Financial Stress in Grad School

I wanted to write about something that is hitting hard for quite a few of us lately, financial stress. That is the stress of being poor in grad school. I have written about dealing with finances in grad school before and how to reduce spending (link here)(here‘s another great resource). This blog is about dealing with the stress that comes from grad school finances. Being poor for many years is part of the process, unfortunately, and I am here to tell you that your concerns are justified. It may be tough now, but I promise you that it will be worth it.

Couple Sitting on the Couch

One of the biggest anxiety triggers that I have are my finances. Even something as small as taking my cat to the vet caused me to have a panic attack at 2 am. Luckily, I am skilled in coping mechanisms so I was able to reduce anxiety enough to get back to sleep. I am not in the worst financial situation by any means, but I know many people in grad school that are. Financial stress can really lead to many problems and ultimately cause an individual to leave the program altogether. Something that none of us want to happen.

Macbook Pro Beside Papers

The graduate union on campus recently posted a survey about the financial struggles that graduates face. The results were extremely alarming and extremely sad. People were taking multiple part-time jobs on top of working full time just to pay fore housing. Many people couldn’t even afford groceries because they had to pay for other expenses first.

U.s. Dollar Banknote Lot

Grad school stipends are extremely low. I remember receiving my appointment letter and freaking out because I was going to make about 40% less money by going to grad school than staying at my job. I told myself that 1) receiving a PhD will be worth it and 2) this will be quite a great adventure. Man, was I right about both. I think a huge stressor is seeing people that we graduated undergrad with getting senior positions and making six figures while we eat leftover pizza and ramen. It is a struggle.

For those that are reading this and struggling to make ends meet in grad school, you are not alone. It is something that we are all facing and will probably continue to face. I promise you that this will pass and you will get a career that pays you fairly. This is a learning experience and will be beneficial, I am sure of it. There are many resources that I am sure your college provides. I suggest taking a look to see what resources there are and taking full advantage of them.

One benefit is you will know how to manage money really well, a skill many people do not have. You will also know how to shop bargains, have fun without spending money, and I believe you will find happiness in small things, rather than large, fancy, things. This is something that I found to be 100% true. I have started to really appreciate all of the free things in my life such as long walks, trail hiking, and spending time at my pool (I know it’s not free but you aren’t spending any extra money).

This chapter of your life is quite hard. Will it be the hardest part? I don’t know, but it will be difficult in many ways. I hope that financial problems do not cause any extra stress in your life, like it has with me. One day, we will all be OK.

How I Deal With Financial Stress in Grad School

So you want to go to grad school or you are already there. That’s amazing and I hope that you have an amazing journey! If you are in grad school currently, you know what being poor and overworked is like. If you are preparing for grad school, be prepared.

Money is quite tight for me currently, mostly because I was forced to move into a new place that is way more expensive than what I currently am in. Since everyone is coming back in person to school, they are filling up all of the cheaper places that allow pets, so I was stuck with the more expensive option.

I have always been fairly good with money. I have enough saved up to be able to afford my new place with some modifications of course. I’ll share a list of things I am doing to save money as well as not have the financial stress and anxiety that comes with grad school finances.

  1. I am shopping at Walmart now. I used to shop at Publix but they are quite expensive. You can get the same food at a cheaper price from Walmart, so I shop there now.
  2. I do not go to Starbucks or buy coffee from anywhere. I make my own coffee, see my coffee blog. People spend as much on a cup of coffee as I do on a whole bag of coffee grounds. They do have good coffee though.
  3. I gave up spending money on vending machine food. This is self explanatory.
  4. I walk to my office, or take a bus. You will most likely be paying for a form of transportation to and from school. Take full advantage of that because gas is getting expensive.
  5. I DON’T BUY THINGS ON AMAZON THAT I DON’T NEED. This has taken so much strength to do but I think I am finally free from the Amazon addiction. I was buying everything on there and would have a package almost every other day. This led to more anxiety surprisingly. I quit buying things and I have saved a ton of money and my anxiety is not as bad.
  6. Cook your own food. I think cooking is one of the coolest things you can learn. Creating dishes that are healthy, delicious, and good looking is quite a talent. In fact, I was on a competition team that won third place in 2011. I love to cook and I have saved so much money by cooking at home. You may spend like $8 at chipotle when you can literally make the same meal for like $3 at home.
  7. I don’t drink alcohol as much. I still go to bars with friends but I order soda or iced tea. This reduces my spending significantly and doesn’t make me want to go out and get pizza afterwards and spend even more money lol. Plus, alcohol is one of my anxiety triggers, so staying clear of it is beneficial for me.
  8. I build my own stuff. This one is a hit or miss because prices for wood and other materials are going to outer space. I also found out that something I made was about half the price online than I spend on supplies. But, I am sure there’s stuff around the house you can use to build something you need. I use old rugs to make scratching posts for my cat. I also wood carve and make figurines that are cool so I don’t jump online to buy things to make my room look fancier.

These are the things I do on a regular basis to reduce my spending because grad school is expensive. Life is expensive. I hope you consider trying some of this stuff out as well as adding some trick of your own in the comment section. I love learning clever ways of saving money. Thank you for reading my blog!

**If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, I highly recommend that they seek help. Online-Therapy.com or TalkSpace.com are great ways to reach out to a licensed therapist and get the help needed. Therapy has 100% helped me and I know it can help you.