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What we spend: Uni students in Sydney struggling despite free rent

By Jemima Skelley|

Are you spending too much on frivolous stuff? Do you wish you had a bigger amount of savings?

They're hard questions to answer, especially during this cost of living crisis which has us all tightening the purse strings.

?With our What We Spend series, we're taking a look at the different way Aussie ?couples and housemates spend their money each week.

This week, we chatted to two uni students who live together in Sydney.

Janie: A 22-year-old journalism student who interns two days a week and works in a cafe on Saturdays. Average income comes to around $30,000 a year.

Arizona:? A 21-year-old psychology student who works at a call centre three days a week, earning about $25,000 a year.

READ MORE: Would you move back in with your parents to save money??

Janie and Arizona are a couple in their 20s, working and studying in Sydney. (Getty)

What are your weekly bills/expenses? Any savings?


What we spend, budgeting, saving
(9Honey/Tara Blancato)

Groceries: $50
Gym: $14
Public transport: $32?
Streaming services: $8
Phone bill: $8
Internet: $6
Rent: $50

Total regular weekly expenses for Janie: ?$168


What we spend, budgeting, saving
(9Honey/Tara Blancato)

Groceries: $100
Gym: $35
Car expenses: $40
Phone bill: $8
Internet: $6
Rent: $0

Total regular weekly expenses for Arizona: ?$189

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What are your thoughts on your spending habits? Do you spend much outside your weekly regular expenses?

Janie:? I'm obviously on a very low income, so my spending habits are in line with that. I do have some savings that I dip into when I need to, but I try to avoid that. I'm so lucky to only pay $50 rent 每 Arizona and I live in an apartment owned by her parents, so that's all they ask me to contribute.

My actual spending varies week-to-week. Some weeks I'm so busy with uni and work that I have no time to socialise. Other times I can blow $300 in a night out. ?

Arizona: ?I wouldn't be able to survive in Sydney as a student if ?I had to pay rent. I don't know how other people do it. My biggest expense is my car and my groceries. I could definitely eat on more of a budget, but I love cooking and couldn't get by on just rice and two-minute noodles.

READ MORE: What we spend: Married freelancers in Brisbane with unstable incomes?

It's hard for uni students to earn enough money to live in major cities. (Getty)


Janie: I have a paid internship, so today I'm in the office. ?I bought myself a $4.50 coffee as a Monday morning treat, but brought my lunch from home. After work I had drinks with Arizona and some other uni friends 每 it was happy hour so I spent $22 on four house wines.

Arizona: ?The uni is about a 30-minute walk from our place, so I don't have to waste money on public transport. I bought a cheap $6 sandwich for lunch, then spent $45 at the pub on beers and dinner.


Janie: The only money I spent today was $2.50 on the bus because I was running late for class and didn't have time to walk. But I made my own coffee at home, so it balances out, right? Arizona made me dinner. I also bought a new vape, $35.

Arizona: ?I was just at work today, so my only expense was $15 on lunch, then $20 on ingredients to make pasta for me and Janie for date night.

READ MORE: Angeli spends just $150 a week on groceries for her family?

Arizona says that she spends a lot on cooking at home. (Getty)


Janie: I was in the office again today, but didn't spend any cash until dinner. My friend and I split a bowl of pad Thai at a cheap takeaway joint near me, which was $7 each.

Arizona: ?I drove to work after class, and got a Maccas drive-thru coffee on the way for $5.20. I had leftovers for dinner but I bought a bottle of wine on the way home for $12.


Janie: It was back-to-back classes all day, but in the afternoon we hit the uni bar. I did some damage, and ended up spending about $80. There was a comedy show, so we spent a lot of time there, hence the massive bar tab.

Arizona: ?I spent $5.20 on a coffee before work, then went straight home and crashed early.


Janie: I spent all day at uni again, then had dinner with some school mates. We split the total bill, which was $37.50 each.

Arizona: ?I also had a whole day of classes, but I bought lunch and a coffee for $15. At night, I went to a queer club night in the city that my friend organised: It was a $10 entry fee, I spent about $50 on drinks, then $17 on a kebab on the way home.

READ MORE: How partners with different salaries manage household finance?

Both girls' biggest expense is going out. (Getty)


Janie: I work the Saturday morning shift at a cafe near home. I brought home coffee for me and Arizona, which cost $11. We had a mate's house party at night, so I bought some seltzers and a bottle of wine for a total of $36.

Arizona: ? I did a grocery run because I knew that I won't want to do it tomorrow, I spent $46. Plus, I got a $42 bottle of vodka and impulse-bought a $25 peace lily for our living room.


Janie: I went out for a greasy brunch, $27, then spent the rest of day at home.

Arizona: ?I spent zero today, as I cooked brekky, then went to mum and dad's for dinner.

Total weekly spending

Janie: $262.50 spending + $168 expenses = $430.50/weekly

Arizona: ?$298.40 + $189 expenses = $487.40/weekly

Janie finds it hard to save while also having a good time. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Final thoughts

Janie: Obviously, I want to spend less on going out, and put more into savings. But that's basically impossible to do. I probably should be saving the money that I get from my discounted rent, but whatever. Saving is something I can do when I'm older.?

Arizona: ?It was a pretty low-spend week for me, actually! I know that as it gets closer to summer I'll be spending more on going out, buying new clothes, going on road trips 每 so I'm happy with how this week panned out.

*Names have been changed.?

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