Being a grad student is insanely hard — and that’s before you consider the fact that most grad students are broke. It’s hard to have anything more than a part-time job or some sort of teaching assistant or tutoring job through your program. Here’s how to save as much money as possible.
Take Advantage of the Benefits of Your School
You can utilize the library of the school and their free Wi-Fi to cut back on utility bills at home. It means using a bit less electricity, as well as studying and doing your work in an environment with fewer distractions. While there are many options for internet access, nothing beats free!
In addition, the university health center can either give you free checkups or will be at a rate that’s very cheap compared to normal doctor’s offices. Though they can’t do anything for emergencies or specialized care, you can get basic care and things like flu vaccines. Affordable healthcare is definitely something that should be taken advantage of.
Lastly, your school has a gym or rec center. It’s either free for grad students or comes with a minimal fee. If staying in shape is important to you, it’s cheaper to work out here than at a standard gym. Take a look at the activities going on around campus, too. Look into free movies or exhibitions that you can check out for some entertainment when you aren’t busy doing work.
Companies recognize that being a student is important, as well as a strain on the wallet. That’s why so many of them offer discounts if you show your student ID. It’s a good way to get clothes, a cell phone plan, and maybe treat yourself by going out to eat every once in a while. Even if they don’t have it advertised that they offer one, just ask. You never know unless you try!
Textbooks are ridiculously expensive. Try to borrow them from the university or public library if possible, get an e-book version or get them used. Never pay full price unless you absolutely have to.
That advice goes for other things, too. Need furniture for your apartment or new clothes for that presentation you have to give? Hit the thrift store. They’re full of hidden gems, and chances are good you’ll be able to find something awesome — even name brand — at a lot less than you would if you tried to find it at the mall.
If you need to go to some sort of conference, schools often set aside some travel money for situations like this. Talk with professors you work closely with, or students that have been there longer, to see if they know of anything available. Schools usually advertise some, but there could be other ways to get funds that they don’t blatantly advertise.
In addition to going to that conference, you might be able to make this into a cheap little vacation. The university pays for your plane ticket and you can find a cheap hotel room or Airbnb to stay at for a few days after the conference has ended. It might not be your ideal vacation, but it’s definitely something!
Employer Tuition Reimbursement
Depending on what you’re going to school for, as well as your employer’s stipulations, you may be able to qualify for employer tuition reimbursement. While it certainly isn’t going to cover all of your tuition, you can get up to $5,250 each year from your employer. Ask around at your workplace and see if that’s something they do.
Now, the company obviously isn’t going to want to pay for your tuition if you’re instantly going to leave them when you graduate. You have to stay at least two years after reimbursement or you’ll have to pay them back what you got within the last 24 months of the date you leave. You’re also going to need to make sure you get a B or higher, and take up something that’s related to your current job.
Employer tuition reimbursement definitely isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve found a company that you’re happy with and just want to be eligible to “move up” down the road, this is an awesome option for you.
Look Into Any Grants, Scholarships and Other Money Sources That Are Possible
Scour information at your school and online for any grant or scholarship that you qualify for. Some schools and organizations have obscure grants that hardly anyone applies to, which gives you a better chance at it.
Also, some professional organizations may be available for you to join, depending on what you’re going to school for. Though they’ll usually have small yearly dues that you’ll have to pay, they may have funds you can apply for and use for conference travel or research.
Living the grad student life is tough, but there are definitely ways to make it easier on your wallet. Look into them and see how much you can save!