Tuition can cost roughly $30,000 per year for a public institution, and about $40,000 each year at a private school. Beyond that, grad students often need to pay for housing, food, health insurance, books, and other expenses. Plus there’s the opportunity cost of attending grad school in the first place.
If you aren’t careful, getting through grad school can put you in serious financial debt. Here are some ways you can save money to finance your further education.
1. Find free money. There are tons of scholarships and grants out there for students pursuing a graduate education. You can search for specialized financial help for someone of your ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, or professional field.
2. See if you are eligible for tax deductions and credits. There are several deductions that you can get on your taxes for expenses related to higher education. For example, if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is less than $75,000, you may be qualified for the Student Loan Interest Deduction, which can reduce the amount of your taxable income by up to $2,500.
You may also be able to deduct certain education-related expenses.
Another option you can explore is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC or EIC). This credit, for those with low to moderate income, can be about $500 for an individual who meets the eligibility criteria.
For more information on tax breaks for graduate students, look on the IRS Tax Benefits for Education website.
3. Live with your parents. Whether you lived with your parents during or after pursuing your bachelor’s degree or haven’t been back since high school, moving back home is a great way to save money.
To establish a mutually beneficial relationship, offer to help out with some of the bills, and pitch in around the house. While living at home may not be your ideal situation, it’s a great way to save on rent and can offer a more conducive environment for studying.
4. Work while in grad school. There are lots of job opportunities that can also serve to further your grad school education. You can find ways to put your knowledge into practice while also earning money — whether you’re pursuing paid internships, tutoring gigs, or teaching or research assistant positions.
A job that is unrelated to your field can still help make a dent in your expenses. For example, delivering pizza or working as a customer service representative at a local retailer can bring in some much-needed cash. If you worked part-time for 25 hours a week at a job that pays you $14 per hour, you'd generate $22,400 of income over the course of two years of grad school (based on two 16-week semesters per year). This money can, in turn, be used to offset grad school tuition, or it can help you reduce (or start paying back) your loans.
5. Trim your budget. This is where you have to get creative. From negotiating your utilities rates to buying groceries in bulk, there are lots of steps you can take to reduce your expenses. For more ideas, read Money Crasher’s 25 Easy Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget Today.
6. Set aside all cash gifts and found money. If you get a cash gift on your birthday or during the holidays, put it toward grad school expenses. If you recently filled out a mail-in rebate form for some cash back on a computer software purchase, set aside that money, too. It all adds up.
7. Be smart about your textbooks. Do not buy your grad school textbooks at the campus bookstore — that's where you’ll pay the most. First, check out your school or local library to see if you can borrow the books you need for the semester. You may also be able to find free downloads of select college textbooks on websites like Project Gutenberg.
You can look into renting your textbooks from Chegg or buying used ones on eBay or Amazon. Finally, SlugBooks is a website you can use to compare the cost of a textbook sold by different providers to ensure you get the best deal on your books. When you’re done with a given book — assuming you won’t need it again in the future — you can also resell it online or to an incoming student. There's just no need to pay through the nose — or not to recoup money — for college textbooks when there are so many cost-saving opportunities.
8. Avoid Campus Health Insurance Under the Affordable Care Act, college students can stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until the age of 26. If you can be on a parent’s insurance, take advantage of this, and avoid the cost of campus health insurance.
9. Do Not Use a University Debit Card Many universities now offer a debit card you can use for college purchases. There are often few or even no limits placed on what you can use your available student loan or financial aid money for. Plus, there are usually lots of fees, such as a monthly maintenance fee, an inactivity fee, and a charge for using an ATM. Don't take the bait; it’s not worth it.
10. Look into a part-time or accelerated program. Sometimes, the best way to save money on grad school is to look for alternative programs. Enrolling in a part-time graduate school opportunity can give you the time to work at a full-time job and finance your degree. An accelerated program, such as a one-year MBA, can help you finish school faster and save on your degree.
Final Thoughts According to Census Bureau data, when you compete your master’s degree, you can earn as much as $400,000 more than someone with a bachelor’s degree over the span of your life.
Because this is over the course of a lifetime, however, in the beginning, you may not realize any huge financial benefits. Therefore, if you fail to save for and effectively finance grad school, you may find yourself with insurmountable student loan debts. Be smart with your money, and you'll have a lot less stress in the future.