Keeping a firm hold on finances is a struggle for many people, regardless of the financial situation in which they find themselves. Throw a wrench into the spokes of that common, everyday struggle — like going to and paying for graduate school — and many people choose to give up financial sense-making entirely.
However, abandoning your budget and savings goals doesn’t have to accompany going back to school. You think of it as practice run for someday running your own business after you finish your MBA. If you’d like to keep your long-term financial health in focus while you’re earning an advanced degree, here are six tips to help keep you pinching your pennies.
Get a Roommate or Be a Roommate
If you own your home but have an extra bedroom, taking on a roommate is a great way to help out with the mortgage during your graduate school years. If you’re renting, consider taking in a roommate, or getting out of your lease and becoming a roommate.
Especially if you’re getting your advanced degree online so you can keep working while you work on your studies, taking in a renter or being one isn’t likely to ruffle your feathers too much — you’ll be too busy to notice any additional people in your living space all that much.
Think of the bottom line: If a renter pays you $300 a month, you’ll generate $3600 a year, and by becoming a roommate, you’ll pay less each month in rent and utilities — savings that will definitely make your cash flow easier in the present, while still adding up over time.
Bike or Bus Instead of Drive
Even if your daily commute to work or school is just 10 miles roundtrip, you stand to save almost $5 each day you ride your bike instead of driving your car. For the bus, if your fare is $3, that’s still a savings of $2 a day or $10 a week. Over the course of a year, then, biking to school or work could save you upwards of $1000, and taking the bus could save you over $500.
Even if you only biked or took public transportation half the time, the savings would still be substantial, and there are other benefits, too. On top of the money boost, you’ll be sending fewer pollutants into the air, and, if you choose the biking route, you’ll find yourself in great shape in no time. To calculate your savings should you choose to bike instead of drive, try the Kiplinger calculator.
Become a Quasi-Vegetarian
One easy way to cut down on your grocery bill is to become at least a part-time vegetarian. A meal of beans and rice provides all the protein you need, and the money you won’t spend on chicken, pork, or beef can go directly into your savings account.
Meat costs tend to range between $2 and $4 a pound, and if you choose to buy meat raised in a humane environment, that cost goes up even more. Beans, on the other hand, cost around $1 a pound. It’s true that fresh fruits, vegetables and wholesome grains aren’t cheap, but if you’re truly cutting back on your meat consumption, you’ll still save money eating a whole foods-based diet, and the savings in medical and environmental costs over the long run — because you’ve cut meat out of your diet — will pay you plenty of dividends in the future.
Get It Secondhand
Do you need new clothes? A hair dryer? A smartphone? Fenders for your car? Consider buying whatever is currently on your radar secondhand so that you can stay on track with your budget and savings goals. From thrift stores and garage sales to websites like eBay and Craigslist, almost anything you’re looking to buy can be found at a cheaper price than it would be brand-new in a store, and oftentimes, you can find it in almost as good as new condition, too.
If you’re still banking with a big bank that charges exorbitant fees for overdrafts or monthly fees for the right to even have a checking account, it’s time to take your money elsewhere. Smaller community banks and credit unions tend to have policies that are more consumer- and customer-friendly. Not only will you save money each month with free or low-fee checking, but in the unlikely event that your account is ever overdrawn, you could save as much as $20 – $50.
Save Your Change
It’s a simple approach, but it works: At the end of each day, put all the change from your purse or pocket into a jar, and let that change build up over the course of your time in graduate school. Whether you save $200 or $500, you’ll still be saving.
Pinching pennies during graduate school is likely all you’ll be able to do when it comes to furthering your financial goals, but so long as you follow these six tips, the effort won’t be too substantial and the savings will be real.