On Being Frugal:
Recommendations from a Psy.D. Graduate and Professor
If you are in graduate school, then it should be cool to be broke. I graduated in 2002. Somewhere between 2002 and 2012 it became uncool to be broke in graduate school. Now, somehow, many Psy.D. students get the impression that they should drive a nice car, live in a nice place, and have the latest clothes. The opposite is actually the way it should be -- and is the key to graduating with less debt. You should drive a clunker, live in a dive, and wear the clothes your parents bought you in college.
My wife and I were so broke we lived in subsidized housing and didn't even realize it! Our apartment was close to my school (so I could walk) and we had a beautiful view of a massive parking lot. It was a whopping $320/month and got bumped up to $330 my last year. Someone gave us a TV that didn't have volume. We didn't fix it; we just watched foreign films with subtitles. I literally survived on microwave dinners and whole wheat bread. I'd get a loaf of bread for $1.25 and buy 30 microwave dinners when they went on sale for $1.00. It was not healthy, but it was dirt cheap. My car? My car was a 1985 Honda Civic. I bought it from a friend in college for $500. I only put money into it when I absolutely had to. It was beat. It was an outdated sky blue and had rust on it. It burned oil, so when I started it up a large plume of blue smoke would come out of the muffler. Did I fix it? Heck no. I simply poured more oil into it. I didn't have the money to fix it and you know what - that is okay! Why is that okay? Because I was a broke graduate student! Finally, clothes - did I look like a million bucks? Did I ever shop at the mall? No and no. My first year I wore all the same clothes I wore in college. My second year I started in the clinic. I went to the outlets and bought 3 dress shirts, 2 pairs of khakis, and 3 ties. I wore some combination of these throughout my second year, third year practica, and internship! I bought a couple of new shirts and a pair of pants on my post-doc. Did other people have a larger wardrobe? Yes. Did other students drive nicer cars? Yes. Were other students eating a more varied meal plan. Yes. Did other students graduate more debt than I did? (Drum roll please) YES!!!
Graduate school is expensive. If you are like most students, then you will have a good chunk of debt when you graduate. You can keep that debt down by living frugally. There is no shame in being frugal. Think long-term. You'll have plenty of time to drive a nice car, eat well, and look like a million bucks. Graduate school, however, is the time to live frugally so that you can keep your debt level low. Remember, being broke in graduate school is the way to go!