There’s college, and then there’s graduate school. Continuing to go to a university after you get your bachelor’s degree is one of the more challenging feats you can attempt to complete in life. The hours are grueling, and the skills required to get a Master’s degree are ones not everybody possesses.
And perhaps more than any other obstacle to completing a graduate program is money. You need to find a way to fund your graduate education, either through loans, scholarships, or out-of-pocket money. This isn’t something everybody can do, but there are ways to budget smarter and harder so you can get through your Master’s program.
Graduate student insurance discounts can help pay for the expensive policy rates that insurance companies often charge younger adults and students. And living from home instead of a dorm can save you the huge fees colleges tag on for room and board. We’ll discuss these ideas and a few others so you’ll have the confidence to complete grad school.
Decide How You Are Paying
One of the worst decisions someone can make is to decide to go to more college without having a plan to pay for it. Decide carefully how you will fund the tuition for graduate school. This will take a lot of the stress out of your life later down the road.
See if you can find a side hustle or a business opportunity that is simple to juggle while going through your program. This will help you pay for your schooling while simultaneously preparing you for your future after getting a Master’s. This is only for those who have incredible motors, though. Working and going to college is a massive undertaking.
Most people are going to take out student loans. These are often federally funded, and the interest rates are more affordable than if you were to take out a private loan. You usually don’t have to start paying on your loan until you have finished grad school. Once you complete your degree, work out a monthly payment that works for you and the federal student loan office.
Many parents who are upper-middle class may find they can help fund some of your schooling or help to pay off some of your loans. Talk to your parents about this potential opportunity.
Stay Home If Possible
Graduate school is also extremely expensive because many students decide to go to a university away from home. They have to dorm near the campus or rent a place to live close by. You should always see if you can get into a school close to home so you don’t have to spend any extra money on housing.
Living with your parents during this time will also save you money on things like food. Mom and Dad are often more than willing to provide you with meals after a hard day at school. You can also benefit from the emotional support of your parents during the tough days of graduate school.
If you feel you want to return the favor to your parents, help out around the house with chores during your days off. This will show appreciation and prepare you for taking care of your own home someday.
Living at home isn’t always possible if the universities close to you don’t offer the degree you want. In this case, rooming with other students off campus is a great way to share expenses. You will make new friends, and go through the adversity of graduate school together.
Find Efficient Transportation
One of the only downsides to staying at home while going to school is the issue of transportation. When you live on campus, you don’t have to pay for gas prices or tickets to ride public transit. Compare the prices of paying for gas to the price of living in a dorm, and see which is cheaper.
If you live two hours away from the university, you might find the fuel is costing you more than if you were to pay for a dorm or rent an apartment close to class. Some people don’t have their own car, though, and this becomes an issue for getting to school. Uber or another rideshare is an option in this case.
Carpooling is a great option if you have a friend or family member who is commuting close to the campus. You can offer to pay for some of the gas money, and it saves both you and the driver extra cash.
Entertain Yourself Frugally
Even though you may want to start buying yourself luxury items as a reward for getting your Bachelor’s degree, you need to hold off until after getting your Master’s. One of the most ignorant things people do while in college is spend on entertainment or non-necessities when they simply don’t have enough money.
There are a lot of ways you can have fun without going broke while in grad school. Having a social life is one of the first ways to overcome boredom. Sitting around a picnic table with friends at a park on the weekends is affordable, simple, and allows you to enjoy nature without spending money.
Share expenses with your friends if you go out to dinner or to a movie. Pool together your funds, and decide how much each person is going to spend. If everyone can afford to pitch in $50, and you have around eight or nine people going, you’ll have a pool of $400-$450. This is enough to have a good time and enjoy a day off from your graduate program.
You’ll also get to bond with your classmates if you choose to go do something with your cohort. Enjoy local entertainment so everybody can participate without worrying about transportation.
You can see now how difficult, yet manageable it is to get through a graduate program. There will be frustrating sacrifices made. Your diet and entertainment might be different than usual.
You might have to move back in with your family to prevent the large fees that accrue when you sleep in a dorm. In the end, it will all be worth it when you get a great job with your degree.
Shawn Laib writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, AutoInsurance.org. He wants to help young people budget for college with the best tips and tricks.