I'm so broke!

How many times have we heard that around our graduate campus? How many times have we said it? Having the academic pressure of a graduate student level course load is stressful enough. However, more than three-quarters of graduate students are working at least 30 hours per week on top of their course load [1]. That means that on top of the typical stress that the typical student is experiencing, the student also needs to include work stresses and money worries to their mental load.

Even while we are working, most student cannot secure a high-paying job while in school. Most students find themselves working hourly wage jobs, or minimum wage jobs while in school. It is the sad reality: most salaried or higher paying positions are not willing to compromise with a school schedule. Work schedules rarely coincide with school schedules. That means that a person will need to prioritize their education versus their work schedule. In theory that sounds easy—of course school comes first. Unfortunately, the reality is that many students cannot afford to live without their income. If a person needs to prioritize school over work, there is a good chance that they will not be able to make their entire rent that month, have to cut back on their grocery budget, or the like.

As a student admissions assistant, one of the most frequent questions I hear from prospective graduate students concerns making money and earning a living. When you think about undertaking about 15 credit hours per week and still needing to attend at least a part time job, many students get overwhelmed. How can we manage our financial requirements while still making strides towards our degree?

One strategy to being financially successful is budgeting. While I know it sounds basic, a lot of us do not actually take the time to set out a budget for ourselves. Even the simple act of calculating our income versus expenses can help the student put it in perspective. Many students think that they have a good understanding of their income and their spending habits. However, many students avoid looking at their budgets for fear of their own spending habits. Knowing what your income is and your typical spending habits can help you better address your personal situation.

Take on daily work or contract labor. Some people have referred to this act as having a “side-hustle”. That means that instead of taking another long evening staring at Netflix and relaxing, why not go out and make some extra money. Often times just a couple of extra hours that you dedicate to driving a part-time taxi service like Uber, delivering food through a service like GrubHub, or even looking online for one-time labor requests can give you a lot more extra money than you might think.

Know that you aren’t alone. Other people have had very similar struggles. You know your goal, and there will be sacrifices associated with this goal. Before you get too deep, set up some limits for yourself. Knowing that your degree is the main goal, write down for yourself what you are willing to sacrifice. Some things are easy, such as cutting out the extended cable package. However, you may need to have some difficult conversations with yourself about what type of living situation (apartment, downsizing, etc) or changing up your meal budget (store brands, cutting down on eating out).

Consolidating your debt can also be helpful. Being able to make a single payment every month can help a student’s budget afford things. In addition, looking for low or no-interest installment payments can be useful. When it comes to books, student loans, furniture, or anything else that we need to spend on, but simply can’t afford to buy outright, installments come in handy. Yet, it is still vitally important that you read the fine print to be sure that you don’t end up paying extreme amounts of interest.

Any breaks can be helpful—especially when it comes to things that we just need to have, like study materials for passing licensure and continuing education (you didn’t spend all this money just to fall short at the time of licensure, right). AATBS gets it, that’s why now we’re using PayPal Credit to help students pay for things that we simply need to have. Just like any student loans that you have, AATBS is now offering installment payment plans for their services. You’ve made it this far in your career—AATBS just wants to make sure all students can afford the best training for licensure. And like those of us already on the graduate student diet of coffee and ramen noodles know, any break we can get is a good one!

1. DeRuy, E. (2015). At Universities, More Students Are Working Full-Time. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/10/at-universities-more-students-are-working-full-time/433245/