Do you have some tips for how to juggle school and finances? Here, grad student Christa Wheeler offers her suggestions for managing a budget on a grad student's salary.
How to Live on a Grad Student's Salary
I know you are wondering how much things will cost and how you will be able to live on your own with a grad student's salary. I know I told many of you this, but trust me, Cleveland is cheap compared to most places!
You'll want to come to Cleveland with a little cushion in your bank account, or plan on opening a bank account with a cushion when you get here. I use Key Bank because they have free online banking and an ATM on campus. Plus, there are plenty of Key banks located all around Cleveland.
You will not get paid until the end of your first month here! Meaning, if you start in August, you won't get paid until the end of September. Plus, you will need to pay for books and put a deposit down on wherever you decide to live. Just be prepared for some significant expenses right off the bat and you'll be fine.
One advantage of having a roommate is splitting both rent and utilities. For instance, with roommates you'll spend between $300 to $400 per month for rent, rather than $600 a month. You also can have cable and Internet at home since paying part of a bill each month is much easier than paying it all. Either way, you will manage. Unless you have a very large cushion, I would not pay much over $600 a month for rent. If you do pay over $600, make sure that some utilities—and especially gas/heat—are included.
Paying to Park
If you drive to Case, you will want to buy a parking pass. Most likely though, you won't be able to get anything other than the commuter lot until later on in the year. The commuter lot is cheaper than other lots, but then you have to take a shuttle to campus. There is parking for free on streets near Case if you are willing to park during limited hours or move your car at 4 p.m. Ask around and other students can help you with this. (I either come into school early to get a spot or end up walking 10 minutes or so from a street off campus where parking is available.)
Another parking option is available if you join 121 Fitness Center, the private gym on campus. A membership costs around $36 per month. This includes three FREE hours of parking in a garage on campus each day. Three hours is equal to $7 of the $10/day maximum, so you can leave your car there all day and pay the remaining $3 for the day (as long as you work out). If you figure a parking pass will run you at least $60 a month, $3/day isn't too bad and you can park in a garage, which is nice in the winter.
Case does offer Veale Center as an option if you don't want to pay for a gym membership. However, many students join One-to-One Fitness because it offers free aerobics classes and other perks like a sauna, free lockers/towels, etc.
Finances may worry you at first, but believe me, most students are all getting paid a similar amount. You learn to budget for what is most important to you. Basically, we work hard here and school can be stressful at times, but you will find your own way to relax and unwind. There are plenty of places with a cheap Happy Hour if that's what you enjoy. There are also plenty of students that like to unwind with a workout, and many of us like both! Whatever you enjoy, there's probably someone here with similar interests!