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Living on a student budget

Student Budget main imageManaging your finances effectively when you are a student can be difficult since you have less time to earn money to meet expenses. However, by being organised and staying on top of your finances, you can save money and spend more on the things that you enjoy. If you are wondering how to save money as a student, this guide will take you through all the essential information you need to know.

How to budget

Budgeting as a student can be a tricky thing to manage, particularly if you do not have a regular income. Not knowing how much money you may have from week to week can make it hard to first set yourself a budget and then stick to it. However, this makes budgeting all the more important. You need to understand how much money you are spending so that, when you have less money from time to time, you can adapt. Budgeting will not only help you work out what you can afford, but it can also give you a better idea of where you might be able to save more money.

A good idea is to work out a base figure of how much money you need to spend on the essentials (e.g. rent, textbooks etc.). Work this figure out for a long period of time - maybe a 12 month plan. Once you have that base level figure, you can then work out how you are going to meet that amount, either through savings or earnings. This will also give you a better idea of how much you need to work each week or month to meet expenses. After you have covered the essentials, you can work out how much you will have left each week to spend on other non-essential items. Use the budget checklist below to help you.

Student Budget Checklist

Add any costs that are applicable to your own situation, and then assess all of your costs according to whether they are essential, non-essential, or not applicable. Then, estimate the cost of each item (for a week, a month, or a longer period of time). Once you have worked out how much money you can actually afford to spend, readjust the figures.

  Estimated Cost Essential (Y/N) Non Essential (Y/N) Not applicable (Y/N)
Tuition Fees        
Gym Fees        
Reserve Money        

Keep separate accounts for savings and spending

It is a good idea to keep one account for your everyday spending and one account for your savings. Once you have worked out your week-to-week budget, you can keep one account with just enough money to meet those expenses. This can stop you from spending unnecessarily and assist you to be diligent about increasing your overall savings.

Having a savings account is a good idea to help you save for the future, but it may also be really useful to help you pay for necessary things that fall outside of your regular budget. For example, you might need to replace a broken laptop, or you might want to go on a holiday with friends. | Greater Bank


Another important reason to keep a separate savings account is that many savings accounts will reward you with a higher interest rate for being diligent in your saving.

For example, Greater Bank’s Bonus Saver account currently gives you a competitive interest rate if you make at least one deposit and no withdrawals in a month. Even better, if you are under 25, you are eligible for Greater Bank’s Life Saver account, helps you grow your balance with bonus interest if your overall balance increases from month to month. Also, if you open a Life Saver account before you are 25, you can continue to use it (and receive the high interest rate) for your whole life.

To get full value from accounts like these, you should set them up as designated savings accounts and keep your day-to-day spending account separate.

Government Benefits

There are a number of benefits schemes offered by the Australian government that may assist you in meeting your living expenses. You are probably already aware of the HECS and HELP loan schemes to help you pay your fees. But you may also be entitled to payments (not loans). Look at:

Youth Allowance - available if you’re 24 or younger and a student or Australian apprentice, or 21 or younger looking for work.

Austudy - available if you’re 25 or older and studying or are an Australian apprentice.

Get value from your employment

It can be difficult to manage working at the same time as studying, but having some sort of income is still a necessity for most students. The key is to make sure your working arrangements allow you to balance your study commitments and your living expenses. When looking for work, you should consider:

Casual vs part-time contracts

  • Casual contracts usually come with higher wages but less benefits (such as sick pay and holiday pay).
  • You have less job security on a casual contract, but it may also allow you greater flexibility in your week-to-week hours.

Consider working weekends, nights and public holidays

  • You may be entitled to time-and-a-half, double, or triple pay, which means you could earn more in less time.

Establish a good relationship with your employer

  • Being a reliable worker may mean your employer is more likely to be flexible when you need it.

Seasonal work

  • You may find it is more beneficial to work full-time during your holidays when you aren’t studying, so that you have less pressure during term time.

Student Discounts

There are a number of ways that you can take advantage of student discounts. Check out discount providers like Student Beans as well as UNiDAYS. Before you make online purchases, see if these sites offer any deals on what you want to buy.

You should also get familiar with the student discounts in your local area, particularly at restaurants and bars. It’s a good idea to avoid eating and drinking out too often, but when you do, you might as well take advantage of student discounts.

How to save money as a teenager - key tips

Here is a list of tips to help you if you are just starting out with managing your own finances:

  • Share accommodation
  • Cut down on household energy consumption
  • Buy your textbooks second hand, and sell all your old textbooks
  • Cut down on alcohol consumption, especially in bars and clubs
  • Cut out smoking
  • Pre-prepare your meals and avoid eating out
  • Pay off credit cards on time
  • Buy second-hand (bicycles, furniture etc.)
  • Avoid unnecessary spending (clothes, gadgets etc.)
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