10 budgeting tips for international students

Helpful tips for managing your money and living on a student budget in Australia.

10 January 2024

A group of international students enjoying food at a restaurant

Saigon Summer at Newtown (Image credit: Destination NSW)

Managing your money as a student can be challenging. However, there are many things you can do to save money when you’re in Australia and still have loads of fun!   

In this blog post, we’ll share some simple ways to manage your finances as well as helpful tips on finding the best deals and discounts.  

1. Set up your budget like a pro 

Creating a budget is a good idea. It will show you where your money is going and help you set aside enough for bills and other expenses. 

To get started, check out this budget planner tool provided by the Australian Government’s MoneySmart website. It allows you to tailor your budget based on your income, expenses and savings goals.  

If you haven't yet arrived in Australia, you can get an idea of living expenses by using the Study Australia Cost of Living Calculator.

2. Find deals and discounts 

Here are some great apps and online deal platforms for discounts:  

  • First Table gives you 50% off on some great restaurants by dining a little earlier (around 5 or 6pm). 
  • Use the Honey extension on Chrome to search the internet for discount codes when you’re online shopping. 
  • Use ClassPass to get credits to try activities like yoga, Pilates and gym visits. You can customise a plan that works for your budget after the trial. 
  • UNiDAYS offers student discounts on a range of popular brands and stores. 
  • Shopback is a rewards program that gives you cash back after shopping at a large range of stores. 
  • The Happiest Hour helps you find the best bar and pub specials in your city. 
  • Groupon or LivingSocial offer discounts on hotels, events, spas, restaurants and more.   

3. Eating out 

In addition to using the discount apps above, there are some other ways to save on dining out:  

  • Restaurants and bars often have cheap food and drink specials on weeknights. Check the websites of your favourite places to see what’s on.  
  • Avoid dining out on public holidays if possible as most places will charge 10-20% more on those days.  
  • Find out what restaurants and bars offer student discounts. Often there are places near your campus.  
  • Find a BYO (bring your own) restaurant. This means you can bring your own wine to the dinner so you can save on alcohol. 

4. Find free or discounted ways to exercise  

  • Many gyms and fitness groups offer student discounts.  
  • Universities and TAFEs often have gyms on campus with low prices. 
  • Check if there are community yoga classes in your area which are sometimes free or by donation.  
  • Free exercise equipment, walking tracks and bike paths can be found in most cities in Australia.  

5. Make the most of your student discounts 

One of the perks of being a student is the discounts! With your student card you can get discounts at most movie theatres, banks, events, hairdressers, museums and various other stores. Some states and territories provide discounted public transport for international students.  

6. Save on grocery shopping 

Here are some ways to save money on groceries:  

  • Plan meals based on weekly specials (discounts) that are available at the larger supermarkets. 
  • Stock up on non-perishable foods when they're on special such as cans of tuna, beans or tomatoes. Also try to buy the more expensive items like washing powder or toilet paper when they’re on special.  
  • Join the reward programs that are available at the larger supermarkets. Once you earn 2,000 points, you will receive $10 off.  
  • Shop at a local farmer’s market. The produce is often fresher and cheaper.  

7. Bring your lunch from home 

Make your lunch at home and take it with you instead of buying meals. Some lunch ideas include: 

  • a sandwich with snacks like fruit and nuts 
  • a salad with quinoa or rice 
  • leftovers from the previous night's dinner 
  • a bento box lunch container with your favourite foods to pick at. This could include cold cuts, boiled eggs, olives, cherry tomatoes, cheese or pickles.   

Some campuses have lunchrooms with a fridge and microwave that you can use. 

8. Shop secondhand 

Two friends trying on coats at a secondhand shop

Newtown Vintage, Newtown (Image credit: Destination NSW)

Shopping for clothes, home items or textbooks doesn’t need to be expensive. Here are some great places to get some secondhand bargains: 

  • Op-shops (secondhand shops): You can find op-shops in most areas of Australia such as the Salvation Army or Vinnies. It’s a great way to find unique and retro clothes, secondhand brand items and homewares such as pots, pans and dishes. 
  • Facebook: You can find cheap secondhand furniture, clothes and all kinds of items on Facebook Marketplace. You can also join the Facebook group of the suburb or area that you live in, as often people give items away for free. Find out about shopping on Facebook safely.  
  • StudentVIP: It’s a good idea to buy textbooks secondhand as they can be expensive.  StudentVIP has a large used textbook marketplace. You can also check Facebook Marketplace or Facebook groups. Just make sure you're buying an in-date edition. 
  • Markets: Search online for secondhand markets in your area.  
  • Depop: Buy your favourite brands secondhand on the Depop app or online platform.  
  • Garage sales: A great way to find a bargain is through garage sales. They are often advertised on Facebook Marketplace.  

9. Shop the sales 

If you want to buy new items, you’ll save a lot of money by waiting for the sales. The biggest sales in Australia are:  

  • End of financial year sales (June/ July) 
  • Black Friday (November) 
  • Boxing day sales (From 26th December). 

You can also shop at factory outlets such as DFO for cheaper deals on well-known brands.  

10. Get help if you’re having financial problems 

If you’re having financial problems or finding it hard to get a job or accommodation, then talk to your education provider.  

There are also a range of international student support services available within your state or territory: 

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