Young, Dumb & Broke: students making ends meet – Frock Paper Scissors
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Young, Dumb & Broke: Students Making Ends Meet

By Alise Heinzel

Photographer and stylist: Emily Nitson | Model: Laura Fell

As the cost of living increases, adolescents are forced into becoming more resourceful with how they live and where their money goes. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics discovered that in 2017, the Living Cost Index had risen by two percent. As a result, youths in Brisbane are forced to look for an alternative means of income – making it difficult for some to find employment with no experience or qualifications.

William Palmer is an undergraduate student studying Information Technology and claims that every job he has had has been sought through personal contacts. “With the way society is heading, I think it’s getting more and more difficult for young people to find jobs, let alone jobs that fit in well with their studies.” The Student Housing Survey conducted in 2017, showed that 82 percent of students’ studies were affected by the number of hours they worked per week. Due to this, Mr Palmer explains that he has had to drop back to part-time study to make a viable income and perform well in his studies.

Civil Engineering student Trent Embleton manages a family AirBnB as an additional form of income to his fortnightly Centrelink payments. The Student Housing Survey reveals that 49 percent of students are struggling to pay rent. In 2016, Anglicare also revealed that only one property out of over 75,000 Australian rental properties was deemed affordable for a single student surviving on youth allowance.

Queensland University of Technology accommodation officer Don Foster believes that share housing is the most common option for budget conscious students. Mr Embleton decided to opt for share housing accommodation and has never looked back. “Share house living has been the best decision, as student accommodation is super expensive, and wasn’t an option for me. I was never interested in living in one of those places anyway. I don’t want to move out of home and into a place where there’s more rules,” he said.

Justice student Andrew Haig and Mathematics/Engineering student Jack Gilmore have both lived in student accommodation before, deciding to move into a share house together. Both Mr Haig and Mr Gilmore agree that student accommodation is an expensive option for students, costing each of them almost $300 per week in rent. Besides studying, Mr Haig works as a handyman for his family and is living week-to-week to pay for the basic cost of living, with a small amount of money to spare. He got a hold of this job through word of mouth saying, “it’s who you know rather than what you know when getting the job, definitely.”

Students who rely on Youth Allowance are struggling to make ends meet. - Anglicare Australia (2017)

Mr Gilmore is studying his double degree full-time and works as a lifeguard at South Bank.He believes that working impacts his studies explaining, “I usually work weekends, between six and 16 hours per week. I worked about 40 hours over the mid-semester break, which I could’ve spent doing uni”.

Ineligible for Youth Allowance, Mr Gilmore’s parents pay a portion of his rent to support his studies while he lives away from home. “Ultimately, I’m in Brisbane to study, but I still need to work in order to live a comfortable life where I can enjoy myself,” he said. At this young age Mr Gilmore explains that he would rather live at home so he can spend his money on social outings and holidays. “At this point in my life it’s not that big of a priority for me to save for a house.” Travel is more important to millennials than owning a house as job security and career prospects dwindle, according to ABS Household Expenditure.

James O’Grady is a mathematics student who also faces the same struggles of making ends meet and utilises his creative talent as an extra means of income. “Sometimes I paint on commission for people, which is a good way for me to make a little extra income every now and then.” Skipping meals and shopping cheaply is the reality for him, as he is only able to spend around $40 per week on groceries.

As the cost of living increases, thousands of Brisbane students are hit with financial hardship, with many struggling to live pay cheque to pay cheque. On the brighter side, many of these students are becoming more resourceful in the way they live, seeking out alternative avenues to work their way around financial barriers. This showcases the determination of millennials as they continue to shine through in the Brisbane scene.