Budgeting In Grad School | 10.15.09
Budgets; you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. I hate budgets just as much as the next person, but I have realized that having one makes my life a lot easier. By the time you make the decision to pursue grad school chances are you will be completely on your own financially. Whether you decide to go to school full time or part time while you work, paying for grad school will take a certain amount of financial discipline and budgeting. However, living within your means does not have to be a drag. You can successfully pay for grad school without being strapped for cash.
Here are some tips for creating a budget that works for your lifestyle:
1: Determine your monthly income and your monthly expenses. This is the most important step to creating a budget. The amount of money you bring home on a monthly basis is what you have to work with. Make sure your expenses do not exceed you income. If you are going to school part time and working full time this will probably be a little bit easier for you. If you are living off of savings, determine how much you have for each month. Be sure to factor in all expenses including rent, car payments, insurance, groceries etc.
2: Take out loans to pay your tuition and other school expenses. As a grad student you have plenty of loan options. The Graduate Stafford Loan has a low fixed interest rate and does not require a credit check. The Graduate PLUS Loan is a low, fixed interest rate student loan that is based on your credit. It allows you to borrow up to the total cost of your education minus any other aid you receive. Finally, there are other private loans that can help you cover any and all of your school expenses. Make sure you include all loan funds and tuition payments in your monthly income and expenses. GradLoans.com can help you apply for and secure all of the loans you need.
3: Defer undergraduate loans until your graduate degree is complete. Unless you have the money to start paying your loans back while you are in grad school you might as well wait. Do not kill yourself trying to pay off these loans until you are working full-time and have more flexibility.
4: Use a free online budgeting tool like Mint.com. The days of scratching numbers on a piece of paper are over. This tool allows you to see all of your accounts, including your student loans, aggregated together. It will allow you to see where you spend the most money and where you might be able to cut back.
5: Find a credit card with good rewards. Sometimes using a credit card to make all of your purchases can be beneficial if you pay it off every month and you get rewards points. I have a credit card that awards one point for every dollar spent. Usually I trade in my points for Target gift cards. Since I spend a lot of money there anyway it gives me a little extra wiggle room in my budget.
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