How to adult: Money

Being a student can make your budget tricky to manage. Study is important, but you don’t get paid for it. Food costs money but you kind of need it to not be dead. Here’s a few tips to help keep you not dead.

Setting up your finances:

  • Multiple. Bank. Accounts. One big pile of money is a dangerous thing. Split your funds into a few accounts – have one just for essentials (rent, bills etc) that you cannot access using your card. Have another for saving and another for day-to-day expenses (myki, petrol, cheese etc).
  • Consider envelopes as an alternative. It works basically the same way as having multiple bank accounts. Put your grocery money in its own envelope and don’t touch it until you’re on your way to the supermarket.


  • Look for discounts everywhere. Hairdressers often have unadvertised student rates and it’s well worth emailing ahead to ask. Origin offer a discount on your energy bills for just paying on time. Optus do 10% off most plans for students. Unidays is a great way to find student discounts – just register with your unimelb email address and you’re good to go.
  • Consider bundles when you’re setting up utilities. Most companies will offer a discount if you get multiple services supplied through them.
  • Health Care Cards. Even if you don’t qualify for youth allowance, you might still be eligible for one of these bad boys from centrelink. Perks include: discounted car registration, cheaper bills in winter, concession myki (even for postgrad students!), free ambulance should you ever need it. This is basically instant proof that you have no money.

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  • Buy textbooks secondhand, if at all. Libraries are great, you guys. If you really do need to buy a textbook, hunt around online for the cheapest price and make sure you’re a Co-op member if you wind up purchasing there.
  • Shop by unit price – up to a point. It is cheaper to buy in bulk for things that you will actually use. Washing powder is a good example – buy a huge box (bonus points if it’s on special) and it will be heaps cheaper. Don’t buy a huge amount of spinach if it’s going to go bad before you can finish it.
  • You can buy so much stuff from op-shops. Clothes, crockery, Nancy Drew books from the 80s…Savers is just up the tram line from Royal Parade and offers student discounts on Sundays.
  • Really consider your purchases. If you’re on the fence about a purchase, give yourself permission to buy it next week. By the time next week comes, you will have a better idea of whether this is something you are really prepared to spend your money on.
  • Do your grocery shopping at a market. Prices are cheaper and the food is fresh and delicious. If you can’t get to a local market, try doing your grocery shopping online. It’s easier to compare prices and you can often avoid impulse purchases.


Getting extra cash:

  • A job, is obviously an excellent way to keep your bank balance above $0. However, it can be tricky to fit work around classes. If you have a lot of contact hours, try to compensate by working full time over uni breaks if you can.
  • You can get some money for completing surveys online. ValuedOpinions lets you redeem gift cards for places like Dymocks, Hoyts, Coles, JBHiFi. You won’t get more than a few dollars per survey, but it’s a decent way to make money while watching Netflix. There’s a heap of these types of sites that are less-than-great, so do a little bit of research before you start. Try looking at r/beermoney to get started.
  • Tutoring is a great way to make some extra cash. Try looking for students at your old high school, on careersonline, or set up a profile on universitytutor. For convenience and safety, I recommend hosting lessons at a public library, rather than a private home.
  • There are lots of service based companies that offer flexible work hours. Uber, Deliveroo, Foodora etc are worth looking at. However, it’s worth noting that some of these companies aren’t exactly known for upholding their legal obligations to employees. You can contact the Young Workers Centre if you think your employer might be acting illegally.
  • The psych faculty sometimes offer cash incentives for participants in their studies. Keep an eye on careersonline.
  • If you find yourself with an unexpected financial emergency, don’t panic just yet. The university offers loans to students who need some extra financial assistance.



  • Learn cheap recipes. You don’t have to rule out certain foods, but you might want to adapt your cooking repertoire to make them cheaper. Eg, meat is pretty expensive, but it’s much cheaper to buy a roast and split that up across a few meals. An even cheaper option is to replace meat with some veggies, beans, or lentils.
  • Learn what you can make on your own. Things like pasta sauce, pesto, even cereal can all be made from scratch, rather than store bought. Do some research online and try to figure out what you’re able to make yourself.
  • UMSU’s Welfare Department has a food bank for students who are having difficulty keeping their pantry stocked.
  • Always have versatile foods on hand. Try to make sure your kitchen always has tinned tomatoes, lentils, pasta, rice, and spices. These are foods that you don’t need to use right away, but can be used to make a whole bunch of different meals. It’s much harder to order a pizza if there’s a cheap, easy meal waiting to be cooked in your pantry at any given moment.
  • Check out this post about finding free food on campus. It is a well-documented fact that free food tastes better than the regular kind.


Avoid spending money:

  • Walk. If you are able, walking is the cheapest way of getting around and it’s less gross than a bus. A bike is a good option if you have one/can afford buying one. Try second hand bikes on gumtree or from friends.
  • Make saving money your default option. Instead of putting any leftover money into savings at the end of the month, try putting all your money into a savings account and withdrawing only a small amount into a transactions account for spending. This way, you need to justify your expenses before they occur, and really consider how much you are planning to spend.
  • Leave your money at home. If I want to make sure I walk home from class, I leave my myki at home. If I want to avoid spending too much money, I put $10 cash in my pocket and leave my wallet behind.

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-Good luck!




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