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How to live your best student life in Brisbane – on a budget

Uni life
Published 8 Sep, 2023  ·  4-minute read

Student life in Brisbane has a lot to offer international guests, and careful budgeting will help your money go further here.

We know studying as an international student can be a big investment. To help you make the most of your time in Queensland, we’ve put together these tips for living big on a budget. Here are a few key areas where you can save money while studying at The University of Queensland.

Student fees

The University of Queensland belongs to the prestigious Group of Eight (Go8) universities, which is Australia’s version of the Ivy League. This establishes UQ as one of the country’s leading research-intensive universities.

However, UQ is also one of the most affordable universities in the Go8, with students reporting lower fees than universities in Sydney and Melbourne. This means you can graduate from a highly respected uni with an outstanding student life experience while not spending top dollar tuition fees.


Brisbane is the third-largest city in Australia. It’s a thriving place that blends global sophistication with a laidback and friendly atmosphere, so you can enjoy a mix of fun and relaxation during your student life in Brisbane.

Despite its size, Brisbane is considered one of the more affordable major Australian cities to live in, with competitive accommodation costs compared with Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

Students staying on campus at UQ St Lucia will usually pay between $2,050 and $3,000 per month.

Living on campus at UQ also means you’ll have heaps of opportunities to make friends and meet new people. There are social outings, movie nights and plenty of spaces to relax and study. Plus, you’ll save on transport costs since you can walk right to class each day and easily get involved in student life activities on campus.

Off-campus living costs can vary widely depending on your suburb and housing, with rent typically landing anywhere between $840-$2,480 per month. To keep this lower, consider sharing a house with other students – a great way to cut costs while also making new friends in Brisbane.

Read our guide for choosing to live on or off campus for more information and advice.

Friends having a picnic in a park with Brisbane's Central Business District at the back

For a cheap social outing, nothing beats a picnic with friends in one of Brisbane’s scenic parks.

Food and groceries

With a little bit of organisation and thinking ahead, you may be surprised just how much difference coupons and loyalty programs can make.

“You might think it’s ridiculous, but during my free time, I’ve found myself reading catalogues, looking at what I can get for cheaper. Here, you get information on what will be on discount, so be sure to look through them to spot anything you might need and purchase it then.”

- Nigel Ong, former exchange student and coupon advocate

Other things you can do when budgeting for your student life in Brisbane include:

  • keeping a reusable water bottle with you
  • buying in bulk
  • getting coffee membership cards
  • planning your meals ahead
  • buying fresh fruit and vegetables from a farmers’ market on the weekends.

The UQ Union runs free meal programs to support hungry students. There’s free breakfast on campus on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and you can get a free dinner at Kampus Kitchen every Wednesday night.

Public transport

Brisbane offers public transport concessions to all students in a full-time program. This entitles you to 50 per cent off the normal adult fare, which can really add up over a semester (not to mention your entire degree). You can purchase a go card from a supermarket, convenience store or newsagency – just make sure to take your student ID so you get the right type of card.

You can also save money by walking or cycling when possible. Brisbane is very walkable and rideable, with many safe and scenic dedicated off-road paths.

Two friends cycling through Brisbane, Australia

Riding or walking to campus is an iconic part of uni student life for many people studying at UQ.

Student discounts and free events

Student life in Brisbane comes with a variety of student discounts across a range of stores and venues. With your student ID, you can get discounts on products and services such as:

  • software and technology
  • movie tickets
  • museums and art galleries
  • entertainment (such as cinemas and live shows)
  • select food and drink venues
  • select retailers
  • hairdressers and barbers
  • plenty more.

And it’s not just discounts. Brisbane also hosts several free events and entertainment options throughout the year. Check out Brisbane City Council's What's on in Brisbane webpage to keep in touch with free events around the city.

Meanwhile, South Bank is home to the Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art and State Library of Queensland – all of which have free exhibitions. You’ll also hear free live music on most weekend afternoons in South Bank.

Exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art

Enjoy the best of Brisbane’s world-class arts and culture at a discounted rate. Photo courtesy of Brisbane Economic Development Agency.

Health and wellness

Don’t drop your gym habits while studying abroad. As a student, you can get 30 per cent off your UQ Sport gym membership, so staying active can easily be part of your student life experience. Join the Yoga and Meditation Club to enjoy unlimited yoga all semester for just $5. Or head to the South Bank Parklands or Queens Gardens for free fitness programs provided by Brisbane City Council.

Female student exercising at UQ Sport.

UQ students can keep fit and have fun without the hefty gym fees.

We hope these tips will help you live your best student life in Brisbane while you’re studying at UQ. With these ideas, you can keep up a social and active lifestyle – even with a student budget.

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