Dec 9, 2011

Top 10 ways to save money as a PhD graduate student

As most of us graduate and PhD students know, the stipend isn't exactly a gold mine. But it suffices. There are, however, ways of stretching that stipend out quite a bit so that you can enjoy some things in life more? Here are my top 10 suggestions.

  1. Travel: When you travel, couch surf. Its the way to go. You'll save on hotels, and plus if you're traveling abroad, you'll stay with people who may be willing to show you around. What can be better than touring a new place with an expert?
  2. Groceries: Start couponing! It sounds like hard work but it is so easy. I don't understand why everyone doesn't do it. You can save 50% or more on everyday groceries. Just get the local or regional newspaper every Sunday, and keep the "Smart Source" and "Red Plum" inserts. Then go to one of the many couponing websites that already match the coupons you have to the grocery stores in your area like Coupon Mom, Generous Savings and Living Rich With Coupons. Don't believe the show "Extreme Couponing"; you don't need a lot of space to store the free or extremely cheap stuff.
  3. Commute: Skip the car, bike to work. Or take the campus bus. But try and avoid your own car as much as possible. Besides, its healthier too.
  4. Drinks: Figure out the local happy hour scene and become a local at your favorite pub. As graduate students, life is not as structured as in other professions. You can probably go to a Thursday happy hour at the local watering hole at 4pm, while others need to stay at work till 6pm.Plus if you become friends with the bouncer or the bartender, the drinks will flow...for free.
  5. Lunch: Keep an eye out for interesting campus talks that may be unrelated to your field. Your department probably sponsors the lunch for the departmental seminar every one or two weeks, which is great. But you may be interested in some of the Psych, Math, or Religion department seminars too. And remember, they also serve food. I'm not saying you should go for the food. But, go for the talk. The free food is a plus. A friend and I in graduate school once had lunch for free every single day for 2 weeks while attending different seminars. It is possible.
  6. Groceries: Buy or share a Costco membership! I think with a certain Amex credit card, its free for the first year or something...and buy in bulk. I know a lot of people really are into the whole Ramen thing. But I for one, don't believe you should cop out out on food. But the best stuff, but just be smart about it. Look for deals in the grocery store fliers, buy in bulk, and coupon! Even Costco accepts coupons. Plus you Costco also sells gas at a better rate than anyone around.
  7. Television: Get the Roku player and skip the cable bill. Seriously. You can get all your favorite shows through Roku/Hulu/Netflix anyway. Who watches live TV nowadays anyway? Read my last blog post about this for more information.
  8. Drinks: Do you drink a lot? Consider buying a kegerator for your place. I don't have one but my friends do. That thing pays for itself.
  9. Entertainment: Yes, I know. The graduate student committees and campus organizations are lame. Forget those. Keep an eye instead on Groupon, LivingSocial, DailyDeals etc. Tons of entertainment options there. 
  10. Dinners: Eating out is convenient, but try and cook at home as much as possible. Honestly, it takes 30 minutes to prepare a good meal. If you have no time, make lot of food on the weekends and store it. There really is no excuse for not cooking at home.

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