7 Money Saving Tips for Grad Students


Saving money as a grad student isn’t rocket science, but you might have to get a little creative.

As a grad student, you’ve likely been cut from your parent’s payroll, and while that’s great from a personal development perspective, money can get tight as you probably can’t work full time.

Here’s the good thing about being a grad student, it’s more than okay to be frugal and save money wherever possible.

Money Saving Tips for Grad Students

I would actually go as far to say it’s recommended and encouraged. People expect that and they won’t take you for “cheap” if you’re a student. Take advantage of this persona.

Money doesn’t grow on trees to begin with, but when you can’t commit full time hours to a day job, you really have to stretch out every dollar.

With this said, there are specific ways a grad student can save money.

Here are 7 tips to help you save money as a grad student:

  1. Claim Your Student Costs (Taxes)

  2. Live with Roommates

  3. Take Advantage of Student Discounts 

  4. Use Campus Gyms

  5. Live Close to Campus

  6. Buy Used Textbooks

  7. Network  

Standing alone, some of these tips may only save you a few hundred dollars each year, but over the course of your graduate degree they could save you thousands of dollars.

Let’s look into each tip a little more.

Claim Your Student Costs (Taxes)

As a graduate student, claiming some of your expenses on your tax return can save you a lot of money. This tip is often overlooked because people view it as too complex, but it really doesn’t have to be.

I’m not a tax expert, so make sure you speak with a tax professional before filing your return. But here are some common expenses you can claim as a student:

  • Tuition

  • Moving Expenses

  • Interest on your student loans

Spending a little extra time on your tax return can save you thousands of dollars. Make sure you keep receipts for things like airline tickets and other transportation methods you use. If you get audited, you’ll be asked to provide proof of some of your claims, so make sure you can!

Money Saving Tips for Grad Students

If you’re halfway through your graduate degree and you’re just learning this for the first time, you can sometimes carry forward unclaimed expenses from previous years and claim them for your upcoming tax return.

Again, I want to reiterate that tax regulations are unique to each country and each province or state. So make sure you speak with a tax expert in your area.

Live with Roommates

Living with roommates is the cheapest way to live during your graduate degree, unless you’re living with your parents.

Saving large amounts of money as a grad student is not easy, but choosing your living situation wisely is one decision that can save you a lot of money.

Paying $500-$700 a month for rent is very possible if you’re willing to live with other people.

Not only can you share the cost of rent between your roommates, but things like utilities, internet and cable can all be split up as well.

Roommates can be great. They can be a great source of comfort and friendship, but they also provide some annoyances, so choose wisely if possible.

You might not want to be living with an 18 year old freshman who plans to party more than 4 nights a week. But hey, no judgement if you do!

At the end of the day, it’s just a temporary living situation. If you can sacrifice the convenience of living by yourself for a year or two, you’ll save a lot of money and maybe even pick up a few new friends.

Take Advantage of Student Discounts

Being a grad student has a lot or perks when it comes to discounts.

Whether it’s free banking services or the local grocery store offering 10% off on Tuesdays, take advantage of every discount you possibly can.

For example, Scotiabank offers a Student Banking Advantage Plan that costs $0 in monthly fees with unlimited transitions – as long as you’re in a post-secondary institution in Canada or the U.S (Domestic or International students).

As mentioned in the introduction, you’re allowed to be cheap as a student, and don’t think being a graduate student is any different. I don’t care if you’re 53 years old, if you can get 25% of public transit, take advantage of it.

While you might have to do some research to discover them, there are tons of student discounts available in your area, guaranteed.

Canada has what is called a SPC card which stands for Student Pricing Card.

Money Saving Tips for Grad Students

This card gives students special discounts all over the country. Heck, you can get 15% off Calvin Klein products with a SPC.  Who would have thunk that. Thanks Justin Bieber.

Here is a more complete list of some of Canada’s student discounts.

While I likely won’t be taking advantage of the 10% discount from Crocs, it’s still nice to see!

Use Campus Gyms

A great way to say money as a grad student is to utilize your campus’s gym.

The monthly membership fees will likely be very low compared to privately owned gyms, and that’s if you’re not already paying for recreational facilities within your tuition.

Plus, having a gym close by allows you to kill two birds with one stone as you can get your studies and fitness in without having to go all over town.

Live Close to Campus

Transportation costs are a silent killer when it comes to saving money as a grad student. The closer you live to the campus, the less time and money you’ll have to spend getting to class.

If you own a car, that’s great, but gas isn’t free and a 10 minute drive to campus each day makes a big difference over the course of a few years.  Not to mention the maintenance and insurance costs of owning a vehicle.

If you can live close to campus, I highly recommend doing so. Not only is walking everyday great for one’s physical and mental health, but it’ll also help you avoid having to buy a car or public transit passes.

If you can find a place close enough to campus where you can easily walk, act fast. Due to their convenient location they usually don’t stay on the market for long.

Quick Note #1 – If you can’t find a place to live close to campus, buy a fricken bike!!

Buy and Sell Used Textbooks

Okay, I know I’m not going to turn any heads with this tip, but I had to include it! Saving money as a grad student can be similar to saving money as an undergrad student.

If your courses require you to purchase textbooks, which they probably do, try and find them second hand.

Money Saving Tips for Grad Students

Facebook groups is great place to search for second hand textbooks. Most universities and colleges have Facebook groups dedicated for students to buy and sell textbooks they no longer need.

Other great  places to search for used textbooks are online marketplaces like Craigslist and Kijiji.

Notice I said buying AND selling though. If your grad program is well attended, there is a good chance you can sell your old textbooks to those coming up behind you.

If you’re really smart, you’ll use that money to buy your new textbooks for the next semester – then you just rinse and repeat that process.

While it might not always workout where you can sell your textbooks for the amount your new ones cost, it will definitely chip away at a portion of the cost, and as a grad student, every dollar counts.

Networking

Being able to socialize with like minded people while not spending a small fortune is key to saving money as a grad student.

Networking events are a great way to meet people, but they can also save you a lot of money on entertainment costs.

Money Saving Tips for Grad Students

Most formal networking events offer things like complimentary sandwiches, fruit, coffee and if you’re lucky – booze!

Free food and drinks = savings.

But with that said, networking events can be anything from a formal breakfast at a fancy hotel to a casual happy hour at a dungy pub.

We are all social creatures, we want to interact with other people, but this can get expensive after a while. Being able to find events in your area is a great way to socialize while keeping your wallet at home.

Not only that, but networking events can be great places to connect with potential employers. Try and build meaningful connections with people at these events as you never know where it could lead.

Who knows, it could land you a job after graduation.

Again, this tip might not save you thousands of dollars, but over the course of a year or two, it’ll save you a few trips to the grocery store, and every little bit counts. Not to mention the long term earnings it could potentially provide you with.

Remember, being frugal as a grad student is perfectly normal. Heck, stuff some sandwiches in your purse for later, be that person!

Conclusion

To conclude, saving money as a grad student can be very challenging.

If you’re like most, you have a lot of expenses but little income.

Be frugal with your money, stretch every dollar you spend as much as possible. Save everywhere you possibly can and don’t feel bad about it.

Live with roommates, sell your car, go to networking events and don’t spend money on private gyms.

Get creative and be determined. Try and spend as little money as possible on textbooks by selling your old ones and using that money for new ones.

Lastly, when possible, use pre-tax money for all of your student related costs. Even if you have little income, you should still receive the taxable benefits you’re entitled to.

Boom! Mic drop.

Noel Moffatt

Noel Moffatt is the founder and main contributor for his blog - The Financial Geek. Based in Canada, Noel's passion for personal finance has helped him amass over 300k readers to his Financial Geek blog.

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