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Staying fed & clean

Leaving home can be both exciting and daunting. There will be a lot of firsts – no matter if you’ll be living on or off campus, a lot of hows and whys, and there could even be some tears. But don’t let the what ifs and maybes get you down. Leaving home can be a lot of fun, and will teach you so much about who you are and what you can handle.

Welcome to living, eating and adulting.

On v off campus?

No matter accommodation option you have chosen there will be pros and cons.
There will be a chance for you to try both – there’s no reason why you can’t swap mid year or next year.

Living on campus will give you proximity to classes, a lot of social interaction and stable costs.

Living off campus will give you freedom outside of uni, more flexibility in who stays with you and a head start on the fun of making a home.

Off Campus

Finding off campus digs

Start with your university’s accommodation service. They’ll have advice on how to find local accommodation and suitable flatmates.

Go to www.moneysmart.gov.au for more information on the cost of moving out, choosing a place and sharing with flatmates. There’s a good moving out checklist in the Under 25s section.

While renting you will most likely have to sign a lease, which is a contract for payment of rent. This makes the people who sign it responsible for the property, the way it is kept and any damage.

In most cases you will need to pay a ‘rental bond’ of about four weeks rent to cover any damage or unpaid rent. You will get your money back at the end of the lease if you have met your obligations under the lease. Definitely read it carefully, and if you’re not sure what something means – ask! Signing a lease locks you in, so be sure before you sign.

Landlords and real estate agents like references. If you don’t have any rental references, at least try to have references showing you are responsible and of good character.

If you have valuable items, you might also want to look at taking out contents insurance.

You don’t need lots of stuff and you will be surprised what you can do without as a student. Stick to the basics and add more things as needed.

Setting up house

When you set up a house for the first time there will be quite a few things you need and costs involved, but a lot can be borrowed, rented or bought second-hand.

Your family and friends may have items they don’t use or want anymore, so ask around before you buy a fridge or lounge. Look up online sites such as Freecycle, Ziilch and Ozrecycle, where people list free items or check second-hand selling sites for bargains. Also check out garage sales, Gumtree and the Buy, Swap, Sell pages on Facebook in your area.

Charity shops will become a great resource when you’re at uni. Some will even contact you when items you are looking for come in and most can arrange for large items to be delivered.

Sharing the responsibility of furnishing a share house is helpful and reasonable. For example, one flatmate provides a fridge and someone else brings the washing machine.

Keep it minimal!

Make a list of the bigger items you are after, and take the time to find it at the price you need and want. Rushing will leave you penniless and not liking what you have purchased.

Your room: bed, clothes rack, desk, chair, reading lamp.

Shared areas: fridge, washing machine, dining table and chairs, lounge, TV, cooking and eating utensils.

Don’t forget the cleaning stuff (even if you don’t plan to use it very often) like a mop, broom and vacuum cleaner. These cleaning items will be vital when the real estate agents inspect the property regularly, or when mum and dad come to visit.

When you share a house it’s all about compromise!

Try not to leave your dirty dishes around and do your fair share of the housework. A good tip is to set up a roster for the cleaning of shared areas like bathrooms and the kitchen. You will have different opinions about the running of the house but if you are patient and willing to listen to each other, you’ll have a great time flatting and learn a lot from the experience.

Be open with each other about what you need and want when you’re all together. Be aware of your noise levels, what belongs to who and the emotional well being of those around you.

On Campus

  • A lot of uni students like to live the dorm life on campus. It offers company, structure and is close to classes. But there will still be lots to learn about being out on your own.
  • Know your way around – new students are offered an extensive orientation program to help them settle in before the start of semester. There will be information sessions, campus tours and social events.
  • Traditions – Some older residential colleges offer numerous sporting, academic and cultural opportunities and will expect all residential students to be involved. Peer care is also a high priority for residential colleges. This peer care will sometimes provide students with tutorial programs to compliment university classes and formal meals eaten in a hall with other students.
  • Dorm life – Halls of residence are less formal and structured, and generally do not provide academic tuition or meals (unless you opt for that package). Students can experience similar sporting and cultural activities and a full calendar of social events, whilst still maintaining some independence. Your uni will have the best information about what is available to you.
  • Party time – The highlights (and probably the biggest source of distractions) for many college students would have to be the parties. Your friends will live in your pockets and one or two of them will always be ready with an excuse to distract you. From hanging out in the common room with friends, to low-key (often themed) gatherings and annual balls, college is just one party after another.
  • While the college experience is certainly not for everyone (some may find it a little smothering), for first years who want to get the full university life experience, get involved in an active community, access extra support services and make loads of new friends, it might just what’s needed – especially if you have moved hours away from home. Students often leave on campus accommodation after their first or second year for more independence, often finding shared accommodation with a couple of their college friends.

Your space will be your sanctuary, especially when living with 20+ other people.Whether or not you have a shared room, take pride in it and try to make your space your own.

It’s a good idea to keep it clean and tidy space, it can easily become overwhelming in such a small space. Try to make your bed every day, keep your bedside clear with only the thing you need. Set up your desk how you like it, maybe even get yourself a small plant so you have something to look after. It will be satisfying to see it grow.

Cheap and easy ways to have the best dorm room ever

Keep as much stuff as possible off the floor – including that pile of dirty clothes! Make sure you put it in the washing hamper, put away your clean clothes as soon as you fold or sort them. This will make your space feel like an actual livable room.


Whether or not you’re in catered accommodation food will be a big factor in leaving home. Do you know how to feed yourself and stay relatively healthy while on a budget? Food can be cheap and nasty or you can shop smarter and still feed yourself healthy and satisfying dishes at a fairly low price.

Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget

  • Have a budget, go to the supermarket with only the cash you want to spend. This will stop the splurges and unnecessary purchases.
  • Have a plan, go to the supermarket with a list and stick to it.
  • There’s nothing wrong with plain label stuff. Go for the Woolworths or Coles branded items. A lot of the time it’s almost the same product in a plainer label for a lot less money.
  • If you like meat see what’s discounted or buy the cheaper cuts. Discounted stuff can be frozen or cooked straight away. Cheaper cuts are just as tasty, just do a quick google search on how to cook them.
  • There is nothing wrong with “ugly” fruit and veg. It will taste just the same BUT be cheaper. Look out for them.
  • Meal planners will work wonders for your budget and time management.
  • Cook in bulk batches and freeze – curries, pastas and soups are great for this. An easy way to make this achievable is investing in a slow cooker. Slow cookers aren’t expensive and they cook your favourite meal in bigger proportions. Cheaper cuts of meat often do really well in the slow cooker because of the low and slow cooking method.
  • Try to avoid eating out a lot – it’s expensive and adds up quickly!
  • Take snacks to classes so you’re not tempted to buy café food. By taking snacks with you, you will spend less! Think muesli bars, fruit, carrots sticks, yogurt (freeze so these keep cold in summer) and nuts are great starts.
  • Avoid buying water – get yourself a water bottle and refill as you go, you’ll save the environment and your bank balance.
  • Avoid buying your coffee – get yourself a plunger and make it yourself to take with you in a reusable travel cup. You will save yourself at least $4 a day (that’s $20 a week!).


How often should you wash?

  • Washing should be one of those weekly jobs you try to keep on top of – it’s important for not only good housekeeping but for hygiene.
  • Washing can be done at any time of day, but it might be a good habit to start doing it on a week night. Weekends might be a bit hectic considering the amount of students using the machines. Choose a week night, and start a routine. You can either study, do assessments or take a bit of time out with Netflix while you wait for the wash to finish.
  • Unless you have a lot of light clothes a dedicated “white wash” might be overkill. See if your roommates/dormmates want to go in on a load or just throw it in with your other clothes. Unless you have a new piece of clothing or something red in there you should be OK.
  • A safe bet too, is to always wash your clothes on a cold wash. Not only is it better for the environment, it’s a quicker turnaround. If you’re unsure about how to wash a piece of clothing ALWAYS read the tag – it will have washing instructions.

Sheets and towels must be washed!

  • Change your towel every three-four uses. This may mean you need 2-3 towels but that’s OK (if you do a once-a-week wash you will only need 2). Fold or roll them away neatly when you’re not using them.
  • Sheets can be pushed to 2 weeks in summer, and 3 weeks in winter – BUT no more. Even though you might be clean when you get into bed, sweat, skin and hair are gross! If you want to wash sheets more often GO FOR IT!
  • If you have a top sheet (that extra sheet that goes between you and the doona) you won’t have to wash your doona cover very often – maybe once a term, unless you see it’s filthy.

If you’re living on campus you should have some washing machines near you. Most campuses will provide these facilities at no cost to students, but double check before you head over for the first time.

If you do need to pay, always have a stash of coins on hand. A good way to make sure you always have change is to take it out of your pockets or wallet at the end of every day, night out or week, and put it in a dedicated container or jar.

You will always need to provide your own detergent, so keep an eye out for specials at the supermarket. Try to buy in bulk if possible (it’s heaps cheaper) and portion it out is a smaller jar so it’s easier to carry.

This advice is general in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation, needs or goals. You should consider whether the advice is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.