December 7, 2023

The Australian Student’s Guide to Surviving on a Budget

The Australian Student’s Guide to Surviving on a Budget

If you’re an Australian student studying a degree at university, you’ll most likely have a limited income, so it’s important to budget your money. With both living and tuition expenses to consider whilst you study, budgeting is the best way to assess your needs and control your costs.

Budgeting lets you know where your money’s coming from, when it’s coming in, where it’s going, and developing sound budgeting skills whilst at university is going to set you up for life! Budgeting can help get you through uni debt-free (student loans aside), and if you learn good financial discipline whilst you’re there, you can get started on your plan to save for a holiday, house or car when you graduate.

As debt experts, we’ve helped thousands of young people (many of whom will have accrued a large help debt) to turn their finances around. Here are our top student budgeting tips and our guide to surviving on a budget as an Australian student, so you can avoid the student debt crisis and graduate in an awesome financial position. 

Student Budgeting Tips

1. Look for a Part-Time Job.

If you are in your early years of study and still have time to spare, getting a part-time job is our number one student budgeting tip and one of the best ways for you to survive the uni life. Some of the most popular ways to get a job whilst at uni include working for the university for example at the local coffee shop or as a student ambassador. Another popular option is to search online on sites such as, or by referral – ask your fellow students if they know who’s hiring – you might be able to land a job working alongside them!

Take note that submitting a resume online is good, but submitting your resume face to face is known to give you better chances of getting a job, because you are able to break down barriers, make a personal connection and build a relationship with your new boss. When you drop your resume in, the hiring manager is also able to interview you immediately too which increases your chances of getting hired.

By making a positive impression you can tip the odds in your favour should you come back for another interview, as it shows that you are confident enough to introduce yourself in person, instead of hiding behind a keyboard. Seasonal work is also another great option for students to take on over the summer break.

For example, during Christmas holidays, retail stores and restaurants usually need a lot of help, and if you are good, they might even offer you a permanent position. Because of COVID, Aussie farmers have been desperately seeking people to do fruit-picking due to the shortage of visa workers. Your attitude is important when applying for a part-time job, so if possible, avoid being picky.

This being said, if you can get work even somewhat related to your field of study – this will be awesome for your prospects of getting a job in your chosen field when you graduate. Whether you take work as a cashier, waiter, cleaner, fruit picker, or even admin work in an office, you will earn money and experience for the future.   

Getting a part time job while you are at uni can help you get by!

2. Student Money Saving Tips - Choose the Best Option for your Savings Account.

Don’t settle for a savings account with fees – if you are a student, you should be eligible for a fee-free account. Do some research, compare rates, and find an account with a good interest rate and no ongoing transaction fees. Whilst it might also be tempting to get a credit card or overdraw facility on your account – as a student you are better off learning how to budget and save for your future. And don’t just settle for one of the big 4 banks – shop around and find an account with a bank or credit union that will offer a decent interest rate of return on your savings.

These days, there are banking apps that allow you to set up savings goals and even start micro-investing by rounding up to the nearest dollar on every transaction you make. Don’t settle for fees. Shop around. Get a good deal on interest. And take advantage of the perks. 

3. Choose the Best Accommodation That Suits Your Budget.

You can either board with a relative, stay on the university campus or a lodge at a homestay. Even though you are just a student with barely any money, you’d be surprised at just how much student accommodation can cost! There are a number of factors that will determine the cost of your accommodation – how new the building is, the location, the number of people you share with (more is cheaper), whether you get an ensuite, whether it is furnished or unfurnished, on-site facilities (such as gyms and pools) and whether your meals are provided.

University campus rooms are said to be cheaper, because bills may be included in the costs – however, if you opt for catered accommodation, the cost can go through the roof compared to if you cook for yourself (and whilst you won’t have to cook or clean, if you don’t like the food, that’s too bad). A homestay means staying with a family, which can be a pleasant experience especially if you are an international student; however if you or they have annoying habits, it won’t be a fun experience no matter how affordable the option may seem!

Do your research early (a year in advance) if you are still in high school and just about to go to uni – as competition is high and rooms fill up quickly! The last thing you want is the stress of trying to organise something last minute and not having many options to choose from. 

Finding cheap student accommodation can help make the cost of studying away from home more affordable.

4. How to Budget at University - Check Out Supermarket Specials, Shop Smart and Cook at Home.

Supermarkets always run specials – shop smart and you can take advantage of them to save money. Stock up on non-perishable goods when they go on special by purchasing two. That way, you don’t spend any more than you usually would have, and you’ll have a spare when it runs out! When it comes to perishable goods such as meat and dairy products, be careful not to buy too much. Otherwise, it might just turn to waste. For example, if you would normally buy beef each week, buy the marked down item and pop it in the freezer.

This way, you end up with the same amount of product, but it costs you less! Also, check the unit price to make sure you’re really getting the best deal, and stock up on staples like rice, lentils, and beans to get cheap and healthy protein and make your meals go further. If you are looking for ways to save money, cooking your own food is one of the best options, and it's cheaper. Instead of buying take out from the uni cafeteria each day, bring your lunch each day. Make a sandwich or take leftovers from the previous night's dinner and enjoy a fresher, healthier option.

Learning how to cook from home is a great way to eat cheaper and healthier at uni!

5. Choose the Cheapest Travel Option.

Especially if you go to university in the city, there are plenty of transportation options like train, bus or tram that you can use to get from A to B. Research which mode of transportation will save you the most money and use your student status to get a discount. Bus operators usually offer student concession cards such as an Opal Card, Go Card or Myki Pass which you can refill after you're out of balance.

If your destination is close by, consider walking or riding a bike – which is great for your health as well. These days, you can even opt for scooter and bike hire services such as Lime and Orange. All you need to do is download the app and you’ll be able to drop off and pick up your ride from wherever, whenever! Just remember to wear a helmet – buy one from K-Mart for $10 and strap it to your bag so you’ll always have one! 

6. Sell Pre-Loved Items.

Flipping pre-loved, or second-hand items is another great way of saving money. Look for second-hand books, electronics, clothes, bags and vintage or designer items in op shops such as Vinnies or Salvos. For instance, you can purchase signature clothing labels with the tags on and people will never know that they are second hand. If there’s no tag, do not despair!

All you have to do is wash and tidy it up, take some cool photos of the item and post it to eBay, DePop or even Instagram or Facebook marketplace! Whether you’re a guy or a girl, you’ll be sure to come across some awesome finds – and you’ll have fun doing it too! That’s what we call the art of the hustle! And hey – if you love an item that much, you can keep it – you’ll get compliments to which you can reply with “I thrifted it” and all of your friends will be super impressed at your savvy and your style! What a way to stay fashionable on a budget!

7. Student Debt Crisis - Get Debt Help. 

If you’ve racked up a credit card debt whilst at uni, and the interest is growing faster than your ability to repay it, you definitely need help! You might be too embarrassed to tell anybody, but don’t wait until it’s too late! Call our debt negotiators on 1300 003 328 for a free and confidential chat about your situation, and our friendly team will be able to help you assess your options to stop a bad debt situation from getting worse! 

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