Jul 04, 2012 01:32 PM EDT

Strategies to Save Money While in Grad School

It's no joke saving for Graduate School, but saving money while in Grad School can be a challenge as well. There are so many reasons to spend, spend, spend, and not enough to save, save, save.

Here are some strategies to help you save your money while in Grad School:


This is a given. Once you plan what you need to spend money on, minus what you don't need to spend on, money will be a lot easier to manage. It's a chance to separate your wants from your needs. Having a plan is a foolproof way to stay on top of your finances.

Make smart food choices

In other words, cook for yourself! It's very easy to be caught up in the habit of ordering take-out. The amount of money Americans spend on take-out every month is appalling. It's ok to order out sparingly, but you will save a lot of money if you buy what you need to create a big meal that will last you for several days. On those days you wish to spend money on a meal, use coupons available at Restaurant.com .

Consider buying a Meal Plan

If you can't cook or don't have sufficient time to do so, consider buying a meal plan; even if you live off campus. The up-front cost may appear high, but it can definitely be looked at as an investment. You will avoid expensive restaurant meals and tips and you won't need to grocery shop or cook. You will be able to eat more regularly and free up valuable time to study, exercise and work.

Avoid vending machines

It adds up, believe me. Instead, buy soft drinks in bulk at your local superstore and save 75 percent per bottle. Purchase raisins, nuts, and other dried fruits and create your own healthy snack packs. Instead of buying bottled water, why not purchase a water purifier and a refillable water bottle? Also, you can save money by brewing your own coffee.


Avoid the school bookstore

Bookstore prices are out of this world, and the students that give in to the overpriced books and materials may feel like there is no other choice. Think again. Buy and sell textbooks online using websites like Amazon.com and Half.com. Sites like these will save you a ton of money at the end of the school year. At the end of each semester, be sure to put your books online and get some money back. Keep in mind: the older the edition, the less money you will get for the book.


Skip the car

Gas money can add up significantly. Instead of paying for gas, insurance and maintenance, how about riding a bicycle or take public transportation? If your school has a shuttle service, that is yet another form of conveyance that you can take advantage of. If you take the train or bus, consider purchasing monthly passes, as this is a way you can save money over time.


Take advantage of free entertainment

Flip through your local newspaper and find the lists for free concerts, art galleries and fairs. Find out what kind of free entertainment your school offers each month. Sometimes there are clubs and organizations that offer discounted movie nights; take advantage of free or discounted fun!

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