The cost of (complaining about) the cost of living

The knock on effects of Inner West real estate costs ensure locals pay for the privilege of living here but how sexy is it to complain about reality biting? Maybe that depends who you are complaining to…

It seems to be both Sydney’s favourite topic of conversation and most heartfelt gripe.

Anecdotal and statistical evidence alike tells us that Sydney is one of the most expensive cities in the world and sought after regions like the Inner West are exaggerations of this reality. But statistics have a reputation for damned lies (and no one has a gun at your head to live in Newtown).

It seems a personal dislike for Julia Gillard and the way she came to power has given unjustified credence to both popular and Opposition claims that we are in economic crisis, when a virtual wartime state of deprivation does not truly exist. Is a loaf of bread or a carton of milk really a luxury in the land of high minimum wages and income growth that less popular statistics say are winning the race with CPI increases?

After all, even true believers like former ALP chief whip, Joel Fitzgibbon, has championed Outer Westies struggling on 250k a year (heaven forbid we consider tightening the largesse of superannuation tax breaks).

And what does this all mean when the conversation on your first date lurches towards the fiscal zeitgeist? Is it a turn off or on to talk money? Common wisdom decrees that women don’t like tight arses, while men may see prudential prioritising as a sign she is sensible with money – that is, potentially his/her/their money.

Yet, does having a supposed empathy for the economic struggles of the Aussie everyman show social concern or a total disregard for the truly grim tribulations of Earth’s vast unwashed? Conversely, does a declaration that times are okay show common sense and balance or indifference to those on the margins, whom we should actually be concerned for?

To some a statement of financial contentment may imply smugness while to others it may indicate the person across the table is a good catch (and able to pay the bill for your dinner date at Rubyos).

Meanwhile, complaining about today’s version of ‘struggle street’ during a date runs the risk of rendering you soft compared to your parents and grandparents – which is never a good look when you are being sized up as a potential parent yourself (especially if your date worships mummy and daddy).

It’s difficult to know which tact to take, and it may seem impossible to portray yourself as being financially prudent, but not too prudent, while having a genuine concern for the world’s truly disadvantaged. But whichever side of the wrong side of the tracks you are from, it is good to remember that it can be romantically a win-win situation… If times are good then times are good.

If not, it’s an opportunity to impress your date with the person you are and not what you can buy.


Jason Dunne is an Inner West columnist and the author of Everyone is Henry Miller.

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