Author Topic: Case study: Girls just wanna have funds. Help a PhD student w/ limited $ to save  (Read 6166 times)

mousecoffeefrog

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 3
The tldr version is this
I only have a couple hundred dollars a month to spare. This is unlikely to change for at least 4 years. What should I do with such limited resources and not much currently saved? I have included details below for those with an interest or who may offer advice on how to improve my budget. I am not super financially savvy, but am trying to learn.

Life situation
I am a 25 year old graduate student in Collegetown, USA. My relationship status is single af (much to my mother's dismay), and I have 1 cat (who else would I tell my secrets to?). I lead a pretty modest lifestyle and don't mind cultivating mustachian habits like trimming my own hair, biking, living with a roommate, and cooking at home. My primary indulgences are the gym & other fitness-related hobbies, but as a (mostly bored) single lady, I also go out on the town once a month or so (with limited success).

I do not have any debt, but I also don't have much saved. This was a conscious decision- albeit not a very smart one. For the last couple of years, I toiled away at a MS while working part time in a job I could pursue full time upon completion of that degree. I focused on staying out of debt while I was a student, with the assumption that I would soon start working and could put my low wage days behind me. Then, I decided to pursue a PhD instead of getting a "real" job, and learning to save and live comfortably on a very modest salary became a serious concern. I have about 3.5 years left before I complete a PhD.

Gross salary/wages/grad school machinations
For me, income varies a lot. My take home salary is $18,200/year after taxes, or about $22,000/year pre-taxes. It is almost routine for me to get bumps to that in the form of no-strings-attached scholarships, grading fellowships, and the occasional side hustle. In the last 6 months, I've made about $3,000 extra through such means. I usually save all extra sources of money, but I do not count on making anything beyond my normal pay. Obviously my salary isn't great right now, but outside work is frowned upon because it distracts from research (prolonging time spent in grad school) & endangers the likelihood of finishing a PhD. I know I could make more with a real job than as a graduate student, but I enjoy what I do and don't see it as work.

Also, tuition is free for me (and has been throughout grad school).

Pre-tax & other deductions
Pre-tax & other deductions are pretty much non-existent. There is no 401k option offered to grad students, health coverage is basically free (s/o to the student employee union), and student fees are covered by my program or minimal (aka you can opt out of the ~$10/year contribution to student radio).

Note to other potential grad students: LOOK INTO THIS. At the university where I got a masters, there were semester fees for graduate students. In the fall and spring they were anywhere from $650-$800 each, so up to $1600/year. Ouch. Health coverage was less than $200 a year, but still resulted in a fee that had to be paid by students.

Current monthly expenses
rent: I pay $440/month
I share a 2 br 2 bath apartment with a roommate.

auto & transport: $100/month that rolls over (currently at negative $194 for the month)
This encompasses all car & bike travel & repair. This far overshoots my normal monthly spending (about $50), but takes into account those times when I need repairs.

I bike to & from work everyday; it is 5 miles roundtrip. I run all errands within my city via bike. That said, I have family that live an hour & a half away, and family about 3 hours from where I live. About once a month, I travel to one of those places. I have a 10-year old car that is paid off and gets a bit over 30 mpg on the highway. If it breaks down, I will not replace it.
 
bills & utilities: $75/month
This includes phone, internet, electric, insurance. Everything. Heat is included in my rent. Internet is $10/month, after the cost is split with my roommate. Health insurance is free through my university. Electric usually costs $15/month or less. Car & phone are covered by family members, who I then reimburse (this party of one doesn't need a family plan).

gym, etc.: about $100/month.

This includes an $80/month gym membership with unlimited classes. I could use the university gym for $35/semester, but I like being able to workout in a class setting whenever I feel like it and without being surrounded by gazelle-like 18 year olds (no shade if you are one though). My university also has a notoriously horrible gym, too small to serve the many people who use it.

Other than the gym, I go climbing. This hobby could get expensive, but I use the same harness & shoes I bought in 2008 (the shoes have been resoled twice - I will need to upgrade them next time there is a hole). I have a top rope/set up & a few draws. When I go sport or trad climbing it's with people who have the rest of the tools necessary. I rely on their gear & goodwill.

In the winter I cross country ski at local parks. I use a set of skis that were purchased by my parents sometime in the early 80s that they kindly bequeathed to me.

I buy running shoes every few months. I want to do another marathon, but the race entry fees can get expensive (think > $100). I also participate in a turkey trot on Thanksgiving every year with friends & family ($35). I mostly use a free app (Gipis) to make training plans but will spend a few dollars here & there on others.

I guess my $100/month estimate might be low, but on Mint my average for the last 6 months is $97. Some of the cost of gear gets absorbed into other categories. I don't feel bad about spending money on these hobbies, but maybe I deserve to be punched in the face? This is my spendiest weak spot.

Everything else: ~ $685/month
... but I aim for $555/month

I take $125/week from an ATM and use this to cover groceries and extra curriculars (the bar, a new carabiner, clothes, whatever). So, I don't know exactly how much I spend on various categories. That said, I closely monitor my weekly budget - when I only have $30 in my wallet on a Wednesday, spending basically stops. Some weeks I run out of cash & end up charging purchases to my card. Guilt sets in pretty quickly so this is minimal, with a few exceptions.

TOTAL SPENDING should be $1,270/month
My average spending for the last 5 months is $1,400/month. All of the extra amount spent is in the "everything else" category, when I couldn't stick to my guns on the $125/week limit. Amounts spent/month range from $1,100 to $1,500 at either extreme. Seemingly small things like a $100 vet visit or clothes shopping for a conference throw off my monthly spending in a big way.

Assets
$2500 in a roth IRA
$3200 in checking/savings
paid off car

Debt
$0

If something serious happened (like a life threatening medical emergency) & I needed a big chunk of change, I have 2 credit cards. Because I use them responsibly & pay them off diligently, one of the two has a limit over $10,000. I have a hard time imagining how I would get in more trouble than that, but clearly need to work on building a cushion so I can feel secure. I also want to invest in stocks and put more into the IRA.

Questions
In consideration of my remaining 3.5 year sentence in academia, how should I allocate the money I can save? Do I build my savings until I have 6 months of living expenses there and then dedicate the rest to Vanguard funds? Which options should I invest in?

If I had $100 to save, what percentages would you dedicate to the various avenues available?

mozar

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2885
Basically you have everything in control. Your plan sounds good (emergency fund then invest). I would open an ira in vanguard so you can save some on taxes. Or a roth might be better.

Vanguards and Lentils

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 288
  • Age: 28
Hi mousecoffeefrog, we are in quite similar situations wrt salary, rent, and being in PhD programs. Last year I made ~24k take home and put away just under 12k in savings via IRA and taxable accounts. I was pleasantly surprised to realize I saved that much, but in the grand scheme of things, I don't think it will make a huge difference in retirement savings, especially after we join the workforce - what will make a difference is forming good living habits early on, and figuring out how to use money in a satisfying/effective way.

Your rent, utilities, and car usage are pretty well optimized already. I personally think $100/mo for fitness expenses is quite a lot. Have you considered joining a sport/fitness club through your university? For example, I joined a martial arts club through my university which costs $80/semester, but would have cost over $80/month if I did it in the "real world" - universities like to subsidize the costs of these sorts of things through student fees. And $80 monthly for your current gym would already be considered expensive in the "real world". If you haven't tried using your uni's gym for a period of time and are making the decision not to solely based on hearsay, maybe try it out for a semester and see if it's truly life-ruining?

Also I would try looking at what your average food spending was in Mint (Mint separates it into bars, fast food, coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery) since this is probably one of the bigger categories and would yield a lot of $ if you haven't already spent much effort optimizing it.

Assuming you had $100 extra lying around, I would put all of it into a roth IRA because the tax rate is tiny right now (it definitely sucks that we don't have 401(k)s or 403(b)s as grad students). If you've already done the max of $5500 for the year, then Vanguard funds in a taxable account sounds right.

hyla

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 177
I would try to put at least some in your IRA, because if are not a full time student for tax purposes (most grad students are not, I know I was half time when I was in grad school) and you do manage to put money in your IRA, you qualify for the savers credit, which is a pretty awesome tax credit.  At your income level, you get a credit for 50% of the contributions you put into your IRA, capped at $1000 credit.  I was able to use this credit during grad school to get ALL my taxes back.  So if you use this credit, you get a nice big tax refund that you can then use to build up your emergency fund or put more money in your IRA (thus ensuring you get this awesome credit again the next year)

https://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Plan-Participant,-Employee/Retirement-Savings-Contributions-Savers-Credit

It seems like your budget is pretty reasonable.  Yes, you spend a lot of money on the gym but it's important to have exercise and stress relief in grad school.  You might consider dropping the gym membership occasionally to save money if there's ever a month you are travelling a lot for conferences or something and won't use it much.  If it were me, I might split the regular $100 month you have to save 50/50 between IRA and emergency fund savings, and then also try to put all extra income in the IRA.  My Roth IRA is in vanguard target retirement 2050 and I'm very happy with that option - easy to deposit money, diversified, and low fees.

Vanguards and Lentils

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 288
  • Age: 28
I would try to put at least some in your IRA, because if are not a full time student for tax purposes (most grad students are not, I know I was half time when I was in grad school) and you do manage to put money in your IRA, you qualify for the savers credit, which is a pretty awesome tax credit.  At your income level, you get a credit for 50% of the contributions you put into your IRA, capped at $1000 credit.  I was able to use this credit during grad school to get ALL my taxes back.

Were you in grad school full time then? I had looked into the saver's credit and decided it didn't apply because the page you linked says full time student can't claim the saver's credit, and

"You are a full-time student if you are enrolled for the number of hours or courses the school considers to be full-time."

Mrs. PoP

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 425
    • Planting Our Pennies
Just a heads up - if you're looking at putting more into your IRA, make sure that you have enough earned income to cover it. Sometimes grad schools stipends don't count as earned income according to the IRS.  EvolvingPF.com has a few good posts on this if you poke around her site from when they were still in grad school. 

Gin1984

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4701
Consider opening a new checking account for the bonus every six months.  My husband and I make about $200/year/each doing this. 

spruce

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 62
  • Age: 32
  • Location: southeast
Your budget looks awesome overall, and there are worse things to splurge on than exercise.

Do you have a YMCA where you are? It might be a cheaper gym solution. Ours has a sliding scale monthly fee based on age. I'm 28 and pay $40/mo. and it's all inclusive. I only go for yoga classes, which is cheaper than paying for them at a yoga studio, but you can really get your money's worth if you do other things there. I get access to 4 gyms in the area, including group classes, weights, swimming pool, tennis courts, etc.

Getting a better idea of what the "everything else" category includes may help you eke out more savings too. Try budgetbytes.com for great cheap meal ideas.

I think your savings amount is good for cash on hand. If you want more quick-access investments as part of your emergency fund, consider the Vanguard VTSMX which has a $3000 minimum. Combined with your cash that would be about 6 months in living expenses. And then go for a Roth IRA. Splitting 50/50 emergency fund and IRA isn't a bad idea either.

Good luck, you're on the right track!

Christiana

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 173
    • Zatera Ul
Your "everything else" category is too broad. Start recording all your "everything else" expenditures, and sort them into categories.  Then, for each category, set a budget limit that covers your needs plus a few wants, along with a little flexibility for taking advantage of sales and other deals.  I think you could probably double your cash available for saving and investing if you were more careful with spending. 

Also, if I am reading between the lines correctly and the gym and bar nights aren't working well for you, perhaps you should instead be looking for someone with a lot of social connections who can play matchmaker.


Gin1984

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4701
If your state has state taxes, check out if they have a deduction for a 529.  My state did while I was going to school and because I was considered full time I could use the money for living expense.  Put the money in, get the tax deduction, pull the money out, pay for bills.

Gizsuat2

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 49
I know you posted this because you wanted honest advice ... I'll leave that to everyone else who has already posted.

All I want to say is that you are doing AWESOME by any measure.  You've constructed a thoughtful budget and are clearly developing some excellent habits. 

* I say keep the gym membership.  That's your only "thing" it sounds like, and I think you have to be careful not to deprive yourself of something that is clearly such a healthy, happy outlet for you.

seattlecyclone

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4771
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Seattle, WA
I would try to put at least some in your IRA, because if are not a full time student for tax purposes (most grad students are not, I know I was half time when I was in grad school) and you do manage to put money in your IRA, you qualify for the savers credit, which is a pretty awesome tax credit.  At your income level, you get a credit for 50% of the contributions you put into your IRA, capped at $1000 credit.  I was able to use this credit during grad school to get ALL my taxes back.

Were you in grad school full time then? I had looked into the saver's credit and decided it didn't apply because the page you linked says full time student can't claim the saver's credit, and

"You are a full-time student if you are enrolled for the number of hours or courses the school considers to be full-time."


I think it depends on the school and degree program you're in. In my master's program I took 6 credits of coursework per semester plus did a "half time" TA job. The university considered "full time" to be 8 credits for a grad student (pre-dissertation), so I claimed the saver's credit.

Albert

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1254
  • Location: Switzerland
Former grad student/postdoc here... Your actual savings during this period don't matter that much, because hopefully your income will be vastly higher after you get your first real job (mine more than tripled). What you do want to do is have modest cash savings (at least $5,000) so you are not too stressed looking for a job and of course staying out of debt. The critical task will be when you get your first high paying job not to inflate your lifestyle to unreasonable levels.

mousecoffeefrog

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Thanks for all of the comments! I will have to look into potential tax deductions & evolvingPF. I get agitated about being able to save so little while working on grad school, even though I'm not accumulating debt.

Also, saving 50% of a $24k/year income is amazing supermatthew! I will aspire to that.

Kwill

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1264
Questions
In consideration of my remaining 3.5 year sentence in academia, how should I allocate the money I can save? Do I build my savings until I have 6 months of living expenses there and then dedicate the rest to Vanguard funds? Which options should I invest in?

If I had $100 to save, what percentages would you dedicate to the various avenues available?

It sounds like you've already gotten lots of good advice, but as another single female academic, I would add that you should not assume you will get a good job straight out of grad school. You might have a similar life situation--part-time work and just barely enough income to squeak by on--for the 3 years after you get your PhD. A lot depends on your field and your productivity and which Collegetown USA you're starting from, but this could be a longer haul than you realize. All the more reason to work on your Mustachian skills and build up some savings.

ulrichw

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 87
Slightly different slant here: I wouldn't focus too much on cash savings at this stage of your life.

You're already investing a lot in your human capital:
http://www.investopedia.com/articles/younginvestors/09/human-capital.asp

The concept here is that investing in your PhD. is going to have a much higher positive impact on your lifetime earnings/wealth than your current savings will. I wouldn't worry so much about saving now, other than to have a reserve amount available to you.

As Albert mentions, the key will be able to maintain something close to your current spending profile once you're in your next stage of employment.


Spondulix

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 630
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
I got a good laugh at your title. :)

$125/week for "stuff" seems high. There's people on here who can feed a family of 4 for $500/month. How much of your spending is food and how much is other?
What are you doing for meals and are you a picky shopper? Do you have time to cook?

I'd consider putting the extra $100/month in a Roth IRA. You'll get taxed on it as income, but where your income level is, it might work in your favor. Plus, if you needed to, you could take out what you contributed (current year only) without penalty.

Lastly, someone above mentioned not being too concerned about your current financial situation because of what you will earn in the future as a PhD. I disagree... for all we know, you're earning a PhD in puppetry (that exists). Some PhDs mean a life in academia or doing the same job/vocation as people without any degrees (like art or music). Circumstances change in PhD programs, too. I think you're smart in thinking ahead now and it just reinforces habits when you do have a bigger salary.

Edit: Check out this book to learn about index investing - "The Little Book of Common Sense Investing" (John Bogle)
« Last Edit: January 05, 2016, 02:43:37 AM by Spondulix »

chemgeek

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 83
I second what Mrs. Pop said to make sure that your stipend is considered "earned income". My grad school stipend did not have FICA taken out and was considered ineligible to be put into an IRA. I'm not sure how closely the IRS monitors that stuff, but it could become a potential headache later on.

StarBright

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1268
Popping in to second Kwill.

Not sure of your field or if you want to stay in academia ,but if you are planning on staying in the system 2-3 years to job after the PhD sounds about right (unless you are a superstar, and if you are, good for you!).

My husband landed his renewable contract position two years after completing his PhD and six months into that position we are just coming to the point where we can start upping our savings.

One of our good friends just landed a spring semester job and had to move on short notice.  She ended up on the hook for moving expenses, first and last months rent and security deposit on her new apartment as well as a lease breaking fee on her current apartment. Also, most academic jobs seem to not pay until the second month into the job, in my husbands case he ended up working almost 8 weeks before he saw a paycheck. Once you hit the market you should have 6 months of living expenses ready to go if you can.

As to your current saving situation - if you are doing any retirement savings as a grad student you are likely far ahead of most of your cohort - well done!

oldmannickels

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 190
Get a job at the gym you like. Teach a class or mop floors for a couple hours. Eliminate your expense and make some dough in the process.

johnny847

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3196
    • My Blog
If you want to save more, I see a couple options.
gym, etc.: about $100/month.

This includes an $80/month gym membership with unlimited classes. I could use the university gym for $35/semester, but I like being able to workout in a class setting whenever I feel like it and without being surrounded by gazelle-like 18 year olds (no shade if you are one though). My university also has a notoriously horrible gym, too small to serve the many people who use it.
This is an obvious one. I know you say you don't want to, but hey, if you want to save more money, this is one way to do it.

Everything else: ~ $685/month
... but I aim for $555/month

I take $125/week from an ATM and use this to cover groceries and extra curriculars (the bar, a new carabiner, clothes, whatever). So, I don't know exactly how much I spend on various categories. That said, I closely monitor my weekly budget - when I only have $30 in my wallet on a Wednesday, spending basically stops. Some weeks I run out of cash & end up charging purchases to my card. Guilt sets in pretty quickly so this is minimal, with a few exceptions.

Start tracking this in detail. If you don't track all of your spending, you don't know where it's going, and it's hard to reduce your spending. $685/month is 49% of your overall spending! Almost half of your spending is "unaccounted for" (yes I realize you say it's spent on groceries and extra curriculars, but how much is spent in each category?)


Also, earn more money. I too am a PhD student so I know the value of time. I recommend chasing bank account signup bonuses. I made $2795 last year chasing them, and the time commitment is minimal. Open an account, change your direct deposit (DD) settings, and change them back once you get the bonus.

Typically it requires you to open with some initial amount (usually not much, $100 is typically enough), get at least one DD into the account, and hold the accout open for 6 months. Typically there will be some minimum balance to avoid fees on the account. If such a minimum exists its usually in the $1500-$2000 range. Sometimes they'll also require a bill pay and/or debit card transactions.
I can change my DD settings online, so I do this a lot. A good bonus will return 15-20% or more in 6 months (where the return is defined as bonus earned divided by minimum balance required to avoid fees).

I would take that $3200 in your checking (which I assume is your emergency fund) and start moving that money around to different bank accounts for bonuses. If you do have an emergency, just make a withdrawal. You might get charged the maintanence fee for the month, but so what? You're still coming out ahead because of the signup bonus.

Here's a nice post from the Doctor of Credit blog to get you started.


I also highly recommend this
If your state has state taxes, check out if they have a deduction for a 529.  My state did while I was going to school and because I was considered full time I could use the money for living expense.  Put the money in, get the tax deduction, pull the money out, pay for bills.
The key is to claim them for living expenses. I have a blog post with more details, but the tl;dr is what Gin1984 said.

CanuckExpat

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2938
  • Age: 36
  • Location: Travelling
    • Freedom35
I think you are doing great. I was there a few years ago as a PhD student; the salary can seem low but it lets you have fun, learn stuff, and live an awesome life while still managing to to save some money. If you can continue that going forward, avoiding lifestyle inflation as you move to real jobs, you will be golden.

Hanging around here will give you lots of inspiration and good advice on how to cut expenses smartly. As for where to put the savings, I think your plan is as good as any other: half to long term retirement savings, half to a cash buffer. You want to get compounding and stock market returns working for you as long as possible, but when you are on a low salary and have an uncertain job search ahead, there is something to be said for having a pile of cash to rely on if shit hits the fan.

If you have the patience and temperament, the other post had a good suggestion about using bank and credit card opening bonus to make some extra cash (doctor of credit is a good source). At your income level, squeezing out $500 - $1000 a year that way can make a nice difference in your cash buffer. I started doing that back in grad school, and still keep it up though the numbers seem small compared to salaries and market fluctuations, but old habits die hard. All the more reason to set your self up well in grad school :)

Albert

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1254
  • Location: Switzerland

Lastly, someone above mentioned not being too concerned about your current financial situation because of what you will earn in the future as a PhD. I disagree... for all we know, you're earning a PhD in puppetry (that exists). Some PhDs mean a life in academia or doing the same job/vocation as people without any degrees (like art or music). Circumstances change in PhD programs, too. I think you're smart in thinking ahead now and it just reinforces habits when you do have a bigger salary.

It was me and perhaps I was too quick in assuming that OP is doing PhD in science simply because that's where vast majority of PhD positions are. If it's in social sciences instead or OP wants to go into pure teaching job then thinking might have to be different.

Kwill

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1264

Lastly, someone above mentioned not being too concerned about your current financial situation because of what you will earn in the future as a PhD. I disagree... for all we know, you're earning a PhD in puppetry (that exists). Some PhDs mean a life in academia or doing the same job/vocation as people without any degrees (like art or music). Circumstances change in PhD programs, too. I think you're smart in thinking ahead now and it just reinforces habits when you do have a bigger salary.

It was me and perhaps I was too quick in assuming that OP is doing PhD in science simply because that's where vast majority of PhD positions are. If it's in social sciences instead or OP wants to go into pure teaching job then thinking might have to be different.

Sadly, even in the sciences it can be hard. I'm in literature / area studies, but I have two Ivy League physics PhD friends who left academia (one for a hedge fund, the other for software development), one Ivy League virology PhD friend who spent a few years as an adjunct at a community college before finally being picked up for tenure track at a community college, other science PhDs who worked in start-ups or postdocs for a long time, others in both sciences and humanities who had PhDs from good schools and got great postdocs but then took a long time to get to full-time continuing positions. Another friend took premed courses on the side during her philosophy postdoc and got a full scholarship to medical school afterward--but this was after a nine-year philosophy PhD. I do have plenty of other friends who got great tenure-track jobs, but they didn't necessarily get them right away. And some of them worry about tenure. Nothing's guaranteed. But if you're flexible and adaptable and skilled at living within your means, you can be OK. Most people I know landed or are landing somewhere; it just might be plan B or plan C or three years later than planned.

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/02/27/388443923/a-glut-of-ph-d-s-means-long-odds-of-getting-jobs
https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/01/08/economist-offers-critique-job-market-phds-english

Albert

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1254
  • Location: Switzerland
No one said it's easy, but almost everybody from my time as a postdoc (also Ivy league school) who was looking for a job around the same time found permanent positions in industry. Some did it immediately and some took a year or two longer. From what I remember for those staying in US the average starting salary was about $95,000/year (2008-2009).

The key is that you need to be really good at what you do. Merely having a PhD from a famous school is not enough...

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4293
It sounds like you're doing great! Living within your means is half the battle. I would try to simultaneously build a Roth* and an emergency fund--though I am older than you and in a different life situation, I always split my savings.

I don't begrudge you the gym membership but it seems unusually high for one person--that's what my old YMCA charged for a whole family with unlimited childcare! And I remember that it was $40 or so for one person but that there were cheaper local options. It might be worth shopping around a little to see if you can find something else cheap. (I now have a city rec center membership for $185 annually.)

I agree that it's probably worth taking a closer look at the "everything else" just to make sure that you are getting maximum happiness from it!

*Assuming you qualify.

honeybbq

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1156
  • Location: Seattle
Former grad student/postdoc here... Your actual savings during this period don't matter that much, because hopefully your income will be vastly higher after you get your first real job (mine more than tripled). What you do want to do is have modest cash savings (at least $5,000) so you are not too stressed looking for a job and of course staying out of debt. The critical task will be when you get your first high paying job not to inflate your lifestyle to unreasonable levels.

I agree. I went from ~12k a year as a PhD student to 6 figures. I wish I had had a few more beers and a little less stress. Yes, it's counter-intuitive to say to spend rather than save. But you have your basics covered and are doing well. Maybe get a few k saved up in emergency/moving expenses for your launch after graduation, but other than that, have fun! If the job market is good in your field, I wouldn't worry.