College Connect: How to Survive on a Graduate Student Budget

Posted By Crystal Beasley

By Ryan Kor

As a first-year master’s student freshly off of my parents’ payroll, the only thing tougher than graduate coursework is figuring out how to manage my personal finances. I constantly have to monitor my spending to ensure that I can pay for essential expenses.

Although living on such a tight budget is stressful, it is possible for graduate students to finish school with minimal debt. Here are a few guidelines that make supporting yourself in graduate school possible:

1) Use a Budgeting App

Downloading a budget app on your smartphone is a good first step towards successfully managing your finances.

“Money management apps simplify what can often be a daunting task,” wrote Thomas Barabbi of the International Business Times.

These apps allow you to create a personalized budget, track and categorize every purchase, and send notifications to keep your spending on track.

There are many free budgeting apps such as GoodBudget and Wally, but my personal favorite is Mint because it is user friendly and easy to customize.

2)  Never Buy Textbooks at Full-Price

Textbooks are an inevitable expense in graduate school. According to the National Association of College Stores, students spend an average of $655 on textbooks annually.

Buying textbooks doesn’t have to break the bank, though. Very few textbooks need to be purchased for full-price. Buying used textbooks and renting is much more affordable.

I always check my university library for textbooks before purchasing them because, many times, I can borrow them for free.

3)  Take Advantage of Funding at Your University

Many universities offer special funding opportunities for graduate students, such as graduate assistantships.

According to, “in addition to providing a wage for a job on or close to campus, [graduate assistantships] typically cover either a portion or the total cost of tuition.”

Applying for a graduate assistantship was the best financial decision I have made so far in graduate school. I can earn a steady paycheck while working around my class schedule.

4)  Have an Emergency Fund

It is very easy to live paycheck to paycheck as a graduate student, and saving money can seem impossible. However, it is important to start an emergency fund to prepare for unforeseen expenses.

“If you’re struggling to pay your bills or meet your obligations now, just think of how beneficial a bit of breathing room could be,” according to “Even if it’s only $25 per month, something is always better than nothing in this case.”

By setting aside a little bit of money each month for emergencies, you will avoid having to take out additional loans cover unexpected expenses.

Ryan Kor is pursuing her master’s degree at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia


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