The Weirdest Ways We Made Money As Students

Life as a student is weird – the hustle of trying to navigate being a kind-of-adult while attending classes, working a part time job and maintaining a social life is tough. You try your best, but the struggle is all too real.

One of the greatest problems is a lack of funds, and some students have gone to great (or odd) lengths in order to survive. We asked five current and former students to share their most novel money-making methods, for your inspiration (or amusement).

Sarah*, 29

I entered a chilli eating competition, partly as a lark and partly for the cash prices and vouchers on offer.

I heard about the competition through a friend who messaged me, and suggested I enter. I am obsessed with hot sauce and have a crazy competitive streak, so it was a no brainer.

I showed up to the comp ready to rumble. I feel like people saw me as a bit of an underdog – being that almost all of the fifteen other competitors were big dudes who made a lot of noise.

The chillies were so big that you needed to take two bites in order to stomach them, with each round moving up in heat: jalapeños, then birds eyes, bhut jolokia (ghost pepper), and finally the hottest chilli on earth, the Carolina reaper.

I had a secret technique though (also my competitive streak had certainly kicked in at this point). It was a mind-over-matter situation, and my whole body was screaming in pain for a good 24 hours after.

I polished off five of the Carolina reapers with a straight face, claimed my trophy, and then totally collapsed on the floor of the ladies room. All up I made about $500, excluding the rounds of free drinks (none of which were milk I might add) that I got on the back of my triumphant feat.

It was very much a one-time thing. The aftermath was horrible, I was incredibly ill and have been since told I could have damaged my stomach lining or even worse. It was a great experience, but I am more than happy to retire as a champ.

Thomas, 20

I am currently part of a University medical study, which is analysing the effects of a male contraceptive drug.

I started at the beginning of this year, and caught wind of it just by word of mouth from some older guys on my college. Apparently the clinic was always looking for more participants, so a couple of mates and I decided to get amongst it.

It’s literally the easiest job I’ve ever had. I show up twice a week, they give us free food, and we get paid $30 cash. It may not seem like much, but I feel like ever dollar is a blessing when you’re broke.

I’d rather not comment on any career highlights, but I will say that I’ll continue to visit the clinic… cruisiest job ever.

Amelia, 29

When I was 19, I came across a job on a bulletin board at my Uni for a “hair model” – aka a hairdresser’s guinea pig. This particular stylist was entering a competition for a major dye brand, so I had to have my hair transformed for the entry.

The cut was pretty out there… it was essentially a bowl cut, with one with one long section in the fringe, which they crimped and then backcombed. My naturally blonde hair was dyed brown, with some blonde sections, top-deck style, which was pastel pinks and purples.

I was clearly doing a great job at channelling my inner Derek Zoolander, because we ended up making it to the finals in Queensland, where he had to do it all over again for a panel of judges.

For the finals I had to strut a catwalk and complete a choreographed dance – I am by no means a dancer. Despite all this, WE WON!

In return for spending several hours in the salon, learning new dance moves and spending a few days in sunny Queensland, I was paid a lump sum of $1000. I was stoked: I really enjoyed working with creative people and watching them work their crazy magic. Plus, the photos are bloody priceless.

Danne, 35

While I was at Uni, I responded to a message board ad looking for a ‘data collector’ to work for a town planning company. My role was to stand and count cars, while surveying the always-super-friendly petrol station clientele.

I only did it for a few days over the course of a few weeks. The job was pretty straightforward, but it was the cold that did me in – I almost froze. Allow me to paint the picture: I was shivering under three blankets on the coldest day of the year, sitting on a footpath in Double Bay during a six-hour split shift.

It wasn’t until a nearby office worker realised I wasn’t homeless before they invited me to do the job from behind the glass wall in their office foyer. If there was anything I learned from this job, it was a newfound appreciation for heating.

The hourly rate was $15/ hour, which back in those days was MASSIVE, so I was thrilled. However, you won’t catch me counting cars anytime again soon. Not a chance.

Finn, 20

For a month I worked as a male erotic dancer in order to pay for an impromptu Euro trip.

I was working as a casual bartender at this rugby club in Sydney, and these rich (and tipsy) mums must have taken a liking to me because they would pay me a ridiculous amount in tips if I agreed to show a little skin, or give them a cheeky kiss.

It was here that some guy approached me about working for him. No, it wasn’t in a back alley, and no, he wasn’t wearing dark shades and a leopard print fur coat. It wasn’t as shady as it sounds, I promise…

My short-lived career highlight happened one busy Friday night. It was especially slippery this particular night, and for whatever reason I ended up landing on some dude’s lap. Awkward, and incredibly embarrassing but I shook it off like a pro, and the stunt scored me a $100 tip.

I don’t regret it though – I was paid $30/hour cash, plus loads in tips. My best night saw me taking home almost $400 in tips alone, so if I’m ever super low in cash again, you know where to find me.


Grant, 21

I was strapped for cash, and my football coach at the time had told me about a place that was looking for a ‘groundsman’. It seemed like an easy gig, so I agreed and was to start the following Monday.

All I got was an address – I rocked up only to then realise it was at the local cemetery. The role was quite broad: duties included lawn mowing, whipper-snipping, grave digging and even helping out with cremation.

There were no funny stories per say – but loads of creepy ones. In my first week I felt a tug at my pants leg when I was the only one on the grounds. I’d always hear footsteps and voices near the crematory and the chapel.

I worked long days, and would take home around $750 a week but I’m still undecided as to whether or not it was worth the interaction with poltergeists. I’d probably do it again – although a pay-rise would have to be on the cards.

Open a Westpac Choice account for students or youth online by 29 March. Deposit $250 within 45 days of opening the account to receive $50 from Westpac.

(Lead Image: Takeru Kobayashi / Flickr)

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