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Student Struggling With the Student Budget

Before I came back to school, I thought living like a student would be, well, not a piece of cake, but it wouldn’t be too hard. After all, I always been a saver (albeit with a shopper trapped inside!). It’s been two-and-a-half month since my last paycheck, and I have to be honest: it’s been a little difficult making the transition from income-generating young professional to poor graduate student. One day, my friend made a joke that we forget we don’t have an income anymore. That comment was said in jest, but it rang a little TOO true for me. I know I don’t have an income and cannot spend like I do, but it’s hard to actually put that knowledge into action…

First, there was all the expenses of setting up house. Now, I am planning to buy a car in the next couple of weeks. Interview season is coming up, so there are attending wardrobe and travel expenses for that. And of course, there were those bags…Even though my living expenses are quite reasonable at $650 per month and I try to bring my lunch to school everyday, all these little and not-so-little expenses (books, flights, interview prep materials) are relentlessly boring a hole into my budget. Instead of wrapping my head around this concept of “all cash outflow, no cash inflow,” I felt as if I’ve purchased every stylish dress I’ve seen at J.Crew, Banana Republic, and Ruelala. Productive? No way.

No matter. It’s time to finally get back on track and remind myself of the personal finance blogger I used to be! Speaking of blogging, I’ve been missing in action lately because of all the school stuff. But I’ve realized that I need this blog (and you guys!) to keep me accountable. So I’m committing to a 3-times-a-week posting schedule, and hopefully that discipline will translate to my budget as well.

Any returning students out there struggling with the student budget? Do you have any tips?

  • Pennyformythoughts - Im just empathetic (starting school this week). ReplyCancel

  • Paige - I thought I was good at it last year, but interviews have kind of thrown me for a loop this year (as has shopping online!).

    My #1 tip for students living on a budget is to go cash for all expenses that aren't fixed so that when it's gone it's gone. My emotions are way more of a roller coaster while I'm in school because the stress level flies up so high when I have an exam or something due and then I am so happy right when something is over. My spending tends to go up and down wildly too, but when there's nothing left to spend things are kept in check. ReplyCancel

  • Walnut - I think saving money will get easier as classes pick up the pace. So long as your careful to keep bringing your own food/snacks and keep the online shopping to a minimum, you won't have much time to think about spending money. Start up costs are always the worst. ReplyCancel

  • Aleksie - Shop secondhand for clothes if you can; I buy a lot of decent things from Buffalo Exchange.

    The other thing is once school begins, you're not going to be shopping so much. No time! The big money drain is eating out/coffee kind of things. ReplyCancel

  • Lance@MoneyLife&More - That has to be the hardest part of going back to school after working. Hopefully blogging more will keep you more in line! ReplyCancel

  • My Money Design - School comes first! I've always said that relative to blogging, you should put family, work, and school ahead. Good luck with getting back into the swing of things! Its hard going back to school. ReplyCancel

  • plantingourpennies - What if you could have an income, albeit a small one? When I was in grad school, tutoring was a very cushy gig. The department would list all the grad students on the website who wanted to be as "approved tutors" for undergrad courses, and the going rate back then for tutoring was ~$40/hr. The undergrads (or rather their parents) were more than willing to pay it – so it was a pretty painless way to make a little extra spending cash. After all, since we were already on campus ALL THE TIME, there wasn't any commuting time and the material was easy enough for us that no prep time was needed either.
    I used tutoring money for shopping, going out – one of the guys in the department tutored a ridiculous number of hours in dead days and finals week and was able to buy an engagement ring with tutoring money. ReplyCancel

  • SWR - It is really tough. I think that the hardest part for me was seeing my very full bank account (thanks to loans) at the beginning of the semester, because it always seemed like far more money than I would need to get me through the term.

    So I have a special ING account that I deposit my student loan into each semester, and then I pull a certain amount each month. It's easier for me to handle a monthly allotment rather than a semester-long one; feels more like I am getting paid, and then I treat it more carefully. ReplyCancel

  • Little House - I can sort of relate. When I was finishing up my credential, I had to student teach for one semester which meant teaching and not earning an income. (Up until that time I had been able to work, make money, and go to school part-time). It was stressful not earning money for 5 months (including summer when school was out). I had planned the finances all out using student loans, grants, and scholarships to help pad our expenses but that still meant having to go further into student loan debt. I'm now finished and can't find a job – go figure. At least I'm thankful that I'm working, earning money again, and paying down some debts. At least you had a better plan than me and I'm sure you'll get back on track! ReplyCancel

  • Kathleen - I did the same as SWR – back in the golden days when ING Orange was paying 4%+ – and it made managing money much easier.

    Good luck! ReplyCancel

  • Budget & the Beach - I can imagine it's a pretty big shock going from making a regular paycheck to being a student again. Not sure I have advice…just think it's a period of adjustment that will take some time. Good luck! ReplyCancel

  • The Asian Pear - As a full-time employee who just finished her part-time grad school, I can relate. I still had an income but I was still spending money on frivolous things and not properly budgeting for items I had not even considered that students needed. My only tip is to really consider all the costs outside of tuition and textbooks. Like coffee! Good luck with school. :) ReplyCancel

  • Marion - I had a similar problem when I was unemployed. Going from having a steady paycheck to having none, or a much-reduced income is a really hard adjustment no matter what the circumstances. I think it's one of those situations where instituting a cash-only rule can be a good short-term solution to get you acclimated to your new lifestyle. ReplyCancel

  • Asia - My husband is going back to school but we still have my income. When I was in school I was super broke and every penny counted. I really want his experience to be different. I want him to be able to get a coffee or go out for lunch with friends. I will have to wait and see how things go/how broke we are. ReplyCancel

  • Weekly Wrap Sept 9, 2012 « myJAMpackedlife - [...] Well Heeled Blog. Being a returning student myself, I am also starting to feel the pressure a bit. I also doing a monthly series where I will track the expense associated with school. Check out my first month post here. [...]ReplyCancel

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