If you are a full time student at the University of Sydney, and an Australian resident, you may be eligible for a Centrelink payment. Students who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander may be eligible for Abstudy. The other two student payments are Youth Allowance (if you are under 25 when you apply) and Austudy (if you are 25 or older when you apply). There are many different conditions, and requirements, so have a look at the SRC leaflet “Can I get a Centrelink Payment as a full-time student” for more details.
Bursaries, Loans & Scholarships
University of Sydney Financial Support
The University offers scholarships, bursaries (non-repayable grants), and interest free loans.
There are many different scholarships available for students in particular areas of study or with particular circumstances. Go to the University of Sydney Scholarships Office webpage for details on what is available and how to apply. Please note that often scholarships do not get many people applying, so take advantage of them whenever you can.
Bursaries are non-repayable grants available to students (local and international), experiencing financial difficulty in meeting living and study expenses. Go to the University of Sydney Financial Support web page for more details on bursaries.
They also do interest free loans. If you have loan and cannot make a repayment you should contact them or an SRC caseworker to get an extension. Failure to pay may result in the University imposing student financial sanctions that will restrict your ability to use the library, see your grades, or graduate.
SRC Emergency Loans
The SRC offers (generally same day) emergency loans for undergraduate students, for up to $50, repayable within a month.
The SRC Legal Service may be able to help negotiate suitable repayments for debts. There are also telephone advice lines: Wesley Mission Credit Line, and Gambling Help Line.
Joining your trade union is a great way to have a stable work life. Unions will protect your individual work rights, as well as helping workers generally. Your union fees are tax deductible, and also give you other member benefits. To join go to www.australianunions.org.au/join.
The SRC hosts Australian Tax Office volunteers in semester 2. They can help you complete and lodge a “simple” tax return. Unfortunately this does not include self-employed people, e.g., ride share drivers, bicycle delivery people, tutors, or musical performers. Call the SRC office on 9660 5222 to book an appointment.
Making a budget will help you to control where you are spending your money. Some people suggest making a table of how much you can spend on different things, allocating money to all of your bills and expenses. Some people suggest giving yourself a set amount of spending money each week that you do not have to track, that you spend on fun things, while sticking to a rigid plan of paying bills, etc. Some people suggest paying a little each week towards larger bills, like electricity and internet bills. Find a way that you think will work for you and stick to it. For more information go to ASIC’s MoneySmart page.
Free or cheap food can be found around campus throughout the year. The SRC and USU (including clubs and societies) offer food from time to time to promote various campaigns and events. They are advertised in Honi Soit and online through the USU.
Newtown Neighbourhood Centre publish a list of places to go for cheap or free meals. Go to www.newtowncentre.org then ‘Information Sheets’ then ‘Essential Services’ then ‘Meals’. They have information about prepared food, and very cheap groceries. Your local council might have similar services that are also worth checking.
Preparing food for yourself is cheaper than buying take away. There are lots of easy cook recipes and snack ideas online. Better still find someone who will cook dinner for you. Make an exchange with them by bringing a board game or pack of cards – you provide the entertainment, while they provide the dinner. Bring take away containers too for leftovers. Most of the USU eating areas have microwaves you can use. The Food Co-op, which is run by students, is on Level 4 Wentworth, where they have lots of healthy food (like dried fruit, rice, crackers, etc). Bring your own containers, and do some volunteer shifts for a discount.
The Newtown area has plenty of discount food options for lunch, and most food courts near all campuses will provide discounts near their closing time. Just be careful of food kept out of the fridge or heating for too long. Go to fresh food markets at closing time to seek discounts on boxes of food. You may also find pieces of fruit and vegetables that has fallen on the ground (called gleaning). Dumpster diving is the name given to collecting food out of bins near food shops or restaurants. The SRC strongly advises you NOT to dumpster dive. You won’t know how long food has been out of the fridge, etc., and you are at high risk of food poisoning and other nasty bugs. Even more worrying, there is often bleach or other chemicals on top of the food – yes, some people do this on purpose to stop dumpster diving.
Cheap housing in Sydney is as rare as unicorns. There are many scams around that trick people out of their money. If you find a deal that seems too good to be true, it is likely that it is a scam. Before paying a deposit or bond make sure you inspect the property, checking for things like water pressure, cleanliness, and noise. Carefully read any contract before signing it, paying particular attention to fees for moving out early. Get receipts for all money paid, and keep them until you move out.
Finding a home
To find a share house there are many online services that charge a fee. You could also use Facebook to join sharehouse groups; using “housemates” in the search. Often these are closed groups, so send a message to the group administrator to be able to access the information.
“The Share Housing Survival Guide” written by Redfern Legal Centre and the SRC is available online to give you some ideas on how to approach sharehousing.
The University runs many different accommodation sites, most of which are quite expensive. First year students may be able to access an accommodation scholarship through UAC for the Queen Mary Building. Go to The University Accommodation Services website for their listings and advice.
STUCCO is a student run housing co-operative that offers rooms to full time, domestic students for around $80 per week, but requires residents to contribute a few hours each week to contribute to the smooth running of the accommodation and attend a number of meetings. With the rent so low, the demand is very high, so apply as early as possible.
As with any rent or bills, when you pay bond, make sure you get a receipt and keep it until you have moved out or take a clear photo of it. This simple act may save you hundreds of dollars in the future. As soon as you move into your home take photos of any damage to the carpet, walls, furniture, etc., and email those photos to yourself. This will timestamp them (more reliably than just counting on the timestamp on the camera/phone), and will enable you to prove the condition of your home when you moved in. Similarly when you move out take photos of all of the walls and floors to show that you left everything clean and tidy. Again email these photos to yourself. These photos will help avoid paying for damage to the property that you did not cause.
Rentstart is a government loan scheme to help you stay in the private rental market. Of course there are many conditions, so go to the Housing Pathways website for more details. You may be able to get help with paying bond, rent, and moving fees. Generally speaking you will need to be an Australia permanent resident or citizen, have less than $3000 in cash assets, and be seen to be able to sustain a tenancy in the private rental market.
Emergency or temporary housing options are usually quite limited (and not always available), but SRC Caseworkers may be able to provide assistance to you. Call 9660 5222 to make an appointment to see what your options are.
Cheap furniture and kitchen things can be bought cheaply at op shops run by charities. The Bower in Marrickville also offers cheap secondhand furniture. Keep in mind that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, so find out when your local council has scheduled ‘clean ups’ to pick up free furniture. The more posh the area, the nicer the stuff being thrown away. There are also websites like FreeCycle and some Facebook groups, including ‘pay it forward’, that offer free or cheap furniture, kitchenware, games, and clothes.
Pre-paid accounts allow you to monitor your usage and keep track of your weekly spending. Use the University’s internet to make phone calls and send messages through online apps like Facebook and Whatsapp; thus reducing your mobile phone needs. Factor in the quality of coverage offered by different companies when choosing a provider.
Being locked into a contract can reduce the monthly price for internet, but might end up costing more in the long term if you have to move house. Where possible, tether to other free Wi-Fi providers, e.g., University, local council, and cafes and shops, to reduce your usage. Watching one hour of movies uses between 1GB (standard definition) and 3GB (high definition) of data.
The Energy Accounts Payments Assistance (EAPA) Scheme provides $50 vouchers to people who have difficulties paying their energy bills. Contact an EAPA provider to see if you qualify – http://bit.ly/2sxT9We.
Cost – definitions
‘Bulk billing’ is where a domestic student’s medical bill is completely paid for under Medicare, without the student having to pay first. Similarly, ‘direct billing’ is where a medical bill is completely paid by OSHC (for international students) without the student having to pay first. Where bulk or direct billing is not possible, you may still be able to get a rebate for the amount that you pay for a service. Where the amount you pay is more than the amount you receive back, the extra amount is called a gap payment.
Doctors / General Practitioners (GP)
The University Health Service in Darlington campus provides bulk billing for local students and direct billing for Allianz OSHC. There is usually no additional ‘gap fee’ for other insurance holders. Many other doctors’ surgeries will not charge a gap fee, especially for full time students, but check when making a booking.
Psychologist appointments are often very expensive, so getting a subsidy can be very helpful. If you are a domestic student ask your GP for a mental health plan to get ten subsidised treatments. If you are an international student check with your OHSC provider. There are a few services that will bulk bill or charge no or a small gap fee, for example, Uplift Psychological Services, or HeadSpace. You could also contact psychologists in your local area and what their fee is for full time students. Ask SRC Caseworkers for any suggestions. The University has a free Counseling Service (CAPS) and a Psychology Clinic.
Teeth are important, but very expensive to fix. There are very limited options for free dental treatments through Medicare, and they involve waiting lists that are years long. International students should check their health insurance provider to see what services are included. Local students could consider the benefit of getting dental insurance too. Not surprisingly the cheapest way to have ongoing dental treatment is to keep up with check ups and cleaning to avoid costly fillings.
Hopefully this is a service you will never use. However, if you do need an ambulance, whether you call them or someone else does, you will be liable for the cost which could range from a few hundred, to over a thousand dollars in fees. Health Care Card Holders are given free ambulance cover, or you can get private health insurance just for ambulance fees starting at around $50 per year.
Other allied health services
For cheaper fees you could be treated by final year students (who need to practice on clients) under the strict supervision of qualified teachers. These services include: osteopathy, physiotherapy, psychology, acupuncture, hairdressing, chiropody, massage, etc. Contact the faculty or TAFE offering these courses and ask them for clinic hours and fees. There’s even a restaurant at Ultimo TAFE.
Health Care Card
Health Care Cards are available to most students on a Centrelink payment, or Australian Residents or citizens who earn an average of less than $546 per week (at 1 February, 2018 for a single person with no dependents). It entitles the holder to:
- Reduced pharmaceuticals (about $6 per script)
- Free ambulance cover
- Access to free dental care (though the waiting lists are a few years long)
- Free prescription lenses and frames (limited choices)
- Discounts to most alternative medical practices (as negotiated with the provider).
Have as much consensual, fun sex as you would like. Have a look here (http://bit.ly/2o9pIVA) for more information about consent, or this video (http://bit.ly/1FmbnXe). The SRC will provide you with free condoms and lube. Check out how to use condoms correctly (http://bit.ly/2obPbh6). If you are a sex worker contact the Sex Worker Outreach Project for a Safe Sex Workers Pack.
Alcohol and Other Drugs
It’s always cheaper to have some drinks at home than to go to a pub or club. It’s a good idea to think about the health and social implications of what you are doing. For information about alcohol and other drugs go to http://bit.ly/2h9UOZW or phone 9361 8000. For free needles and a safe point of disposal go to Redfern Health Centre, 103 Redfern Street, Redfern or check http://bit.ly/2sEv9Ra for services in your local area.
Types of Transport
Walking is a great way of exercising and de-stressing, as well as saving money. Similarly, riding a bike is cheap and increasingly popular, as more and more of the dockless hire bikes come onto the market. If you own a bike it is a good idea to know how to reduce theft – http://bit.ly/2lntsUm. Public transport can be expensive if you are not eligible for a transport concession (part time and international students). However, it is significantly less expensive than running your own car.
When travelling from place to place, always consider your safety. Sometimes it is good to splash out and take a taxi home.
Renting cars may be a better option than buying a car, if you do need one occasionally. There are a number of car share companies as well as hire companies to consider. There are many restrictions to those under 25 years old. As always, read your contracts very carefully – this may save you thousands of dollars.
You can receive Fares Allowance if you receive Youth Allowance or Austudy, and you have to live away from your permanent home for study. Centrelink will pay for the cheapest form of practicable public transport to and from your home, each semester, regardless of how you actually travel. You usually claim Fares Allowance after you have made the journey, so long as you submit your claim by 1st April together with your receipts. For more information go to http://bit.ly/2HtQArE.
The Union (USU) offers a large range of social activities that you can attend, many of which are free. Access membership starts at $65 for the year. Calculate how much you would save on discounts to see if it is worth you getting one. They also give out prizes at trivia nights and other social nights that may get you to the movies, see a band etc. The Union also sells reduced cinema tickets. University Clubs and Societies can bring lots of benefits for small joining fees.
Trivia nights at various pubs in Sydney are also free to enter, and can have some great prizes. Festivals are a great part of Sydney life, with many offering free events. Contact your local newspaper or radio station to see if they will give you a free ticket to a band, or film, or a copy of a book, if you write a review.