Gravity's Rainbow

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Breaking the grad student budget


Grad students joke, cry, and complain about being poor. As a grad student, I definitely don’t make a lot, but I make enough to eat well, live in a cozy apartment, and make a dent in the debt I racked up as a student with no health insurance. Quite frankly, I feel positively wealthy sometimes.

But having enough does not mean I have extra, so I do have to be pretty careful about budgeting. One thing that makes it difficult is the frequency and timing of my paychecks. I get paid within a 6 week period at the beginning of each fall, spring, and summer semesters. I plan so that I’ll have enough to last through that entire 6 week period at both ends of the semester, plus I have a little in savings for some wiggle room in case of an emergency. My first two semesters this worked very well. This summer it’s a bit more of a challenge.

by sarcozona

Between data collection trips and conferences, I’ll rack up about $3500 in travel expenses this summer. That’s a big percentage of this third of the year’s paycheck. Lucky for me, almost all of this cost will ultimately be covered by my supervisor’s grants and conference travel funding from the university. The catch is that I have to pay almost all of it out of pocket and reimbursement will trickle in slowly between August and next January.

This puts some serious hurt on my budget. Even decimating my wiggle room savings and increasing the amount of peanut butter in my diet won’t cover all of the costs, which means I’ll be putting some of it on a credit card. Too bad I can’t put interest on the reimbursement forms…

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