How to budget for university in 2021

Making a budget for university on the computer

Tests, assignments, heavy workload, limited sleep, a new environment – the start of the university year can bring strains and stresses with it. Studies have shown that student finances can be a top stressor – with nearly a third of students saying that money issues had impacted their mental health.

It is impossible to effectively manage your finances if you have no idea what state you are in – so, it is important to create and maintain a weekly or monthly budget plan. Start with estimating your income for the term, subtract your estimated outgoing and divide the number you’re left with by the number of weeks in a term.

Knowing what costs may crop up can help you budget effectively for anything that may come up.

Estimate your income

Common student income streams are:

  • A student loan and/or allowance
  • Extra money from scholarships or grants
  • Regular money from parents or family
  • Salary from a part-time hob
  • Savings

Estimate your outgoings

1. Accommodation costs

The cost of flatting depends on where you are planning to live and what kind of flat you are looking for. Auckland is the most expensive place to rent in New Zealand, rooms in flats in the city can be over $250 per week. In other cities the cost can be around to $140-$170 per bedroom per week. But you will need to budget for more than just rent.

2. Course Costs

Common course costs include textbooks, printing costs, materials, travel for work placements, field trips, technical equipment or report binding.

There are some ways you can save on these costs. For example, when it comes to books look at second hand options. Check out which options are absolutely essential to buy, and what you can find online or borrow from the library. When it comes to printing, it may be cheaper in the long run to buy your own printer (and share costs with flatmates) than to use the university facilities.

3. Transport

Whether you are planning to bus, train or drive to campus you will need to factor in travel costs. Whichever NZ town you are studying in, you are likely to qualify for a tertiary student discount, so it is worth getting yourself sorted with a travel card.

4. Food

Nobody wants to live up to the myth of students living off tins of baked beans. Whatever your budget you can eat normally and healthily by following a few pointers:

  • Avoid impulse buys by making a shopping list and sticking to it
  • Learn to cook. Make meals in bulk and freeze meals so that nothing goes to waste. Cooking in bulk works out cheaper and you will have healthy meals at hand to pop in the microwave any time.
  • Make packed lunches, rather than buying lunch.
  • Take a packed snack rather than buying snacks like mixed nuts, fruits, pre-cut vegetables, or muesli bars
  • Make your own coffee at home and put it in a reusable keep cup to take to uni with you, some cafes even offer a discount if you bring your own cup!
  • Always take a drink bottle full of water, that way you’re always hydrated and don’t need to buy bottled water. Hydration is key to effective learning

5. Utilities

If you are living in student accommodation, then you won’t need to worry about utilities like electricity and water. But if you are flatting, you will need to get on top of your household bills.

If you’re flatting, remember that you don’t have to stay with the same utility provider when you move in. Websites like Power Compare can help you compare deals available at your address to find the best deal for your flat. Once you have your utilities set up, make sure you set aside a certain amount each month to cover your bills.

6. Broadband

This is another cost you won’t need to worry about if you are living in student accommodation, but you will need to consider if you are flatting.

Finding the best deal on broadband is easy with Broadband Compare – simply enter your address to see the best and cheapest broadband deals for your address.

7. Insurance

You might be surprised by how much your belongings are actually worth once you add up the cost of your laptop, phone, TV, clothes, specialist course equipment etc. Check out the cost of different levels of insurance and compare it to the cost of replacing your items if the unforeseen happens.

8. Toiletries

You may not realise how much toiletries like shower gel and toothpaste cost until you are out on your own. When you set up your budget, it’s a good idea to set aside enough for the basics.

9. Savings

It is a good idea to put some money aside each week into a separate account so that you have something extra put aside for additional expenses that come up like clothes, shoes, medical expenses and trips home.

10. Socialising

Although it’s not “essential”, try to put a small amount aside each week for socialising - that is after all one of the reasons you are at university! If you have a set amount to spend each week, it will help keep costs from getting out of control in the long term. This could be planned spending on nights out, coffees, movies, eating out or travelling

There are also lots of free and cheap things to do around university and the city. Trips to parks, beaches, art galleries, museums, summer cinema, farmers markets are all low-cost or even free!

Sample budget for a NZ University student

The exact costs in your budget will depend on your living situation, the types of deals you can find for utilities, how many people you are splitting costs with, and the type of transportation you use. Here is a sample of what you may need to spend:


Approximate Cost Per Week


Up to $250

Phone / broadband


Mobile phone


Power / gas

$15 (more in cold places)


$70 (more if buying individually)

Toiletries / personal items


Contents & liability insurance


Transportation costs






Tuesday, 26 January 2021