Budgeting – How much do you make?

One thing I’ve noticed, is that there are lots of grad students who don’t actually know how much they’ll make in any given month. And I’m one of those students. Since I started grad school about 4 years ago, at least every 4 months my paycheck has changed. It’s been really hard to try and estimate what I’ll be making, and therefore how to budget it to make up for any upcoming shortfalls.

I’ve also received, a couple of times, tuition coverage. In the two years I’ve received it, both time’s I have to pay my tuition first, and then they re-pay me. However, the first time, it was about $200 less than what I needed to pay, and the second time it was exactly 1 cent more. You would think tuition coverage from your university should know how much to cover, but somehow they don’t. And, there’s nothing you can do if they underpay – so you still need to be able to budget for any extra.

I’ve also been fairly lucky with scholarships over the years, but they have all been September to April. Which means in the summer I get payed by my supervisor instead. This means how much I make depends on what my supervisor has available and how much my supervisor wants to pay. From what I can tell, in my department, at my university, there is no a set amount they are required to pay you. And the last two summers, there have been problems with my pay amount in May.

So while I’ve been lucky over the years, and am not in debt (knock on wood), the constant changes and mis-information (or lack of information) has made for a somewhat stressful few years. However, some of the blame should be put on my shoulders. It’s my responsibility to ask questions – to figure out who I need to talk to, to make sure they have my information, and to clarify any questions I have as to how the money will be distributed.

On that note, it’s something I really need to do this summer. I will be receiving a different scholarship starting this fall, and I’m not sure if it will be lump sum or doled out over the year. I’m also not sure if it’s suppose to cover an entire year (I think it is), or 8 months (like the others). I’ve heard rumors that the scholarship usually means you also get a tuition coverage scholarship automatically, but I haven’t had this confirmed. So I should add these questions to my to do list, and make sure I get myself informed. Knowing if I need to have $4000 tuition ready for the fall, or if it’ll be covered, makes a huge difference, and is not something I want to be scrambling for in September.

Has your paycheck varied a lot? Or have you been lucky to be able to count on a pretty set amount every year?

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