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Studying - three tertiary students on campus

Studying is expensive, and interest-free student loans may seem like easy money. But if you borrow too much you could be in debt for many years after that final exam. You may also be able to earn income from other sources such as a student allowance, scholarships and part-time work. Having a plan and sticking to a budget will save you stress and let you focus on your studies. You’ll learn lifetime lessons about money and graduate with a student loan you can manage.

Choosing a qualification

Deciding on a career path can be a real challenge. Try talking to people doing jobs you find interesting. Ask them what training they did and what they like and don’t like about their work.

You can find more ideas for your career on the Careers New Zealand website. For more of an idea of what your likely income, fees and job prospects might be, don't miss this Occupational Outlook.

Make sure any course you enrol in is approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. If it isn’t, you won’t be able to get a student loan.

Studying can be expensive so it’s important to choose your course carefully and take your studies seriously. 

Student costs

To work out how much money you'll need to pay for your qualification, think about your study costs and your living costs.

1. Study costs

These are the costs you need to pay as part of your course. There are two components:

  • Course fees: These are what you have to pay to the university, polytech or other training institution.
  • Course-related costs: These are what you'll have to pay to take part in the course, such as textbooks, stationery, photocopying, computer equipment, travel or Student Association fees. There is a limit to how mch you can claim each year.

2. Living costs

This is the money you’ll need to house, clothe, feed and transport yourself while you’re studying. Living at home is a great way to cut down your expenses – but your parents will appreciate any help you can give, financial or otherwise!

Tuition fees differ depending on what course you do and where you do it. Check the tertiary institution websites to compare course fees.

To get an idea of the the costs you will have while studying, try the Sussed reality check on the StudyLink website.

To work out a detailed budget for how much you’ll need for living costs, use our money planner.

Michael Price

For Michael Price, the 2011 Canterbury earthquake brought a different perspective on his finances.

Read more about Michael Price

Income while you’re studying

There are a range of income options while you’re studying.

Student allowance and accommodation benefit

Government-funded income options include the student allowance and accommodation benefits. Whether you can get these depends on a variety of things including how much your parents earn.

The student allowance is a weekly payment to help full-time students with living expenses. Unlike a student loan, you don’t have to pay this money back.

Accommodation benefits differ depending on where you live.

Find out about student allowances and accommodation benefits on the StudyLink website.


Scholarships are also worth looking into. There are hundreds of organisations that provide scholarships to help students fund their studies, and the money doesn’t have to be paid back.

Find out more about scholarships on the StudyLink website.

Part-time and holiday work

Part-time work through the year and holiday work is great if you can get it.

If you have to rely on part-time work to pay expenses then think about your course workload and try to balance the two. Some students keep their student loans down by working part-time to minimise how much living costs they claim. 

If you are receiving a student allowance and working part-time you will need to let StudyLink know, as it might affect your payments.

You can check out current job vacancies on the Student Job Search website.

Once you are enrolled at university, make sure you are registered in CareerHub, a jobs database including part-time work, holiday work, graduate vacancies, and scholarships.

Family support

While some parents can contribute money for fees or living costs, others help out by letting family members live at home while they study. As rent is likely to be your biggest living cost, living at home could save you thousands.

If you can afford to, it’s a good idea to make some contribution to the household budget. Or there may be other help you can provide like child care. Try to take responsibility for your personal expenses like travel to class, cellphone costs, snacks, and sports activities.

Student loans

Tip: Beware of credit cards and tertiary overdrafts. They could lead to years of dumb debt.

Many students use a student loan from the government to help finance their studies. Student loans can be used to pay course fees as well as for living and course-related costs.

Student loans are interest-free while you are studying and while you live in New Zealand, but you do have to pay them back. If you go overseas for more than six months, in most cases you will also be charged interest.

Where to go for help