Whether you're a student at high school, TAFE, university or a private college, it helps to plan for the costs of travel, study and tools. Student discounts, if you're lucky enough to get them, will only get you so far.

Here we show you how to organise your money so you'll have enough time and energy to get the most out of your course.

Living on a student budget

On top of your study costs, your living expenses may begin to add up when you start tertiary study. Take control of your money by doing a budget. This will help you break down your regular income and expenses and see how much you can save.

Your income could include:

  • Salary from any part-time or casual jobs you have while studying. See our First job page for more information.
  • Government allowances - The Australian Government offers a number of allowances to help students. Check the Department of Human Services website to see if you're eligible to receive the Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY.

Some of the costs you'll need to consider include:

  • Bills - for your phone, food, gas and electricity.
  • Accommodation - these costs will change according to whether you live at home, in a share house or on campus. Our page on Moving out of home has more information about living expenses.
  • Transport - the further away from uni you live, the higher your transport costs will be.

Break down your costs and plan for your future.

Budget planner

Student loans

The Australian Government offers a range of student loans to help cover some of the costs of studying. Each type of loan has different eligibility requirements, so check the details to see if you qualify.

Higher Education Loan Program (HELP)

HELP is a Government initiative introduced to support students struggling with their finances. Under the program there are several loans available that will cover a range of expenses, such as course fees, textbooks or resources.

  • FEE-HELP - an interest-free loan scheme available to fee-paying undergraduate and postgraduate students to help cover tuition costs.
  • HECS-HELP - available to Commonwealth supported students to pay your student contributions. It cannot be used to cover the cost of extras like textbooks or accommodation.
  • SA-HELP - covers the cost of your student services and amenities fees.
  • OS-HELP - assists eligible students who wish to study part of your course overseas. The loan can be used for travel costs, accommodation or study expenses.

Other student loans

  • Student Start-up Loan - available to students who currently receive Youth Allowance, Austudy, or ABSTUDY Living Allowance payments. If you're eligible, you can receive a tax-free payment twice a year.
  • Trade Support Loan - available for eligible Australian apprentices. The loan can help cover living costs, such as rent and bills or expenses associated with the apprenticeship, like the cost of tools.

Paying off your uni debt

You have to start repaying your HELP debt through the tax system when you earn above a certain amount, even if you're still studying. The repayment amount is between 4% and 8% of your income, depending on how much you earn. Find out more about the annual thresholds and repayments at Study Assist: loan repayment.

You must tell your employer you have a HELP debt so they can deduct it from your pay. You do this by completing a new tax file number declaration form. You will also need to complete this form each time you start a new job.

Video: What you need to know before applying for a HELP loan

Video about HELP loans

What should you be aware of when it comes to applying for and repaying a HELP loan?

Work-related study

If you're fortunate enough to get the chance to study whilst working, it is important to understand your entitlements.

  • Tax deductions - If your study or training is relevant to your job, you may be able to claim some of your expenses as a tax deduction. See the Australian Taxation Office's webpage on self-education expenses for more details.
  • Paid study leave - Ask your employer if they can offer paid study leave or give you time to study during work hours. Some employers may even be able to pay for your course fees or other study expenses.
  • Apprenticeships - You may be doing on-the-job training through an apprenticeship or traineeship scheme. If your employer agrees, they will pay your wage while you get qualifications.
  • Australian Defence Force Academy - The Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) offers tax-free pay and allowances to eligible students who take on a career in the Australian Defence Force. ADFA also pays for their undergraduate or postgraduate degrees.


If you have to reduce your work hours to manage your study, your employer's superannuation contributions will decrease. This is because your employer pays your super based on your salary or wages.

The costs of studying can add up but, by checking what allowances you're entitled to, and sticking to a budget, you'll be able to focus on your course.

Related links

Last updated: 02 Aug 2019