In an era where the cost of higher education can exceed the price of a house or car, it can be difficult to stay afloat financially. Books, tuition, insurance, rent, living expenses, conferences and the occasional night on the town add up. Whether you are a master's student approaching your final year, a first-year Ph.D. or an undergraduate planning to attend grad school, everyone can use budgeting and personal finance advice. Below are five tips for graduate students who are living on a budget:
1. Credit Cards - Avoid using them if you can, but if you must, select a card that will offer you benefits while you spend. For example many airline cards will allow you to acquire flyer miles the more you use it, while other cards have cash rewards. However, only spend what you know you can quickly pay back. Source: Tips for broke graduate students
2. There's an app for that - Download Mint for the iOS or Spendee for the Android/iOS. Both are free money management tools that allow you to link bank and credit card accounts to help you track income and expenses. This is a great way to get organized and have your budget at your finger tips. Source: Personal Finance in Grad School
3. Establish a monthly and annual plan - Expenses such as housing, transportation, utilities and groceries need to be planned for on a monthly basis; tuition, books and supplies need to be divided out annually. Do you need a new computer? What sales can you find at the local grocery store? How will you divide your stipend? Create a monthly and annual plan to answer these questions. Source: Going to Grad School? Start Your Budget Now.
4. Form a community - Graduate school can be a lonely experience, but whenever possible join in with roommates or fellow grad students to print a thesis/dissertation or other materials in bulk to save money, plan dinners where each person takes turns to cook, and carpool to campus or professional development events. Three or four heads (and wallets :-)) are always better than one. Source: Hacks to Save Money in Graduate School
5. See what services you qualify for - Do you qualify for a Lifetime Learning Tax Credit which allows individuals the opportunity to subtract $2,000 annually from their tax bill? Can you receive medicaid or food stamps? Know what you are eligible for and how these services can make life a lot easier while in graduate school. Source: The $17 Sandwich, and Other Financial Lessons for Grad Students
Graduate school can be a rough time financially, and it requires some strategic budgeting. However, when the going gets tough, remember your mission and purpose. The financial decisions you make today can truly propel you forward once you walk across the graduation stage.
Written by Chanell Turner, Publications and Programming Assistant of the Southern Regional Education Board Doctoral Scholars Program.