If you live like a graduate while you’re a student, you’ll live like a student while you’re a graduate. ~Unknown.
I wish someone would have shared that quote with me while I was obtaining my masters degree back in 2013 to 2015. Being a graduate student, especially with an assistantship, meant that I had some gray lines in my life. One of those gray lines was serving as a paraprofessional but not earning income that would support a business-professional lifestyle (i.e. staying up to date on the latest fashion trends and going out to lunch or happy hour with colleagues). With that being said, I have two pieces of advice on managing your finances as a graduate student as well as your career trajectory:
- Budgeting generally works one of two ways: increasing income or cutting expenses. While increasing income sounds enticing, generally, cutting expenses is the reality. Well, how can I cut expenses you might ask? Simple, here’s a few suggestions:
- Start a dinner club with your friends. Pick one night of the week and rotate who cooks and who hosts dinner that night. It’s a fan favorite because you can get together with friends while not breaking the bank (and you only have to worry about doing the “work” for it once every few weeks).
- Rotate the use of your entertainment streaming options. Consider being a subscriber to Netflix for a couple of months, get caught up on your favorite television shows through them, then cancel, subscribe to something new like Hulu or Amazon, and keep rotating. While these subscriptions cost approximately $10.00/month, if you hold yourself accountable to sticking with one at a time, you can put that additional money elsewhere (like that business-professional lifestyle you may be trying to live).
- Loans. Loans. Have federal student loans from undergrad? Here’s a few things to consider:
- While in graduate/professional school, you may be in what’s called deferment. This is a period in which repayment of the principal and possibly interest of your loan is temporarily delayed. Sounds great, right? Well, this may also be a good time for you to at least start paying down on interest on your student loans. This is because it’ll be low cost for you but will decrease the total amount that you owe once you’re payments start back up again.
- With federal student loans, there are an abundance of different repayment plans, which is helpful because you’re not placed into a ‘one size fits all’ plan. You can do some research to figure out which repayment plan might be best for you (post-graduation). Check out https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans for tips. Just remember that your decision should ultimately reflect your budget and financial goals.
Do you see a pattern with the abovementioned points? Essentially, every financial decision that you make comes back to budgeting. Therefore, get in the habit of tracking your income and comparing your estimated expenses vs. your actual expenses. And lastly, pick a budgeting method that works best for you – whether that be on paper, on excel, or even on your smart phone! Budgeting is a deliberate strategy that will help you keep up with your money.
Lauren Lipinoga graduated with a M.Ed. in May 2015 from the Graduate School of Education at the University at Buffalo. She currently serves as the Coordinator of Financial Literacy within the Student Success Center at the University of South Carolina.
Questions? Comments? Ideas? Contact Dr. Heather Brandt at firstname.lastname@example.org.