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Ways to save money while living in Sydney

Written by
Claire Finneran

It’s hard out there in the big smoke. Rents are rising, and apparently putting all of your groceries through self-serve checkouts as ‘potatoes’ is stealing. Here are some legal and semi-honest ways to survive.

Community gardens. You can grow your own fruit and veg rather than buying it. Who knew? Have a thorough look on your local garden’s Facebook or the council website to see if a plot is available, or chat to someone who’s actually digging around in there. Friendliness is key, especially if you want to trade fresh loot with your neighbours.

Sell ya eggs and/or sperm. There is patchy information on the internet about how much you could make from this particular kind of transaction, but a little bit of cyber sniffing around has lead me to believe it is quite a lot. As an egg-bearing lady you could make up to $5,000! Sure, it can be invasive and your ethics slash feelings about propagating offspring offline need to be pretty rigorously monitored, but if you’re in that last week before payday and a steaming pile of Sydney-proportioned rent is due, well, it’s an option. See also: paid medical testing.

Image: Gilbert Walden

PIF communities and online swap groups. Buying brand new things in Sydney on top of your regular cash-quicksand expenses can be almost impossible, so why not try to get the stuff you want and need in exchange for stuff you no longer care for? Facebook is a goldmine of trading communities so have a search for local PIF (pay it forward) groups or hit up the trading backwaters of gumtree.





Costco cash card. The bulk food metropolis is pretty staunchly members only, however, there is one significant loophole to unlocking the beauty of huge quantity purchases without having to fork out the joiners fee: Costco cash cards. Don’t tell anyone, but if a member buys a gift card on your behalf you can use that card to get, say, a kilogram of Cheezels, and no one will bat an eyelid. Rumour has it you can also use a combo of cash card and cash if the purchase goes over the card’s quantity, so just like a healthy casual relationship you can basically reap benefits without commitment.

Eat other people’s leftovers. That pile of abandoned, rapidly cooling fries from the table next you at the pub is about to go in the bin. Close your eyes and visualise those salty potato treats scraped into a garbage bag with other yucky food miscellania. Now imagine them slowly decaying in landfill somewhere, turning green and fuzzy surrounded by billions of other wasted chippies in plastic bags. Open your eyes, do your duty and eat them before you have time to think about boring things like germs and judgemental glares.

Department store makeovers. Got an event coming up that requires a duffel bag’s worth of product on your face? Or just want to treat yourself to less eyebrow or more eyelash? Both David Jones and Myer have expansive options in their gladiatorial beauty arenas. You can often get yourself Spakfilla’d as a complimentary side to a small purchase or get the whole ‘rendered feature wall’ with one of their makeovers that include all the products. Spritz yourself with your fave perfume/cologne on the way out.

Befriend someone in a bakery. Because we are trained to desire “fresh” as a capitalist culture, bakeries have to make bread every bloody day and are forced by the ravenous, stale-detecting consumers of tomorrow to throw out the day’s leftovers. Ideally, they donate spare loaves to OzHarvest or another charity, but some do just chuck them in the bin (a dumpster diver’s best kept secret is a treasure map of the establishments who do this). If you are a friendly person, absolutely go guns blazing with your charming customer chat until you are best friends with the entire bakery they will definitely fling you a cob once in awhile. If you aren’t very social, linger in the bakery around closing time looking quietly sad until someone gives you a sourdough to make you leave. (I have worked in a bakery and plied both of these kinds with the goods.)

Attend art openings. It’s true. Art openings have free or insanely cheap wine and beer. This is because they want you to get sauced enough to buy the art. And, you will buy art eventually, once you’ve saved heaps of money on booze over several years. Get yourself on a gallery mailing list or follow them on social media to find out when the openings are. Just be cool about it and actually look around at the art with the drink in your hand and avoid ostentatious displays of “I am only here for the drinks” by say, wearing sunglasses inside or spending too much time looking at the framing from awkward angles.

Image: Gilbert Walden

Airbnb your house. Vacate for a week or weekend and let some strangers take over your room or entire abode. It’s pretty easy to price accordingly if you compare your furnishings to some of the posher pads on the site. If your bed is made of cable tied milk crates maybe charge less than $200 a night, but if you have a cupboard stocked with more than one variety of tea, charge away! Managing expectations is key, I once entertained a father and son in a Redfern share house and they were incensed when I didn’t make them breakfast (they thought the last ‘b’ was literal), so make sure everyone is on the same page.

Shadow a student. Like backpack-encrusted beacons of frugality, Sydney’s uni students are everywhere and know how to save a buck. It certainly helps if you know one, but a little ‘stalking lite’ won’t go astray. Watch where they go to eat, drink and entertain themselves. Obviously their concession cards help, but you can still find out a lot from their lifestyle that is largely dictated by the stinginess of Centrelink. Also while you’re hiding in the bushes of the campus, check out specials at the on site cafés, sneak into the library to watch DVDs or join a trivia team at the uni bar and win some beer.

Image: Gilbert Walden

Outdoor gyms and free training groups. We sure are a city captivated by health, but keeping that heart rate up in a gym or attending an organised boot camp can be super expensive. Get some savvy YouTube studying under your belt and hit up one of the plethora of free outdoor gyms in parks all over the city. Or if you’re better motivated in a puffing group hit up a site like Meetup and find a cheaper (often social slash free) bunch of like minded exercisers and save your pennies for protein.

Want some more (practical) penny-pinching ideas? Check our guide to cheap things in Sydney.

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