By Laura Harrison |

We’ve talked a lot about funding on this site. We launched the blog with six posts, and one of them was Roseanna’s Guide to Self-funding. Like Roseanna, I’m self-funded, with the added fun of being Canadian, and thus I pay international fees (which, come on guys, we have the same Queen!).

Since I’m nearing the end of the third year of my PhD, most of my friends and colleagues are growing increasingly concerned about their funding running out. Meanwhile, I’m feeling okay. Nothing is changing for me this autumn – I will continue all of my budgeting measures, with the added benefit of not giving tens of thousands of pounds to the University in tuition. I’m also aware that a new crop of PhDs are finding out about their funding applications and figuring out their options. With all this in mind, I felt like it was a good time for another funding-related Pubs and Pubs post to say – self funding can be done. Here’s how I’m doing it.

How I’ve made money

  • Part-time jobs:
    • I’ve worked a number of part-time jobs while doing my PhD, including continuing a perennial stereotype by working as a barista. While it is good for budgeting to know when money is coming in and approximately how much, sometimes it is hard to get time off for academic-related things, depending on your boss and the company you work for.
  • Random jobs
    • Over the past year I’ve come to favour random/one-off jobs. I’ve worked for a few elections, at the library during exams, and for a weekend craft fair. This allowed me to make a bunch of money over a really short period of time when I knew I’d be free, leaving my schedule open for busier times in the academic calendar.
  • Teaching
    • This is by far the best job I’ve had during my PhD. Teaching by far pays me the highest hourly wage for my time, it actually helps my CV, and (bonus) I really enjoy it. If you can teach for your university, I highly recommend it.
  • Funding opportunities
    • Take advantage of small pots of money – they really do add up. Every conference or research trip you get funding for, or little-known scholarship that barely anyone else applied for will help you in the long run. It can take a lot of time, so don’t apply for ALL of them, but take a bit of time to go for the ones you think you can get.

Is latte art a transferable skill?

How I’ve saved money

  • Transfer money at a smart time
    • My loans are all in Canadian money, so I keep an eye on exchange rates. I also did some research early on to find the company with the lowest fees to transfer.
  • Keep track of spending
    • I write down all my spending, and I’ve found it makes me understand where/when I spend money needlessly. This led me to bring lunches more than buying them, which has really made a difference in my weekly spending.
  • Move
    • While moving itself can bring some expenses, moving to a cheaper area, especially one near a big supermarket, has made a difference for me. I also barely heat my flat, and have learned to love layers.

Doubles as a test of your relationship

Random Tips

  • Have a budget
    • I’ve found planning my spending for the next year helps cut down on the number of times I wake up in a cold sweat at 4am worrying about money. As long as I stick to my budget, I figure things can’t go too badly.
  • Minimize debt
    • I decided early on to only use my loan to pay my tuition, and to figure out how to pay all my other expenses another way. I’ve had to dip into the loan for rent a few times, but it has certainly stopped me from mindlessly pulling out money that eventually I will need to pay back (with interest).
  • Decide what you are willing to spend money on and what you aren’t
    • Part of why I’m living in the UK is to travel, so I still do that. To make up for it, I make other sacrifices, like stopping almost all clothes shopping and not heating my house. When travelling, I also try to do it as cheap as possible, such as by tacking travels onto conferences that I have funded flights for.

Self-funding is not easy, especially as an international student, and I’m slightly terrified of the debt I have looming over me when I finish. But, it can be done. Make as much money as possible, spend as little as possible, and try not to wake in a panic cold sweat in the night.

Laura Harrison is a Committee Member at Pubs and Publications. You can find her on Twitter.

Image 1: The Blue Diamond Company, image 2: pexels, image 3: wikimedia commons