Cost of living in Australia for international students

The Australian Government specifies AU$20,290 as the minimum amount required to cover living costs for a 12-month period. This figure excludes tuition fees or the cost of travel to and from Australia. It is the minimum required to pay accommodation, commute to school or university, buy food, have fun, and pay for all the little extras that you need day-to-day.

So, how realistic is it for an international student to live on $20,290 per year while studying? If that is the minimum, how far will that go for the average international student?

Australia has a relatively high cost of living; however, wages are much higher than most countries. For example, the average net salary in Shanghai is approximately AU$1700 per month, while in Melbourne is almost $5000 a month. This is countered by the cost of consumer goods in Australia being almost double, groceries being 30 per cent more expensive, restaurants being 90 per cent more expensive, and rent being almost 10 per cent more than China’s largest city. In Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, the differences are even more stark.

Understanding the average living costs is a key part of being prepared to study in Australia

In Melbourne, share house rent can range anywhere from $120 to $300 per week. Generally, the cheaper the cost the further away from the city you’ll be, the more people you’ll be living with, or the more rundown the accommodation will be. In a suburb like Melbourne’s Bundoora, where La Trobe University is located, the cost of a room in a shared house is roughly $150 a week. Prices will also vary depending on the city in which you choose to study, with Sydney being more expensive, while Adelaide and Canberra will generally be less so.

At the high end of accommodation costs, you’ll spend almost $16,000 for a full year’s rent, which will take most of the $20,290. This presumes you’ll sign a year-long lease and stay throughout the holidays, however it might be possible to rent at the higher price during the semesters, then find somewhere cheaper over the summer holidays. Either way, it’s safe to say that your biggest living expense will be your rent.

So, how does $20,290 a year breakdown?

Accommodation, whether in a share house or on-campus student lodgings, will almost always be the largest and least negotiable expense for an international student.

Power, gas, phone and internet are impossible to avoid and provide limited options to make savings, unless you choose to do without a mobile phone or internet entirely. Additionally, public transport is unavoidable, unless you choose to buy a car, which will be even more expensive each month.

This means that savings will have to be found elsewhere, perhaps by taking from your food or entertainment budget. With that in mind, a reasonable budget might look something like this each week:

Rent                                                      $140

Groceries and eating out                      $130

Power and gas                                     $25

Phone and internet                               $15

Public transport                                    $40

Entertainment                                       $40

Total for 52 weeks:                               $20,280                 

It can be done

There are many ways to stretch your money further. Take a look at some of our budgeting tips to hold on to your precious dollars and get the most out of your Australian education experience.

Useful links:

Budgeting tips for international students

How to keep to a budget while at uni

How to find part-time work in Australia


Related blogs


Subscribe to our newsletter