Struggling to Put Noodles on the Table: Students Paying Up to $30k in Living Expenses

Students are meant to be broke, it’s a natural state of being for someone who spends all their time reading books and socialising rather than, say, working.

But the skyrocketing cost of living in Australian capital cities is redefining the sacrifices students need to make just to pay rent, let alone put noodles on the table.

The University of Technology in Sydney estimates that the average student moving to Sydney will need between A$17,472 to A$25,896 just to cover living expenses every year.

That’s a lot of shifts at the coffee shop.

And in some cases, the university estimates the upfront cost of setting up in the big smoke could clock in at over $4,200, which is a significant chunk of change for a still-slighty-pimply-faced teenager straight out of high school.

Now, generally this is where a chorus of dissenters chime in to say “that’s Sydney prices for you, it’s so much cheaper where we’re from”, but unfortunately they’re not necessarily right.

Here are the estimated costs of living independently off campus while studying across Australia (per academic year, including set up costs), from most to least expensive:

  • University of Western Australia: $31,722
  • Charles Darwin University: $14,200 – $30,260
  • University of  Melbourne: $20,000 – $26,300
  • University of Technology Sydney: $A$17,472 to A$25,896
  • University of Queensland: $17,255
  • University of South Australia:$10,998 – $20,576
  • Australian National University: $13,320 – $20,520
  • University of Tasmania: $13,500 – $19,000

Source: University websites

As you can see, stingy students at the University of Adelaide can get away with spending the least amount of money during term time at $10,998 (although we can’t confirm if that includes sleeping in someone’s living room with a sheet as a partition).

But students in Perth, Darwin and Melbourne can all expect to face similar cost of living pressures to Sydney, with other states not too far behind.

And while being a bit broke can be a great learning experience and a strong motivation to study harder and pick yourself up, being poverty-line-poor can have serious repercussions.

For example, many poor students see their grades suffer as they’re forced to spend more time earning and less time learning.

And in more serious cases, financial problems can cause students to drop out of uni altogether, decide not to take up an interstate study opportunity or even negatively impact their health.

Student Survival Guide

If you’re a broke student struggling to make ends meet, here are some of the options available to you:

  • Speak to a financial counsellor. Every major uni in the country offers a free financial counselling service for struggling students. They’ll be able to help out with a range of money matters and set you in the right direction.
  • Government assistance. Depending on your situation, you could be eligible for financial support from the government. Visit your local Centrelink office or read through the information on their website for more information.
  • Avoid bad debts if possible. It’s all too easy to try and dig yourself out of a hole using a credit card, but usually you’ll only end up digging yourself in deeper. If you can’t pay off your balance in full, you start paying interest at up to 20 per cent. If you do have a problem with credit card debt, look into a zero per cent balance transfer option and focus everything you have on paying it off before the interest free period ends.

It also helps to start building great money habits as quickly as possible, so make sure to:

  • Have a budget.
  • Share expenses whenever possible.
  • Cut down unnecessary spending, try to have fun without buying things and don’t worry about keepin up with the crowd.
  • Be a savvy customer: student discounts, coupons, garage sales and Gumtree are your new best friends. Start a deal diary and start saving money.

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