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Navigating Finances During Higher Education

By January 9, 2024No Comments
Navigating Finances During Higher Education

Smart Money Moves for College Students

Disclaimer: This content does not constitute financial advice. The article below is for the readers’ information and education only. The writers at Friendly Finance are not financial advisors and are therefore not authorised to offer financial advice. Friendly Finance recommends our readers to always do their own research and seek independent advice as needed.

Navigating finances during higher education can be a daunting task, especially for college students in Australia. According to THE, high levels of fear related to fees and debt are identified as barriers preventing Australians from pursuing higher education, despite the availability of income-contingent loans. The precarious impacts of financial stress are found to be higher for students with limited or no access to family support, emphasising the need for practical solutions.

In response to these challenges, this guide aims to provide essential financial management tips to students wanting to pursue higher education.

Understanding Your Financial Landscape

Typical Expenses for College Students in Australia

Here’s a general breakdown of common expenses for college students in Australia, keeping in mind that costs can vary depending on your location, lifestyle, and specific choices:

Tuition fees


  • On-campus dorms: $150 to $400 per week
  • Shared apartments or homestays: Costs vary depending on location and arrangements.

Living costs

Income Sources for Students

  • Part-time work: You’re allowed to work up to 40 hours per fortnight during your studies.
  • Scholarships: Australian universities and other organisations offer various scholarships based on academic merit, financial need, or specific fields of study. You can check with your university’s financial aid office for details.
  • Government assistance: While eligibility can be limited, some students may qualify for Youth Allowance if they meet specific residency and income requirements.

It’s important to create a budget and track your expenses to manage your finances effectively. Resources are also available at your university to help you with financial planning and budgeting.

Budgeting and Money Management

Effective budgeting plays a crucial role in ensuring financial stability. Here’s a guide on the importance of budgeting, creating a budget, and introducing useful apps and tools.

The Importance of Budgeting

Budgeting is essential for financial stability, providing a roadmap for managing income and expenses. A well-crafted budget helps monitor financial performance, identify deviations from the plan, and make timely adjustments.

Creating a Budget

When it comes to budgeting, selecting the right app can significantly impact your financial management. Here are some top budgeting apps for various needs:

  • YNAB (You Need A Budget): Ideal for hands-on zero-based budgeting, YNAB helps users manage their finances effectively.
  • Goodbudget: Known for hands-on envelope budgeting, Goodbudget is suitable for users who prefer a practical budgeting approach.
  • EveryDollar: Designed for simple zero-based budgeting, EveryDollar offers an accessible approach to budget management.
  • Mint: Recognised as the best free budgeting app, Mint is a comprehensive tool for tracking expenses and managing finances.
  • PocketGuard: Known for debt payoff tools, PocketGuard assists users in setting bill reminders, and fee alerts, and creating savings.
  • Simplifi by Quicken: Considered best for cash flow management, Simplifi helps users gain control over their finances.

Saving and Investing

Building an Emergency Fund

Having an emergency fund is crucial for financial stability. According to The Motley Fool Australia, an emergency fund is a reserved amount of money specifically set aside to cover unforeseen or urgent expenses. This fund acts as a safety net during unexpected situations like medical emergencies, car repairs, or sudden unemployment. MoneySmart further emphasises the importance of saving for an emergency fund, recommending it as a strategy to cover urgent or unexpected costs.

Introduction to Investing

For students looking to start investing, it’s essential to begin with a solid foundation. Vanguard Australia offers five fundamental investing tips for beginners:

  1. Evaluate where you’re at financially
  2. Create clear goals
  3. Diversify your assets
  4. Do your research
  5. Keep learning

Additionally, Forbes provides insights into the best micro-investing apps available in Australia. Some popular platforms include Raiz Invest, Spaceship Voyager, CommSec Pocket, and Stake. These micro-investing apps offer an accessible entry point for students to start their investment journey with small amounts of money.

Managing Debt and Loans

Understanding Student Loans in Australia

The Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) is a government scheme in Australia that offers interest-free loans to eligible students to cover tuition fees for higher education. Repayment is income-contingent, commencing when the borrower’s income surpasses the repayment threshold. The outstanding amount is annually indexed by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

In addition to government programs like HELP, personal loans are also available for students. These loans often come with flexible terms and lower interest rates compared to other financial options. Repayment terms for personal loans can vary, and banks typically provide a maximum repayment period, often up to 15 years. Check out Friendly Finance available loans for students to know more.

Strategies for Managing and Repaying Debt

  • Assess Your Debts: Create a detailed list of all your debts, including amounts, minimum monthly payments, and due dates. Include all types of debts like credit cards, loans, buy now pay later, unpaid bills, and fines.
  • Seek Professional Guidance: If overwhelmed by debt, resist quick-fix solutions like payday loans. Consult a financial counsellor who will help you understand options and create a plan.
  • Budget Analysis: Conduct a budget to evaluate income and expenses. Differentiate between needs and wants and identify areas for potential savings.
  • Determine Debt Repayment Capacity: After making necessary spending cuts, calculate the surplus (debt money) by subtracting expenses from income.
  • Prioritise Debt and Essential Bills: Prioritise payments based on importance, including rent, mortgage, utility bills, and essential travel expenses. Utilise resources like the National Debt Helpline’s guide to prioritise debts effectively.
  • Plan Higher Priority Payments: Develop a repayment plan for higher priority debts using the calculated debt money. Communicate with providers for support, extensions, or instalment plans if struggling with large bills.
  • Adopt the Snowball Method: List debts from smallest to largest and pay the minimum on all. Allocate the remaining debt money to pay off the smallest debt first, gradually progressing to larger debts.
  • HECS Debt Management: Consider a dual approach to managing HECS debt, combining additional repayments with a strategic reduction plan.
  • Cultivate a Savings Mindset: Once debts are manageable, focus on savings. Establish an emergency fund and open a savings account. Also consider ways to grow money for future goals like education, a car, or a house deposit.

Smart Spending Habits

Frugal Living Tips for Students

As a student in Australia, adopting frugal living practices can significantly ease financial strains. Consider these practical tips:

  • Part-Time Employment: Australia provides living wages, making part-time jobs a viable option for students.
  • Budget Planning: Develop a comprehensive budget to manage finances effectively.
  • Smart Grocery Shopping: Be strategic with food purchases to minimise expenses.
  • Second-Hand Purchases: Explore garage sales or second-hand markets for affordable clothing and items.
  • Resourceful Book Buying: Connect with higher-year students to buy second-hand textbooks.

Making the Most of Student Discounts

Australia offers a plethora of exclusive discounts for students, aiding them in managing their budgets effectively. Here’s a compilation of lesser-known student discounts across various categories:


Download the UNiDAYS app for quick and free access to online student discounts from major brands in fashion, lifestyle, and technology, including ASOS, ICONIC, and Apple.

Student Beans

Similar to UNiDAYS, Student Beans provides tailored student discounts, and you might discover special offers on your birthday in their blog section.


Students receive a 10% discount on ASOS by shopping online and can obtain the discount code through the ASOS student validation form or by signing up for UNiDAYS or Student Beans.


Offering a 10% discount for UNiDAYS members, THE ICONIC is an online store featuring Australian and international brands, providing an opportunity to support local fashion while enjoying student perks.

Event Cinemas

Enjoy a student rate of $10 tickets Monday to Thursday and explore special promotions and rewards with the Cinebuzz Rewards Program.

Fitness First

University students can benefit from concession discounts on gym memberships at Fitness First, promoting a healthy and affordable lifestyle.


The Apple Education Store provides special discounts on selected Mac and iPad models for current or newly accepted university students, along with discounted rates for Apple Music and free access to Apple TV+.


Microsoft offers free access to the Office 365 suite by signing up through a student email address, and the Microsoft Education Store provides discounts on selected Surface laptops and accessories.


Optus offers a 10% student discount on eligible plans and additional discounts for home internet plans, prepaid SIM cards, and mobile devices. From July to September 2023, eligible tertiary students can enjoy $20 off monthly plan fees for 12 months on the $59/month Optus Choice Plus plan.


UNiDAYS members can avail themselves of a 33% discount at Domino’s, making it an ideal option for a Friday movie night meal or a house party.


Enjoy up to half-price off meals for both eat-in and takeaway with EatClub, a convenient app-based service offering discounts to users.


Students can get a free drink on Mondays to Wednesdays with the purchase of any burger or salad at Grill’d, and also receive a birthday drink by signing up.

Planning for the Future

Setting Financial Goals

Setting effective financial goals is crucial for a secure future. Consider these steps:

  • Understand Your Objectives: Identify short-term goals like budgeting and reducing debt, along with long-term goals such as homeownership or retirement planning.
  • Prioritise Goals: Determine the priority and timeline for each goal to create a structured plan.
  • Create a Budget: Develop a budget aligned with your financial goals, considering income, expenses, and savings.
  • Emergency Fund: Establish an emergency fund to handle unexpected expenses and ensure financial stability.

Preparing for Life After College

Transitioning from college to full-time employment requires careful planning:

  • Balancing Work and Study: Seek advice on managing time effectively when working and studying simultaneously.
  • Research Further Education: If necessary, research additional study requirements for career changes and explore financial assistance options.
  • Financial Planning: Plan for your financial future by understanding the implications of a career change and adjusting your budget accordingly.


Navigating finances during higher education in Australia demands strategic planning and smart money moves. Understanding the typical expenses for college students, such as tuition fees, accommodation, and living costs, is crucial for effective budgeting. Students can supplement their income through part-time work, scholarships, and government assistance, emphasising the importance of creating a budget and tracking expenses. Effective budgeting, building an emergency fund, and exploring investment opportunities are essential components of financial stability.

Managing debt, especially student loans like the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), requires careful consideration, with available strategies including debt assessment, professional guidance, and prioritising repayments. Adopting a savings mindset, practising frugal living, and leveraging student discounts contribute to financial well-being. Finally, setting clear financial goals and preparing for life after college, including potential career changes, further solidify a secure financial future for students in Australia.

By following these strategies, students can navigate the complexities of higher education while fostering long-term financial health.

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