that they’ve done a really good job of optimizing and/or just want to share. 

These expenses won’t be included in the totals (just to keep things as standardized as possible). I hope you find this section interesting and informative. Here’s an additional expense that Sarah and Laura wanted to share:

Pets

When it comes to dogs, we love buying food in bulk. The bigger the bag, the better. As our pup is only little, this means we only need to buy her food twice a year!

Chrissy’s takeaways

Thanks again to Sarah and Laura for sharing their expenses. That was such a nice peek into the FIRE life in Adelaide! I loved so many things about their interview but have narrowed it down to three top takeaways:

Affordable beach living

No, that’s not an oxymoron—at least not in Adelaide! According to Sarah and Laura, it’s “… one of the cheapest and most livable cities in Australia.” Wow, is it ever! My jaw dropped when they mentioned a house close to the beach can be had for under $350K AUD ($320K CAD or $252K USD). What?! 

And, unlike other low-cost-of-living areas, Adelaide has the added benefit of lovely, mild weather all year round. How is this city such a Goldilocks, and why are we all not living there?! If you’re looking to relocate to a FIRE-friendly place, I would put Adelaide very high on that list!

The lifestyle business path to SideFIRE

I noticed that Sarah and Laura’s internet, cell phone, and technology costs are covered by their business. How cool is that? Not only does their business provide enough income to cover all their expenses (plus extra), it also allows them to write off some of their regular expenses.

This is an under-appreciated aspect of running a small business or side hustle—particularly from home. We realized similar benefits from our side hustle/house hack of hosting homestay students. Not only did it earn us an income, but it also allowed us to write off expenses we’d have to pay for anyway. Amazing, right?

In addition, Sarah and Laura’s food blog (and our homestay hosting) are lifestyle businesses. In other words: the business’s first priority is to provide a desired lifestyle; financial needs and goals come second. 

Running a successful lifestyle business has helped Sarah and Laura to achieve their goal of SideFIRE, which they define as:

“… a mix between Barista FIRE—where you’re still working a small part-time job, and SlowFI, where it’s not necessarily the quickest route, but has a nice balance of work and life.”

SideFIRE via a lifestyle business is an excellent way to make the long journey to FIRE more fulfilling and sustainable. (Plus—it could also be another way to overcome the doldrums of FI!)

Frugality, intentionality, and DIY pay off

Have you done the math yet? Have you converted Sarah and Laura’s essential spending into your home currency? If not, go do that now! (Don’t forget to use the nifty currency converters I’ve sprinkled throughout the post.) 

If you live in a developed nation as I do, you’re likely amazed at how little Sarah and Laura spend to live in a very desirable part of the world. Their mortgage-free cost for all their essentials is a staggeringly low $19,068 AUD ($17,445 CAD or $13,758 USD)!!!

Reading through their interview, it’s apparent how they achieved this very low spending: frugality, intentionality, and DIY. These tactics are nothing magical (and maybe even boring)! But when practiced consistently, they produce powerful results. Well done, Sarah and Laura!

Closing thoughts

Through this interview series, I’ve learned about a handful of cities that I’d seriously consider moving to. (If I could ever tear myself away from Vancouver!) These places all offer a high standard of living at an affordable price. 

But so far, none have had the beaches, palm trees, and mild weather that Adelaide offers! Thanks to Sarah and Laura’s interview, Adelaide is now on my list as a must-see when I visit Australia. (Even if only to verify its standing as one of the world’s most liveable and FIRE-friendly cities!

I’m so grateful to Sarah and Laura for sharing their story and expenses with my readers and me. It’s such a joy for me to live vicariously through my guests and experience the FIRE life in their locations. I hope you enjoyed their interview as much as I did!

Connect with Sarah and Laura

If you’d like to learn more about Sarah and Laura or read more of their content, visit them at their blog, Keepin’ It Frugal. You can also connect with them on Instagram and Facebook

Share your thoughts

Were you surprised by Sarah and Laura’s essential expenses? Are any of them significantly different from where you live? Share your thoughts in the comments, along with your own money-saving tips!

My podcast co-host Money Mechanic lives with his wife in Victoria—BC’s beautiful capital city. It’s a HCOL area, but they do an amazing job of keeping their expenses low!

Ryan and her spouse live in affordable (and picturesque) Spokane, Washington. Their interview feels like an intimate, guided tour of the FIRE life in Spokane—I think you’ll love it!

Visit the intro page to learn more about the what and why behind the series and access the complete list of interviews.

Support this blog

If you liked this article and want more content like this, please support this blog by sharing it! Not only does it help spread the FIRE, but it lets me know what content you find most useful. (Which encourages me to write more of it!) 

You can also support this blog by visiting my recommendations page and purchasing through the links. Note that not every link is an affiliate link—some are just favourite products and services that I want to share. 🙂

As always, however you show your support for this blog—THANK YOU!

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Court @ Modern FImily
    November 24, 2021 at 6:52 pm

    My two fav FIRE accounts collide! We share sooo many of the same thoughts/values with these awesome ladies. Great interview and some great tips throughout!

    I keep bringing up the idea of “hey you come to Canada during your winter and we’ll come to Australia during our winter” idea 😉

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      November 25, 2021 at 9:27 pm

      Hi Court—awww, you’re so sweet! Thank you again for introducing me to Sarah and Laura. They are so inspiring. LOL, an Australia/Canada swap would be amaaazing!

  • Reply
    Teresa
    December 1, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    I cannot believe how low land tax is compared to Vancouver but then the water is expensive – almost same as land tax, although combined, it is still only about 1/4 of our rate. Like Chrissy, I cannot picture a house near a beach for $350k – time to move especially after the 3 “atmospheric rivers” we have had in the recent couple of weeks! My husband and I would love to spend a couple of months touring Australia some day when Covid is behind us…. always hopeful :-).

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      December 1, 2021 at 4:45 pm

      Hi Mom—you’re right, our land tax is very high in Vancouver. And we certainly don’t have the warm weather and palm trees that Adelaide has! Add to that their very low home prices and high standard of living, and they’ve got us beat!

      I, too, would love to visit Australia one day. I agree that a couple of months would be ideal to explore the country. There are so many amazing places to visit!

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