Jump to content
Chiper91

I can't get along with my peers due to finances.

Recommended Posts

As we all know, graduate assistantships are usually barely enough to make ends meet. So far I have managed to survive solely on my monthly stipend, but my lifestyle is rather frugal. Most of my expenses go towards housing, student fees, food and medical bills. After that, almost none is left for entertainment and luxury goods (e.g. new clothes). I am proud that I am independent from my parents and have no loans  but my frugal lifestyle is evident comparing to the one my peers lead. Other students claim that they also live only on our stipend but their actions shows otherwise. Some of the students live in luxurious one bedroom apartment whose rent alone costs 1.5x more than our entire monthly salary, let alone paying for utilities, car insurance and food. These people drive brand new cars, wear brand new clothes and take vacations quite often. All this while claiming to live only on the stipend. And no, these people are the type to take out loans or work on the side.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy for them. I am glad someone is helping them to make live easier while in grad school. What kills me most is that these people do not exactly understand how hard it is to survive only on the stipend. They claim they struggle and yet eat out and go out every week. Recently I lost touch with them because of such attitudes between the "struggling" kids and the truly struggling kids because I just don't get along with them. For me, it's not the lifestyle they lead, it's their attitude and lies about "struggling".

I am too insecure to not get along with them despite financial differences? Is this a normal thing in grad school in terms of financial situations. Share your stories, please 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry that you feel this barrier between you and your peers. I can only say that you are not alone in feeling/recognizing difference in financial stability and that most grad student classes will have a wide distribution in how much discretionary spending each student has. During my time in grad school, I went from one end to another. I am married and at first, my stipend had to support two people for almost a year. It took awhile for my partner to get work authorization (we moved to US from Canada) and we wanted to dig into our savings as little as possible so we were very frugal. People would go out and have drinks so we might choose to socialize but in a budget-friendly way by eating dinner at home and then meeting up with our friends afterwards and just order a drink or a some fries or something. We turned down invites to do costly things more often in favour of cheaper things. We kept up social connections by doing things like inviting people to our place for hanging out etc instead of going to movies or stuff. 

During grad school, my spouse first found some work so we can break even and then eventually found a really good job and our combined income was quite high so we found ourselves in the other end! We could do things like plan trips to disneyland and universal studios (within driving distance, so it's just a day trip). Understandably, these are expensive outings but we wanted to do them before we moved away forever, so we planned them with our friends but didn't expect everyone to accept the invitation. Especially not to both within a few months of each other. 

I don't think these differences necessarily have to cause friction or insurmountable barriers between groups of students. As you said, the general belief is that grad students are poor so when we were on the frugal side, we can easily turn down things and say we had no money to do X without offending anyone. And when we were on the other side, we never pushed people or made them believe that they were "no fun" if they turned down an invite. I think just accepting people for what they can or cannot afford to do can go a really long way. I didn't resent the students who could go out every weekend when we had little money. 

If it hurts you when your friends talk about being poor when they seem to have much more than you, then you could consider letting them know how you feel since they probably don't realise it. I also try to understand the other person's point of view. If they are getting this support from their parents, they are probably used to even more stuff so maybe they do feel like they have to scrimp a lot to get the life they have now. I'm not saying you're wrong to feel bad or that they deserve more, but they might not even realise that others have even less than they do and that they are hurting you with their words. But this is probably only worth it if you really do feel like you want to be friends with these people. If not, probably best to find other people who are more like-minded! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's a quote from Louis C.K. that I think is applicable here:

“The only time you look in your neighbor's bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don't look in your neighbor's bowl to see if you have as much as them.”

My first year of grad school I was getting $3000 less in aid per quarter than everyone else in my cohort because I screwed up my FAFSA. I was broke. Constantly. So I rarely went out. Everyone else also complained of being broke but went out much more frequently. At the time I didn't know about our financial discrepancies. I just assumed they were eating fast food less frequently than I was and therefore had more discretionary spending for bigger things.

You're being fairly uncharitable towards those you are in school with. And not everyone's versions of struggling are the same. Playing a pain comparison game and denying them the right to express their own frustration with finances because they *seem* to be better off than you isn't going to win you any friends. You have branded them liars with bad attitudes, it seems, without really getting to know them. You have already decided what type of people they are. So yes. I'd say this is an insecurity on your own part that needs remedied.

Not to be harsh... but i wouldn't want to be friends with someone in my cohort who felt as you do. Anyone who begrudges another person the good things that come their way and assume it means they don't get to have problems also isn't a person I am interested in spending my time with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@ShewantsthePhD101, thank you for your insight. You brought up a couple of valid points that I will take into consideration. In my defense though, I do know these people as we have been friends for more than 2 years so I have a good understanding of who they are and in what families they have been brought up. Everything started off really well but as time went by, it became harder to make ends meet. I had to downgrade my housing in terms of distance and quality in order to afford. Inability to afford proper clothing also was evident. With time I became very cautious about my money and what I did with it. It was not the circumstances that were bad it was the fact that the so called "struggling" kids made fun of students like me. Pointing that my shoes were old and that my clothing did not look sharp. Mentioning that I had to walk 1,5 hours to campus every day like a peasant while "self-made" kids drove brand new sports cars. More importantly, as you correctly pointed out, everyone has their own version of "struggle". I have heard these people complain how they can't go to Vegas or buy a certain brand of shoes  while other students have to go the food pantry because they don't have money to buy enough food or sometimes to even afford rent. So yes, everything is relative in this world and the word "struggle" indeed has multiple definitions.

@TakeruK,thank you for your answer. I am glad everything turned out well for your family.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You don't know what is going on with their life or how they got their money. Maybe they worked in undergrad.  Maybe their parents do help.  Maybe they have been saving for awhile. Maybe they have someone to split the bills with.  I don't see how it is productive to spend time comparing yourself to them or judging them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Chiper91 said:

True. I should stop wasting time envying other people and just focus on improving my own life and create an environment that will help me get through my program. Thank you for your insights.

Good to hear that, @Chiper91! As others said, if your friends are making fun of you because of your financial status, then they are not your true friends.

Frankly, when I was still in grad school, my stipend was just sufficient to pay my one-bedroom apartment on campus. I used to share with a housemate and we got on pretty well, but she is one of those hospitable ladies who brought overnight guests regularly. She brought a different friend each time! I just could not afford to write my dissertation when I had so many unexpected visitors all the time. I was fortunate enough to have my parents' support for other living expenses, and the annual trips back home. I pretty much have everything I would bargain for, but I admit I still wish my family were rich enough to support me studying and travelling in Europe. I always envy my friends who study in England, because they always travel around Europe on school holidays! I only realised my dream when I got to present in a conference for my project. 

I have friends that encountered financial difficulties, but I don't think less of them because of that. I have a friend who could not afford a smartphone, so she did not have a mobile number until she received one from charity. It was a bit difficult to catch up with her out of school, but we managed to work out the time and venue, as we attended the same classes. I also have a friend who struggled to the point that she needed to bargain for twenty cents. I admit it was hell shopping with her, as she needed to go to 3 different stores before she could decide on where to shop. I never laugh at them though. I would let them choose where to dine out, or even cook together at my place if they prefer. 

I would say treasure what you have and work hard on your program. Perhaps you got a good job after your graduated, and you could live a more luxurious life. You never know! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Hope.for.the.best, thank you for your story. After reading all of the post and sleeping a little on what I originally posted, I believe that I should just indeed cherish what opportunities I have in front of me and interact with like-minded people which would significantly contribute to my success in my program.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

OP, in addition to what everyone else has said unless you are the accountants for your classmates you really don't know what their finances are like.  They could be running up thousands of dollars in credit card debt or their parents might be on their behalf.  I also think its important to point out that you're choosing to live solely on your stipend even though it is extremely difficult.  I don't know your financial situation, but student loans could be an option for you and could be worth considering if they would improve your standard of living enough to prevent suffering (which it sounds you are from what you've said).  I'm not saying use them irresponsibly by getting a luxury car or vacationing in Europe.  However, there is nothing wrong with borrowing enough to make sure you have clothing, food, housing, and transportation.  Yes you have to pay them back, we all do, but that is all the more reason to handle them wisely.  As far as I know there aren't any awards for lived most frugally in grad school and if there is an option for you to improve your standard of living that you are refusing to consider then it is unfair to blame your classmates for having different circumstances and choosing not to live as frugally.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am sorry you are feeling this way. 

I grew up with a single stay-at-home mother and I have four younger siblings. My father is still around, but has always had two jobs to support us. My parents were never able to pay for my postsecondary studies - even if they both wanted to - it was just impossible for them to do it. So I made my way through my program with small and prestigious scholarships, student loans and part-time work.

I kinda understand where you're coming from.

I remember in my class in high school, I was in a program in which I was the only kid whose parents were not living in a "house" and other students pointed that out to me. My family and I were living in an appartement. And it just never occured to me before that I was living in an appartement while all of my classmates had a house. But it made me realize that I was scared to invite my friends to my place because I was afraid that they'd judge me or something or I was afraid that there wouldn't be enough room at my place to welcome them.

I co-organized a trip of two days, fully subsidized, a few months ago with two university colleagues. We had to organize hotel rooms as part of this project. And one day, we were talking, just the three of us, saying that some students were complaining about the quality of the hotel while other students were satisfied with what it because they just never had the opportunity to sleep in a hotel in the past. I also recall in my undergraduate program, I had a class colleague who was doing sex work to make ends meet. Most of her family was deceased so she literally had no support (and I find her to be incredibly resilient as well and would say it to her many times.)  And I remember listening another girl who just said in an informal class conversation "My father just put 20 000$ in my bank account this morning". And you could tell that she wasn't bragging or anything like that, it was just normal for her and had always been part of her reality.

I think it's just really hard for people to envision a reality they have never really experienced. It's not because people are bad intentionned or mean-spirited, I think it's just a blind spot that most of us have because we don't hang out most of the time with people that are different from us or have different life paths. And because we have preconcied ideas on a lot of people who experience different realities than ours. I feel the same way about racism for instance, whenever I have to explain it to someone who does not experience it on a daily basis. At this point, I think it's just a matter of being attentive and having empathy for others. Sometimes, it's also a matter of lack of life experience and of maturity which is not something that people can always be blamed for. I give the benefit of the doubt in most cases. I really do think that it's more a better of "blind spot".

At the same time, I want to add that you may not know what their finances might really look like. They might be struggling too or found other strategies to do the things they are doing. You never know. Just because they appear to be more comfortable financially also does not mean that they can't be good friends. I think you should give these people a chance. I think we live in a "free country" where everyone is free to do whatever they want as long as it doesn't harm anyone else. They have the right to do whatever they want with their money too.

 

 

Edited by Adelaide9216

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the one hand, I feel you. I often felt jealous of my classmates from wealthy families during my masters program. The program was not well funded (typical for MPH programs), so most of us did not receive a stipend or tuition assistance. Going in, I assumed that everyone else would be paying for school with loans and working to make ends meet like I was. Instead, many of my classmates were paying for school with educational trusts or being supported by their parents. This meant that they were free to take on volunteer work and unpaid internship positions that often gave them a leg up in terms of building their CVs. I ended up working retail holiday jobs and baby sitting to give myself some breathing room on top of the two part-time research jobs I took.

That being said, I wonder if creating some extra space in your budget would help you feel better about your situation. I've tutored part time since finishing grad school (in addition to my full-time job) to help boost my savings and pay off my debt faster. You also might be able to pick up consulting work in your field. If you want something lower stress, maybe look into dog walking, house sitting, or driving for a delivery service. There are a lot of options that offer flexibility but give you the extra couple hundred dollars a month you need to feel okay about your situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.