On Being Frugal:
Recommendations from a Professor
My only stake in all of this is that we here at Regent make it acceptable and cool to be a poor grad student. If you make good decisions to delay gratification now for a better future, we will be proud of that. I know things change and cell phone or wireless is very expensive now, as well as rent and gas prices doubling or worse. So given that, it’s important especially to invest all you can in school now and keep living expenses absolutely as low as you can. We have been there and the decisions for the dumpy old apartment with no extras in life did keep our costs down more than some of my friends in school that lived a more middle class lifestyle. It’s been nice to have a smaller debt load that first 5 years out of school too when earning potential is still building. It enabled us to buy our first house and for my husband to go back for a master’s degree.
I’ve taken some time to outline the areas where I spent and saved while in grad school.
Dr. Jen’s family budget in grad school (I was married then)
It was tough to give this then with so little (and I feel I must confess we weren’t 100% on this then, it was a process) but I do believe God has been good to us in response and it forced us to remember what is really important. This was on earnings, not financial aid type income of course.
The apartments were in a subsidized neighborhood, the homemade tattoo parlor across the lot was "colorful," there was no dishwasher or dryer hookup so we had to hand-wash & line dry in the courtyard, and our neighbors might not have been young urban hotties but we were just fine and learned not to be afraid of people with little money or resources in life.
We even didn't run air conditioning sometimes to save electricity, we did a very basic house phone.
This was our one splurge so my husband could watch football & other sports reliably. But it was a “no extras” contract just to get ESPN. (No Hulu option then)
We figured out the cheapest options for the grocery discount stores, lots of pasta & rice, bread outlet, and knew how to eat fast food lunch for one dollar (Whopper Jr.) when needed. (We realize now we would have qualified for food stamp type stuff…never thought of that).
Car gas: $100
Ah good old days of cheap gas...but if you have a very short commute or bike sometimes you might reduce that carbon footprint & bill today. Oh and we shared one car even during internship...both went to school and worked downtown, took a bus when it wouldn’t work out, and just waited for each other a lot.
Pocket Money: $200
This was entertainment, stuff for the house, clothes, car maintenance, travel, gifts, everything not in the budget for BOTH of us (or $100 each).
Year one we did all computing on campus in labs to save money but we were given a computer after year 1 and got cheap internet access.
We didn't have family support so health insurance was on loans and we got to know the Fan Free Clinic for things too.
The worst decision was to use loan money to buy a $2000 car that then cost $2500 to repair in the next 18 months...so over 5K in loan money for a bad car. We should have asked for help identifying a reliable cheap car. Then we got a used 95 Civic we had for 10 years (and still runs well for my sister in law now).
We both worked part time and picked up extra hours at Christmas and summer breaks to help bring in a little extra. I waited tables or sat in an office where I could study for a temp agency in addition to my TA position. Jeff worked lots of odd jobs on campus and off.