Canberrans have highest household expenditure of all capital cities
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Canberrans have highest household expenditure of all capital cities

Canberrans have been found to enjoy some of the best lifestyles in Australia - but only if your income is high enough to offset the higher cost of living.

The national capital ranked second behind Perth in the list of Australia's most lifestyle-friendly capital cities, according to comparison site Mozo.

Canberrans are said to have one of the highest disposable incomes in the country.

Canberrans are said to have one of the highest disposable incomes in the country.

But while Canberrans enjoyed the second-highest average household income in the country at $131,924, they were also saddled with the most expenses.

And it wasn't our mortgage repayments - lower than the national average of $35,000 - whittling away at our income like other cities.

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Instead it was our groceries, vehicle costs, bills and insurance which tallied our major expenses to more than $23,000 a year.

At more than $3000 higher than the national average, it's only Canberra's comparatively lower mortgage repayments and substantially higher incomes which enabled Canberrans to have a projected $77,948 in disposable income.

But the ranking, based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics' surveys on household income and expenditure and Domain's house price report, proved a long-held misconception about Canberra's levels of wealth, experts say.

​"If the average costs of living is $23,000, many people who are on unemployment benefits, on youth allowance or on pensions earn less than that or only just over that. That goes to show why low-income households end up with a lot of debt and also live with a lot of deprivation because they just can't cope with the costs of living in the city," ACT Council of Social Service director Susan Helyar said.

"We know [from our own cost of living analysis] if you don't have the average income you're really in trouble in Canberra because the price structures in Canberra are attuned to the averages whereas if you're in that bottom 40 per cent group you're really not able to cope in this market."

Ms Helyer said it was important to remember that not everyone enjoys the same kind of lifestyle in the capital and to shape public policy accordingly.

"I think Canberrans consider themselves very fortunate and generous and I think it's important they remember not everyone is as fortunate as they are and we need to make sure we have a city that works for everybody, including those on low incomes," she said.

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

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