• GradHacker

    A Blog from GradHacker and MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online


Supplementing Your Income as a Grad Student

Ideas for making a little extra money.

January 24, 2018

Charlena will begin their doctoral studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in Fall 2018. Follow them on @cmichelleart or view their artist page.

Graduate school isn’t cheap. On average, tuition for graduate studies is between $30,000 to $40,000 a year depending on whether you attend a public or private university. Tuition waivers and stipends don’t always cover the total cost of attendance, which includes expenses like health care, housing, food, transportation. And with the recent news of the GOP-backed tax bill, many graduate students are scrambling to find ways to afford their education. Professionals around the country have seen a decline in their income and are looking to creative ways to supplement their incomes.  Below I explain three streams of income that take into account the busy schedule and the skills that graduate students bring.

Reward Apps

Applications that offer rewards in the form of points or gift cards are probably some of the most well-known forms of passive income. These are usually connected to things you do every day. One I’ve recently found to be useful is drop, in which you earn cash rewards at places you shop regularly like Target, Walgreens, Lyft, and others. You can only add five continuous offers (or brands) to link to your card and at this time are unable to change the offers, so I advise selecting brands that you regularly use to get the most points. Every so often, drop will send you brands that it recommends based on your user data but these usually have a deadline. One thing I love is that you earn points fairly quickly. For instance, if you spend $15.94 on a Lyft, you’d earn 159 points.  You can redeem your points or continue to save the for bigger cash rewards. Frugal For Less names 10 passive income apps that could help you earn up to $1,293 a year.

Freelance Work

If you can help with resumes or cover letters, have design skills, or have a knack for social media marketing, turn your talents into profit. Additionally, many other students would be willing to get help with notes, studying, or editing papers. While this is more hands on than rewards apps or other forms of passive income, you can tailor freelance work to fit your schedule. Most freelance work is paid by the project or word (for writing) rather than by the hour. While taking a leave of absence from my studies, I began to do freelance work, which required minimal funding to start. I already had a website that I used to share my artwork and created new tabs with services, skills, and projects I had completed. Work I’ve done includes commissioned art pieces, social media management, logos, and white pages. I set my own hours and usually spend 2-6 hours a week making upwards of an extra $200. Sites like Upwork can help you land gigs, however the contractor can determine the price which be could as little as $5 for 600 - 1,000 word blog posts. I recommend getting a deposit before doing any work and set terms and conditions, as this will save you in the long run. Don’t forget to add these experiences and skills to your resume and CV as well!

Barter and Build Community

While this approach does not necessarily involve money, sharing resources with others can be another way to save money and stretch your budget further. For instance, a friend and I exchanged services to help one another out when we were both financially strapped for cash. I wrote an about me section for her website and she was able to provide mental health services. This beneficial arrangement helped us grow as young business people and build community.  We were also able to use the experiences as customer testimonials to help build our portfolios. Not only has this helped us gain more clients, we’ve built a community through sharing resources and can direct clients to one another for our services. Ana Guarnera’s blog post on collaborative lesson planning can be used similarly to work with others and build a network of resources. This form of networking could lead to other opportunities as well. For instance, several friends and I share each other’s freelance writing work on our social media which has lead to several professors reaching out to me about paid speaking engagements and writing opportunities.

None of the ideas I have suggested will make you a millionaire, especially while you’re working through your graduate program. Some may require a bit of work to begin gaining a sizable income, but they have been most helpful to me. I suggest rereading “Embracing the Frugal Life”, by GradHacker Emily Roberts, when considering whether to integrate a additional income into your budget. Creating a balanced money formula can help you make decisions about your budget and determine what stream of income might be most beneficial. Other ways to supplement your income include renting out a room in your apartment through sites like Airbnb.

What are some of the ways you have supplemented your income?

[Image by Flickr user Mike Lawrence through Creative Commons License.]


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