This year will be my 10th Anniversary of living in the Northern Territory. I moved here because the opportunity came up when I was young and slightly adventurous and I had nothing to lose. I consider myself half Queenslander, half Territorian.
The thing about living in the Northern Territory is that you are isolated and you pay for that isolation both in choice and in cost. In Darwin in particular, where huge oil and gas projects have led to huge influxes of workers, rents are astronomical.
This isn’t confined only to the Northern Territory. Anywhere remote across the country, or where mining is a big deal, you’ll notice the same effect.
Here are some of the ways I get by; a list of things I have learnt over the years to save money while still living in what is easily the most expensive area of Australia.
Eat seasonal fruit and veg; it costs less
One thing about remote living is the very average state of fruit and veg at the supermarket. The stuff just doesn’t last thanks to the huge number of kilmetres it has to travel unless it’s been blitzed to high heaven with pesticides, then it lasts forever. Not a good situation.
So, I get my fruit and veg from the local markets or the wholesaler. That does limit my options though – only things that are actually in season are available – which is good, as you have to set a realistic menu that will see you eating fresher food, at cheaper prices, that doesn’t go off as fast.
Gumtree, Op Shops and Garage Sales are your friend
The best thing about Darwin is we have a net migration rate of about 20,000 people every year. A lot of those people clean out their stuff before they go – either trying to downsize or cut down their moving costs – and a lot of it is stuff you can’t buy here. This means there are incredible deals available on near new furniture, baby gear and clothes through Gumtree and the local op shops and garage sales. Great deals are everywhere!
Bulk buying groceries online makes it easier
There are heaps of great websites around that offer incredible discounts on bulk groceries – things like laundry powder, toilet paper, deodorant, nappies etc. Generally the postage is pretty well priced too. If you order with a couple of friends you can split the postage and make it really worth your while.
This is also a good option for buying wine too if that’s your thing. A wine club or website with good deals and cheap transport can cut the costs down significantly.
Take advantage of your trips interstate; use them to save money
I’m all for buying locally but sometimes you just can’t justify the extra expense. That’s why whenever I go interstate, I visit all the shops we don’t have here (Myer, David Jones, Ikea, City Chic, Max Brenner to name just a few) and take advantage of the different ranges at the regular stores (Target is so much better interstate!). My extra luggage charge is so worth it.
A friend of mine in Alice Springs bought an entire flat pack kitchen interstate from Ikea, paid the excess freight with Qantas to bring it back and STILL saved money. Support the local economy where you can but do what you need to do to make your dollars go further.
Backloading and transporting good from another state to save
For bigger items, sometimes getting things transported can be a huge saving. Take for example my recent lounge suite purchase. The store I bought from has an Adelaide and a Darwin branch and corresponding websites. The lounge suite I bought had a normal price of $1899 (I did get it on sale though so relax!). On the Adelaide-based website, the same lounge suite was $1099. If I’d been planning a trip to Adelaide, I could have easily bought it at the cheaper price, paid a few hundred bucks to backload it onto a removal truck and saved the extra. If you have a really good friend who’ll do the buying and/or transporting for you, that’s even better!
Other stores like Ikea will provide a transport quote when you order stuff and you can decide if it’s worth your while to get it sent to your door.
Unfortunately, I still haven’t figured out a way to save on my crazy expensive rent ($400 a week for 1 bedroom) or the ridiculous petrol prices experienced by the Territory ($1.40+ a litre, often a good 10-15 cents per litre more expensive than other states) but when I do, I’ll share it for sure!
How do you save money when the cost of living continues to drag you down?
Please share your saving tips below.