Going back to school isn’t just for the little ones. It can be a time for grown-ups to get anxiety too. And not just over the work they’ll have to do.
If you’ve noticed the job market is saturated with candidates that have bachelor’s degrees, you’ve possibly considered getting a graduate degree to give yourself an edge.
But balancing family expenses is hard enough without adding tuition and books. Plus don’t forget all those hours invested in working on projects and studying.
You might even convince yourself that paying for a graduate degree and keeping your family afloat is nearly impossible. But remember – you’re not the first adult who’s gone back to school while working, parenting, etc.
If you’re in this boat, here are a few good tips for back to school on a budget and keeping those family expenses in check.
Examine Your Family’s Spending and Expenses:
Narrowing down your family’s expenses and creating a simple family financial plan is always on the table.
For example – Nearly 90 percent of all American households paid for their TV, according to a 2011 report by Nielsen. In summer of 2014, nearly 50 million households had a Netflix subscription. These are comfort conveniences that you can cut. It may cause an uproar, but you can easily subscribe again after your degree is finished.
Have your family save receipts for every purchase they make. At the end of four weeks, gather and sort them to find where your family is spending the most. You can easily trim down stops at Starbucks with a to-go mug or trim eating out to a weekly or bi-weekly event to save. Set up a budget for necessary expenses like utilities, insurance, and groceries so you know what you absolutely must bring in each month.
Become a Bargain Hunter:
The Internet overflows with blogs about saving money while shopping, from blogs about couponing to websites that find the best local deals, making it easier to save. Extreme couponing isn’t likely something you’ll accomplish during grad school, but every bit helps.
Another way to cut back on household expenses is to re-evaluate where you shop. Instead of spending tons on clothes and shoes for the family at the mall, consider stopping at local thrift stores instead. There are ample stores to choose from, and most stores scrutinize what goes out to the floor to avoid a “junk store” reputation. It’s not uncommon to find name brand or designer clothes and shoes at thrift or resale shops for pennies compared to the prices at the mall.
Research Funding Options:
Before you resign yourself to the idea of racking up student loan debt, spend some time researching programs that might help you with tuition. There are thousands of scholarships, fellowships, and grants available to those who put in the effort to look. Applying for grants is simpler than applying for scholarships, but they shouldn’t be the only funding option you consider. Check with your employer and see if they offer tuition reimbursement. Many employers will pay back all or part of the cost of getting more college education.
Find the Balance:
Once you’ve trimmed expenses and budgeted your dollars, you may find you still need to work while taking your graduate classes. Night courses and online programs help make this possible, but it may take longer than two years. Educational institutions like Ohio University have online master’s programs for several fields, including nursing, business, and engineering.
It’s definitely a challenge balancing family going back to school on a budget. But you can do it when you use these tips, and your family will be all the better for it.
Image via Flickr by Oliver Bildesheim
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