Real World Finance & Hidden Student Costs
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Real World Finance & Hidden Student Costs

Suzi O'Shea

Suzi O'Shea

26/03/2021 • 5 minute read

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Starting vocational or tertiary education is very exciting. Campus life, bar nights, a whole new crew of friends, it’s a big part of life that can shape many years to come. Before you venture into your new chapter, we have outlined some hidden costs to prepare you for what’s to come.

The basics

Whilst this isn’t necessarily a hidden cost, the basic cost of living can sometimes be downplayed or underestimated. Whether you choose to live on or off-campus, flatshare, or get your own place, living expenses add up quickly. Rent, food, utilities, and bills will consume a significant chunk of your budget.

A good tip is to set up a ‘flat account’. Calculate how much money you need every month to cover rent, utilities, bills, etc. Then, set up automatic transfers from your everyday account and use direct debits from that account to foot your bills. Whether you are in shared accommodation with flatmates or living solo, having a separate account to cover these expenses will curb any temptation to spend money you can see in your everyday account. Insider Guides has a super handy calculator to help you estimate what your costs might be.

When it comes to saving on food, shopping as a household or with friends is always cheaper than catering for one. If you can, buy in bulk and save.

Tools and equipment

This is something to consider for a whole range of disciplines and fields of study. Trades apprenticeships, medicine, dentistry, visual arts, and loads more degrees and certifications, will require you to purchase your own tools and equipment. Some apprenticeships at TAFE have a minimum requirement for safety equipment that are essential to even being allowed on campus. Add to that the cost of any required tools, stationery, or uniforms, and the dollars start piling on.

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Pro tip!

Be sure to get as much information before you start your course as to exactly what is required and whether or not you can source things second hand.


Some university degrees require you to complete a mandatory internship or vocational placement in order to graduate. There has been some criticism around making these ‘courses’ mandatory. Not only because of the cost of some of these subjects, but the fact that taking internships may force students to pass on paying work opportunities. This may lead to some degrees being less accessible to students that don’t have the financial means to support themselves and complete an internship.

Our Editor, Kellie Amos, said she was surprised to discover that her mandatory placement cost so much.

“As part of my Creative Industries degree, I had to complete two 100 hour internships/industry projects in order to graduate. The ‘courses’ these internships were under cost me over $800 each! When I signed up for the degree, I didn’t realise that I would essentially be paying to work for free.”

She also told us about the troubles one of her friends had juggling an actual industry-relevant job with the university’s internship requirements.

“One of my close friends was studying the same degree as me and landed a job working at an agency in her discipline. The uni told her she’d still have to complete an internship/project that fit the 100 hour requirement. At the time she had already completed two internships of her own accord and asked if these could be counted as credit. They said no. In the end, it was too difficult for her to complete the course and continue working full-time, so she dropped out.”

The jury is out as to whether these placements add value to real-world experience, the validity of the placement, and whether or not students should have to pay for the placement as part of their degree. Yet, Kellie’s experience is a good reminder of why it’s important to carefully consider your studies and what they might ultimately cost you.

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Pro tip!

Know your worth by reading up on the legalities around internships on the Fair Work website. They have two particularly helpful factsheets on Student Placements and Unpaid Work.


Although this really comes down to where you choose to study, transport is a hidden cost many students fail to consider. With thousands of students, academics, and staff – universities function as their own little cities. This means that getting to, from, and around them isn’t always cheap, let alone easy.

Public transport fees do usually come at a discounted rate to students, but even then it’s not long before all those charges add up. Plus, if you choose to drive in, most universities will charge for on-campus parking. Since spots are often limited, you may end up paying just as much in time as you do for the park!

Clubs and societies

Getting involved in campus culture is all part of the student experience. Yet, if you’re interested in signing up to any clubs or societies, be prepared to pay membership fees. Although these fees aren’t likely to be any more than 30 odd dollars for the year, you’ll still need to pay for any major events (granted, at a discounted rate).

Usually, the biggest student events of the year will be run by the local clubs and societies. So, if you think you’ll be a regular attendee it may be worth considering a membership to get that member discount. Otherwise, if you’re more of a homebody, maybe club memberships are a cost you can skip out on.

Graduation costs

Once you finish up your studies there are a few more expenses you’ll need to cover before you get your qualification. That includes everything from tickets for your loved ones to attend the ceremony, to renting your cap and gown. Additional fees may also apply for you to receive your certification or register to attend the event.

Of course, the minutia will be different based on the educational institute and you may decide to opt-out of all the fanfare. Regardless, graduation costs can often be overlooked when it comes to considering the financial implications of your certification. Ultimately, having a realistic idea about all the costs associated with your studies is the first step toward creating a workable plan for financing your education.

Looking for more student finance tips?

Check out some of our latest articles on all things students and money.

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Oiyo is a consolidated online resource, we are not financial advisors. We work with a range of industry professionals and compliance check our articles to ensure factual accuracy. However, we do not provide professional financial advice. Consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice to check how the information and ideas presented in this article relate to your unique circumstances.


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Suzi O'Shea

Written by Suzi O'Shea

Suzi O'Shea is a contributing writer for Oiyo. She has a Bachelor of Arts, Communications with honours from Southern Cross University. Suzi has worked in media for over 15 years and has been published in several online publications as well as print magazines. She has worked as a freelance writer, speaker, and change management facilitator.

More about Suzi O'Shea

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