How I Saved $15,000 on my Working Holiday in Australia

how I saved $15,000 on my working holiday in australia

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

Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne, 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 lagoon
The Cairns lagoon made a good ‘office’ for my job hunt

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.

How I Saved $15,000 on my Working Holiday in Australia

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.

Port Douglad Beach in North Queensland
Port Douglas Beach in North Queensland

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

Surrounded by nothing by fields of sugar cane in the Queensland countryside
Surrounded by nothing by fields of sugar cane in the Queensland countryside

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.

The Queensland country pub I worked in
The Queensland country pub where I worked

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.

me working pub rum
Me working in the pub

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

Ready to hit the road with our new campervan!
Ready to hit the road with our new campervan!

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.)

I’m so glad we invested in the campervan as we took some epic road trips, drove the Great Ocean Road and was totally awed driving across the Outback.

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.

At Whitehaven Beach, Australia
On a quick weekend trip to Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands.

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.

Just messing around in the sugarcane fields. Working in a rural area gave me an insight into a totally different way of aussie life
Just messing around in the sugarcane fields. Working in a rural area gave me an insight into a totally different way of aussie life

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

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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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How I Saved $15,000 on my Working Holiday in Australia

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Backpacker Job Board July 8, 2015 at 12:33 am

Anna, loved reading your story of work and travel in Australia. I’m really glad we could help you along your journey. Your story will definitely be of help to other backpackers looking to fund their adventure down under. It can be difficult and hard work at times but your story shows just how much you can achieve! PS. Awesome work with the campervan!

Anna Phipps July 11, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Thank you so much! Your site was really useful to me and I had such a great experience in Oz. I hope many more backpackers have a great time in Australia too!

Ajay May 29, 2018 at 4:51 am

Hi Anna it was such a lovely story,I will also try out,I love rural places.

rosemary neave July 11, 2015 at 10:24 pm

HI Anna, great story – you are so good at living simply and finding the ways to make your travel go further! And not only that you share the ideas!!

Anna Phipps July 11, 2015 at 10:49 pm

Hey Rosemary! Thanks for your lovely comment – there’s always a way to do things affordably and enable us to travel more! I’m glad you liked my story, I hope it will be useful to others. 🙂

Sarfraz Ahmed July 27, 2015 at 6:21 pm

Hi Anna, nice to read your adventurous story which makes you unique brave heart girl. i am planning to come to Australia to get admission in PhD, after reaching there start be hunting job. Looking forward for your advises to lead a good life.

Anna Phipps July 27, 2015 at 6:33 pm

Thanks for your comment! Wow a PhD! Good luck with your studies and I hope you enjoy your time in Australia!

Wandering Casey August 11, 2015 at 8:05 am

I loved this, I’m in the current process of planning my trip (visa already obtained) and I just want to say thank you! You’ve given me so much more in resources and popped so many question bubbles! I sincerely appreciate all of your words and advice! I have a question going about my wanderings in Australia however. I’ve known from the very beginning I wanted to invest in my own transportation just to have the ability to wander more on my own, and also meet some travel mates, as I will be taking on my venture solo 😉 Anyways when it comes to petrol, is it cost efficient to be able to travel long distances,? It’s a question that weighs hard on the decision. That’s why I have hopes of purchasing a van or 4wd and having travel mates to share petro with as well! Thanks so much again!

Anna August 11, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Hi Casey! How exciting! Hope you have a great time in Oz and I’m really glad that my experience and my blog helped you. Buying a campervan really helped us to save money. Fuel is the one thing that does put a big dent in your budget. Fuel is cheaper than the UK (about AUD$1.20 a liter) but those long distances still eat a lot of cash! Traveling from Cairns to Sydney cost us about $500 in fuel ($250 each because I drove with a friend) Many backpackers put notices up in hostels or on gumtree to find someone to share the ride and the cost of fuel! If you can find a travel buddy and split the costs then it’s cheaper than the bus! And way more fun! 🙂 Enjoy your trip let me know if you have any more questions. Did you see my articles about buying a campervan? Might be useful –

Meg March 12, 2016 at 11:26 am

A great article, really helpful for people considering their working holiday visa. I’m currently in Perth and toying with the idea of escaping into the country to work in an outback pub… it’s such a great way to meet genuine people and see a bit of real Australia!

Anna March 14, 2016 at 11:32 am

Hi Meg! Thanks for your comment – I’m really glad you liked it and found it helpful as I too was struggling to find work and save money in the cities and yes, working in the Outback was such a great way to get to know local people and see the real Australia! Good luck with your job hunt and hope you have a great time in Oz! 🙂

Dan May 17, 2016 at 3:00 am

Great post. I’ve been in SE Asia for 9 months now and I’m hesitant to make the jump to Australia for fear of the prices. I’m extra skeptical about jumping into Melbourne right in the winter time, and it seems your post confirms that!

I really do want to experience a different side to Oz. The campervan is an exciting way to see the country and I definitely need to have that experience. This helps, and maybe it’ll finally push me towards booking a plan ticket out of Malaysia. Should I make the jump?

Anna May 24, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Hi Dan, thanks, yes prices in Oz are a bit of a shock after South East Asia but if your on a working holiday then its much more affordable considering the high wages. Exploring my campervan or camping is also a great way to keep costs down and have the ultimate freedom and adventure but perhaps start in the North if your going to Oz in the winter. Hope you enjoy your trip.

mattia December 26, 2016 at 11:26 pm

Hi Anna! I’ve worked this article! It has been awesome just to read it! I agree with you about working remote in order to living a different experience and make some money! Unfortunetely as you said a lot of people try to take advantage of backpackers and so i thought, may I know what’s the name of the bar in which you’ve been working for 6 months?

By your italian follower, congratulations for your blog!

Anna December 27, 2016 at 8:49 am

Hi Mattia, Thanks so much, I’m glad you liked it and that it gave you some useful tips – most people don’t mention how so many employers try to exploit backpackers so much. You can see more about the pub I worked in here – Happy Travels and Enjoy your time in Oz 🙂

Haley October 3, 2017 at 2:17 pm

At first you were by yourself, did you get bored being so far out by yourself? Were you able to make any local friends?

Anna October 4, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Sometimes a little yes as at first I did not have any transport but you don’t get lonely working in an Aussie pub because there were the locals to talk to and also I became good friends with the other people who also lived and worked in the pub 🙂

Lucija October 25, 2017 at 9:32 am

Hi, currently in Brisbane, looking for a country pub job…can you tell me the name of the pub you worked for? You said that you saved lot of money…I assume that you were paid per hour? I got an job offer where they offer me room+all food and just 300$/week for 35 hours. I think that that is really too little money for Australia? Tnx for reply

Anna October 31, 2017 at 8:00 am

Hey the pub I worked in now has different owners and I don’t think they are hiring atm. I was paid $20 an hour – I think its better to get paid hourly or the employer may take advantage of you

Nicole March 29, 2018 at 6:04 pm

Hi Anna. This is such a great story! My boyfriend and I are moving to Melbourne in three weeks and we’re kind of just making everything up as we go (which is a little scary). But it seems like we need that flexibility on the WHV.

We definitely plan on living in South East Asia for a bit after Oz so saving money is a necessity. Maybe we’ll have to move somewhere more remote to save up. Thanks for the information!

Nicole //


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