Dollars and Sense: New Zealand

How much does it cost to study in New Zealand? In addition to your university tuition fees you’ll need to have enough money to cover your living costs while you study. Here’s an idea of what to expect

This is a hard question to answer as the amount needed for living costs depends on your individual everyday needs and habits. People vary hugely in what they consider to be everyday lifestyle essentials! But while there isn’t an easy answer to this question, here we’ll try to give you an idea of what to expect.

When looking at budgets, please remember to factor in how long you intend to stay in the country each year. The academic year in New Zealand is usually 40 weeks, and lots of the online calculators and example budgets provided by the universities assume that you will only be in the country for 40 weeks. If you want to stay over the summer and work, or travel, (both of which you’re entitled to do on a student visa) you’ll need to allow extra budget for this.

Accommodation costs

The single biggest living expense for every student is accommodation. Each university offers different housing options and we would recommend looking into them, and factoring the likely costs into your budget, as early as possible.

Accommodation Option 1: Fully-catered halls of residence or a room in a residential college

This is a good option if you don’t want to think about buying food or dealing with utility bills when you first get to university. Fully-catered halls can look like an expensive option at first, but remember that hall fees generally include three meals a day, as well as all utility bills. Some also include laundry, internet access, and local phone calls. Each hall will differ – check carefully to see what is and is not included in the price. Generally the full hall fee will need to be paid at the start of each semester in advance, so these costs are also not something you have to manage in a weekly budget. Plus, with all those costs essentially taken care of by one big bill at the start of term, all you’re left to worry about each week are any extra course costs (textbooks, fieldtrips, art materials etc) and spending money for nights out, trips away, and everyday treats like takeaway coffees. Which some students find easier to manage, particularly if this is their first year away from home.

Accommodation option 2: Self-catered university flats or halls of residence

The disadvantage of fully-catered accommodation is that it doesn’t offer much flexibility. So if you prefer to eat little and often rather than having three hearty meals a day, or you don’t like eating at set mealtimes, you might be better off looking at self-catered housing.

Self-catered hall costs typically also include utility bills, local calls, laundry and so on as above (again check the specifics at each hall) but you will need to allow for food bills in your weekly budget. The amount people spend on food varies hugely, but if you can cook, are happy to shop around for ingredients, and start taking leftovers to uni the next day for lunch, this can work out a less expensive option than fully-catered.

Accommodation option 3: Renting a room in a house or a flat privately

We don’t recommend this option for first-year undergraduates, but many returning students – and the majority of postgraduates – opt for private rental accommodation to give themselves as much financial flexibility as possible. While private renting may seem to be much the cheapest option, remember that you’ll need to budget for food, utilities, internet and phone, local travel (if living away from campus) and set up for your flat (any missing furniture, linen, kitchen equipment, hire of television or white goods) on top of the weekly rent. Also remember that the lease on private housing is likely to be for 52 weeks, so if you are not intending to stay past the academic year, you might end up paying for housing that you don’t use. The amount of rent you pay will partly be determined by the number of people sharing the property – generally, the more of you there are, the lower the rent.

Accommodation and everyday living

Here are some examples of what each of these accommodation might cost at universities in different New Zealand cities. These are just examples; please check the accommodation and costs webpages for the university you are interested in studying at to get exact information.

  Rent (fully catered halls of residence) Rent (Self-catered university apartments/rooms) Rent (private accommodation) Power Food Local travel
University of Auckland, Auckland $288 – $334 per week $210 – $283 per week $200 – $350 per week From $20 per week $100-$150 per week Single bus fare per trip in Auckland starts at 50 cents, going up to $10.30
Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington $215 – $313 per week $155 – $240 $155 – $300 From $20 per week Around $80 per week Single bus fare in the city $2 – $4.50 (discount cards available for students)
University of Canterbury, Christchurch $285 – $340 per week $150 – $247 per week From $160 per week From $20 per week Around $70 per week Bus fare $2.10 – $2.80 per trip
University of Otago, Dunedin $315 – $360 per week N/A From $110 per week From $20 per week From $70 per week Local bus fares $2.50

Cost of living: What’s the bottom line?

According to NZ universities, you will need to budget between NZ$15,000–$20,000 (South Island) and NZ$18,000 – $25,000 (North Island) to cover living expenses for the academic year, depending where you live. Please note that all figures quoted in this feature are approximate – the cost of living will vary according to lifestyle. All costs on these pages are given in New Zealand dollars. For currency conversions and the latest exchange rates, visit

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