Australia is amazing but it’s also a huge and expensive country to travel. Luckily the working holiday visa scheme allows young people to take a working holiday in Australia and make some money to fund their travels along the way.
Finding a job on your working holiday in Australia is one thing, but with the high cost of living and traveling here, actually being able to save a chunk of money to travel on further after your year in Australia can be hard.
But it is possible to save money on a working holiday in Australia!
I managed to save over AUD$15,000 working for 6 months in Australia, enough to fund more epic adventures and buy a campervan!
Read on to see how I did it and then download my free working holiday guide for all the tips you need to travel, work and save money in Australia.
How I saved $15,000 on my working holiday in Australia
The Start: Arriving in Melbourne
After 6 months of traveling in India and South East Asia the prices in Australia were a shock to the system and my funds were pretty low, so I started my job hunt almost as soon as I arrived in Melbourne in June.
Luckily, I had a friend to stay with which saved me a lot of money and made it easier to sort out all the necessary paperwork, set up a bank account, apply for a tax file number and medicare card and get an Australian sim card.
However, coming from the tropical heat of Asia to Melbourne in the middle of winter wasn’t really the sunny Australia I had imagined. Plus the whole process of looking for a job in an expensive city that reminded me of the UK was a reverse culture shock I didn’t want.
I knew that I couldn’t stay with my friend forever and quickly saw that my wages and savings would be swallowed by the cost of renting a place to live here. So after less than 2 weeks I had booked a flight up to sunny Cairns, North Queensland. (I know I’m an awful friend sorry!)
Up to Tropical North Queensland
Cairns was more like the sunny land down under that I had dreamed of when I decided to take a working holiday in Australia.
I started my job hunt straight away, I checked out a couple of working hostels that claimed to help you find work but didn’t like the idea of waiting 2 weeks for a job picking fruit that was only paid by the bucket load.
Plus the cost of staying in a dorm room would amount to more than renting my own room in a private house. Whilst I like hostel life but thought that these working hostels were a bit of a rip off and steered well clear.
So I just stayed in a regular backpackers hostel in Cairns and for a week made the public lagoon my job hunting base. I went everyday to use the free public wifi and spent most of the day applying for jobs on the internet and once my laptop battery ran out I would treat myself with a swim in the pool.
Finding a job on a working holiday in Australia is not as easy as it seems …
I soon realised too that being on a working holiday visa kind of limited me to what sort of jobs employers were willing to hire working visa holder for, backpackers who weren’t serious about the work had given working holiday visa makers a bit of a bad reputation with some employers.
There was a lot of competition with so many backpackers all looking for the same jobs and that to stand a chance of getting something I really needed to focus on an industry that I had experience in – hospitality.
I also realised that I should change my job hunting approach to suit Australia. So I revamped my CV (resume) to make it more straight to the point and easier to see my relevant experience and added a photo. Instead of just sending emails and I also rang up or went into the bar or restaurant and found that this approach worked a lot better.
Still, there were so many other backpackers on working holidays looking for work in Cairns, so after a week I went up to Port Douglas to look there as I’d heard there was a better chance of finding work there and there was a beach (Cairns doesn’t have a beach.)
I loved the hostel that I stayed in (Dougies) and made some great friends, they did a weekly rate, helped you to find work and there were a lot of people working in town who stayed there so it had a good community vibe.
I went all over town into all the bars, cafes and restaurants with my resume and had a couple of job offers up there but most of these jobs offers were just for weekend work and wouldn’t even cover the hostels weekly rate that I was paying to stay in a dorm room with a smelly guy who woke me up with his snoring every night!
This didn’t seem like good value or like a good use of my time for my working holiday in Australia.
Going to a remote area is a good way to save money
That’s when I decided to focus my job search on more remote jobs that offered full time hours and live in accommodation.
I found a job in an outback pub on the website ”Backpacker Job Board” and called up. I had several phone conversations with the owners and everything sounded good so I went with my gut feeling, took a leap of faith and got on a bus headed 800 km south to the country town of Mackay.
The pub owner picked me up and took me the rest of the way inland through sugar cane country to the remote country pub that became my home for the next 3 months and ended up being a highlight of my working holiday in Australia.
I liked the work in the pub because it was laid back, being in the center of a rural community I quickly got to know the locals which gave me an insight into a different way of life and I felt immersed in a culture very different from the backpacker hostels on the east coast. I had a small bedroom in the pub and the run of the kitchen to make myself food and quickly learnt the ropes and felt at home here.
Because it was so remote there was no where to go and nothing to spend my money on. Instead I worked all the hours I could and took on overtime helping in the kitchen before my bar shift started. It was only a minimum wage job but, after paying a $120 weekly contribution to cover my bed and board out of my wages, I was soon easily saving between $600 and $1000 every week!
It did feel a little claustrophobic at times, all work and no play and with no public transport or means of getting out of the pub. But if you can handle it, going for a remote live-in job on my working holiday in Australia was definitely the reason that I managed to save so much money so quickly.
In 3 months I had saved $8,000. My boyfriend was traveling around Southeast Asia and I was getting itchy feet stuck out in the middle of nowhere so I left the pub and decided to fly out and travel Vietnam and Cambodia with him with the money I’d saved.
(In hindsight I shouldn’t really have wasted some of the time on my years working holiday visa in Asia as you can’t claim the time back but never mind, the things we do for love!)
Buying a Campervan in Australia
After an amazing time in Southeast Asia, I arrived back in Australia with my boyfriend and still had enough money left to buy a campervan ($2,000 each split with my boyfriend.)
Having my own campervan was my favourite part of my working holiday in Australia and allowed us to save alot of money.
Buying a campervan was a worthwhile investment as it gave us the freedom to get off the beaten track, the flexibility to go when and where we wanted and having a campervan saved us a lot of money.
After traveling around Australia for a bit we went back and worked another 3 months at the same pub. Having a vehicle while working at the pub also made it a lot more enjoyable as we could get out and about on our days off and explore the surrounding areas including the beautiful Whitsundays Islands, less than 2 hours drive away, and we even saw platypus in the creek up the road.
However, as we had transport we found ourselves spending more on trips and working less so I didn’t save as much this time around, only another $7,000 but it was more fun.
How I ended my working holiday in Australia with more money than I came with!
So, even though Australia is an expensive country, by working 6 months in a country pub in Queensland I had an amazing time that actually became one of the highlights of my travels.
I saw a lot of the country (and Vietnam and Cambodia!), had some epic road trips, immersed myself in a different culture and still managed to finish my working holiday in Australia with more money than I came with, ready to start a new adventure and showing that it is possible to save money on your working holiday in Australia.
We even sold our campervan for $500 more than we bought it for, we gave it a funky zebra print paint job and renewed the rego for 3 months which I think helped. So we effectively had free transport and accommodation for 6 months!
Working a remote, live-in job and investing in a campervan is the main reason I managed to do so much and still save, it might not be for everyone but as well as saving a chunk of money I got an insight into a different culture that I wouldn’t have experienced from working in an office in Sydney.
Are you going for a working holiday in Australia? Get your FREE Ebook – the Complete Backpacker’s Guide to a Working Holiday in Australia for more tips on working and traveling on a budget in Australia
So that’s my story of how I saved money on my working holiday in Australia.
What’s your story? Did you find it hard to find work or did you manage to save money too and what are your top tips?
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