5 Ways to Save Money While in Graduate School

Graduate school is such an exciting time. I vividly remember June 2016 - I was living in a brand new city and was just a few days away from starting my dream graduate program. I made sure I checked all the boxes: apartment close to school, perfect bedroom ambiance for unwinding, part time position to bring in a little extra cash each month. 

I really thought I was doing it all right - so how in the world did I end up still graduating with a mountain of student loan debt?

Well, I simply didn’t focus on saving money in the right areas. Now, I’m on a mission to help as many healthcare professionals avoid the mistakes I made and that’s why I’m sharing FIVE ways you can save big while in graduate school - beyond just cutting out Starbucks.

  1. Live with roommates: Housing costs can be one of the easiest areas to save money during your time in graduate school. Okay, we all like our space. I get it. But it’s important to recognize that you likely are going to need at least one roommate and in some cases, more. It largely depends on what city you’re in. I went to school in Boston which has a relatively high cost of living so many of my OT school friends had 1-3 roommates. I personally had 1 roommate but looking back, I really needed to have 2-3 roommates to split costs with. I’ll probably have to dedicate a whole follow up post about the do’s and don’ts for roommate living because it can sometimes be complicated. 

  2. Meal prep for lunch & dinner: Any other foodies out there? I actually got really into cooking during my time in OT school! I loved crockpot meals because I could make a large portion to eat off of for the entire week. I specifically focused on meal prepping to have enough leftovers for lunch and dinner. It can be tempting to just grab lunch or dinner out but trust me, it starts to add up after a while. I’d also advise scoping out the stores where you can get high quality foods for low prices - and buying in bulk when you can! If you need some recipe inspiration head on over to pinterest, that was my absolute favorite place to find my yummy meals. 

  3. Budget, budget, budget: I probably should’ve put this as the very first point because it’s basically what everything else is based off of. If you’ve been here a while, then you know I’m constantly preaching the importance of “becoming a boss at budgeting” because it is such an important financial skill to learn early on. Budgeting will allow you to know where your money is going even while in grad school. When you know where your money is going, you’ll be able to identify areas to cut back on. This is also an important skill to practice right now before you graduate and start making the big bucks.

  4. Have a part-time position: If you’re able to bring in a little extra cash each month - great! I won’t spend too much time on this because I have a whole dedicated blog post all about my tips for working while in OT school as well as a huge list of jobs people have held so you can check that out here. The point I want to make here is just because you bring in extra money, doesn’t mean you should increase your spending! I highly recommend contributing to an emergency fund and/or making a small payment on your student loans with any extra money coming in.  

  5. Buy and sell secondhand: Be prepared to get good at thrifting - whether it’s educational materials, clothing, or furniture - I highly recommend buying second hand when you can. There are some really great thrift stores (in person AND online) that will be really great when it comes to saving money while in school. It may take a little more research on your end but the savings will definitely be worth it. Of course, you can also sell your own items secondhand to bring in a little extra cash! 

When I reflect back on my own decisions while in graduate school, I can definitely recognize where I went wrong in some of these areas. It’s important to understand that you may have to cut corners and make sacrifices while in graduate school but trust me when I tell you, it will all be worth it. The goal is to take out as little loans as possible and save as much money as you can. I hope that these tips give you a good starting point so that you can graduate without a huge mountain of debt hanging over your head!