Tips from students in a variety of programs in graduate schools around Washington state.
Even the most affordable graduate school program can be financially challenging for frugal students, after figuring in tuition and living expenses.
We spoke with students in graduate schools around the state in a variety of programs, collecting great tips for those considering or already in grad school.
Program: Master of Science in Computer Science
School: Northeastern University
I have maintenance Saturdays, when I do weekly grocery shopping and cleaning/laundry on the same day every week so it becomes habit. This may not seem money-saving, but you do save money if you buy in bulk and prepare your food instead of always eating out.
Which leads to meal-prep Sundays. I prep six meals on Sunday night, and these are my dinners for the upcoming week. I know I will be less likely to cook during the weekdays, which leads to spending money eating out/eating junk. So I cook beforehand. Each weekday morning, I make my breakfast and then take one of my dinners to school with me.
Trader Joe’s is awesome because it has cheap veggie options and frozen meals that are pretty good. Grocery Outlet has fantastic deals on produce and pantry stuff. Goodwill is great for clothes and household stuff. The Seattle Goodwill Outlet is “pay by the pound,” and if you look hard enough, you can find some gems. Crossroads is pricier on average, but has good-quality, almost-new stuff for a good deal.
Mayoore S. Jaiswal
Program: Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering
School: University of Washington
Get a paid summer internship. This is a risk-free method to sample a career and put it on your résumé — and your bank account will be happy. Get a teaching assistant, research assistant or graduate student assistant position. Be proactive and start searching for next quarter funding when the current quarter starts. Research the related department’s website and email the professors directly to request teaching assistant positions.
Start looking for summer internships during autumn quarter. … The best ones, at least in engineering, are taken by winter quarter. Put together your résumé, cover letter and LinkedIn profile in summer/autumn and be ready to go in autumn. Attend career fairs and networking events. The best opportunities open up through contacts.
Program: Master in English Literature
School: Western Washington University
Keep your eye out for scholarships, travel grants and merit awards. They aren’t as common at the grad level as they are in undergrad, but they still exist. A lot of private scholarships also don’t mind if grad students apply.
Department scholarships and grants are also a great way to get a little extra cash, or even to get those conference travel expenses waived. It can be easy to tell yourself you don’t have time to search, but considering the possible payoff, it’s good to devote at least a few hours to looking and filling out applications every term.
Program: Master of Business Administration
School: Pacific Lutheran University
Create a budget so you can worry a little less about paying for graduate school, and focus more on launching yourself towards your promising future career. I recommend using Mint.com. It’s free, easy to use and lets you link your credit or debit card to track all your expenses.
According to Gallup only 32 percent of Americans have a budget. It’s easy to swipe your card, but are you really keeping track of what you are spending? When I first implemented a budget several years ago, I ended up increasing my savings by about 35 percent monthly!
Many graduate students and people in general come to realize they spend too much money on things such as drinks, going out to eat or old memberships they aren’t using anymore. Being aware of what you are spending your money on is very powerful. Making a budget isn’t about cutting fun out of your life; it’s about having awareness.
Mia N. Patterson
Program: Master of Science in Athletic Administration
School: Central Washington University
I save all dimes that I come into contact with and put them into an empty 2-liter bottle. By the time the bottle is full, you’ll have about $700. [This] year I am going to try a new method … and stash away all $5 bills I come across so that by the end of the year, I will have money to go toward paying off my student loans once I graduate in June.
Find textbooks cheap, used or free. … I always ask around to see if other students have purchased the book and discuss “going halves.” I’ve also had a lot of luck purchasing e-books because they’re sometimes cheaper, or having someone [who had already taken the course] give me their books
Research conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) in conjunction with TIAA, a leading financial services provider, found that 60 percent of master’s students and 55 percent of doctoral students report feeling stressed about their finances. While most students were able to make ends meet, 38 percent of master’s students and 36 percent of doctoral students worry about meeting their monthly expenses.
Also, making a big pot of soup, rice or spaghetti to eat over the course of the week is a great time and money saver. And remember, cooked meat lasts longer than raw meat in the fridge, so buying the discounted “family size” packages, cooking them up and saving most of the meat for later is a good idea.