How to save money as a student in Australia

As an international student, living independently for the first time can be challenging. Trying to balance your studies as well as attending to your financial needs can be overwhelming. However, if you do enough research and planning beforehand, you might just be able to avoid getting into this financial stress!

We all know that being a student with limited finance can sometimes be challenging. However, with a little inventiveness, you can save significant money!

Here are some tips to help you spread your dollar further as an international student living in Australia:

Have a budget

Many international students begin independent living for the first time in their host countries. This can be stressful as they begin to realise how they are required to juggle multiple things including their studies as well as paying the rent, electricity bills and food. However, self-discipline along with planning and research can help stop you from feeling overwhelmed during your stay.

To avoid financial stress, it is advisable to create and stick to a budget. Here are some tips to help you achieve this:

  • Identify essential payments (e.g. rent and phone bills) and arrange for direct debit. Direct debit is the automatic payment option which takes away the stress of paying in person and paying on time. This is important because late payments may result in unnecessary surcharges or fines.
  • Withdraw a certain amount of cash (e.g. $120) every week and spend no more than this each week on things such as food, transport and entertainment.
  • Be aware of your account balance at all times.
  • Identify your needs and wants and avoid using credit cards unless for emergencies. New fancy shoes or mobile phones that you want but don't need are not emergencies.
  • Use a debit card for online purchases. This offers you more protection online and you don't need to pay interest like you would a credit card.
  • Minimise additional bank fees by minimising the use of EFTPOS, minimising withdrawals as well as using only your banks' ATMs.
  • Live economically. This can be achieve by purchasing good condition second-hand goods at places such as the Salvation Army or weekend markets.
  • Look for street press magazines in places like music stores, cinemas and student refectories. These magazines usually have details on cheap or free activities to do in your area and more.

Clothing, Food and other Consumables

Try shopping at low-cost outlets i.e. Aldi shopping store; DFO (Direct Factory Outlet) and buuy your fruit and vegetables at a local grower’s market instead of the supermarket as these are generally better quality and cheaper.  Avoid paying full cost on items that you can buy cheaply online (i.e. clothes, toiletries, books etc). Ebay in particular is a good source fr cheap technology devices like TVs, Phones and stereo systems.

  • Buy your shoes and clothes during the retail sales period. This occurs in January and June every year.
  • Try to be more inventive with your fashion. Instead of buying a completely different outfit each season, buy basic items like a pair of jeans, a classic jacket, black skirt and several different coloured tops. You can then add a cheap fashion accessory like a scarf, broach or new handbag to update your look for each new season.
  • Look at charity opportunity stores for one-off fashion items or cool vintage clothing. Often you can find bargain or second-hand designer items in these stores for less than $10 or $20! You just need to look at these stores regularly.
  • Don’t waste money on shopping therapy! Stick to a budget by withdrawing a set-amount once a week only. You must only use these funds and not go over. If you feel like buying things, go to market where they sell plenty of inexpensive items to satisfy your shopping impulse!
  • Try making a prepared meal that lasts for many days (i.e. if stored in the fridge or freezer). This practice of bulk-preparing foods cuts down on preparation time, ensures you eat nutritious home-made cooking and cuts the cost of eating. Ideal pre-prepared meals include: pizza, lasagna, rice dishes and vegetable soup.


Your most significant financial burden will most likely be your accommodation costs. Therefore, it is recommended to research all available accommodation options (e.g. homestay or dorm). You might need to take into consideration the location, utilities, amenities and other living arrangements when choosing the best option for yourself. However, it is advised to go for an accommodation closer to your education provider.

Finding accommodation for yourself can be tricky, particularly because there are so many options out there. A popular option is to live in a shared house or unit so you can spread the cost of living with others.


  • Get a prepaid mobile service so you can control your call costs.
  • Use SMS messaging instead of calling friends.
  • Access a VOIP communication system at your local education institution to make free or low-cost calls.
  • Send free SMS messages over the internet (just Google “free SMS”).
  • Read online magazines for free instead of buying a magazine.
  • See a movie on Tuesday (as it’s usually half-price).
  • Barter with friends! You can barter your tutoring service for a dinner or drinks, swap outfits with friends, or barter a dinner for a free movie!

Bank Account

Opening an Australian bank account is a must if you want to save money in Australia. Also avoid overdraft charges by insuring you always have money in your account. Otherwise, you could be charged $35 or more every time you overdraft your account.

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