If you are stuck between living in Australia versus living in California, one of the major factors that will help you make a choice is cost of living in the cities you are considering. Cost of living is the amount of money needed to cover basic living expenses such as housing, food, childcare, taxes, transportation, utility bills, healthcare, and much more in a particular area for some time.

It is important to note that the cost of living expenses can vary from one person to another and from one city to another because of factors such as location, lifestyle, family size et al.

What is the Cost of Living in Australia?

Weekly Cost of Living 

The weekly cost of living in Australia is around $2,200 per household. This estimate includes home loans or rent at an average of $600 a week, followed by food and eating out at $400, and insurance and other financial services at $200.

Monthly Cost of Living 

The average cost of living in Australia per month as stated by Numbeo is approximately AU $1,332.33. Please note that the cost stated above is excluding rent, which for a one-bedroom apartment would cost about AU $1,190.

ASFA estimates that the lump sum needed at retirement to support a comfortable lifestyle is $640,000 for a couple and $545,000 for a single person. This assumes a partial Age Pension. ASFA estimates that a modest lifestyle, which covers the basics, is mostly met by the Age Pension. Here is a breakdown of the cost of living in Australia

Food

  • Basic lunchtime menu (including a drink) in the business district – AU$21
  • Combo meal in fast food restaurant (big mac meal or similar) – AU$13
  • 500 gr (1 lb.) of boneless chicken breast – AU$6
  • 1 liter (1 qt.) of whole fat milk – AU$1.59
  • 12 eggs, large – AU$5.69
  • 1 kg (2 lb.) of tomatoes – AU$6
  • 500 gr (16 oz.) of local cheese – AU$8
  • 1 kg (2 lb.) of apples – AU$4.24
  • 1 kg (2 lb.) of potatoes – AU$3.14
  • 5 l (16 oz) domestic beer in the supermarket – AU$6
  • 1 bottle of red table wine, good quality – AU$19
  • 2 liters of Coca-Cola – AU$3.22
  • Bread for 2 people for 1 day – AU$2.65

Housing         

  • Monthly rent for 85 m2 (900 Sq ft) furnished accommodation in an expensive area – AU$3,092
  • Monthly rent for 85 m2 (900 Sq ft) furnished accommodation in the normal area – AU$2,137
  • Utilities 1 month (heating, electricity, gas, etc) for 2 people in an 85m2 flat – AU$242
  • Monthly rent for a 45 m2 (480 Sq ft) furnished studio in an expensive area – AU$1,963
  • Monthly rent for a 45 m2 (480 Sq ft) furnished studio in a normal area – AU$1,526
  • Utilities 1 month (heating, electricity, gas) for 1 person in 45 m2 (480 Sq ft) studio – AU$171
  • Internet 8 Mbps (1 month) – AU$74
  • 40” flat screen TV – AU$539
  • Microwave 800/900-watt (Bosch, Panasonic, LG, Sharp, or equivalent brands) – AU$222
  • Laundry detergent (3 l. ~ 100 oz.) – AU$12
  • Hourly rate for cleaning help – AU$39

Clothes

  • 1 pair of jeans (Levis 501 or similar) – AU$109
  • 1 summer dress in a high street store (Zara, H&M, or similar retailers) – AU$66
  • 1 pair of sports shoes (Nike, Adidas, or equivalent brands) – AU$148
  • 1 pair of men’s leather business shoes – AU$163

Transportation          

  • Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI 150 CV (or equivalent), with no extras, new – AU$31,217
  • 1 liter (1/4 gallon) of gas – AU$1.95
  • Monthly ticket public transport – AU$153

Personal Care

  • Cold medicine for 6 days (Tylenol, Frenadol, Coldrex, or equivalent brands) – AU$9
  • 1 box of antibiotics (12 doses) – AU$15
  • Short visit to private doctor (15 minutes) – AU$76
  • 1 box of 32 tampons – AU$7
  • Deodorant, roll-on (50ml ~ 1.5 oz.) – AU$4.41
  • Hair shampoo 2-in-1 (400 ml ~ 12 oz.) – AU$4.80
  • 4 rolls of toilet paper – AU$2.88
  • Tube of toothpaste – AU$3.23
  • Standard men’s haircut in ex-pat area of the city – AU$33

Entertainment           

  • Basic dinner out for two in a neighborhood pub – AU$60
  • 2 tickets to the movies – AU$41
  • 2 tickets to the theater (best available seats) – AU$235
  • Dinner for two at an Italian restaurant in the ex-pat area including appetizers, main course, wine, and dessert – AU$104
  • 1 cocktail drink in a downtown club – AU$19
  • Cappuccino in ex-pat area of the city – AU$4.86
  • 1 beer in neighborhood pub (500ml or 1pt.) – AU$10
  • iPad Wi-Fi 128GB – AU$736
  • 1 min. of prepaid mobile tariff (no discounts or plans) – AU$0.25
  • 1 month of gym membership in the business district – AU$76
  • 1 package of Marlboro cigarettes – AU$41

What is the Cost of Living in California?

The Cost of Living Index released in 2020 shows that the average city in California has a 38% higher cost of living than the average city in the United States. Please note that California is the third largest state in the U.S. after Alaska and Texas.

According to 2020 data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the annual average cost of living in California is $46,636.

For example, a single person needs an annual income of $46,636 to live comfortably in California. A family of 4 will need $114,715. Housing usually takes most of the income, but utilities, food, healthcare, and transportation are also important. For families, childcare is the next major expense after housing.

Available data shows that California’s living wage is $19.41, or $40,371 a year for an individual. A family of four requires $27.42, or $101,378 a year. Childcare costs will cost a family with two working adults $22,259 a year, slightly more than the $24,682 they can expect to spend on housing.

Category

Here is the Average Annual Per-Capita Cost Per Category in California;

  • Housing and Utilities – $9,542
  • Health Care – $7,638
  • Food and Beverages (non-restaurant) – $3,630
  • Gas and Energy Goods – $688
  • All Other Personal Expenditures – $25,138

Housing Costs in California

Average Housing Costs in California: $1,248 to $2,357 per month

Here is what housing costs look like every month, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • Median monthly mortgage cost: $2,357
  • Median studio rent: $1,248
  • Median one-bedroom rent: $1,379
  • Median two-bedroom rent: $1,655
  • Median three-bedroom rent: $1,852
  • Median four-bedroom rent: $1,852
  • Median gross rent: $1,614

It is important to note that home prices can vary greatly throughout California. These are the typical home prices in 20 major California cities, according to Zillow, in September 2021.

Utility Costs in California

Average Utility Costs in California: $375 per month

Utility

Here is the average California Bill

  • Electricity – $117
  • Gas – $63
  • Cable & Internet – $118
  • Water – $77

Groceries & Food

Average Grocery & Food Costs in California: $302.50 per person, per month.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that California’s average annual non-restaurant food cost per person is $3,630. That equates to $302.50 per person, per month. The average family of four could end up spending $1,210 per month on groceries.

Where you live in California can have an impact on food pricing. The Council for Community and Economic Research, which ranks the food costs in major American cities, shared the cost of groceries in California cities for the second quarter of 2021, from lowest to highest.

California City

Here is the Grocery Items Index;

  • Bakersfield – $99.3
  • Stockton – $104.5
  • Sacramento – $107.8
  • Anaheim – $111.7
  • Los Angeles – $113.0
  • San Diego – $113.4
  • Oakland – $126.0
  • San Francisco – $130.6

Transportation

Average Transportation Costs in California: $4,900 to $13,317 per year

How many children you have and how many working adults are in your family can all affect how much transportation will cost you in California. The following results from MIT’s Living Wage Calculator can give you a general idea of what to expect cost-wise.

Family Makeup

Average Annual Transportation Cost

  • One adult, no children – $4,900
  • Two working adults, no children – $8,987
  • Two working adults, two children – $13,317

Health Care

Average Health Care Costs in California: $7,638 per person, per year.

According to the 2020 Bureau of Economic Analysis Personal Consumption Expenditures by State report, the average annual cost of health care per Californian is $7,638.

Your specific health care needs and your coverage also play a large role in how much health care will cost you each year.

Child Care

Average Child Care Costs in California: $1,269 to $1,785 or more per child, per month.

As expected, child care is one of the larger monthly expenses. In the state of California, what you can expect to spend depends on the age of your child and if you choose to have home-based family care or not.

Type of Child Care

Average Cost Per Month, Per Child

  • Infant Classroom – $1,785
  • Toddler Classroom – $1,388
  • Home-based Family Child Care – $1,269

Taxes

Highest Marginal Tax Rate in California: 13.3%. California residents are used to paying hefty tax bills. State income taxes can go as high as 13.3% for those at the top of the graduated-rate income scale. That is the highest state income tax rate in the country, as noted by the Tax Foundation’s State Individual Income Tax Rates and Brackets for 2021.

Of course, most earners still need to pay federal income taxes. If you are looking for somewhere to live that doesn’t charge state income tax, consider Florida, Tennessee, Texas, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nevada, Washington, or Alaska.

Miscellaneous Costs

It is important to have an understanding of what the essentials (food, rent, utilities, etc.) will cost you, but we don’t just purchase essentials. What would the fun in that be? The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that personal expenditures per Californian come out to $25,138 per year. This is what you are expected to spend some of that money on (costs are as of Nov. 3, 2021):

  • Tickets for one day at Disneyland: $104 or more, depending on the day and ticket type
  • Annual family membership for the Monterey Bay Aquarium: $250
  • A day at the beach: Starting at $0 at beaches with free parking
  • World-famous Pink’s Hot Dog in Los Angeles: $6.25 for one chili cheese dog

In Summary,

  • The cost of living in Sydney (Australia) is 17% cheaper than in Los Angeles, California (United States)
  • The cost of living in Melbourne (Australia) is 16% cheaper than in San Diego, California (United States)
  • The cost of living in Melbourne (Australia) is 20% cheaper than in Los Angeles, California (United States)
  • The cost of living in Perth (Australia) is 26% cheaper than in Los Angeles, California (United States)
  • The cost of living in Adelaide (Australia) is 33% cheaper than in Los Angeles, California (United States)
  • The cost of living in Sydney (Australia) is 11% cheaper than in San Jose, California (United States)
  • The cost of living in Sydney (Australia) is 55% more expensive than in San Antonio, California (United States)

From the available data provided above, it is obvious that it is cheaper to live in Australia when compared to California.