tips on saving money while in graduate school

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As most of you all know, higher education is not cheap. Even with assistance through fellowships, scholarships, assistantships, and even loans, expenses still occur here and there. When most of our time is in the classroom, it can impact the ability to save or earn money.

While I’m no expert, I have a few tips on what I have done to save a dime or two during graduate school.

tip number one)

Review your menu.

I know what you’re thinking, “Yeah, really?! Thanks a lot. [insert eye roll]”

While I love to eat out I have realized that a lot of my budget outside of education is spent on food. With food delivery apps making food available within a matter of minutes, consider the cost of convenience compared to cooking at home. Even simple meal prep delivery services can add up if you don’t eat the food before it goes bad.

By now, you should know, my favorite store is Aldi. I also have a Neighborhood Walmart within walking distance. Once a month, I make my “major” shopping trip to Aldi and stock up on produce, dried and canned goods, and snacks. And once a week or as needed, I can walk to the Neighborhood Walmart to get a few items here and there when they run out.

During the week, stress and a shortage of time may interfere with cooking meals. I try to cook a few meals ahead of time. That ranges from actually preparing an entree or two for the week or even just cutting up all my vegetables for ease of adding them to a salad or meal. Another big money saver for me is not purchasing meat. I am not a vegetarian. I like to eat what tastes good. Meat is an expensive protein source compared to other great foods such as vegetables, beans, and legumes. I am cooking-for-one on most days, so I can’t justify spending the money on meat, especially when it’s not the first food I reach for to satisfy my hunger.

(I save the meat purchasing for when hubby is in town.

Oh, by the way, I got married! I’ll blog about that later.

Tip number two)

Find a JOB

Okay, this tip is less about saving and more about acquiring money.

Find a full-time or part-time job in your field of interest, or just find something. There are so many contract jobs that can fit around your schedule. I know company’s like Lyft, let you rent a car if you don’t have one, to drive for them.

If your schedule allows it. Work from home! I have been very fortunate to start teaching online with VIPKID. My mornings start early around 5 or 6 a.m. I’m able to choose my schedule that works around my class schedule which has been really nice. I try to only teach on days I don’t have class. The income helps to cover some expenses such as food and rent and incidentals (and the wedding we planned in 45 days). But, it’s best to find something flexible around any exams, research assignments, study groups, or school engagements.

tip number three)

Cut cable and internet cost wherever you can. I think many of us have cut these cords a while ago. While I do have Wi-Fi at home, I don’t feel the need to have a top of the line package because I also live two blocks from campus. I’m essentially a stone’s throw away from free Wi-Fi.

I also decided to invest in a TV antenna instead of Netflix or Hulu. I only HAVE one show…”This Is Us” and that is pretty much the only time I turn on my television. It made more sense to me to spend roughly $17 on a TV antenna instead of paying for a plan ranging from $8 to $16 a month to watch one show a week.

tip number four)

Walk. Walk. Walk. Many grad students commute but if you live within walking distance, consider saving a few bucks and walk or ride your bike to class. My school also has a program where you can borrow a bike for a semester. I am rarely, if ever, late to class because I don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot which I hear is a pain in the butt on my campus.

tip number five)

Shop discount, resale or used. I have purchased most of my textbooks, clothing, and even apartment decor secondhand. Amazon Warehouse is a pretty good option, although sometimes it is a miss. Retail therapy is not a great coping mechanism to have in graduate school (or life in general).

Poshmark (earn $5 by signing up using my code KRYSTALWRIGHT25), ThredUp, Goodwill or even a local thrift store in your area is a good place to look for affordable brand name clothes for pennies on the dollar. I’ve found brands such as Anthropologie, Express, Banana Republic, and even designer brands for fractions of the retail price. Important to keep this in mind as you are preparing your research presentations and even a job interview.

Simple office and household goods can be purchased at a discount on Amazon Warehouse. I purchased two-reams of printer paper for under $3 per ream on Amazon Warehouse, discounted only because the packaging was ripped.

Happy Saving!

❤ Krystal

mango shrimp tacos.

Originally posted: July 24, 2013

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Since I am getting more clicks on my camera, I’ve been wanting to update my recipe pictures from years gone by. Part of the reason I stopped posting recipes is because my pictures just couldn’t hang with the many food bloggers out there, and learning photography was a daunting for me.

Well, here I am.

Mango Shrimp Tacos

Taco filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
15-20 medium shrimp, thawed, peeled, tails removed
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large jalapeno pepper, diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 romaine lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
1 large ripe mango, peeled and diced in 1/4″ chunks (I ate most of my mango before it made it to a taco, whoops)
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped and de-stemmed

Sauce:
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lime juice (fresh is best)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Stir together Greek yogurt, lime juice and salt. Set aside.

Add olive oil to a 10-inch non-stick skillet. On medium heat, saute shrimp, onion, ginger, jalapeno and salt until shrimp is cooked. This should not take long, about 6-7 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Place about 6-8 chunks of mango evenly over each lettuce leaf, then top with 1/4 of the shrimp mixture. If you’re one of the lucky ones to which cilantro doesn’t taste like soap, sprinkle on top.

Drizzle each taco with yogurt sauce.

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Happy National Taco Day!

❤ Krystal

i am a confident young woman.

When it’s that time of the month, I don’t have to worry about having proper hygienic products to manage my period.

Unfortunately, this is not the reality of every woman.

In Namibia, some women without access to proper feminine products will use mattress filling, newspapers, and even leaves during menstruation. Although I haven’t encountered any women that have used any of these methods, it happens. Culture and economic constraints lead to poor menstrual hygiene management. But, most importantly, some young women miss school because they don’t have access to pads during their periods.

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SisterPADS is an NGO based in Windhoek. They provide cost-effective, eco-friendly, washable and re-usable sanitary pads which aim to improve girls’ menstrual health hygiene and welfare.

In early March, my counterparts, Ileni and Patrina, a fellow volunteer, Rachael, and I held a girls empowerment workshop in my community.

60 SisterPAD kits were donated to girls in my community who have difficulty acquiring pads due to financial hardships. We wanted to conduct a workshop not only focusing on menstruation, but to educate girls about sexual health, HIV/AIDS, hygiene and sanitation, reproductive health, and how to care for the reusable pads they received at the end of the workshop.

I am a confident young woman.
I am in control of my own body.
I am in control of my own health.
I am in control of my sexual health.
I am educated about my sexual health.
I make my own decisions about my own health.
I make my own decisions about sex.

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I really enjoyed seeing my counterparts shine during this workshop. They covered the topics of sexual reproductive health with the utmost sensitivity, empathy, and care.

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To conclude the workshop, Rachael guided the participants through a self-esteem activity. The each wrote down what makes each of them unique and how their qualities contribute positively to the world around them.

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Body changes are normal. A young woman should not be afraid of these changes. With SisterPADS, these girls will be able to hygienically and safely manage their periods, but they will also miss fewer days of school.

❤ Krystal

taking a look back

I was selected along with 16 current volunteers to serve as a RV (Resource Volunteer) during PST (Pre-Service Training) for G47. Last week, I attended GTOT (General Training of Trainers), in preparation for the incoming group of business and health volunteers next week.

I am still coming to grips with the fact that my time as a volunteer is coming to an end. I am experiencing many feelings of sadness and denial. And feelings that I could’ve done more.

I promise this is not a sad, sappy post. I wanted to share two things in this post:

My invitation letter & My aspiration statement

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I remember receiving my invitation letter while I was sitting at the WIC office during my community nutrition rotation. Minutes before, I had gotten off the phone with my Dietetic Technician advisor and financial aid office. Due to an administrative error, they had dropped me out of my courses. My advisor was worried and called me that morning wondering why I had dropped courses more than halfway through my last semester. I called the financial aid office to clear things up, which was not easy. When I received my letter, there was a mixture of excitement and frustration. Robin Cooley, my preceptor and one of my references, celebrated with me. Receiving this invitation, solidified the reality of the Peace Corps for me.

My aspiration statement was written after reflecting on my time interning at Brookside Assisted Living during my clinical nutrition rotation. Ms. B, which I found out later, lived in my neighborhood, helped change my perspective on life and death, and how each of us has the ability to do something.

I challenge each volunteer currently serving, coming to the end of service, or even about to begin service to take a look back at your invitation and your aspiration statement. 27 months of service is not easy. Heck, 6 months of service is not easy. While service may play out much different than you expected, looking back can provide the chance to see more of what your country of service has taught you and less of what you taught them.

❤ Krystal

youth empowerment workshop

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My friend, Zoe, is a Community Economic Development (CED) volunteer. Her host organization approached her about tackling the issues of high youth pregnancy rates leading to increased school dropouts, lack of sexual reproductive health (SRH) education, and lack of motivation and education for youth to plan for their careers and long-term success.

As a special treat, Zoe helped me write this post.

Your Future, Your Choice

Many times men are left out of the conversation about SRH, citing it as only a woman’s “problem.” A portion of the workshop addressed the stigma around sex and pregnancy which is useful knowledge for all. With the endorsement of her supervisor, Patrick Masiziani, Zoe created a pilot program called “Your Future, Your Choice,” to address SRH to both men and women to help empower all to make good choices regarding their sexual health and encourage youth to look ahead to a bright career.

Peace Corps Volunteers are highly encouraged to collaborate with volunteers across sectors. Zoe and Patrick invited me to co-facilitate the health aspect of the program with Apollonia, an HIV/AIDS Trainer from a local vocational technical centre (VTC). Together, we debunked myths about sex and pregnancy, provided information and proper instruction on protection and contraceptives, as well as tools for having a healthy relationship.

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The career development portion was led by Peace Corps Volunteers Rachael, Justin, and Zoe.

In Namibia, the reality is that many business owners enter into an extremely over-saturated market selling produce, airtime, and other common goods and services.

Rachael, Justin, and Zoe led discussions on finding your career path, developing career plans, career preparations which included resume/interview readiness and goal setting. Justin also led a discussion on financial stability with an emphasis on savings.

About 70 youth were in attendance at the 3-hour workshop. We sadly had to turn some away who hadn’t pre-registered for the event. I like to believe that everyone left the workshop feeling empowered in their health choices and future careers.

“On a daily basis we see issues such as rape, sexual abuse, and cases of domestic and gender based violence. In our daily papers, on the TV news, and even first hand, we witness these events. I want to believe a workshop of this nature has addressed these issues and empowered trainees with ways to deal if they find themselves in such situations.” – Patrick Masiziani

Zoe’s thoughts leading up to the workshop:

This was my first time planning an event as a Volunteer and also my first collaboration. I wanted to everything to go as smooth as possible in hopes that trainees would see value in the workshop and staff would support an annual event of this nature. I was so grateful to have the support of other volunteers across the CED and Health sectors, because they were able to help fill in the gaps where I had little or no experience. And that’s why collaborations are so great. They really helped me work through logistics like measurement and evaluation, reporting, and most importantly, creating content to share during the workshop.

Leading up to the workshop was a bit hectic. First, our centre got word that our electricity may be cut off which would mean no lights, presentation, or air con in a room of 80 people. Because this wouldn’t have been a conducive learning environment, we agreed we would postpone if there was no electricity. Luckily, my supervisor worked tirelessly to get the issue resolved and we were able to continue with the event as planned. The morning of, I learned we did not have the proper equipment to use with the projector. Things we did have included (1) a compatible laptop with no charger (2) an incompatible laptop with a charger (3) an incompatible HDMI cable. Ah, the joys of technology. After about 2 hours and with the help of a few trainers, we finally found a VGA cable that connected to the laptop with a charger. Two hours before the start time, one of our facilitators told me she couldn’t make it anymore and I almost had a meltdown. Turns out she was joking.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the workshop went, despite the scramble prior. The health portion was especially engaging for trainees, and they asked question after question about what seemed to be first-hand experiences. The fact that they felt comfortable enough to ask these questions in front of a group of 70+ others gave me confidence that we accomplished our goal in making the forum a “safe space” experience. In fact, their curiosity on subjects like healthy relationships and voluntary medical male circumcision made me realize that these topics need to be addressed more often. Krystal’s approach in opening the workshop played a big role in their comfortability, too. She started out talking about how “we’re all adults” and how treating them like they were all practicing abstinence was unrealistic. Because it’s true! They’re having sex, its reality. Playing that angle was key because it made them feel like she was talking with them, not at them.

Unfortunately, the amount of time spent on health limited our time to discuss career preparation topics. Originally we had talked about a four hour event, but ended up being limited to three so as not to interfere with other classes that trainees were required to attend. After we wrapped the health portion and took a break, we were only left with 40 minutes for goal setting, budgeting, CV and interviewing tips. While this wasn’t ideal, I’m glad we didn’t rush health because that’s a topic I’m definitely not as knowledgeable in and I’m always available to help trainees edit CVs and apply for interviews. In the future, I would make it a two day event so that we have enough time to cover material, do activities and answer all questions.

I definitely learned a lot during this workshop and have identified numerous way to improve next time around. My advice to volunteers who want to host an event or something similar is to just go for it. It might be a success or it might be a failure, but either way you’ll learn a lot in the process. And chances are that, even despite potential chaos, your colleagues and community will appreciate the effort put in.

❤ Krystal

camp o-yeah.

Camp YEAH (Youth Exploring & Achieving in Health) is a health camp hosted by Peace Corps Volunteers and their counterparts in Namibia. Each year, in-school youth apply and are then invited to a week-long camp to engage in topic discussions and activities that will empower them in making healthy choices regarding their health and the health of their communities.

This was the inaugural year of Camp O-YEAH (the ‘O’ stands for O-Land) which was hosted in Oshakati. 18 youth from across the four regions of O-land (Oshikoto, Oshana, Omusati, and Ohangwena regions) gathered for a week of activities involving teamwork, goal setting, and of course, health awareness and education.

Victoria’s very first time in a swimming pool.

This year, I was able to bring Victoria as a camper to Camp O-YEAH. Victoria is a grade 12 learner in my village. Although quiet and soft-spoken she always has a way to light up a room. She wakes up early each morning to walk 3k to school. She spends hours studying under a torch or lantern, because there is no electricity at her home. As the winter days have become shorter, this gives her less and less daylight to not only get home from school each day, but to complete her chores while continuing to make time to prioritize her studies. Victoria wants to become a tour guide when grows up and has determined the path to get there.

During my service, I have asked myself many times, “Am I doing the right things the wrong way?” I’ve struggle with community “buy-in.” I’ve struggled with finding counterparts who see the bigger picture and realize it begins with smalll daily actions. Victoria has been one who sees the bigger picture.

Camp O-Yeah opened up a world of possibilities for Victoria.

On day 1 of Camp O-Yeah, each camper was given a dream book. They were told to decorate their books anyway they wanted to. Within their dream books, they could write anything they wanted inside— thoughts on life, studies, draw pictures or write poems— anything. Their books were for their eyes only, and campers could choose to share the contents of their books if they wished.

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On a few ocassions, Victoria shared a few entries of her dream book with me. The content she shared with me made me realize even moreso how beautiful and courageous this young lady is. Each day she battles many obstacles to receive an education, change her fate, and have a voice in her future.

So, whether or not I ever find out if I am doing anything right during my last year of service, there is one thing I know: Victoria came into my Peace Corps service at the right time, and if in any way I am able to impact her life in a positive way, that will make all of this worth it.

❤ Krystal

down by the river.

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The Kavango River: separating Namibia from Angola.

It still amazes me how different the landscapes are as you travel through Namibia. This weekend I spent some time in Rundu. I knew I was getting closer to town when I saw vivid green foliage, traces of water from recent heavy rains, and elephant crossing signs. Yes, seriously. I live in a country where elephants and people can cross paths (although, it wouldn’t be a great idea). How crazy is that?

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One of the many beautiful peacocks roaming around Camp YEAH over the weekend.

Each year volunteers in the Kavango Region host Camp YEAH. YEAH stands for Youth Exploring and Achieving in Health. The camp focuses on educating youth about the risk of HIV/AIDS and other issues affecting youth such as teen pregnancy. Volunteers and counterparts select motivated learners from their communities to participate.

This year, we will be introducing this camp to Ovamboland, creatively rebranding the name to Camp O-YEAH. Camp O-YEAH will be held during the first week of May. I have been put in charge of getting all the kitchen/nutrition stuff in order for camp. Since this is my first time being on the operations side of any camp, I figured this was a great opportunity to check out Camp YEAH, but also see how a camp kitchen is run.

When I completed my dietetics degree, I never thought I would use any food management concepts again. Not because I would never need to, but because I never wanted to EVER again. (Never say never, my friends!) I fell in love with the community health aspect of dietetics, and not so much with the food management or clinical side of it. Dietetic professionals know that creating menus to feed the masses takes a lot of time, math, tears, and preparation. Move to Namibia and add in converting everything from US to metric, and it turns into one heck of a good time.

I watched as a team of two volunteers with the assistance of a few locals cook and serve three meals per day to approximately 50 campers and staff. I was thoroughly impressed and mostly relieved that some school kitchens in Namibia are equipped with appliances found in commercial kitchens in the States. (They had a tilt skillet, y’all).

Mariah and Winnie cooked and introduced delicious new foods to the campers while reminding volunteers of the yummy foods we sacrificed for two years.

 

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Delicious cheese…oh, and chili.

 

For me, planning six days, 17 meals including 5 tea breaks, and 50 expected attendees will make anyone want to pull their hair out, but I think it will turn out just fine.

 

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Speaking of hair, do you like my new style? Can’t beat a new look for $10 USD.

 

❤ Krystal