Living on a Budget

Posted by:
17 Mar 2015

You’ll find living in New Zealand isn’t as expensive as some other destinations – but after airfares, school fees and accommodation costs, you’ll want to make the most of your spending money.


Here are some ideas that may help you in terms of minimising your spending.


Student ID Card

The first thing you should organize when you get to New Zealand is a student discount card. Most outlets, including the cinemas, shops, and some eateries will provide discounts to students. The most well-known student card for international students is the ISIC Card – ISIC stands for International Student Identity Card. Check if your school can help you apply for one of these cards.


You may need to visit a local ISIC issuer. Before you go there, make sure you have:

  • a digital photo in jpeg format with a white or blue background
  • proof that you are enrolled as a student
  • a scanned copy or your proof of identity – this will normally be your passport


You can also download the free ISIC Benefits app to search for benefits and discounts worldwide from your phone (both Apple and android).



Eating out

Studying English in New Zealand will give you the opportunity to make -new friends - from your own country and from many other countries.  One of the most popular ways to get to know each other and to practise your conversation skills is to enjoy eating out together.


There are a lot of ‘cheap and cheerful’ places to eat in New Zealand where you can share food. Do some research on the internet to make sure you’re getting good value for money and explore the many types of eateries available to you and your friends.


One thing to consider is that lunch is not usually included in your homestay costs. Talk to your host family to get advice on how you can make savings on buying your lunch each day. You might want to buy some things that you can take for lunch and many schools have a student common room/cafeteria where you can heat up noodles etc.



Select the best accommodation

International students usually stay in a homestay when they first arrive in New Zealand.  This makes settling in to your new environment easy –and you will stay with a family who can help support you and your learning. You don’t have to worry about all the things that you would have to when you go flatting. Another added benefit of a homestay is that homestay families can be valuable in providing frequent conversational English practice.


Students who are studying long-term in New Zealand often move to shared accommodation with other international or New Zealand students.  Many think that the cheapest accommodation you can find is the best accommodation - but that’s not necessarily right! You need to consider whether or not your accommodation/rental cost includes utility bills such as electricity, phone and internet usage, and food.


The types of transport that are available close to your door is also an important consideration. You might find that even though a certain accommodation is more expensive, what it actually includes makes it a better choice than if you have to pay for each item separately.



Give yourself a weekly cash budget

This is the first piece of advice that all financial managers would give you – live within your means and set a weekly cash amount that you are allowed to use for your expenses. This makes you more aware of your spending when you are physically handing over money. However, be sure not to carry large sums of cash with you – it’s best to get a cashflow card and withdraw just what you need to use.


Your school will provide more information about opening a bank account during your orientation.


The best question you can ask is “Do I really need it?” This is a good question not only for when you are an international student, but one you can use at any stage in your life – you’re also helping to save the planet by not buying more than you need!



Free Activities

The final hint for making the most of your time in New Zealand on a budget is to take advantage of what New Zealand has to offer. New Zealand has some great attractions to experience and some of them are very expensive. However, you can find a lot of free activities that you and your friends can enjoy.


New Zealand is renowned for its beautiful scenery, amazing beaches and walking tracks.  Grab your friends and head to the beach for a refreshing swim, relax on the beach or throw on a pair of shoes and walk through some of the best natural scenery available.


You can also make the most of some of the local parks, fields, and courts that are open to the public. Grab a group of friends and challenge them to a game of football/soccer or basketball. It’s a great way to fill in time, keep fit and not spend any additional money.




Living in New Zealand doesn’t have to be an expensive experience. By maintaining a watchful eye over what you spend and actively accounting for every purchase, you can have a great New Zealand experience without spending all your money! Take these tips on board and you’ll be improving your English, without having to stretch your funds, in no time at all.


Do you have a tip to help save money or handy hint to keep to a budget? Share your ideas in a comment below.




Image Credits

David, Bergin, Emmet an…, by DSC07395, CC BY 2.0