Surviving PhD life on a stipend - tips? Watch

infairverona
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I've just accepted a PhD studentship which covers fees and a stipend of around 14.5k. I've been working full time for coming up to 3 years, and my current salary is more than double the stipend - however, I live/work in London, and live at home. So currently I have a lot of disposable income, which I'm more than happy to trade for the freedom of moving out again to be honest!

Just wondering if anyone has any comments on living on a stipend, is it as dire as it sounds? How do you make it stretch and does teaching bring in much extra? Especially would like to hear from anyone else who has given up a well paid job to return to full time study...
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Pariah
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i left a well paid job to go back to university and transition into a different career that pays much less. if you have fixed outgoings like a mortgage or commercial loans you may struggle, but otherwise it is not that hard to sit down and work out where your money goes and make adjustments: start making your lunch instead of buying it, stop buying £3 coffees, cook simpler food/stop buying processed stuff, fewer clothes/nights out/holidays etc, bus not taxi, do you REALLY need Sky/a car/a smartphone - whatever - the process for you depends on what you currently spend your money on. and hopefully if you have been working while living at home you have a reasonable cushion of savings (and if not why not given that you had a phd in mind?)

that said, i know a lot of people who get used to living a certain way and convince themselves that they REALLY DO NEED all sorts of consumerist nonsense. you will need the willpower to make the decisions stick. it wasn't hard for me since i enjoy what i do now and am much happier in general - so i don't mind doing without some things
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infairverona
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(Original post by Pariah)
i left a well paid job to go back to university and transition into a different career that pays much less. if you have fixed outgoings like a mortgage or commercial loans you may struggle, but otherwise it is not that hard to sit down and work out where your money goes and make adjustments: start making your lunch instead of buying it, stop buying £3 coffees, cook simpler food/stop buying processed stuff, fewer clothes/nights out/holidays etc, bus not taxi, do you REALLY need Sky/a car/a smartphone - whatever - the process for you depends on what you currently spend your money on. and hopefully if you have been working while living at home you have a reasonable cushion of savings (and if not why not given that you had a phd in mind?)

that said, i know a lot of people who get used to living a certain way and convince themselves that they REALLY DO NEED all sorts of consumerist nonsense. you will need the willpower to make the decisions stick. it wasn't hard for me since i enjoy what i do now and am much happier in general - so i don't mind doing without some things
Thanks for your input! I do have savings but I don't intend to use them - they're for a flat deposit one day. Also, I am paying for my MA in full in August so I have been saving for that too, my actual savings therefore aren't that much. The ad for this PhD came up last minute so I wasn't actually intending to go this year, but financially there's enough time for me to save up a bit anyway despite paying for my MA. The only commercial loans I have are my laptop and my phone which come to just under £100 a month, and I think that's fine so I'll keep those.

Did you run a car? I was debating selling mine, but actually I'm thinking it might be handy to have as I'll be travelling quite a bit to interview people etc for my research. It's also not too expensive to run.

I'm reassured by you saying you're happier now as my family have been saying to me I won't like being 'poor' again but actually I'm not happy in London, I'm not happy living at home and I don't particularly enjoy my job so I think taking a cut to move out and pursue something I enjoy will be far better. It sounds like it's doable from what you've said anyway so I feel a bit better about it!
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QHF
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(Original post by infairverona)
I've just accepted a PhD studentship which covers fees and a stipend of around 14.5k. I've been working full time for coming up to 3 years, and my current salary is more than double the stipend - however, I live/work in London, and live at home. So currently I have a lot of disposable income, which I'm more than happy to trade for the freedom of moving out again to be honest!

Just wondering if anyone has any comments on living on a stipend, is it as dire as it sounds? How do you make it stretch and does teaching bring in much extra? Especially would like to hear from anyone else who has given up a well paid job to return to full time study...
I did a PhD on the standard stipend, on 90% of a standard stipend, in fact, in an expensive city, finishing last year. It's a life of shabby gentility sometimes but it's not deprivation, and most of your peers are either on the same funding or not funded at all, so you're unlikely to spend much time 'feeling poor' as your family apparently fear. A lot of it is common sense—work out what you can afford, live within that. Sites like moneysavingexpert.com are helpful. Use a budgeting tool like the one they suggest, calculate in as cold-blooded a manner as possible what you actually can afford, then work out what you're going to cut back. In a way it doesn't really matter what specific things you're doing so long as you're spending less than you have coming in—so if keeping your car going would facilitate your research, budget for that and cut back on something else. I know a PhD student who runs a cheap-to-run car and it works well for them.

It's worth remembering—and I apologise if you'd already worked this out but sometimes I meet PhD students who haven't—that a postgraduate student is a student and so qualifies for most of the student discounts that an undergraduate qualifies for. So you don't pay council tax,* you can get a 16–25 railcard (regardless of your calendar age—there's a slightly more complicated extra form but if you're a full-time student you qualify), and so on.

Also, early on, research what support and extra funding might be available from your university. That can be as small as departmental free lunches &c, but it also could be grants for research trips, conference travel, buying a laptop &c. Then apply for those opportunities and use them as much as you can.

* If you live in a dwelling with one or more non-students then there will still be a council tax bill, but you won't count towards the number of occupiers. So if you live with one other person and they're not a student, the bill will get a single-occupier discount, and the two of you can work out how you want to split up the smaller amount.
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zombiejon
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Another thing - pay attention to talks/seminars on campus, and determine if they are applicable to your program/interesting, and fit in your schedule. Sometimes they'll have free handouts (I've gotten a lot of useful handouts this way) or even free food.
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Potato456
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Have you thought about being a warden at one of the halls in the uni if they have that going on? That would give you cheap/free accomodation!


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JamesManc
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A stipend in London should have an extra London rate?
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Omar_Little
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Agree with the above, but would also add that there are plenty of good things to do in London to do that don't cost anything!

Also I would recommend scouring every bursary source you can think of an apply of everything. You often are more likely to get things than you think, and even if only one comes off you are quids in!

As for deposits it would be a great idea to put that money into the new government ISA, they give you an extra 25%!!!
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infairverona
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(Original post by JamesManc)
A stipend in London should have an extra London rate?
(Original post by Omar_Little)
Agree with the above, but would also add that there are plenty of good things to do in London to do that don't cost anything!

Also I would recommend scouring every bursary source you can think of an apply of everything. You often are more likely to get things than you think, and even if only one comes off you are quids in!

As for deposits it would be a great idea to put that money into the new government ISA, they give you an extra 25%!!!
I'm not going to be in London for the PhD, sorry I realise now that it wasn't clear in my post. What I meant was I live in my family home currently so I save money that way, and as I work in central London I get a 20% uplift on my salary for 'high cost area allowance' so my salary is pretty good.

Are you allowed to apply for other bursaries if you've got a department scholarship? My terms and conditions of the funding say if I get another award I must tell them, and I don't know if thats limited to things like if I'd applied to the ESRC for funding for example (which I haven't).

What ISA is this? I've got 6-6.5k savings but I don't intend to use it during the PhD. Are you talking about help to buy?
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Omar_Little
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Yeah, the help to buy ISA - this guy says it better than me
http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/sav...elp-to-buy-ISA

As for the bursaries, by all means check the small print. I'm sure you wont be getting a second studentship, but who knows, you may get something for course related expenses, especially things like travelling to conferences. The point I make is that if you don't look and apply you won't get, and there is often a load of stuff out there that you wouldn't even think of. And they are often more likely to give you things than you think.

Also check out what university things you can get discounted (i.e. gym, yoga, language classes) if there are any extracurriculars you like.
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infairverona
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(Original post by Omar_Little)
Yeah, the help to buy ISA - this guy says it better than me
http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/sav...elp-to-buy-ISA

As for the bursaries, by all means check the small print. I'm sure you wont be getting a second studentship, but who knows, you may get something for course related expenses, especially things like travelling to conferences. The point I make is that if you don't look and apply you won't get, and there is often a load of stuff out there that you wouldn't even think of. And they are often more likely to give you things than you think.

Also check out what university things you can get discounted (i.e. gym, yoga, language classes) if there are any extracurriculars you like.
Thanks, I've been thinking about that ISA. I think you only get the 25% when you actually go to buy a property like you don't get the cash in your account as far as I'm aware but it's still a good deal either way.

Yeah I've not looked yet. I'm not sure if I get any money for conferences from the uni but I've seen that you can apply for bursaries etc.

Looked at gym and language classes, they're not a whole lot cheaper tbh but still nice to have some discount
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Cathrela
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Hi,

Sorry for reviving an old post! Just wanted to comment as I'm also starting a PhD studentship (with stipend) in October, feel quite nervous about it!
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username3071756
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(Original post by Cathrela)
Hi,

Sorry for reviving an old post! Just wanted to comment as I'm also starting a PhD studentship (with stipend) in October, feel quite nervous about it!
Just want to say . Good luck and well done !!You'll do fantastic .
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