For a student in Australia, the estimated annual cost of living, including accommodation, food, bills and clothing, is approximately $18,610 Australian dollars. This cost of living is quite high when you consider students’ low income, making it difficult for them to manage their finances.
This amount will vary depending on whether you’re a domestic or international student, as international students will also have to budget for phone calls to their country of origin and flight costs for going home to visit family. Australia is actually the most expensive country in the world for overseas students, with their average costs for university fees and living expenses totalling in excess of $38,000 per year.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do as a student to limit your expenditure and ensure you can manage your finances effectively. This will reduce your chances of having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet (or rely on the bank of Mum and Dad!).
Read on to find out how to budget effectively for food and textbooks, and take advantage of all the student discounts available to you.
University textbooks in Australia are extremely expensive. If you’re studying maths, science or economics, you can expect to spend $300 to $800 per semester on your textbooks. Nursing students can spend up to $2000 each semester, and law students can spend up to $165 on a single textbook.
Universities Australia released data estimating that the average full-time student spends around $602 a year on textbooks, making it a massive cost associated with attending university that’s beyond the actual fees for each semester.
But why are textbooks in Australia so expensive? Booksellers are unable to import overseas copies of textbooks if they’ve already been published in Australia, meaning that local publishers are basically free to set the price at whatever they want it to be.
So, with all this in mind, where can cheap (or at least, cheaper) textbooks be found?
One option is to buy your textbooks second-hand. However, keep in mind that this doesn’t always work, especially if a new edition of a textbook has been specifically assigned for the course. If you buy an outdated textbook, then you may be learning old information and will have difficulty trying to find the right pages from your course material.
Keep an eye out for people selling textbooks that are assigned to your courses for the next semester, as people will often try to sell them as the semester draws to a close. Your university may have a Facebook group for swapping textbooks, or a campus noticeboard dedicated to it. Your university library may even host secondhand textbook selling days or have a stand at certain times of the year.
Sometimes you can find a cheaper version of the textbook you need with a little bit of research and shopping around. Use websites like Booko to compare the prices of textbooks from Australian and overseas online bookstores. Although it can be more convenient to buy everything at your campus bookstore, online shopping may be significantly cheaper.
Textbook rental is also a great option for managing the cost of your university material. Sites like Zookal, The Campus Bookstore and Jekkle all allow you to split the cost of textbooks with other students over time, however you need to remember to not take notes on the books, and you must keep them in the best possible condition.
When you’re on a budget, it’s the little savings here and there that really make a difference in the long run. For example, with food it’s easy to spend upwards of $50 a week on coffee, snacks, bottled drinks, etc. But with a little bit of planning and preparation, you can eat in a way that’s great for your wallet (and your waistline!).
The best way to eat cheaply is to cook at home. Do a little bit of research online and you’ll come across hundreds of websites with fantastic ideas for delicious recipes that will keep you full and keep cash in your wallet (or bank account).
There are many ways that you can save money when doing your weekly grocery shop. Some of these include:
Making a food budget and sticking to it is a great way to keep yourself accountable and keep track of your spending. It may take a few weeks of trial and error, but see how cheaply you can do your weekly shop and then set this as your benchmark for every week.
For example, you might experiment with different recipes or cooking big batches of food that allow you to keep your food budget to $70 per week. You should also obviously try to limit takeaways or eating out if you want to stick to your budget, as those Chinese noodles can really add up.
Before you start trying to take advantage of the many student and concession rates that are available to full-time students, it pays (literally) to be aware of where and when you may (or may not) be considered a student.
Students that are studying full-time at universities in another state sometimes have to pay full adult price fares when catching public transport – for example, in NSW. This is because, under NSW Transport Guidelines, a student that is studying full-time at a university in New South Wales is eligible for discounted travel, however they must reside in New South Wales to receive these benefits.
This same rule also applies in nearly every other state and territory (besides the Northern Territory), meaning that students can only receive discounted public transport rates if they live in that state. This can make it tricky for students who have their residential address in a state other than the one they study in, so be sure to take this into account when budgeting.
Making the most of the web for student discounts
A great way to easily organise and access a whole bunch of student discounts (because we know it can get overwhelming sometimes) is to use the websites that consolidate them all in one place.
Although it may not be particularly fun, life as a student is a lot easier when you have control of your finances. By controlling any impulse purchasing, planning your meals, shopping around for the best deals on technology and getting a little thrifty when it comes to sourcing your textbooks, you can remain financially sound throughout your time at university.
Because between having a part-time job, studying, assignments, exams, lectures, tutorials and hanging out with friends, who has the time to worry about money? Take a little time to plan and set a budget at the beginning of the semester and you’ll be putting yourself in good stead to not have to break the bank throughout the year.