Saving for graduate school can start small. Buy second hand books!
For a number of people, the notion of saving money while studying for an advanced degree is nothing short of a pipe dream. After all, many individuals will likely have extensive debt left over from their undergraduate careers, not to mention the new tuition payments they would face studying for their master's or PhD. In addition to tuition are expenses for everyday living: Think food, rent, health insurance, cell phone bills, car insurance and so on.
Putting aside some money for the future while in graduate school needn't be an impossible undertaking, however. There are a number of strategies that can allow you to study and save at the same time. Check out the five tips below for saving money while heading to school for an advanced degree.
1. Look for scholarships.
Perhaps the most effective way to save money while studying is to reduce the amount you pay for school. As Noodle explained, the best way to do this is to research special scholarships and apply to as many as possible. A number of organizations offer school scholarships based on metrics such as past academic achievement, gender, race or sexuality. Also, depending on the kind of field that you wish to pursue, there may be profession-based scholarships available as well.
A growing number of employers are offering to foot at least some of the tuition bill for employees that opt to go back to school to advance their career, Salary.com explained. If you are lucky enough to work for such an employer, seize the opportunity!
2. Apply for financial aid early.
Given that even public university tuition can now easily run into tens of thousands of dollars per year, many institutions will offer its students at least some form of financial aid, contingent on their income. If you are going to rely on financial aid to attend grad school, it's imperative that you apply as early as possible. Most offer letters for graduate school positions are sent out in the late winter and early spring and by about April or May most of the tuition aid is gone. That's why it's important to apply early and respond as soon as you are made an offer.
"Apply for financial aid early."
3. Use loans sensibly.
If you find yourself in a position where you have to take out a loan, ensure that you ask for the absolute bare minimum that you can get by on, The Huffington Post asserted. Asking for more than necessary to fund a lifestyle of socializing and leisure may seem like a good idea in the short term, but you'll likely regret the decision upon graduation.
4. Consider living with your parents.
This may only be possible if you attend a school close to home, and it may sound somewhat regressive after four years away, but one of the easiest strategies for saving money while in graduate school is living with your parents, Noodle stated. If your parents agree to the new situation you will likely save money on reduced rent. And that's not to mention all those nutritious home-cooked meals from mom!
5. Avoiding buying anything new.
One great strategy for freeing up cash in the short term is to refrain from buying anything that is brand new. For apartment furniture head to your local charity store, and the same goes for clothes. More importantly, when it comes to buying essential supplies for school such as books, The Huffington Post asserted that it's better for your wallet to either rent or buy the books second-hand. Also look online before you head to the campus bookstore, as the books it stocks are often sold with big mark-ups on the price.
6. Limit going out.
This tip likely won't be popular, but it's important nonetheless. A surefire way to save money each week is to cut down the amount you go out socializing, Vitae explained. Although grabbing dinner with friends or heading to the bar on the weekend may seem relatively inconsequential, the truth is that it can all add up pretty quickly. While an important part of graduate school life is making friends and connections, be sensible. Don't take up every single offer or invitation to go out. If you keep an eye on this side of your finances you'll soon find yourself with more money in your pocket to start saving.
7. Work while studying.
Another great way to start saving money is to work while studying. Noodle advised that a good place to start is by looking for a job that pertains to your degree of study in some way. For example, a number of courses will offer teaching assistantship positions for graduate students, especially if you are studying for a PhD. If you are unable to land a teaching or tutoring position, consider taking an off-campus job at a restaurant or store.
8. Plan ahead.
It's important to plan for post-graduate life before you even begin your classes, especially in today's uncertain economy. Be realistic about the kinds of positions you could secure with your master's degree, and then consider whether the endeavor is really worth the time and investment, U.S. News World & Report argued. For example, computer science programs will likely have better job prospects that art history programs.
Once you begin studying, open a savings account as soon as possible and seek financial advice from trusted elders – your parents, financial advisors and on-campus counselors will likely have a wealth of useful knowledge.