June 21, 2015

How to Afford More than Ramen When Going Back to Grad School

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in partnership with College Ave Student Loans and Her Campus Media. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

I'm keeping it real and talking money today. In 2 months I'll be going back to graduate school for my Master's in Occupational Therapy.  Yes, I made the cut!, woop woop. I'm really excited about it all, but lately I've just been a bit stressed filling out tons and tons of paperwork.  

Going back to school while I'm still paying off undergraduate student loans is pretty daunting. 81% of students entering college understand the cost of education but still 80% of students don't have a plan to pay off student loan debt after graduation, which I understand. When I was an undergrad my dad cosigned my loans and helped me out with the paperwork.  Now the day of the month when both my rent and student loans come out of my paycheck is so sad, haha. 

Being on my own financially now has involved lots of time spent learning about loans. I  because amassing debt is scary. I wasn't completely sure how financial aid worked for graduate school, and the different types of loans and interest rates can be really confusing. 

Luckily my school has been really helpful and federal financial aid was enough. If not I was going to have to look for private loans, which can be really intimidating. One option to simplify loans is College Ave, an online marketplace with competitive rates, repayment options, and a mobile-friendly application that can give you a loan decision in less than three minutes.  You can use their tools to see if you pre-qualify and what your rates would be before you even apply for a loan. They have coverage for up to 100% of school-certified expenses with only a minimum loan amount of $2,000. 

Even though I didn't need their services, I really liked playing around on their loan calculator to clarify the total cost over the life of a loan and ways to save money by making payments during school or in fewer years afterwards.  

I need to be really conscious about my spending and managing my debt. It's amazing how in a blink of an eye you go from graduating college to being close to 30 and realizing you need to start creating actual savings accounts and retirement plans.  Yikes. 

Here's what I have been doing right now to try to save a few dollars. 

Because honestly I'm not 18 anymore and living off of pizza, mac and cheese, and ramen doesn't cut it! 

how-to-save-a-few-dollars-while-surviving-grad-school

1. Budget 

It's really obvious, yet it's so easy to spend money when you are just swiping a credit card or online shopping.  I've used sites like Mint.com in the past, but now just make a rough pen and paper estimate for amounts to spend on specific categories each month.  I've got more responsibility now that I'm 27 and not 18, so I make sure my bills & school expenses are taken care of before anything else. 

2. Use Cash 

Recently, I've started taking out cash for the week for minor purchases like coffees or lunches because it's easier for me to stick to my budget. Also something about purchasing with physical cash makes me think twice about my spending. 

3. Discounts

Besides always asking if there are student discounts with my student ID,  I am always am on the lookout for coupons & discounts. Yep, I'm that girl in the grocery store flipping through her coupon folder as she shops. I always check for coupons on RetailMeNot and use Ebates for online shopping .  

Also my favorite place to buy textbooks online is BigWords. I found it halfway through my college and have used it ever since. You can see prices from online sellers and book rentals all in one place.  

4. Buy Only What You Need 

This one can be hard sometimes! I definitely need to prioritize my purchases, which means not being able to do each and every thing that sounds fun.  With more limited work hours and less income this becomes especially important. That means being conscious with my spending habits like only buying food I'll eat. More sticking to my shopping lists and less Whole Foods yolo purchases. 

5. Reused & Recycled

Besides always trying to be used textbooks and supplies I need for school, it's amazing what you can buy used.  People have so many things that there is always bound to be someone getting rid of just you need on Craiglist, eBay or at Goodwill.  I buy & sell clothes on consignment from apps like Poshmark (see my closet here) or places like Plato's Closet.  


If you are going back to school or are in school too, check out the #CollegeGoals Instagram scholarship challenge. Now through June 30, share your college goals for a chance to win prizes including a $5,000 scholarship and $50 Chegg textbook credits.  
Because who couldn't use a little extra money for school? 


What's your favorite tip for saving money? How did you save money in school? 

This was linked up with Weekend Snapshots.

18 comments:

  1. Yep! I hear you, I felt like I was scrounging for money in grad school too, and its kind of embarrassing when you are meant to a be a grown adult and everyone around you is making money and splurging, but these are great tips, and it will be worth it :)

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    1. It can be so embarrassing to be in my mid to late twenties and feeling poor, haha. glad I'm not the only one!

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  2. I'm going back to grad school in 2 months too! I'm very overwhelmed with paperwork, online forms, etc. etc. Ughhh. I quit my job at the end of May in order to have a "summer of decompressing" before school began, so my biggest thing is buying only what I need. I mean, 6 weeks ago, if I wanted an iced coffee, I'd go out and just get one! But now it's like... IS THAT NECESSARY, MK!? THAT'S 1/10TH OF A TEXTBOOK.

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    1. It's so overwhelming! I know right, I'm like hmm I want all of these things but that is like the cost of 2 books, haha. I'm having a few long weekends to decompress and trying to work during the first semester. We'll see how that goes!

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  3. Great post! I wish I was financially aware when I took out loans for graduate school. It is crazy to think about how expensive they are! Definitely makes my paycheck look sad each month! I think paying in Cash definitely has made me more aware of what I'm spending my money on... to open my wallet and see only $5 left for meals out makes me pack lunch instead of buying on my credit card. Definitely a visual budget of sorts!

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    1. They are so expensive. When I compare it to my salary now, it's like holy moly! I'm a visual person so seeing that physical cash helps me too!

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  4. first off: CONGRATULATIONS!

    i thankfully went to grad school close to my parents, so i lived with them, which was different after being away for undergrad. i worked part time at lululemon to pay for gas and books and parking, etc. and my full-time summer job went to pay tuition.

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    1. Thanks so much! I am trying to work full-time ish to at least cover my rent and living but I need to see how the courseload is, ughh. le sigh.

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  5. hooray.

    I was completely shocked to find (hardly) used copies of textbooks at Goodwill and Value Village. Guelph is totally a University town and when people move out, a bunch of them just lump old textbooks in with old clothes and donate it all. Score! There was also the year I made money selling my previous semester's books for more than the new(used) ones I need for the current semester. Amazon was great. Checking the local library.

    I didn't get OSAP (provincial loans) but qualified for bursaries each semester, so that paid over half my tuition, and worked part time to fund the rest.

    It was the little things for me - I calculated how much buying a coffee (and it was only $1.10 on campus with your own mug) would cost every day of the semester and it REALLY adds up. I brought my own all the time and pretty much never ate on campus. Saving there allowed me to still do things with my friends/bf.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience! I definitely will search for the cheapest books I can find! That's awesome that you were able to cover all of your tuition.

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  6. If you can re-finance after after graduation, that can help as well. I also attended school sponsored networking events (so there was a free meal here and there) - so that helped with food costs at times (but not always guaranteed).

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    1. Good tip! I'll be taking all the free meals and things I can get, don't worry :)

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  7. Amen to the cash tip. Taking cash out makes me more frugal and more likely to adhere to the budget...especially because I'm physically seeing that money go away!

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    1. Yes, it's totally a nice visual reminder!

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  8. I have a ton of friends who are recently headed back to grad school - will definitely share this with them!

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  9. I love this post. It shows that you are living responsibly and being smart about money. So many people blame the banks for their student loans and don't accept responsibility for following through on their commitment. I really like how you are being smart, responsible, and blogging about it to help others in the same circumstance. Best of luck with grad school! Congrats on getting in.

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    1. Thanks I'm glad that came across! I think sometimes people don't realize how serious debt can be!

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