The Grad School Diaries

But in the spirit of saving, I am writing to let you know about surviving graduate school and some tips from a basically broke student teacher!

I once had dreams of blogging like Kate. Even started one with a friend, and had it going strong for a while! But then I got the acceptance letter for my graduate program and life went a little haywire for a period of time. Two years later, I’m still at it.
But in the spirit of saving, I am writing to let you know about surviving graduate school and some tips from a basically broke student teacher!

For the first few semesters, my main financial concerns were school supplies, gas, and a new laptop.

So let’s break it down:

SAVE WHERE YOU CAN!

Computer:

I knew I wanted a Macbook, and I also knew it was out of my budget. But when I remembered I have an amazing friend who works at the Apple store, he hooked me up. He ordered me the laptop, used my credit card, his store discount, and then instead of paying for tax and shipping, he arranged for pickup in Delaware. A short drive from my home in Philadelphia, and I bribed another friend with a road trip and Starbucks. So we made a day of it.

Saved me BIG TIME! Laptop still going strong today, worth the investment.

School Supplies:

I needed the basics: folders, notebooks, pens, highlighters, etc. I remember when I was younger, my mom was the queen of never paying full price for anything. She watched the sale ads every week from June through August for sales, and I learned a thing or two.

Office Depot does their penny sale. Spend $5 and then everything else is a penny. I scored notebooks, folders, pencils, and a pencil case.

Shop Rite, believe it or not, has excellent sales as well over the summer. Notebooks range from 25 cents to 10 cents, sometimes even go down to a penny. Packs of pens range anywhere from 50 cents to a dollar. Pencils , folders, sharpies, you name it. And not even the knock off brands, legitimately good stuff!

Gas:

Okay, we all know the struggle of the gas pump. It’s hard, and gas prices flip flop every single day. So I found a few tricks.

If you travel the same route often, notice the gas stations! I made note in my head of who had the cheapest gas on my routes back for forth from class, and tried to plan out when I needed to fill up! Every cent counts at the pump!

Also I played it smart from the start. When it came time for me to get a car a few years ago, I made sure it was fuel efficient to the MAX! Aside from a Hybrid car, this was as close as I could get. Honda and I have become fast friends. My tiny silver Honda Fit quickly become the envy of my siblings and had them asking me to use it for their long trips out of town.

As much as I’m a girl who loves a good truck and SUV, I love spending less money at the gas station more.

Did I mention I’m trying to become a teacher? We are a group that needs to save when and where we can, because we ALWAYS need something!

I recently finished the dreaded semester of Practicum and am in the even more dreaded Student Teaching phase now! Stay tuned, I’ll write about how I learned to not go dead broke while doing my fieldwork next time.

It’s Hard Out There For A Bride

I could literally see my wedding dreams going up in smoke.

If there is a simple fact of life, this is one of them: Weddings cost money.  A lot of money.  So when I got engaged at 25 years old, I recognized that fact.  But I don’t think I comprehended just what weddings cost until I began to actually search.  And I should probably also mention that I am luckier than a lot of people my age.  I have two parents offering to foot the bill for my wedding.  But that is within a strict budget.

I do a lot of reading online about other people’s weddings.  I’m a female, it’s what I do, get over it.  I got in my head that I wanted to have my wedding at the Please Touch Museum in Fairmount Park (Philadelphia).  Then their wedding coordinator sent me an email.  I could literally see my wedding dreams going up in smoke.

I don’t know what you’re throwing in your chicken parmesan if you want me to pay you $250 to serve it to my family.  Do you make it with gold?  Does Channing Tatum himself prepare, cook, and serve my dinner? Because if you are charging me that much money per plate, after asking me to give you $5,000 to rent your hall, there had better be a Magic Mike reenactment somewhere during my reception.

After touring seven different venues, I finally found somewhere that gives me what I am looking for within my budget.  I then began to search for photographers.  Holy hell! Everything adds up quickly.  But, I should probably mention that I am not willing to compromise on this either.  I dabble in photography, so finding a good photographer is a top priority for me.  I’ve spoken to three different photographers to date, all with prices starting at $3000.  Let me try and get that past my parents.  I can hear them already… “Do you know what I could do with three grand?!”

Pictures are not JUST pictures!  They are all you have left from the day, pictures matter.  And trust me, I’ve seen some jacked up wedding photos.  I don’t want to be the memes that Kate laughs at later when she’s on her break from work.

But since the theme of Kate’s blog is shopping on a budget, I will also share the few savings I’ve had so far!

My venue is including flowers for our center pieces, and ceremony site, which saves us a ton of money to begin with.  But they also work with the same florist that we wanted to use anyway and they will give us 20% off of any additional flowers we order, so bouquets, boutonnieres, etc are discounted! Score!

Here’s another tip for those soon to be engaged: pay attention at any weddings you attend for vendors you might like. I’m choosing a DJ from a previous wedding that will offer us a photo booth and his DJ services as a package deal, and discount for a repeat booking.  Plus my brother-in-law knows his wife, so we’re hoping for a little magic there too!