Cost of living - what are your thoughts?

Cost of living is a hot topic in Australia right now, with many people feeling the pressure of increased basic costs. We’d like to hear your thoughts on the cost of living, including:

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It’s worth considering approximately one third of Australian’s rent, one third own a home and are paying it off, while the final one third own a home debt free.

Any one out to buy a home or find a rental might suggest their greatest concern above all else is with the cost of accommodation.

The cost of rates, property insurance and maintenance (tradies if you can find one) are all going up too!

PS
While not all can due to circumstances, many of us can take steps to mitigate some increased costs of food, petrol and energy. The options when it comes to accommodation and related costs are limited.

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Cost of Living
We have noticed that our average weekly shopping has rapidly increased from maybe $125/wk for four to around $200/wk for four. That $200 is achieved with eschewing name brands, gathering as many of the yellow sticker markdowns we can corral, and minimising our meat, fruit and veg purchases to a minimum.

Cost of Petrol
We still have to deliver our young man to his activities. Yesterday we had to refill our fuel tank for $63 after driving him to and from two activities. While we are conscious of not doing any unnecessary trips, we don’t want stop him from attending his ongoing long term community activities. The money has to come from somewhere, so all discretionary spending has disappeared.

The cost of Energy
We try to minimise power usage, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. For example while the floods didn’t affect our home, we have been running the dehydrator and ceiling fans day and night due to the appallingly high humidity causing mould to appear everywhere the sun doesn’t shine. Although our power usage has remained fairly constant, allowing for seasonal variations, the cost keeps going up.

Pensions haven’t come close to keeping up with the real cost of living for a long time.

The problems as I see them:

  1. Perhaps if the items used to measure the cost of living included everything that the average person has to pay, it might better reflect the financial stress being felt.
  2. How many politicians in Canberra go out shopping for food, clothing, and other everyday necessities on a regular basis? I’d venture to suggest not many.
  3. The base salary for a Federal MP was $211,250 in 2020 which was 3.2 times the average annual salary of $65,540. (Their relativity has declined since 2013 when it was 3.5 times the average annual salary.) Add onto this the allowances they receive.
  4. Continuing using the 2020 figures, base salary for a Federal MP is 8.23 times a single person’s pension (approximately $25,678 per year), and 5.46 times what a couple would receive (approximately $38,709 per year couple combined).

So how can the majority of these politicians directly relate to the financial stresses felt by normal working people when they appear to be habituated to living a seven star luxury lifestyle?

It may be of passing interest for those who don’t know José Mujica to read about him. He has been described as “the world’s humblest head of state” due to his austere lifestyle and his donation of around 90 percent of his salary to charities that benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs. It is not necessary to go that far, but perhaps it politicians had to live on a pension for a couple of months, they may realize what the real cost of living is.

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Although called voluntary redundancy, my enforced redundancy forced a lifestyle change on me. The pandemic has triggered much the same for many more people. Now climate change, ie, weather, and Russian invasion has triggered global cost of living expenses. Frugality has become much more commonplace for large parts of the community.

For baby-boomers frugality was normal in their childhood. But for later generations it is a totally new experience. It was common for mum to say, sorry I still need you to do your chores, but NO pocket money this week, so instead of getting the bus to school, I ran the 2kms, to save the bus fare, 2nd hand shoes were the norm, etc.

So, for years now I have shopped for seasonal fruit and veg, but even they are now 30% more expensive, from my green grocers, and they are 30-50% cheaper than Coles and Woolies, but unlike the latter not on my doorstep. So, either I ride my bike for several small shops, or wait until I need a major shop and take the car. In WA, Coles and Woolies still have whole aisles of empty shelves, and hence prices are higher.

About 4 years ago, I decided to switch to a smaller car with better fuel consumption. It can be a squeeze, there are some things like towing a small trailer I can no longer do, recreation trips mean the car is literally packed to the rafters - the journey isn’t so comfortable, but the destination is worthwhile. My neighbours have 4 cars, two are for kids who are still at school, I had to work for 3 years before I had a large enough deposit for an HP loan for a car.

The frugality of times past, have their benefits today for me, but must be quite a strain for younger generations.

Instead of coffee from a café, it might mean free instant coffee from the work kitchen, and homemade sandwiches for lunch. Public transport is cheaper than motoring, particularly if your get rid of one or more cars, the second hand car market is good for sellers at present.

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I concur re your thoughts about MPs.
Although I am sure many start their political life with roots based on a much lower income, they soon operate in an environment of entitlement and wealth. Fellow MPs a third with negative geared investments, the lobbyists, business execs, portfolio experts, media, the influencers, are likewise on comparable incomes living comparable lifestyles, now all to benefit from an $8000pa tax bonus.

It is one thing to have a graduated tax system, but quite another to for it to include a Deductions system that systemically favours higher income, eg, some one on $45k gets a rebate of $1.90 for a $10 work related diary, whereas someone on $180K (say an MP or a dentist) get a rebate of $4.50 for the identical expense, except they actually have a $2000 tablet for the same purpose and get $900 rebate!

Their disposable income is so much higher than the average or poor, that such costs really ought to be trivial to them, but often are not, because they commit, to much higher and lavish expenses of their affluent lifestyles.

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Wow! What a guy. And as for his atheism, he’s more christian than any other leader i know of. I say again, what a guy!!

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On the matter of the cost of living:

  1. Petrol… since I no longer drive anywhere much, I last bought Petrol when it was $1.65 or so. I may top up soon but don’t need to, I still have more than half a tank left. Still, it will be less of a shock to do it piecemeal.

  2. Food: trying to control spending there… but, as a diabetic, I need to have fresh veg and meat (though less of the latter) so costs are spiralling up and my pension doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. The thing is, these costs will continue to rise… droughts, fires and flood have seen to that and theres no government on the planet that can control those… they could do something to support farmers and growers to get their farms ready to produce again.

  3. Energy: I’ve now reduced gas use almost entirely to the HWS/showers. I find that my new electric skillet and steaming my veg in the microwave oven has put paid to high gas bills, and the front loader washing machine does internal heating so no need to use HWS for that. I don’t bake but if ever I did, that would be done in the MW over also. Electric bill is as high as ever, not for any other reason than in the Winter and Summer quarters I use a lot of cooling and heating. I don’t use the heat pump dryer much anymore so it doesn’t contribute that much to the bill. This year’s heating bill could reduce to nothing, I just bought a couple of “Oodies” and wearing those will sort the heating. Summer… once you’ve removed your gear theres not much more to be done except turn on the a/c, and this year I needed it for longer because humidity, which I do not do well with.

I’m lucky to be a home owner, but maintenance is something I need to take care of, and I’m afraid the house is falling into disrepair in some areas… that is going to be interesting… plumbers are not cheap.

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Depending on which State you are in they have assistance for these costs but each system has different names. If you do a search for your State you should find links to their particular systems that they use. It generally covers small to medium home maintenance tasks such as essential repairs including electrical, building and plumbing.

Some are provided by the Federal Govt, some by State Govt and some by Councils.

A Fed Govt link for maintenance

https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/aged-care-services/home-or-garden-maintenance

A more broad selection before that page which offers more choices

Victorian support

In NSW many local Councils provide a home maintenance service to pensioners. Contacting a local council should elicit the way to access these services.

Qld system

Note that most of these systems point the enquirer to the Federal Govt Aged Care system which can be the best provider of assistance if a person is eligible.

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We are on a fixed income and even small increases in the three categories mentioned have a BIG impact on our budget.

We already live as frugally as possible so there are no more easy savings to be squeezed out of our existing budget. Soon we will need to start cutting out specific activities altogether and I fear for what that will mean to our state of mind.

The paltry $250 hand out in the budget will help a little but at the current rate of price increases will only put off the inevitable for very short time.

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I will be interested to see if pensioners get the measly increase we get twice a year… its due about now… or will they dodge it as they did in 2020 by offering one off payment and not increasing the pension for months which is a terrible outcome.

[edit] never mind, its coming. A whole $2.87 increase/fortnight. Wow.

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Isn’t this it?
Approx 2% increase while the assets tests cap has been increased by approx 1%. Hardly a life saver given the rate of increase in value of done classes of assets.

The Age Pension, Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment rates will increase by $20.10 to $987.60 a fortnight for a single person and by $30.20 to $1,488.80 a fortnight for a couple.

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As advised by @mark_m the increase is $20.10 per fortnight. This increase applied from 20 March. It looks like your recent payment included 12 days at the old rate and two days at the new rate. Your upcoming payment should include the full $20.10 increase.

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No, it isn’t. It used to be pegged to a different metric, I forget which one, but since it was altered, the increases have been pretty pathetic. Also, remember, when the government was busy handing out extra payments in 2020, it “paused” the pension increases… but when it resumed, it resumed at the old rate, so our payment is actually about a year behind. I think they call it cooking the books.

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Yes it should, thanks :slight_smile:

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It would be useful to have an independent assessment of what the actual expenses really are, and how much they have increased each year. There is no such person as an average pensioner. It would take a deep look at a number of retirees and pensioners each with different circumstances and locations. Some living cost pressures will be shared, others depending on where you are.

In particular it’s important to also look at what each is going or doing without or putting off because of the cost. How does one measure quality of life when just living is driven by a need to minimise expense. The fewer family we have as we age the more challenging. And since we are all living longer, when it comes to looking at family for support many now in their 80’s or older are looking to their children now in their 60’s.

For those in more rural locations, where taxis are rare and public transport not accessible there is the added burden of a reliable vehicle, a reliance on family and friends, or that expensive upgrade of moving into town. Note many smaller communities lack navigable footpaths. The mobility scooter needs to be road ready?

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I’m in an outer Newcastle suburb, we have curb and gutters but no footpath. People are pretty much forced to walk on the very narrow roads… ditto mobility scooters. But there are bike/walking paths all through the suburb, just not in front of houses. Except on the main roads (well some of them)… Poor planning

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We are at a stage of life where our costs of living are generally decreasing (kids becoming adults) so I have been caught by surprise by the sudden onslaught of media attention in this area.

However, I have become quite concerned with the growing trend of paying someone to do something that will cost you a fraction of the price to do yourself. My concern grew out of the mainstream acceptance of meal boxes by people who are quite able to cook for themselves (acknowledging that for some with special needs they are great). It saddens me that many don’t seem to assess the extra costs that companies are inserting into our lives - of other people’s labour, of having stuff delivered, of upgrading phones frequently, of sending both parents to work when a home parent saves so much money for a family, of paying others to clean, mow, garden, wash your car etc.

While the costs of the basics (accommodation, simple food, petrol and energy) are vital for those already with very tightened belts, maybe some others need a time of austerity to highlight where money trickles out unnecessarily.

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Food is definitely more expensive, by at least 20% this past year.

We don’t spend much on petrol, so no real impact there.

Having changed power suppliers, I can’t comment on electricity costs.

The main concern for us is that I earn very little and drawing down from savings is the only way we survive.

Sorry to give you the bad news, but its a world wide issue. Friends and relatives in UK and Europe are complaining about exactly the same. We are a global economy where cost of living, inflation, interest rates and house prices are a reflection of this.
While the general population do not have any control over these issues we can adapt by taking measures to make savings.
Its odd how we used to in the 90s seriously think about driving smaller cars to save on fuel, slowly we forgot about it and started buying SUVs and larger cars overall.

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My partner and I are semi retired and living in govt housing which is rent controlled. Fresh fruit and veg have been very high. My small car petrol fill is between 7 to 10$ more. My energy bill has been stable for 2 years.
I feel for families with kids with higher cost of living.
Mind you, why do so many people have big cars if they don’t really need it?

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