What Aussies Are Doing To Cope With The Cost-of-living Crisis
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What Aussies Are Doing To Cope With The Cost-of-living Crisis

Limiting spending, refinancing loans, moving back home with mum and dad and working a side hustle are popular options being adopted today

By Bronwyn Allen
Thu, Nov 9, 2023 12:01pmGrey Clock 3 min

Mortgage holders are limiting household spending and refinancing their loans, while a rising number of young Australians are moving back home with their parents. These are some of the ways in which people are dealing with today’s cost-of-living crisis, which has been caused by the highest inflation rate in two decades along with rising interest rates and rents, according to research by Finder.

Three in four Australians surveyed in September said they were somewhat or extremely stressed about their financial situation. This includes 84% of mortgage holders, up from 76% in September 2021. Finder says almost $15,000 in extra interest costs have been added to the annual repayments of an average Australian home loan. And that was before the Reserve Bank of Australia raised the official cash rate again this week. The RBA raised rates by 25 basis points to 4.35%. That was the 13th increase since May 2022 and takes the cash rate to its highest level since 2011.

The research cites data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing the total monthly value of refinanced home loans peaked at $22 billion in June. Finder says more than 70% of refinancing borrowers were going to a new lender rather than renegotiating with the existing one. However, the savings were fairly small. On average, refinancers went from a variable rate of 5.01% to 4.78%.

Graham Cooke, Finder’s Head of Consumer Research, said “the willingness of homeowners to refinance for even marginal gains underscores the pervasive cost-of-living crisis, reflecting a desperate search for any fiscal relief.” He added that millennial homeowners were struggling the most today. “This could be a sign that they jumped in when rates were at record lows and were unprepared for an environment where rates and repayments increased.”

Finder says young renters are increasingly moving back in with their parents to escape rising rents or to save to buy a home. Unaffordable rents prompted 30% to move back home. A further 30% did so to save money for a home deposit, while 14% said the loss of a job forced a change in living arrangements. Mr Cooke said interest rate rises were actually having a higher impact on renters, given landlords typically pass on higher costs to tenants through rent increases.

Cutting discretionary spending is another method of coping with rising costs. The Finder research shows 45% of Australians have cut back on dining out or ordering home delivery, 32% are shopping around for better prices, 23% have reduced beauty and self-care treatments, and 19% have cancelled a holiday. A small proportion (3%) have moved their child to a different school with lower fees.

Refinancing advice

Mr Cooke said it was important not to rush a refinancing decision. “There is a significant gap in rates offered by different lenders for comparable loan products. The best thing you can do is take the time to review and compare your home loan options to ensure you’re getting the most competitive rate. It’s never too late to find a better home loan deal.”

Advice if you’re moving back home

Mr Cooke said there was no point ‘returning to the nest’ without changing your spending habits. “Prioritising a budget is critical. Start cutting out non-essentials and look for ways you can save money. Working out all your expenses to the smallest detail will give you an idea of how much capacity you have to save.”

Tips for cutting spending

Finder says shopping around can help reduce non-discretionary spending as well. Finder recommends that consumers consider switching energy providers and insurers, and use a high-interest account for savings. RateCity recently reported that nine financial institutions on its panel are now offering savings account interest rates that are above inflation at 5.5% or more.

Take up a side hustle

Finder research also shows 35% of Australians are earning extra income through side hustle jobs like dog walking, mystery shopping, tutoring, freelancing and ride-share driving. Popular non-employed side hustles include recycling cans and bottles, making and selling goods, selling pre-owned goods and renting out a spare room or garage.


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Wild cities and concrete corridors: How AI is reimagining the landscape

A new AI-driven account by leading landscape architect Jon Hazelwood pushes the boundaries on the role of ‘complex nature’ in the future of our cities

By Robyn Willis
Wed, Dec 6, 2023 2 min

Drifts of ground cover plants and wildflowers along the steps of the Sydney Opera House, traffic obscured by meadow-like planting and kangaroos pausing on city streets.

This is the way our cities could be, as imagined by landscape architect Jon Hazelwood, principal at multi-disciplinary architectural firm Hassell. He has been exploring the possibilities of rewilding urban spaces using AI for his Instagram account, Naturopolis_ai with visually arresting outcomes.

“It took me a few weeks to get interesting results,” he said. “I really like the ephemeral nature of the images — you will never see it again and none of those plants are real. 

“The AI engine makes an approximation of a grevillea.”

Hazelwood chose some of the most iconic locations in Australia, including the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, as well as international cities such as Paris and London, to demonstrate the impact of untamed green spaces on streetscapes, plazas and public space.

He said he hopes to provoke a conversation about the artificial separation between our cities and the broader environment, exploring ways to break down the barriers and promote biodiversity.

“A lot of the planning (for public spaces) is very limited,” Hazelwood said. “There are 110,000 species of plants in Australia and we probably use about 12 in our (public) planting schemes. 

“Often it’s for practical reasons because they’re tough and drought tolerant — but it’s not the whole story.”

Hazelwood pointed to the work of UK landscape architect Prof Nigel Dunnett, who has championed wild garden design in urban spaces. He has drawn interest in recent years for his work transforming the brutalist apartment block at the Barbican in London into a meadow-like environment with diverse plantings of grasses and perennials.

Hazelwood said it is this kind of ‘complex nature’ that is required for cities to thrive into the future, but it can be hard to convince planners and developers of the benefits.

“We have been doing a lot of work on how we get complex nature because complexity of species drives biodiversity,” he said. 

“But when we try to propose the space the questions are: how are we going to maintain it? Where is the lawn?

“A lot of our work is demonstrating you can get those things and still provide a complex environment.” 

At the moment, Hassell together with the University of Melbourne is trialling options at the Hills Showground Metro Station in Sydney, where the remaining ground level planting has been replaced with more than 100 different species of plants and flowers to encourage diversity without the need for regular maintenance. But more needs to be done, Hazelwood said.

“It needs bottom-up change,” he said. ““There is work being done at government level around nature positive cities, but equally there needs to be changes in the range of plants that nurseries grow, and in the way our city landscapes are maintained and managed.”

And there’s no AI option for that. 


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