Budgeting as a student

Penny pinching tips from someone who's been there before

Students enjoying free pancakes Students enjoying free pancakes

Becoming a university student comes with a whole lot of new expenses.

For some of you it will mean moving out of home and finding a place, either at college or in a share house. Some of you will stay at home, saving money on rent.

But either way it’s often the small everyday expenses you don’t give much thought to that begin to add up.

Stationery and text books can put a huge hole in your savings each semester. If you’re clever you can reduce the financial burden by: 

  • going to Market Day during O-Fest and collecting all the free pens you’ll need for the next three years
  • checking if your textbooks are available  second-hand
  • keeping your books in good condition and  selling them at the end of semester.

Staying fed

At school most people probably brought their lunch from home, and the only alternative was the tuckshop.

Once you hit uni though, the options are almost limitless, and the temptation to enjoy a rotating menu of burritos, burgers, sushi and hot chips is very real.

To keep costs down:

  • sign up for any and every birthday freebie, both on campus and throughout Brisbane
  • suss out the ever-changing special offers at most campus food outlets
  • buy a reusable coffee cup and get a discount on takeaway coffee
  • bring your own lunch or leftovers and use the microwaves and 24-hour student rooms to heat it up
  • keep a reusable water bottle on you and fill up at the drinking water fountains all over campus
  • join the Red Room Reddy Crew for regular specials and a free birthday meal
  • visit the UQU Food Co-op and get a whole bag of fruit and vegetables for $10
  • enjoy cheap eats from a variety of Brisbane's best food trucks during revision period – subsidised by your Student Services and Amenities Fee.

If money is still tight, the UQ Union has you sorted for free meals too:

  • Check out the free breakfast bar on Mondays and Tuesdays; including toast, muesli, cereal, fruit, yoghurt, milo, tea and coffee.
  • Line up for the free pancake barbecue every Thursday morning.
  • Get yourself a free dinner at Kampus Kitchen every Wednesday night.

Second image credit: getty/michaelpuche

Getting around

Transport is an unavoidable expense of university if you’re not lucky enough to live within walking distance.

Whether you drive or catch public transport, there are a couple of tricks to saving that hard-earned cash for more exciting purchases:

  • Register your go card so if you ever lose it the balance can be transferred to a new card.
  • If you have to drive, download the CellOpark app to secure the cheapest daily parking rates and ensure you never get a parking ticket for overstaying.
  • For those living in Brisbane’s western suburbs, there is a free intercampus shuttle between St Lucia and Gatton with pick-up points along the Western Freeway and at Indooroopilly Shopping Centre.

Social life and wellness

Living on a budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a social life:

  • The UQ Union and Student Services put on free and low-cost events for students all year round, including pizza parties, food trucks and open-air movies at St Lucia’s Natural Amphitheatre.
  • Catch up with friends for brunch and grab some cheap fresh produce at one of the many suburban weekend farmers markets.
  • Get out and explore what free activities Brisbane has to offer. The  Visit Brisbane website is a great place for inspiration. 

University can be a stressful time for some people, so make sure you take care of your physical and mental health by:

By Katrina Shimmin-Clarke

Food truck at UQ event serves students Food truck at UQ event serves students