Teacher rips into $80k whingers
DESPITE living in one of Australia's most expensive cities, Damien* says his $23,000 annual income is more than enough to live a comfortable lifestyle.
Renting in the suburb of Albion, which sits just 12km from Melbourne's CBD, Damien lives in a share house with two roommates, his cat and two pet rats.
The 45-year-old, who says he's made upwards of $60,000 in other jobs, understands his low income may shock some people - but it's a lifestyle he said he wouldn't change.
"I haven't always been on $23,000," he told news.com.au.
"But my other job had much longer hours for a lifestyle that wasn't that different to what I have now, except that I could save a lot more."
Damien, who doesn't have children and is single, is taking part in news.com.au's Cash Confessions series, which looks at how Australians make and spend their annual income.
Previously in the series, we spoke with mother-of-two, Stef, who lives in Sydney's west and earns 170,000 annually. But despite her income, she said that it wasn't enough to sustain her family's lifestyle.
"I'm in disbelief," he said. "I can't believe how it could be difficult to be living on $80,000-$100,000."
While he understands his circumstances are unique, such as no mortgage or family, an inability to live on six figures is a predicament Damien, who brings in around $450 a week, cannot understand.
"People need to cut out the things they think they need, but really they don't," he said.
"What I've learnt is that you can live on a lot less.
"I appreciate I am single and don't have kids or a family to look after, but I have chosen not to buy a house or get a mortgage or debts or commitments, so I can understand if you take on a lot of commitments it can add up."
Damien works just 10 hours each week as an English language tutor, but says he enjoys having a lifestyle full of free time and without the stress of making a big pay packet.
Having completed a Bachelor of Arts and majoring in linguistics, Damien has finetuned his income to suit his "minimal" lifestyle.
Spending just $440 a month on rental repayments, $700 on groceries and just $20 on takeaway food - Damien says he lives within his means, but doesn't feel like he's penny pinching each month.
"It really isn't hard," he said. "I manage and I'm not short of money.
"I do spend carefully and really watch how I spend, but I have never been motivated by money or making a big income.
"I would rather have time to do what I want, and in an ideal world I would ditch money altogether."
In January, a survey from global database Numbeo revealed Melbourne as one of the most expensive cities in the world to live.
According to Expatistan, which compares the cost of living from city to city, the average Melbourne resident will spend $143 a month for public transport, $2118 a month for a 45sq m furnished studio in an affluent city suburb, and around $294 for utilities for a single occupant. According to Budget Direct, the average net salary (before tax) for a Melbourne resident is $4277 - more than double Damien's income.
"Groceries are my most expensive monthly spend, but I eat simple," he said of his supermarket spending habits.
"I am never going down the aisle thinking, 'Oh, I can't afford that or this.' I just don't buy a lot of stuff, and I am only cooking for one.
Damien said his dinners are simple, consisting usually of rice, meat and some frozen vegetables, and he will treat himself to takeaway food once a fortnight, which "makes life cheaper".
"If I do go out, I prefer to do free things," he said. "Like go camping or go for a walk around the city or along the beach, which doesn't cost much at all.
"I don't have a car, so usually travel with mates or catch public transport."
Damien says he isn't able to save much money on his income, but tries to put away at least $50-$100 a month if he can. He said a way of doing this is to be vigilant when it comes to spending, and question the value of every item.
"I don't know how people manage to spend so much," he said.
"I always ask myself if I need or want something before paying for it, and whether I will need it in a month's time. Around 80 per cent of the time the answer is no.
"Takeaway food, online shopping, coffee - it's those little every day things that can drain your wallet."
* Name has been changed.
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