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 by Mark Bennett
, posted on 9 Feb '17

Saving Money as a Postgraduate

We spend a lot of time talking about postgraduate funding: on this blog as well as in our detailed guides. And funding is great – if you can get it.

But what if you can’t? Or what if you need to make that postgraduate loan or scholarship go a little bit further?

Are you left relying on that most capricious of funding councils: the DBOST (Down the Back of the Sofa Trust)? Not necessarily.

After all, you don’t need a postgraduate degree in Economics to know how to economise.

What you may not know, though, is that there are a few clever ways to save money as a postgraduate. And, seeing as it’s National Student Money Week, we’ve picked a few in this post.

#1 Be aware of discounts and offers

Discounts are good. Students get discounts. Postgraduates are still students.

OK, so you probably won’t be inundated with offers of free pizza and two-for-one alcopops at the start of your Masters or PhD. Unless you spend a fair bit of time hanging out at the fresher’s fayre. Or you’re pursuing a cutting edge Sociology specialism examining the cumulative effects of junk food on postgraduate performance.*

But there are some slightly healthier discounts you should consider.

One of the most obvious for UK students is the NUS Extra card. You’re still eligible for this as a postgraduate, with savings on groceries, clothing, online shopping ... and pizza.

Various high-street stores and entertainment businesses also offer their own student discounts. Don’t assume you aren’t entitled to them and don’t be ashamed to use them.

On a similar note, keep an eye out for student offers. Newspapers, for example, often provide special subscription rates or bundle deals for students – perfect if you’re looking for a little extra intellectual stimulation. Or want to keep up to date with the football.

*Course may not actually exist.

#2 Look for work at your university

There’s a good chance you worked during your undergraduate degree. Or that you’re returning to university having already started out in your career.

Well, work doesn’t necessarily have to stop now that you’ve started a Masters or PhD. It’s true that postgraduate study is demanding, but it can also be comparatively flexible, with part-time and distance learning options for many programmes.

More importantly: you may find that postgraduate study actually opens the door to some new job opportunities – particularly at your university.

These could include:

  • Working as a student ambassador: If you’ve stayed on at the same university for your Masters or PhD you’ll know the place well. This could make you an ideal representative for your institution or department: meeting prospective students, showing them around the university and answering questions. This kind of employment can also be quite flexible, with most of it concentrated around specific open days or events.
  • Working for university services: You may be a postgraduate, but you’re also a graduate. This means that you don’t have to limit yourself to the campus bar or coffee shop when looking for work. Libraries, computing departments, admin offices and other university facilities are all potential employers.
  • Teaching: Leading undergraduate classes is a fairly common postgraduate activity (particularly for PhD students, training for an academic career). You’ll be paid for this work, but be aware that teaching can be very time-consuming. Opportunities also tend to be relatively short-term – lasting for a term or two. A more flexible alternative may be to look at work with your university’s student support services, offering one-to-one mentoring and key study skills training.

Other opportunities will also exist around campus, so keep your eyes open.

And remember: a penny saved may be a penny earned, but an extra penny earned is a penny you didn’t have to save in the first place.

#3 Don’t overlook campus facilities

As an undergraduate, you probably spent a reasonable amount of time in and around your university: living in halls, socialising at the student union or using shops and other facilities.

As a postgraduate, you may spend less time relaxing on campus (or less time on campus at all), but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of some of the services your university provides for its students. Particularly as these are likely to be subsidised:

  • Looking for a gym membership? Check to see if your university has a sports centre with suitable equipment
  • Doing some grocery shopping? See what’s in the campus shop.
  • Need to get some printing done? You may find your university offers affordable services.
  • Looking to celebrate that successful dissertation meeting? The student union bar is open to postgraduates too!

Of course, there’s one simple way to get the most benefit from campus services and facilities …

#4 Consider university accommodation

There’s a bit of a theme developing across this post. Like student discounts, part-time work and subsidised coffee, university ‘halls’ aren’t just for undergraduates.

Granted, a lot of your university’s accommodation probably will be reserved for first year students living away from home for the first time. But not all of it.

Postgraduate-specific accommodation is surprisingly common at larger universities. It offers the advantages of standard halls of residence (simplicity, convenience and affordability) but will probably be that little bit quieter.

An alternative option – where available – is to apply for a position as ‘resident tutor’. This usually involves living in undergraduate halls and providing pastoral support to first year students.

You won’t normally be paid for this work, but the accommodation is usually offered for free. And, if the neighbours are noisy, well, at least you can do something about it.

#5 Rethink funding

This is a blog post about saving money as a postgraduate, not postgraduate funding. But it’s worth quickly re-evaluating exactly what we mean by ‘funding’.

In particular, it’s worth rethinking the assumption that funding has to be in place before you begin a course. In fact, a surprising amount of support is available to help cover specific costs during a Masters or PhD:

  • Travel grants and conference funding can be used to pay for trips to external events.
  • Funded placements and residencies can provide opportunities to use specialist archives and facilities.
  • Prizes can be awarded for papers, presentations and publications.

All of these can make postgraduate study more affordable and some can help save money you’d otherwise have spent on conference trips or research materials.

Finding them isn’t necessarily that hard either. You can start with our guides to funding Masters study without a scholarship and alternative PhD funding.

Want to know more about National Student Money Week? We asked NASMA to provide a quick introduction. Looking for money, rather than money saving advice? Check out our detailed postgraduate funding guides.