This month’s committee post is all about budgeting during your PhD! From research costs, to paying for conferences, to balancing your own personal finances, our committee gives you all the tips and tricks!
Financial planning for PhDs is a whole different beast than the normal advice. Financial blogs will tell you to set aside X% of your monthly salary for rent/food/savings/retirement/etc. but how does that work when you’re paid in funding lump sums a few times per year? Or when you have paid teaching work for only 8 months of the year? My biggest tip for PhD students in regard to money is to save as much as possible. Whenever you get some extra money, like from freelance work or other small jobs, try to put it aside. It is an unfortunate reality that a lot of academic payment functions on reimbursements, so it’s nice to have a small bit of money put aside so you can draw on that when it’s needed. If you’re travelling a lot for archives, I also recommend getting a good travel points card and signing up for loyalty schemes with hotel chains. You can get some good deals that way!
Working full-time and studying part-time means that it’s time more than finances that I really have to budget. And although lockdown has been awful, most conferences, events, workshops, and training have moved online and are recorded. This has allowed me to sign up for more opportunities and to catch up on the recordings when my packed schedule allows. That’s definitely been the silver lining to lockdown.
Lockdown has brought video meetings into all our lives and this has also impacted my research. I will conduct participant-led photo-elicitation interviews and face-to-face are ideal but now have the option of using online video software means I can save time and money on travel costs.
I just need to get over my weakness for buying books as I love having my own hard copy of a book. This is definitely where I could cut costs relating to my PhD, but its unlikely to happen.
Plan the costs step by step:
1) Look for funding opportunities within your University department. Most schools offer bunches of small grants: some of them are conceived to cover the costs of travel and accommodation, others to pay for training opportunities and conference fees, and still others to cover the cost of fieldwork etc. Get in touch with the relevant office at your department, they will give you all the necessary information.
2) You may have to pay some costs in advance, and – if you get the funding – will get the money back at a later point. Hence make sure to only spend within the budget set by the grants you are applying for.
3) Make lots of research and be smart i.e. avoid traveling during peak times; ask for information about affiliated accommodations to the course/conference/etc hosts.
4) Save the receipts! In all likelihood, you will have to show proof of what you paid for, before being refunded.
5) Use a budget tracking app, like Mint or Goodbudget.
As a proud miser, I absolutely hate spending money! And this includes my PhD funding. But I think part of the reason I initially struggled with money during my postgrad was because I was unaware how yearly budgets for larger organizations actually worked. So one thing I would recommend off the bat, is to ask your supervisors about funding constraints:
- When does the next funding period cost?
- Do they do it quarterly, annually?
- Does your funding role over from one year to the next?
Once you know the answers to these questions, you can start to plan out your spending a bit better! Trust me, it’ll save you a headache later on!