Tips for Grads: Being financially smart in and beyond grad school

By Khine Thant Su, PhD Student

Budgeting and financial planning are important skills for every graduate student. Even a simple monthly budget can help you keep track of expenses so you can worry less about finances on top of other stressors in your life. Here are some tips to help you manage your finances during and beyond graduate school:


Create a budget to become aware of how you spend and save, and if your spending aligns with your goals and values. Find a system that works for you: use pen and paper, a spreadsheet, or an app like Mint. If you need help understanding the basics of budgeting, check out the free financial education seminars offered by UW Credit Union.

Make a plan to pay off debt

GradSense contains excellent information about paying off student loans and protecting your credit score. Find out whether you qualify for federal income-driven repayment programs, and if they make sense for you. Consider different loan repayment options available to you, such as refinancing or asking your employer for help.

Think long term

Financial planning will remain important as you graduate and enter professional work. Knowing how to negotiate your starting salary, for example, is crucial for your professional trajectory since it influences raises, bonuses, and even retirement savings. To learn more about negotiation essentials, consider attending the upcoming workshop “Navigating Job Negotiations for Graduate Students.”

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.