Oct 15, 2013

Living costs - Kuala Lumpur vs Sydney

Recently, I had a guest from Malaysia who stayed for a few days. During this time, she accompanied me grocery shopping.

"See, I always say it's cheaper to live here than in Malaysia. You just bought groceries with $100, in Malaysia you can't get that for RM400!" she said.

It's true, I said, my grocery dollar does stretch a lot further here.

And we can get by on one income, something we could never do in KL.

But then again, this is Sydney, one of the most expensive cities in the world, a fact verified by independent surveys.

So what gives? I'd say it evens up because

1) People here earn more compared to Malaysia, but the tax rate is also a lot higher (40%+ at the toppish end!). As a guesstimate, I'd say you net a bit more.

2) Stuff we buy is much cheaper, thanks to the Aussie dollar being three times the Ringgit
a) We can get tablets and phones and household appliances for a fraction of the price Malaysians pay (dollar to dollar)
b) Produce is much cheaper. Plus I can get the good stuff - Australian beef, free range chicken, Ski yoghurt, fresh blueberries - that would be considered a luxury in KL.
c) Because of the strength of the dollar vs the ringgit, clothes are also cheaper and of better quality. [Take away the currency difference, though, and Sydney is one of the most expensive places to buy clothing, way more expensive (almost double) than New York or London]*

4) Real estate and utilities is more expensive, relative to what you get - water is virtually free in Malaysia, while one easily pays $200 a month for water and sewerage.

5) Anything to do with services is much more expensive.
a) Eating out is a luxury, as opposed to Malaysians who consider it the norm. I see Facebook updates where my former colleagues dine in fine dining establishments every weekend. I get to do it a few times a year if I'm lucky.
b) We don't do massages and facials, again something most urban KL-ites are used to.
c) Malaysians also tend to have maids or hire people to clean their houses for them a few times a week, but they have access to cheap foreign labour (there is no minimum wage), whereas Sydneysiders do not.
d) Children in KL see paediatricians for a cough and cold, children in Sydney see GPs.

Since what we need (food, clothing) is cheap and what we would love to have (massages, sigh!) is expensive, for us, Sydney is 'cheaper' on living expenses and we survive on one income because we forego niceties and do everything ourselves.

It's tiring and we are constantly trying to catch up with it all. Fortunately, the free entertainment is great and priceless - beautiful skies, ragged cliffs, blue oceans and green parks!
* Someone pointed me to this fun calculator - http://www.budgetdirect.com.au/costofliving/
It doesn't list Kuala Lumpur but has some interesting facts.
Sydney is the most expensive place on this list to buy a pair of jeans
Sydney residents have the largest median monthly disposable salary (A$4,430) of any of the nine cities measured
Only London has higher prices for cinema tickets than Sydney (I told you watching movies in the cinema is expensive)

1 comment:

  1. You are joking aren't you? Sydney is way more expensive than KL.. Visit www.numbeo.com