Budgeting | Life | Personal Finance | Personal Stories | Article

How Much Living Abroad and Studying in Adelaide for a Year Cost Me

by Miao Xin Cheng | 16 Jul 2019 | 5 mins read

Living abroad for the first time can be scary. There’s a lot of uncertainty in almost everything: keeping up with your bills, paying the rent on time, and handling groceries on your own – not to mention saving up for a rainy day. It’s nothing like life in Singapore, if you’re able to lean on your parents.


And if you’re gearing up for university life overseas, you’ll want to prepare yourself financially – or risk going broke AF. That’s why I’m sharing my budget breakdown with you from my year in Adelaide.



  • I lived on a monthly allowance from my parents (who also paid for my tuition fees)
  • Expenses included here are the consistent ones like bills, groceries, and rent
  • All amounts are in SGD

Here’s the breakdown, without further ado.



I chose to live on campus for convenience in a 5 BR shared unit. Living on campus is more expensive (including utilities) than getting my own place, but getting to class is easy – and I didn’t have to worry about train breakdowns.

The alternative? A fully-furnished 3 BR unit, 10 minutes away from campus. It’s slightly cheaper, but you pay more for commuting.

Type Monthly Yearly
On Campus $1,000 $12,000
Off Campus $940 $11,280


Adelaide isn’t a very big city so getting around with public transport is fairly convenient. Free trams run in the city as well. Here’s what you’ll pay if you take the bus, Uber, or normal cabs.

Type $
Bus $2.03 to $3.70
Bus (concession) $0.98 to $1.83
Uber $2.20 (base) + $0.40/minute + $1/km
Cab (weekdays) $3.70 (base) + $1.87/km
Cab (weekends) $4.90 (base) + $2.16/km


Transport cost per month: $12
Transport cost per year: $144



The typical uni student diet is a black hole filled only with instant noodles, takeout, and Ubereats. Weekly grocery trips were crucial in keeping a full fridge for meal prep that saves my wallet from unnecessary food delivery costs. Everyone literally gets their groceries from either coles, woolworths, or aldi. They offer weekly specials all year round, so it’s important to keep a lookout and know when to stock up household products!

Groceries cost per month: $500
Groceries cost per year: $6,000


Eating Out/Entertainment

Eating out in Australia is generally more expensive. On average, even meals at a fast food chain/food court is $10-20. This is why I try to make my own meals as much as I can.

Movie tickets usually cost about $9-$20 depending on how new the movie and theatre are. Netflix or any other streaming websites can also save you a ton of money in the long run.

Most of my activities in Adelaide include beach hopping, going on hikes (which are free; nature is truly my best friend in this situation), and if I’m really in need of some alcohol, I’d crack open a bottle of wine (or two), which costs about $10-$20.

Entertainment cost per month: $200
Entertainment cost per year: $2,400


Travel included short road trips and visiting family, which wasn’t much. Each return ticket cost about $150-170 (a lot of my flights were booked on the day itself/the day before).Prices are definitely cheaper if you plan ahead!

It was hard to calculate a monthly expense for this category because I did not have a consistent travel itinerary. The amount I spent on traveling in 2018 while living in Adelaide totaled to $1,846, and this also includes the expenses during those trips.

Total spent on travel: $1,846

Type Monthly Yearly
Rent $1,000 $12,000
Transport $12 $144
Groceries $500 $6,000
Entertainment/Eating Out $200 $2,400
Travelling N/A $1,846
Total $1,865.83 $22,390

Total expenses in a year in Adelaide: $22,390

Concluding Thoughts

If there’s anything that you could take away from reading this, here are my two greatest learning points:

  1. Living abroad can be exciting, so sometimes we may make the mistake of treating it like a holiday instead of trying to settle into a new place.
  2. Prepare yourself ahead of time. It is important to figure out how much your new lifestyle is going to cost so that you can plan out your expenses.

I have learned from my own personal experience that giving yourself a general budget without having to categorize or keep track of what is being spent is a great recipe for draining your bank account, especially when living abroad on your own.

Back-breaking work, mate

To be honest, I had a hard time keeping to my budget at the start of the year. Being in a new country, I was excited to explore new activities and restaurants. Having to also factor in costs like kitchenware, toiletries and homeware made budgeting difficult for a newbie.

At the end of every day, it’s important to take time and write down everything that you have spent. This is really important because you may forget the little things if you procrastinate on this.

Making a habit of tracking your finances and being able to cut out unnecessary expenses takes time and should be done progressively throughout the year as you’re living abroad. Instead of trying to overwhelm yourself with everything that needs to be done while you try and settle into a new place, remember that it’s better to start off small when you want to build up good habits.