The ultimate guide to being frugal on a student budget

June 15, 2017
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Not many uni students have unlimited funds to pay for their hectic party lifestyle, most of us have to budget. Keeping to a budget can seem impossible, especially when we still want to catch up with friends, have a night out, eat well and still pay the rent.

Mi Goreng is everyone’s BFF while studying and chucking an egg on top is a gourmet meal. Pre-drinks is less about a chill start with friends and more about powering through as much goon as possible so you don’t have to pay while out. We endlessly search for the one café on campus that has the cheapest soy milk.  Avocados haven’t seen the light of day in our meal plans since we lived with our parents. 

For most students, we have to cut down on the fun to get by. However, there are ways to get a couple of cheap thrills along the way.

Student events

We all know the money saving trick of going out on student nights. Make sure you go out before you have to pay for entry and look out for cheap deals. The student savings aren’t limited to nights out, though. Look out for campus meal deals and free events.

Especially during exam periods, university guilds or clubs will give away free breakfast, sausages, lollies or even energy drinks. While it may seem like too much of an effort to go to univ for free food, remember that’s one decent meal catered for. Keep an eye out for free stationary too.

Ask for birthday booze

While that $40 bottle of spirits is too much for your day-to-day budget life, asking friends to pick one up for your birthday allows you to get creative with your drinks without breaking the budget.

Take advantage of your freezer

We spend so much money having to replace expendable food items that end up going off in the back of the fridge. Most budget saving tips recommend meal planning, but nobody likes having to eat the same meal too many times.

Instead, chop up individual ingredients and pop them directly in your freezer. Cube your capsicum and onion, break cauliflower or broccoli into small florets and slice up that banana. They easily unfreeze as you cook, bake or stirfry them and you can portion each component exactly how you like it. This method works especially well if you’re only cooking for one, as the ingredients stay fresh and last twice as long. It also enables you to buy less when you go to the supermarket, because you know you have ingredients stashed away.


Taking cash out before a night out can regulate how much you spend and saves you from ridiculous credit card charges.

Pasta dishes save the day

There are certain ingredients that aren’t made for freezing. Leftover lettuce and herbs can be pureed with some cheese and olive oil to make homemade pesto. Same goes for pumpkin – just bake and blend for a creamy pasta sauce. Pumpkin is a doozy when it comes to your vegs going off, so take advantage of this seemingly luxurious meal.

Check the home brand option

As any business student will tell you, it’s all about the packaging. To make the most out of your weekly grocery shop, check the labels, as many products actually have the exact same ingredients list as the cheaper, home brand alternative. Especially when it comes to herbs, spices, packaged fruits, rice, canned goods or even cheese, often the home brand is the way to go. If the ugly packaging is all too much for you, take baby steps and purchase cheaper, off brand alternatives. Aldi is a wonderful place.

Supermarket hop

If you have multiple supermarkets in your area, don’t be afraid to pick and choose for different products. While Aldi has the best Italian ingredients, Woolies and Coles may have cheaper canned legumes. If there is a local food market in your area, definitely stock up on your fruit and vegetables there, as supermarkets can more than double the price of what you’ll find locally.  Just don’t be drawn in by the organic options, uni students can’t afford to be quite that classy yet.

Jessamy Tredinnick

Jessamy is a QUT Bachelor of Journalism (advertising major) student. She is partial to cats, artsy-fartsy films, travelling, bubble baths, autobiographies and mulled wine.