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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.