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Budgeting for Grad School


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Hey, 

I'm just curious about budgeting for budgeting for graduate school. I've researched the stipend and the taxes and insurance taken out as well as my basic expenses for one of my top choice schools. I would need to work an additional part time to help with the rest of the expenses. So I was curious what have others done for this. How have you made extra money while also having the time to study? 

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Yes, grad stipends are pretty low and most people work (unless they have help from parents or other forms of non-work income*).

In addition to stipends, you should look at other items in the package (eg, when I got to my program we "only" had health insurance, but thanks to the union we had vision and dental on my last year). Conversely, check other expenses you have to incur (we had a registration fee of ~$300/semester which crippled our economy in August, January, and May). 

Like you, I could barely make ends meet. Meaning, I could live, but I couldn't get any new clothes if mine worn out, or couldn't afford to go out, or anything. 

To solve this, there are usually plenty of campus jobs you can apply. In my program (history), people worked mostly at the library in different capacities: the digital scholarship center, the rare books library, the outreach office, the service desk, the writing center, etc. I was international so my visa did not allow me to work more  than 10hs/week, which was perfect. It gave me a distraction from work while it helped me build a CV. 

* I had a couple of such friends in school and they all ended up working because they realized they could network and build skills. In some cases, they worked with the center where their advisors worked. In other cases, they went out to other parts of campus, mainly the library.

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Please read the fine print of your stipend to see if it covers any part of the summer IRT fees and tuition. You may be able to bang out some requirements and/or take classes that are offered rarely.

Figure out a dollar value for the available benefits of being a graduate student including library privileges, shopping discounts, transit subsidies, and access to facilities (including parking). It's unlikely that you can cash out any of these benefits but their value to you may be high. For example, understand how many items you may check out at once and how often you may renew them. With this knowledge, you could potentially go on multiple binges without a streaming service. Another example, if you can get a locker in the gym and shower there after working out or on the way home, you're cutting your utilities bill. More money can be saved if you charger your items on campus rather than at your place. 

(Another benefit can be scaled rates for journals and conferences.)

IRT health/dental/vision insurance, easier said than done, but make sure you take advantage of your policies. Ask healthcare providers detailed questions of how your X health will hold up in Y, Y+10, and Y+15 years.

Before you start looking for work, please double check both the fine print and the preferences of your professors. The former may say you can get a job, subtle ambiguous comments from the latter may hint that you shouldn't get a job.

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