Grad school is taxing on your time and energy but doesn’t have to be a financial pitfall as well, Grownups — Bridget Casey shares some strategies for managing your money while gaining a higher education.
Graduate school is a big investment, but the payoff can be worth it. On average, students with a graduate degree earn $17,000 more per year than those with a bachelor’s degree. However, getting that degree (and its higher earning potential) requires serious financial investment.
Expensive tuition bills and additional years out of the workforce can lead to financial stress for grad students. But if you manage your money well during school, you can cover your responsibilities through your studies and after graduation.
Here are three tips to keep your finances in check while you get your degree.
- Treat your loans and scholarships like income
Some graduate programs provide students with a small stipend, others don’t. For many students, this means relying on student loans, scholarships, grants, and bursaries to pay for their graduate degree. Typically, these funding sources arrive as one lump sum at the beginning of a semester or school year, and it’s up to you to make it last.
After you pay your tuition, make a budget with your remaining loan and scholarship money by dividing it equally over your period of study. For most students, this is nine months (covering the school year from September to May). So if you have $10,000 in loan and scholarship money left over after paying your tuition, this gives you approximately $1,100 per month for living expenses.
If this isn’t enough, it’s much easier to plan to add to your monthly income each month than to try and come up with cash when funds run out before the end of the school term! Which brings us to…
- Find an on-campus side hustle
If your student loan and scholarship funding aren’t enough to cover everything, you’ll have to find a way to earn extra money to pay your bills—and have a little left over for fun.
An easy way for grad students to earn extra cash is to tutor undergraduate students. You can charge upwards of $20 or $30 per hour, enjoy flexible hours, and stay sharp in your own knowledge. You may even find a steady tutoring role as a teacher’s assistant or research associate for your academic department. If these jobs aren’t available, look for low-stress campus jobs like supervising the library or computer labs weekday evenings, or taking the early shift at the campus coffee shop before your classes start.
Even if your financial aid covers all your expenses, you might still find it worthwhile to take on some part-time work while you complete your degree. This not only helps reduce your overall student loan debt, but also provides work experience and network connections you can leverage after graduation.
- Understand you won’t be a broke grad student forever
The grad school workload and tight budget can easily leave you burned out, but remember: The pain is temporary. Most grad programs range from two to four years, but the higher earning potential spans your entire career. So if you can endure a tight budget now, you may have greater financial gains for the rest of your working lifetime.
Managing your money effectively as a grad student will reduce the student debt you take on to fund your degree, which means less to pay off when you graduate. There’s never a better time to learn good financial habits than when you need them the most!
Bridget Eastgaard writes for MoneyAfterGraduation.com.
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While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, consult the advice of a financial planner.