Budget Made Easy!

Let’s face it: as a graduate student, you may live in one of the most quiet town ever. There is no traffic, no rush hour, but isolation comes with the calm: there is NO shop around. How do you buy clothes?
Start with making a shopping list: what/when/how much, because the type of clothes and the time buying them are both crucial to the price. General rule of bargain hunting applies: be aware of SALES seasons. For students willing to wear second-hand, it also means the end of the school-year: graduating students moving out and wanting to get rid of their stuffs. 
In addition:
  1. Car-owner: ask your neighbors/friends for mall direction. Also look for outlet malls. Outlet malls have slightly less updated collection, but at a much cheaper price than the regular malls. You should also search for the mall directories online for a sense of direction at the actual site.Another option, if you are willing to wear second-hand clothes, are consignment stores or vintage shops. Again, ask your local friends for details.
  2. No car: big malls are probably accessible by public transportation; however, online shopping is your best friend. Just be aware of the shipping cost: look for the total cost (price+tax+shipping+handling) instead of the list price. Also check for merchant’s credibility by Googling their names. Now it’s times for online shopping destinations. I think stylebakery compiles the best listing here: http://www.stylebakery.com/sweetsites/

    Some inexpensive clothes lines: Forever 21, H&M, Target, Walmart.

NOTE: Always search for coupons and deals before buying. Deals websites: 
Happy shopping!

You arrive at the airport, bravo! Pass all the procedures – another shout-out!- and now are ready for the great new adventure! But first, you need to arrive at the destination – the school. How? On a budget?

For those of us who are not lucky enough to have pick-ups, here are a few options:

  1.  Your School: do they provided group transportation? Many schools run orientation programs and pick up all new students if they arrive approximately on the same day. At least contact your administrator to see if it is an option.
  2. Public transportation? Big cities (NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, etc.) usually have extensive public transportation system: you can probably take a train/bus from the airport to your school. However, you should check the schedule on the city’s website to make sure that they cover your arrival time. You can also use general trip planner website to verify your route, such as Google Transit or HopStop.
  3.  Not a big city? No worries, try shuttle. These vehicles will pick up a few people at the same time, so the cost per person is usually lower than a taxi. The driver will also help you with the luggage. It is often a good idea to book them in advance, so that if you run a few minutes late, they will still wait. To reserve, Google “airport shuttle” + town name to get the phone number or website.
  4. Share a ride! Your classmates might be arriving at the same time: it is cost-effective to share a cab with them. However, it may take a lot of coordination between you all. So, if you go this route, make sure your schedules cooperate.

Eventually, if all the above options don’t work, you can always take a cab. But budget-conscious customers should always check online for the rates and names of reliable taxi companies. Though not common, drivers can try to rip you off at the airport, especially at odd hours. If possible, reserve a cab for a specific time: you will avoid the frustration of waiting in a long line.

Have a safe ride to school!

Do you love bananas?

Of course! Even if you don’t love pure banana, you must like some versions of it, for example, banana split ice cream, banana cookies, banana and Nutella crepes (yum!!!), etc.

I love bananas. Not only for their sweet and reliable taste, but also for the very fact that they are democratic, ehem, I mean, inexpensive. Bananas are one of the few fruits that pass the Washington test (read, less than $1/pound ;-)). Even apples and oranges are more expensive. And bananas, for the most part, are not grown in the U.S. They are imported. Isn’t it wonderful to see something that yummy, from that faraway, to become that accessible in the supermarket?

Like bananas, the majority of US graduate students are not homegrown. We come from all parts of the world, bringing in the best of our efforts to live and survive in the US. Sometimes we are taken for granted. It’s not easy to live in a new land. No matter how many orientations your school has given, living in the US is new and confusing. But I’d like to think of a banana when it comes to the hard time. Everyone can enjoy banana on a budget. What about us? Can we sail the American life like a banana?

I’m cost-conscious. Coming from a country where $1 means a sumptous meal, I’m always anxious of over-spending. I want to share with you my experience about living on a budget. I’m not an expert, but I do hope that what I’m sharing here will be useful to some people, especially the new coming. If you have any tips to share, please don’t hesitate to post them here or send them to me… All for the greater good!



December 2018
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