The first place to start if you want to start economizing is to figure out where your money’s going. As a grad student, your income is usually derived from one of the following options:
- TA/GA work or PhD stipend
- Student loans or scholarships/fellowships
- Side job (especially if you are a part time and seeking a Master degree
- Your spouse, parents, family, inheritance, stocks, etc.
Next, figure out your basic expenses: shelter, cost to commute (including gas, maintenance, permits, etc.), utilities (water, gas, electricity, only), food (excluding incidentals: morning coffee, random snack purchased at the coffee stand). Most of your basic expenses (except for food if you eat out all the time) will be difficult to lower. However, it is not necessarily impossible.
Figure out what you spend on: cable/internet/phone service
Determine how much you spend on health and entertainment: movies, concerts, shopping for fun, subscriptions, health/dental/vision visits, gym memberships, etc.
Find out how much you spend on your own education: Text books, paid note services, tuition, registration, course fees, professional fees, etc.
And finally, find out how much you spend on incidentals: Your daily coffee, smokes, random snacks, newspaper or magazine, etc.
Once you figure out what your expenses are, it will be much more easy to adjust them. If you never stop to think about where your money is going, it can quickly go away. If you have trouble tracking your money, use an app.