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Studying can be an investment in our future. Interest-free student loans seem like easy money, but borrowing too much could leave us shackled with debt for years after those final exams. Earning income from other sources such as a student allowance, scholarships and part-time work can help. Having a plan and sticking to a budget will save stress and let us focus on our studies. Plus we’ll graduate with a manageable student loan… and money skills to last a lifetime.

Choosing a qualification

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

There’s more career inspiration on the Careers New Zealand website. For a better idea of what likely income, fees and job prospects might be, don't miss this Occupational Outlook.

You can also use the StudySpy website to compare study options side-by-side, from university degrees to apprenticeships, including the percentage of graduates who went into employment after study and what their average earnings were three years after graduating.

Before enrolling in any course, check to see if it’s 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 a course carefully and take those studies seriously to get a return on your investment. 

Student costs

To work out how much it would cost in total to get a qualification, think about both study costs and 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 much you can claim each year.

 

2. Living costs

This is the money you’ll need to house, clothe, feed, transport and enjoy yourself while studying. Living at home can be a great way to cut down on expenses – but parents always appreciate any help, 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 how much things will cost while studying, try the Studylink website.

To work out a detailed budget for living costs, use our budgeting tool.

 

Case study: Michael Price

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

Read more

 

Income while studying

There are a range of income options for students:

Student allowance and accommodation benefits

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

Scholarships are also worth looking into. There are many 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! It can help you keep your student loans down by minimising how much you need to borrow for living costs.

When relying on part-time work to pay expenses, think about your course workload and try to balance the two.

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

Check out current job vacancies on the Student Job Search website.

Once enrolled at university, be sure to register in UniCareerHub, 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 may be able to help out by letting family members live at home while they study. As rent is likely to be the biggest living cost, living at home could save 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 personal expenses like travel to class, mobile costs, snacks and sports activities.

Student loans

Lots of people use a student loan from the government to help finance 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 it back. If you go overseas for more than six months, in most cases you will also be charged interest.

Sorted's debt calculator can give a sense of how long it might take to pay off a student loan. Taking on too much debt early in life can really slow us down in achieving other goals such as travel, having a family or buying a house.

It’s important to be careful when using credit cards and tertiary overdrafts. They could lead to years of debt!

 

There are lots of students who would have approached their student loan differently after experiencing the realities of paying it back. A student loan can either be an investment in our future earning potential – or one expensive, long-lasting hangover!

Where to go for help

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