The life of a student – you’re most likely working a casual job, spending your days studying and still wanting to utilise the freedom a University degree brings before that dreaded full-time job takes you over. Odds are heading out with mates is a time consuming, expesnive affair. But never fear, we have racked up a solid list of free/cheap ways to still maintain that social life in the midst of financial instability as a student.

FOOD

Food is usually the go to you hang out with your mate – “lets grab lunch.”  “I can’t I’m trying to save.” “That’s okay, we will go somewhere cheap!” And it’s almost always brunch, a slightly less ritzy, but still expensive brunch. Repeat this process multiple times a week and you can barely afford rent. Here are some quick, easy options for an on-the-go student which doesn’t include gourmet burgers or $25 for a slither of bread which can barely accommodate your two poached eggs.

Om Vegetarian – $6.50 meals.

Nestled in the heart of the Melbourne’s CBD is the Indian buffet restaurant Om Vegetarian. The famous $6.50 meal is an all you can eat Thaali dish, which will score you the choice of two curries, basmati rice and naan bread to boot. But the best part is that the chain’s four locations are evenly spread out among the CBD, meaning its always just minutes away during those slow days spent at the State Library or if you’re simply traveling through the city in transit.

Don Don / Don Tojo

198 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne / 164 Cardigan Street, Carlton.

If you are strapped for time and your stomach is rumbling like mad, then this Japanese curry don chain is a sensible stop for your stomach. You can grab yourself a big bowl of curry for no more than $8, and the meal is prepared almost instantly. Plus if you’re lucky, they will sometimes be serving a ten-piece spring roll dish, or a bowl of fried chicken for $5 and under.

Victoria Street, Richmond

Keen for a cheap eat and some cold bevs, and need a break from that dilapidated share house kitchen? Otherwise known as ‘Little Vietnam”, Victoria Street boasts an endless string of authentic Asian restaurants where the average meal barely surfaces above $10. But the best part is that most of them are BYO, with Thy Thy fronting the top of the list for their fee free corkage. This means you can demolish that delicious $3 bottle of Bowler’s Run without a care.

There are also plenty of places that do Karaoke for no extra charge. All you need is a sizeable group of people, a food order each, and enough BYO beverages to get you up on that stage.

Lentil As Anything

Sprawled across Melbourne with five different locations in almost every direction, “Lentils” is a pay-as-you-feel vegan restaurant run by volunteers that embeds a strong sense of community. Serving delicious meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Lentils is a great option for when the bank is running low. But please tread lightly if you decide to visit. Unfortunately as a non-for-profit organisation, the chain has recently seen a decline in donations from many of its customers who take advantage of the pay as you feel system. On that note, the restaurants are hubs for creative expression, often featuring live musicians, poetry nights and all things yoga on a daily basis.

University Club Events

Odds are your University is probably hosting some sort of event where free sausages or beverages are being distributed left right front and centre. Of course, its impossible to rely on these to save money, so if you’re constantly finding yourself buying meals from food outlets, then preparing your meal the night before is a wise decision.

FILM

If you’re dying to catch that new critically acclaimed release, but the stream you found online is just way too grainy, or you’re wanting to impress on that stock standard dinner-movie date idea, then Monday and Tuesday nights are where it’s at.

Mad Mondays at Cinema Nova

Mad Mondays at Nova always go off – offering $9 tickets all day, there is always an eager line of movie goers flooding the walkway of the cinema’s exterior. But the good news is that you can book your cheap tickets ahead of time online. Nova is known for its extensive list of new release films, ranging from blockbusters to art house, and features local films which mightn’t get exposure at larger cinemas. It’s also around the corner from Don Tojo’s, making for the perfect cheap-and-easy date night combo with your mate (or date).

Tuesdays at Lido Cinemas, Hawthorn

If you’re overloaded with study at Swinburne, or trying to work out how to kill time during that  unfortunately placed 6 hour break between classes, then Lido Cinema has got you covered. As a Swinburne student, before 4pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays you can get your hands on a movie ticket for only $7. Anytime after 4pm, the prices rise to a mere $9.

Screen Sect at Bar Open

For more hardcore film buffs, this free weekly Monday screening event at Bar Open’s band room space is curated with with monthly themes that focus on different genres, directors and actors. It also includes informative discussion based talks by the event’s founder, with the occasional special guest. If you’re looking to meet other film buffs or a movie club that doesn’t require commitment on a constant basis then Screen Sect is the way to go.

Volunteering

For Melbourne’s film festivals, ranging from MIFF to the St. Kilda Short Film Festival earlier this year,  there is always a demand for volunteers. The reward is a generous helping of free movie tickets, and if you’re lucky, you may be assigned a role that takes place inside one of the actual screenings. You will also get a chance to meet other film nerds just like yourself! Of course this varies from each festival but it doesn’t hurt to check out what’s on offer.

MUSIC

If you’re keen to see some live music but the $10 entry fee is putting you off, then there are plenty of alternative opportunities around, but the catch here is that you can’t be picky.

Free Shows.

There are plenty out there, happening every night, all the time – quite possibly taking place on your University campus right now. All it takes is a little soul searching via gig guides or sites like Facebook. Think of venues you love – most likely there is one free show a week for you to venture to. Take the New Lease event at the John Curtin for example – a free weekly gig featuring some of Melbourne’s best up-and coming artists. If you time your plans correctly, you could find yourself attending one free gig event every night of the week. And those with a passion for local music, why not enquire at your favourite live venue for a part-time job?

But what about attending those music events with big name line-ups?

The answer is volunteering.

As music festival ticket prices surge into the unreachable, so do the amount of new festivals to be attended. There is simply not enough dosh and not enough time to see them all, so assigning your budget to just one festival a year can be a tricky decision. By submitting volunteer applications, you can get the chance to not only see your favourite acts for free, but you also contribute to making your favourite festivals possible. Plus any little bit of volunteering looks great on a resume.

THE ARTS

So you’ve seen that new exhibition at the Melbourne Museum advertised everywhere, but its $30 with concession. Dang. Or that Friday night special at the NGV, but you still need to eat dinner before your next paycheck? Oh well. If you’re still dying for that cultural fix, then expand your horizons by embracing free local art shows and launches instead. Not only do you get to see some of Melbourne’s most exciting work on display, but most likely there will be an open bar waiting for you as well.

There are also numerous open mic comedy and poetry events on all the time. The Rochester Hotel hosts a free Thursday night comedy extravaganza featuring some big name Melbournites, and the Brunswick Hotel hosts a long standing bi-weekly poetry night known as Passionate Tongues. There are plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in the arts, although like music, it does require a little bit of research first.

THE ALTERNATIVES?

Trivia Nights.

Absolutely taking Melbourne by storm at the moment is the classic trivia night, or more importantly, the themed trivia night, which now include visual stimuli to avoid those pesky cheaters who take regular bathroom breaks to check their phone. Of course if you win there is a bar tab waiting for you, an ample opportunity to fund a whole night out with some of your mates. These events are free fun and a great way to get out of the house, while still getting home in time to study up for that exam that lurks around the corner.

Of course if it’s still a little difficult to venture out due to your financial situation or geographical location, you can always get creative at home. Why not host your own budget dinner party, movie night or poetry night in your own lounge room? Or get involved with a University club – there is plenty of free, cheap shit always going in Melbourne, all it takes is some clever planning (eg. a sneaky water bottle of goon if you’re wanting to get loose) and some quick, well-timed research to get the ball rolling.