How to Save Money and Be Frugal in Grad School

Guest Post from Connie, Consultant for The Art of Applying

How to Save Money & Be Frugal in Grad School

For many of us, graduate school can be 2-3 very expensive years. Increased earning potential after graduation doesn’t always mean that you have spare cash to spend right now. Fellow students and I often shared ideas with each other on how to save money and still make the most of our graduate school experience, and now I’m sharing our tips with you!

How to Save Money on Food

  • Keep a few clean food storage containers in your locker. There are often lots of leftover food from catered events and on-campus dinners. Packing some of that leftover food makes for a great lunch tomorrow!
  • Keep bags of tea or instant coffee in your locker, and use water kettles to heat up water in the morning. This will keep you from accidentally spending $20+ per week on Starbucks. Be sure to bring your own mug or thermos.
  • Non-perishable snack foods like energy bars and peanut butter are also good snacks to keep in your locker, and are healthier than vending machine chips and candy.
  • If you have a Costco or Sam’s Club card, invite a few friends to come along for some bulk shopping, and share the love of your membership.
  • Like to eat out? Universities often list local restaurants and stores that offer discounts to students who show a student ID. Be sure to ask your school’s Student Services office about this!

How to Save Money on Transportation

  • It can be easy to rely on Uber, cabs, and other convenient modes of transportation when out on the town in grad school. However, you should take public transportation as consistently as possible to keep everyday transportation funds low.
  • Flying to another city for an interview? Schools often have professional development funds that will pay for your travel in pursuit of internships or jobs, or even registration fees for networking events and conferences.
  • If you are a bike commuter, you can often sign up formally with the university’s Parking and Transportation and get free access to gym showers and some free parking passes.
  • Not a bike commuter? Why not? Parking passes at some universities can cost you $1,000+ a year. For less than that, buy yourself a good bike and get mobile.
  • Student passes for local transit are easier to make use of when you have transit tracking apps, like TransLoc (available via Google Play).

How to Save Money on Books, Clothes, and other items and services:

  • Use the school library and public library to look for and borrow textbooks; there is at least one copy of most assigned textbooks in the library. Scan pages you need at the library, and send them to yourself.
  • Need some professional clothes for job and internship interviews? Get your friends together for a clothing swap. You can pass on good clothing that no longer fits and acquire some new-to-you clothes. Local thrift stories will also likely have hidden gems.
  • Borrow needed items from friends! When I was in need, I often found that my entire cohort was willing to help out. Reach out to the Facebook group or email listserv, and ask your friends for items you may need rather than outright buying them. Someone you know probably has that household tool you may only use once, spare textbook, or kitchen appliance you need.
  • Borrow time: your friends may also have the time to help you move, petsit, babysit, give a ride, etc. instead of paying for those services. Don’t be afraid to ask! Payment in dinner, drinks, or paying the favor back can go far.

We all rely on our community in life and in graduate school. So don’t be afraid to ask for support, say thank you, and pay it forward!

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