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how much money should I save ideally before starting a phD program


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Info about me:

Single, 23 year old male in Berkeley stat phD program.  Getting full support possibly in the form of a fellowship that is 27k a year with the option to TA for a semester for $8k on top of that.

I'm thinking about saving $5000 before I start (if I end up entering this fall and not deferring for a year).  What's an ideal amount to have saved up as a cushion.  Do you all think that would be enough to live comfortably?  I hear too many horror stories about people struggling financially and this scares me a bit.


I guess the better questions are

How much did you save before starting?  Is it possible to pay off credit card debt (only $2500--laptop purchase) in grad school as well?


What are ways you all earned extra income outside of TA/RA/Fellowships while in grad school?


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It all depends on your financial responsibilities going into school (car note, phone bill, etc.). Will you be living on campus or off? 


Ideally, you want to live bare bones for a couple months and get an idea of how much money you need to survive in a month including bills. Then I would save at least six months worth of that amount. Also take into account difference of living expense from where you are now to Berkeley -- if you are moving. (Congrats by the way).


I would also pay off all credit card debt. It's really easy to make minimum payments while in school, which just racks up interest.

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I would save up as much as you possibly can. As AbovetheRim said, some of it depends on your other expenses. I don't have any credit card debt, savings, chronic/long-term health problems, or dependents (no pets, no kids) so I don't need as large of a cushion as some of my colleagues.

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You also need to take things like moving expenses into account when figuring out how much you need to save. Depending on how you're doing your move (driving, flying, renting a U-Haul) and whether or not you're going to be taking all your stuff with you or are going to need to buy new stuff. I ended up having some pretty high initial expenses because I basically moved for grad school with just clothes and books, and if I'd only had my stipend to cover it I would've been in trouble.


Even before you start living off your stipend, you can do the basic outlines of a budget and figure out about how much things are going to cost you. Figure that out, as well as what initial expenses you're going to have, and that should tell you about how much you should need to save (and like others have said, I'd definitely pay off the credit card). 

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well my 2 cents is if you cant live on 35K a year, your going to really struggle doing a PH.D,

sure i would pay off the credit card and consider moving & relocation costs, but really 35 K a year is lots,

I lived in san fran for a year, it was about 10 years ago, but cost of living wasn't extraordinarily high back then anyway-- though actually one thing, accommodation was really hard to find (when i was there anyway) so i think if I were moving there I would consider campus accomadtion, they have nice affordable one beds for postgrads as far as i know.

good luck!

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