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How to rent on a student wage

By George Hadgelias

There are few times in your life that are as financially challenging as when you move out of home as a university student.

Balancing study and university life, while managing to earn enough from casual employment to support yourself, is a battle tens of thousands of students face every year.

So how can students get the most out of their residential rental situation while living on a student wage? These tips are a good starting point to help student renters stretch their student wage further.

Cast your net wider

If you can’t bear the thought of living anywhere other than the best locations in your capital city, expect to pay a huge premium for it.

On a student wage, many suburbs will simply be out of reach, so be prepared to look a little further out in order to find something you can afford.

University of New South Wales Residential Communities director Isabelle Creagh says that while students want to live near the CBD and beach, the reality is they’ll put themselves under far less financial strain if they look at options a couple of suburbs further out.

“The closer you get to the beach and the CBD, the more expensive it is. As much as students look there, they don’t often end up living there (because of the price).

“We tell them to take a good look at the transport lines,” Creagh says.

Have supporting documentation

Securing a rental in a highly competitive market near a university is difficult enough, without your financial situation counting against you, too.

Century 21 Clayton director Con Stefanidis, who markets rental properties near Melbourne’s Monash University, says it’s important that students can demonstrate to a landlord that there’s a financial fallback, in case their work dries up.

“We have a lot of kids from the country, or even interstate, who come and rent here, and they’ll have a letter of sponsorship from their parents.

“If they don’t have that, we need at least some sort of financial status or statement … so we can see there’s some money there that will get them through the year for the rental,” Stefanidis says.

Approach cheap rentals with caution

Sometimes there’s a reason that a deal looks too good to be true. Creagh says there are many unscrupulous landlords waiting to take advantage of student renters who are desperate to find cheap accommodation.

“There are landlords who’ll double or triple book them to a room. There are also weird subleasing arrangements,” she says.

Creagh advises students to make use of the free advisory services that most universities offer. They’ll check the fine print in your lease and provide advice before you sign it.

“It’s just so much safer to have it checked and it doesn’t cost you anything.”

Sharing is caring

Who wouldn’t love to have their own private pad in which to enjoy their university years? But the reality is that renting your own property will likely be very expensive.

Share housing, on the other hand, offers most of those same creature comforts with some shared spaces, and at a significantly lower price point. As an added bonus, it’s a great way to meet and socialise with other students.

“Per room it’s much cheaper (to share). They’ll usually have their own bathroom but they’ll share laundry and kitchen facilities,” Stefanidis says.

Demonstrating the disparity in pricing, Stefanidis says share accommodation near Monash University starts at around $170 per week, while studio apartments are at least $250 a week and one-bedroom apartments can cost up to $320.

Try looking on sites like for a share house near your university.

Know your needs

Remember, the rental price isn’t the final cost.

Does your room or property come with bills included, or will you need to pay extra for wi-fi, gas, electricity and water? How much will public transport cost, or will it be cheaper to run a car? Crunch the numbers hard on each property to determine which ticks the most boxes for you financially.

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