Student Finance: Cost of Living in Canberra

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Reem Mohamed

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10 January, 2023

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7 mins read

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Student Finance

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Canberra, the capital and largest inland city in Australia, is a beautiful city renowned for its natural beauty, clearly seen in its reserves and mountain ranges. This city will always keep you busy and entertained with its museums, modern architecture, galleries, and much more; it is one of the few places in Australia where you can go on a hot air balloon ride. 

Canberra is globally acclaimed for being Australia's best place to live, with its excellent public services and highly acclaimed educational system making it a popular student destination. Each year, the city typically welcomes 19,000 international students from more than 100 countries to study at its renowned universities and top-ranked learning institutions. 

As a student living in Canberra, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the cost of living in Canberra. From accommodation and transportation to food and groceries, there are plenty of things you have to consider when living in Canberra. Here’s our detailed student finance guide on the cost of living in Canberra!

Cost of Living in Canberra

Cost of Living in Canberra

Canberra is one of the most liveable cities in the world. It’s also one of Australia’s most affordable. The cost of living in Canberra is around AUD 2,500 per month. This sum of money should be enough to cover basic living expenses, including rent, transportation, food, groceries, and even some room for entertainment. This estimated cost of living, however, does not account for expenses like tuition fees. Here is a full breakdown of the cost of living in Canberra!

Tuition Fees

Canberra is home to a number of top-ranked universities and renowned learning institutions, including the University of Canberra and the Australian National University, that offer high-quality education to both local and international students. The average tuition fees for a bachelor’s degree in Canberra are around AUD 31,500, and for a master’s degree, they average around AUD 33,000. 

Student Accommodation Rent and Utilities

Renting student accommodation in Canberra usually ranges from AUD 150 to AUD 380 depending on the type of room you’re renting. Renting a room in a PBSA (Purpose-Built Student Accommodation) is usually the more economical option since your utilities are also included in the rent, thus helping you save money and still enjoy a comfortable living experience. 

Transportation and Student Travel

Getting around Canberra also factors into your budget. Whichever mode of transportation you choose, it is bound to cost you a little money. A monthly public transport ticket usually costs about AUD 132, while a taxi trip on a business day costs around AUD 24. A litre of gas in the city sells for a sum of around AUD 1.98. 

Cost of Living in Canberra

Grocery Shopping

Getting groceries is an important part of your budget as a student living in Canberra. The average grocery trip takes about AUD 40 - AUD 60 from the total cost of living in Canberra. Here is a breakdown of some essential groceries and personal care products and how much they cost at grocery stores in Canberra!

  • 500 gr (1 lb.) of boneless chicken breast: AUD 7

  • 1 litre (1 qt.) of whole fat milk: AUD 1.41

  • 12 eggs, large: AUD 6

  • 500 gr (16 oz.) of local cheese: AUD 7

  • 1 kg (2 lb.) of tomatoes: AUD 3.87

  • 1 kg (2 lb.) of potatoes: AUD 2.83

  • 1 kg (2 lb.) of apples: AUD 4.43

  • Bread for 2 people for 1 day: AUD 4.01

  • 0.5 l (16 oz) domestic beer: AUD 5.56

  • 2 litres of coca-cola: AUD 2.92

  • Deodorant, roll-on (50ml ~ 1.5 oz.): AUD 4.76

  • Hair shampoo 2-in-1 (400 ml ~ 12 oz.): AUD 8

  • 4 rolls of toilet paper: AUD 3.65

  • Tube of toothpaste: AUD 3.15

Food: Delivery, Take out and Eating out

As a student living in Canberra, you will often find yourself resorting to food delivery, take out, or simply just grabbing a bite out on the way home from university. This affects your budget quite a bit and it’s important to keep it in mind in order to keep your student finances in good shape. Here is how some meals cost at different places in Canberra!

  • Basic lunchtime meal (including a drink) in the business district: AUD 22

  • Combo meal in fast food restaurant: AUD 10

  • Basic dinner out for two in a neighbourhood pub: AUD 74

  • Dinner for two at a fancy restaurant, including appetisers, main course, wine, and dessert: AUD 101

  • A cappuccino: AUD 4.76

Leisure and Entertainment

There are so many ways to entertain yourself in Canberra during your breaks. The city has a vibrant atmosphere and a busy nightlife that guarantee you constant fun! But like everything else, you should save room for entertainment and leisure in your cost of living in Canberra budget. Here are some of the things you can do for fun in the city and how much they cost!

  • 2 tickets to the movies: AUD 34

  • 2 tickets to the theatre: AUD 215

  • 1 cocktail drink in a downtown club: AUD 16

  • 1 beer in a neighbourhood pub (500ml or 1pt.): AUD 9

  • 1 month of gym membership in business district: AUD 59

Why live in Canberra

Clothes Shopping

Shopping for clothes in Canberra could be quite pricey, but thankfully, it is not a monthly payment so you don’t have to worry about it every month! Here are some of the most commonly bought items among students in Canberra and how much they cost!

  • 1 pair of jeans (Levis 501 or similar): AUD 99

  • 1 summer dress in a high street store (Zara, H&M or similar retailers): AUD 109

  • 1 pair of sports shoes (Nike, Adidas, or equivalent brands): AUD 157

How to Effectively Save Money as a Student in Canberra

While Canberra is a relatively affordable city to live in Australia, it still wouldn’t hurt for you to save money while studying there. Saving money or living on a budget does not necessarily mean that you have to deprive yourself of anything, which is what most people usually think. Here are some of the ways through which you can save money while living in Canberra and not miss out on any of the luxuries! 

1.  Set a Budget and Stick to It

Budgeting is the first step to maintaining a better relationship with your student finances. In order to be able to save money while living in Canberra, you need to set a budget for a specific period of time, either a week, a month, or a semester and include everything from food and groceries to transportation and rent. 

This budget should be your guide on how much to spend and where to spend it throughout the specified period of time. If you stick to your budget and have a surplus, for example, you can either move that sum towards your saving or reward yourself with a treat, winner’s choice! 

2.  Consider Travelling Green

Transportation and getting around the city takes quite a bit of your budget in the city, so alternative solutions would definitely be of use. To save money on transportation, you can consider travelling green. This basically means that you can either carpool with a friend or a classmate, cycle around the city, or simply walk from one place to another. This way, you’ll be saving both your money and the environment!

3.  Make your Own Meals

Food takes a big chunk of the budget that you usually set for yourself. This is because, as a student, you often have little to no time to make your own meals or prepare food at home. While we get this, there are also ways to save time and still make your own food at home, thus saving money in the process.

Meal prep is a great way to save time and money; all you need is less than an hour on a weekend to cook a week worth of food and store it just to be microwaved or heated on weekdays, an easy 5-minute meal after a long day at university!

4.  Try Smart Shopping

Grocery and clothes shopping also knock you back quite a few bucks. This is why smart shopping should be your go-to solution from now on! This can be achieved through multiple ways, including shopping in bulk, shopping at stores that offer student discounts, buying secondhand items, buying store-brand items instead of splurging on brand names, and planning your shopping trips around the holidays where discounts are at their peak. 

5.  Look for a Job

Working as a student living in Canberra might be a bit of a challenge, however, it positively affects both your future career and your student finances. If you can find the time to work somewhere in Canberra, then you definitely should try your hand at either on-campus jobs like a librarian, assistant, or tutor, or off-campus jobs like a barista, a server, or a grocery store cashier. 

If you find yourself strapped for cash and don’t have enough time to commit to a full-time or a part-time job, then you should check out ways to make money online. Nowadays, there are plenty of available jobs for students to do online that take mere minutes and help them make a good amount of money, you can check out some of the best earning apps for students

6.  Do Not Forget about Those Student Discounts

Student discounts are an often forgotten perk of living in Canberra as a student! Walking around with a university student ID gives you access to a variety of student discounts, offers, and much more! You can reap the benefits of being a student in the city and let those student discounts help you lessen the cost of living in Canberra. There are discounts for several basic things, including transportation, food, groceries, books, school supplies, and so much more! 

7.  Apply for Scholarships

Scholarships are pretty easy to come by in Australia, especially for international students in Canberra. Universities in the city usually offer multiple scholarships for international students who are interested in studying there. These scholarships can either be full or partial and help students earn their degree in a Canberra university at little to no cost. When applying to a university in Canberra, make sure to take a look at their financial aid programs and scholarships! 

Living in Canberra, while extremely affordable, can still be quite challenging, especially for international students who are now living in a new and unfamiliar city. Managing your student finances in the city and being aware of the cost of living in Canberra can make your time there significantly less challenging!

Transportation, student accommodation rent, utilities, food, groceries, entertainment, and others all contribute to your living costs in Canberra, but worry not! Using this as your guide, you will be able to properly manage your finances in the city, make a budget and stick to it, and save money to spoil yourself with as well! 

So, what’s the holdup? Have you packed your bags yet? Your study abroad experience in Canberra awaits! 

Frequently Asked Questions

1.  Is living in Canberra cheap?

Canberra is one of the most liveable cities in the world. It's also one of Australia's most affordable cities for students. Living in Canberra means enjoying a better quality of life while spending less than the average in other cities.

2.  Is it cheaper to live in Sydney or Canberra?

As an affordable Australian city, it is much cheaper to live in Canberra than in Sydney. 

3.  What is the cheapest Australian state to live in?

Gold Coast is one of the cheapest states to live in Australia. It is also known for its high-quality education and academia as well as its budget-friendly living.


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