How To Save Money In Australia - All About Penalty Rates

Penalty rates, what is that? If this is the first thing that comes to your mind then you are absolutely right here. While the word penalty might indicate something negative, this is probably one of the best things when it comes to working as a backpacker Down Under.

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Working on a public holiday can pay quite well (flickr / Dafne Cholet)

What are penalty rates

So what is it then? Penalty rates determine your hourly wages you earn working on weekends and public holidays in certain industries. And if you are working the right job you might end up earning decent money working not only Monday to Friday. In Australia all your working rights, minimum wages and so on are stated in so-called awards for most jobs. There is one for horticulture, one for hospitality and so many more. And this is also where penalty rates come into play.

So first the bad news. Quite a few jobs won’t pay extra on weekends and public holidays. Among them are all the farm jobs and fruit picking jobs. However, lots of construction, restaurant and bar jobs have the potential to pay decent money.

How much can you earn as a backpacker

From personal experience I can tell you the following: I was working as a kitchen hand making around $25 ph and on Sundays this ended up being almost $35 ph and on public holidays even $40 ph. Working New Year’s Day and earning more than $300. Not too shabby, right? And if you can’t imagine to work that day and missing out on your hangover on January first, then take Easter holidays, or Anzac Day or Aussie Day, or….

Penalty rates means more money in your pocket (source: Wikimedia, by Martin Kingsley)

If you are not sure what the situation in your job is just ask your employer and have a look on the fairwork website. On the fairwork website you find all the necessary information.

Now what does this mean for your everyday backpacking life and how does this relate to saving money for the new car or the next big road trip?

Well, you will certainly get there a lot faster if you are smart about it. And if you don’t care too much about going crazy on the weekend and if it doesn’t matter whether your days off are Saturday and Sunday or Tuesday and Wednesday for example then you can “make as much money on a busy weekend as other backpackers during the whole week” as a friend of mine once said.

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