When it comes to budgeting, what you need to remember is everyone’s situation is completely different. Nobody can tell you what your budget should be. Some people eat more, some cars use more fuel, some people like to go drinking at the weekends.
With that in mind, this budget is what we experienced along the East Coast. We eat out rarely, our car is old and drinks fuel like it’s fruit juice, we free camp and we often do self-guided visits in favour of paid tours.
Thanks to having a fridge in the van, we’re able to do a weekly shop and can eat pretty well from home. Our cart regularly consists of fresh meat (including steak and salmon if we want to splash out), fresh veggies and of course; plenty of road trip snacks.
An average weekly shop (at Coles) is around $80. That’s for two people for 5-7 days depending on how quickly we demolish our snacks.
We have managed to do a couple of weeks on $0 thanks to Coles Fly-Buys app and the points we’ve saved through it. If you haven’t joined this points scheme yet… you need to!
You can, of course, find fruit and veggies a lot cheaper in towns/cities that have farmers markets but that’s something we always forget to do.
Minimum monthly food budget*: £320
*Minimum monthly food budget is based on a basic shop at Coles without alcohol or branded products, for a couple.
While we’ve never paid for a campsite, we have stayed in Air B+B’s before had the van, we also stayed in a working hostel as part of getting our 88days. If you’re looking for a budget that includes luxury hotels… we’re sorry to say, that’s something we have 0 experience in for Australia.
In Australia, Hostels can range anywhere from $20 to $40+ a night each, depending on your room which will most likely be shared with up to 6 other people, have a shared washroom with the rest of the floor and a limited kitchen.
As a couple, we found it cheaper to book an Air B+B, spent $70+ a night for both of us and get a private room with our own washroom and kitchen.
Free campsites (both official and unofficial*) are really easy to find if you use WikiCamps so unless you want/need an electric hookup, paying for a pitch isn’t worth it. There are places along the coast that aren’t as welcoming to free-camping, so be prepared to be a little further out of town in places like Byron Bay and Rainbow Beach.
Paid campsites are similar prices to hostels and vary depending on what amenities they have. The further north you get, the more expensive they seem to be. Prices range from $20 – $50 a night.
Minimum monthly accommodation budget**:$840
*Officer Travels doesn’t take responsibility for your use of unofficial campsites.
** Minimum budget based on a $30 a night room (per person) or pitch (per vehicle).
If you’re wondering why showering has it’s own budget section, it’s because when you’re using free camps it’s rare you get a free shower there too. So sometimes you’ll have to pay to shower. However, some places are a lot better for free showers than others -Melbourne and Townsville are amazing for free showers.
We’ve never paid more than $3 per person to shower and you’ll often find that if a service station has trucky showers, they’ll let you use them if you fill your tank. There are also lots of free outdoor showers along the coast but showering in our swimmers in front of beachgoers isn’t something we’re comfortable with… they’re also often freezing.
Where to find showers:
FREE – libraries, shopping centres and near sports fields.
CHEAP – swimming centres, sports halls or truck stops.
Minimum monthly shower budget*: $48
*Minimum monthly shower budget is per person based on $3 showers 4x a week, assuming you don’t find any free showers.
Finding a laundrette is something we’ve had to get used to while being on the road. We’ve also got out of the habit of washing our clothes after only being worn once. Most laundrettes have the same prices, we’ve not come across any that have been ridiculously expensive. The only thing you need to consider is having loose change on you as not all laundrettes will have a ‘notes to change machine’. Usually, there’s a shop or cafe nearby that will happily give you change without purchasing.
A normal load is usually $4, we don’t separate our whites from colours so everything just goes in together. Drying is often $1 for 6 minutes and an average load will be dry after 24 minutes on a warm cycle. How often you do a laundrette run will obviously depend on how many clothes you bring with you and how well you cope with wearing your clothes more than twice.
If you’re staying at paid campsites, they usually include a free laundry room so this will also reduce your laundry costs.
Minimum monthly laundry budget*: $64
*Minimum laundry budget is for wash and dry, assuming you do one load of washing every week.
This is probably the biggest bill we have, especially if we top up both phones every month – something we don’t always do. It’s taken us a while to find the best budget-friendly way to do this as we need heaps of data each month as well as international calls/texts. We’ve tried 3 companies over the last 2 years, and as far as signal goes for the East Coast; it doesn’t matter who you go with.
Costing is a whole different ball game though and Telstra is without a doubt the most expensive for what you get but has a better signal for inland. Kogan is our favourite for data, and Optus offers the best international services.
To show a true comparison, we’ll first show you what each company offers for $30. Then we’ll show you the plans we use each month.
Telstra*: 8GB – unlimited calls/texts – $5 credit – international calls
Optus**: 10GB – 10GB steaming data*** – unlimited calls/texts – international calls – $5 credit
Kogan****: 13GB – unlimited calls/texts
Here’s what we do:
Kogan: $49.90 – 30gb data only
Optus: $30 10GB – 10GB steaming data*** – unlimited calls/texts – international calls – $5 credit
Almost every month we’ve received bonuses from Optus, from extra data to half price packages so most months we don’t need both packages unless we’re away from libraries (for their free wifi)
Monthly minimum data budget*****: $30
*Telstra packages last for 28 days and allow data rollover for unused data.
** Optus packages last for 28 days and allow data rollover for unused data up to 50gb.
*** Streaming data is used for Netflix, Stand and Iview. No data is used from your main data.
**** Kogan packages last for 30 days
***** Minimum data budget is for one device using an average amount of data
Ok, so we have our own van, which cuts down the costs of public transport dramatically. We’ve only ever used it in the bigger cities where driving around the city (and parking) is pretty difficult. Each city has different transportation options and with that, the prices change dramatically too.
Melbourne is without a doubt the easiest city to get around via public transport. They use a ‘Myki Card’ that can be bought at all stations as well as newsagents, like 7Eleven. The Myki Card gives you access to trams, trains and buses within the Metropolitan Area.
You are required to top up the card before you use any transport, this can be done daily or weekly depending on your length of stay; for us, it worked out cheaper to buy a weekly (7day) pass.
– Daily 2 hour pass* – $4.40. You’re required to pay again if you travel once your 2-hour limit is up.
– Daily pass* – $8.80. Unlimited travel for the day
– Weekly pass* – $44. Gives you 7 days unlimited from the day of purchase.
Free travel before 7:15am and a weekend daily cap of $6.60.
You pay by simply tapping when you get on and tapping when you get off (Train stations require you to tap on/off as you leave the station, rather than the platform or individual train)
Minimum monthly Melbourne Transport budget**: $172
* Price based on adult price for both zones (1+2)
*Based on one person using the weekly fair for 4 weeks.
It’s worth noting that there is also a free city tram that takes you around the CBD. This can save you a lot of time/money if you learn which stops are included.
You can find out more about the areas and where the boundaries are here.
Sydney works very similar to Melbourne, except there is (currently) no free tram – a tram service is in the works but no details have been released about prices. Your Opal Card will give you access to buses, ferries and trains, with the same tap on – tap off rules as Melbourne’s Myki.
Sydney’s card system is called Opal. You can also use the app on your phone to tap on and off now, which was released after we left. You can only get your Opal card from the bigger stations and newsagents.
With Opal Card, the charge is determined on how far you have travelled, and on which mode of transport, rather than zones or time limit. This means it can work out a lot more expensive if you’re travelling a lot in one day.
As you can see, it can get very complicated trying to work out how much a trip is going to cost. The Opal App is handy for that.
There is also a daily fee cap of $15.80 and a Sunday fee of $2.70 – so save those long day trips for a Sunday to save money.
Minimum monthly Sydney Transport budget*: $280
*This is based on one person spending $10 a day for 4 weeks.
Thing biggest surprise for transport in Brisbane was the $10 card fee just to get the card. It’s the same tap on/off methods as other cities, this time called Translink. Translink fares take the same approach as Melbourne, in that it’s based on zones rather than distance. This means it’s slightly easier to wrap your head around until you realised there are 8 zones.
The Translink Card works for the majority of South Queensland and also Cairns, but for the purpose of this budget, we’re going to focus solely on Brisbane which knocks the zones down from 8 to 3.
Translink gets you to access buses, trains, trams and ferries. There is also an option to use it on the airbuses but this is something we haven’t looked in to (more info on that here)
Zone 1 = $3.31* peak // $2.65* off-peak
Zone 2 = $4.03* peak // $3.22* off-peak
Zone 3 = $6.16* peak // $4.93* off-peak
There are no fee caps in Brisbane, but after your 8th journey, the rest are half price. If there is an event on in the city, transport around the CBD is often free too. They have an events calendar that you can check for more info.
Minimum monthly Brisbane Transport budget**: $280
**This is based on one person doing 3 trips in zone 1, every day for 4 weeks. Not including the $10 card purchase.
As we spent such a small amount of time in Brisbane CBD, tied with having our van and being able to park close to where we needed to be, this was a hard one to budget out for. We topped up $30 and had used that by the time we left.
We’ve covered the cost of public transport, but what about travelling from city to city? It’s going to cost you in fuel. We’ve found fuel prices here to be pretty cheap compared to England. This budget section obviously depends on what car you have and how you drive, to how much fuel you’ll be buying. Generally, we fill up our van once a week if we’re staying in one area for a long time. That shoots to every other day if we’re making our way to the next place.
The average price for fuel works out around $1.10 per litre. It’s more in the more rural areas, and cheaper where there’s plenty of service stations. The app we mentioned earlier, Fuel Map Australia, can help you find the cheapest one near you.
A full tank for our Mazda E2000 averages at around $45-50, although it was closer to $90 in the outback.
Minimum monthly fuel budget: $500*
*This is filling your tank 10 times in a month, based on our Mazda E2000 and ‘economic’ driving.
We’re planning a more in-depth post soon about Buying a van in Australia. But in the meantime, why not check out the Van-Lifer Directory for some inspiration!