Life is funny, well, sometimes it is other times it is crazy, busy, or boring. We'll stick with funny for right now.
As a Bostonian I have been privileged if not blessed with the opportunity to have gone to one of the best universities in the country.
Just because you live in Boston it doesn't mean that it is going to be any easier/cheaper/fun going to grad school. Sure you have the home field advantage, and that does offer a little bit of help in the terms of housing. For me, that meant buying my first house, my grandmother's former home, and starting there.
But in general going to grad school is different that just going to university. It is more like a job, and you need to better mean business.
That is why I wanted to put some thoughts* together today.
*Some of them are obvious.
- You can live with roommates
- As I said before, as well as elsewhere, my living situation was covered. And for that I am truly thankful. But I went to school with plenty of transplants, some from NYC and they almost all went the roommate route. The reason is, that $1000 a month worth of rent is cheap. But not when you are a starving graduate student, and not when your work situation is divided with school. That said, if you have one or two roommates, half or a third of that is a lot more doable.
- This is sensible, but I think that I should say it anyway, don't try and rent in the most expensive neighborhoods. It is just out of most people's pocket book and it won't do much for you, other than saying that you live/d there.
- Boston is great, you don't need to own a car.
- Get a support network setup. I actually thought it was a great idea and started a small one. You basically provide people with an information network. If so-and-so is looking for a place to stay, needs help, or anything else you keep your ears open. When you hear something that would/could be useful you pass the information along. I had business cards printed up, and had a small group. The cards weren't expensive and didn't have a hard time finding some that worked with our group's style. When somebody new came in you gave them a card and they copied the information and then they passed it on. Like that I didn't need to have a lot printed. But I think it cost about $20 for 100 quality cards, which is marginally cheaper than a trip to one of the clubs/lounges.
- This is one of the few cities in the US where, owning a car is really not needed. And in a lot of cases it is more hassle than anything because finding a parking space can take you a long time. That translates to expensive and a waste of time.
- My suggestion, depending on where you end up living is to ride a bicycle. This is a good option, at least as long as the weather permits. It is even cheaper than the T and you don't need to wait to catch a ride, you can just go wherever you want, where ever you want.
- I love to cook, it is in my blood, so this wasn't hard for me. But whatever you do, make sure that you prepare most/all of your own food. I knew one of the other grad students would just go to the Jamaican restaurants order a bunch of food that cost less than $10 and then eat it for a couple of days. Seriously though, this was way more expensive than actually making your own food. It was a pennies to the dollar sort of thing, and I don't even hold back that much when I shopped for groceries. I made clam chowder a couple of times a month during the winter and then just ate that for lunch. Things like that.
- Of course I did do comparison shopping, I just didn't limit myself to basic groceries only. I avoided Whole Foods, we'll label them bad for the average grad student, and say in contrast Market Basket is good. That should give you an idea of how to balance things.
- I had a house, and the next is good no matter what, but you should cut down on electricity usage.
- For my cellphone coverage I choose to use MVNO services, Ting for instance. I knew people going with more expensive operators but it didn't matter in the end. Just that I saved and they didn't.
- I found that it was remarkably easy to negotiate with the cable company for better rates on my Internet connection. You may make other experiences, but I was happy.
- If you aren't too picky you can easily buy most things used. I saved thousands a year getting the things that I needed used. It is achievable around here since you can get equally good stuff for much less.
Many of these things can be done on automatic, especially once you get used to the way things work. Take cooking for example, once you get used to cooking for yourself you will be able to improve and then you can cook for guests. Cooking feels like work when you don't know how to do it. Once you have gotten past that it really isn't that hard.
If you have the aversion to roommates, and I knew some graduate students who really hated having roommates, you should find a solution that is comfortable and affordable. Rent gets cheaper the further away you get, but that means your cost of transportation goes up, but it cost them in transportation expenses; they did manage to finish and not go broke though so I guess that there is a way to swing this. Just, not one that is that comfortable.
I think that this is about it for ideas. I could probably make other suggestions if I knew what type of questions you had. If you want them don't hesitate to message me on Facebook.