Posted by: thediygeochemist | February 13, 2011

some savings would be nice, about now…

My stipend is not the world’s highest, in fact it was one of the lowest I was offered when I was applying to grad schools. Still, it is enough for a grad student to live on–if that grad student is single.

Of course I started grad school with the intention that my husband’s investment activities (and our savings) could make up the shortfall between my income and what we needed to live on. But now we’re getting divorced; we’re at the point where the papers have been filed but none of the assets have been divvied up yet. And all of the investment accounts etc. are in his name, completely under his control.

My sisters gave me some money when I left but this was all spent on things like furniture, linens, kitchen items, and so forth. (I brought some stuff with me, but UnlikelyDad still has probably 97% of our material possessions.)

This makes things a little hard for me.

If I had to support just myself on my salary I would not have a problem. But even though my boys live with their dad most of the time, they do come over and visit sometimes; thus, I have to have a 2-bedroom apartment rather than a 1-bedroom or studio. And I can’t have a roommate. I have to buy food for when the boys visit. (4 boys, 3 of whom are teens!)

Basically, what it comes down to is this: I make exactly enough money to scrape through the month. But if I need to buy anything other than necessities, it has to come out of savings. Savings which are non-existent right now. So if, say, the CV axle on my car breaks…or I have to pay my lawyer or the mediator…or, better yet, if I have to do all three of these things within a 2-week span…I am screwed.

Hello, credit cards. You are my friends. And boy, do I ever hope that we can get the assets divvied (and my fair share IN MY BANK ACCOUNT) soon.

Moral of the story: If you’re a single mom going into grad school, make sure you have at least some savings. The more the better. Because your stipend probably won’t be enough, in and of itself.


  1. I just went back to school after working for about a decade and I began reading your blog maybe about a year ago…you gave me some helpful advice before on gradcafe too. Anyway, I just read your latest post and wanted to send my sympathies. I just broke up with my boyfriend and have been feeling back all weekend, I can’t imagine how it must feel to go through a divorce while already dealing with all the stresses of graduate school. Thank you for sharing your life with others on your blog though… Sometimes, it can make a big difference.

    Be well,
    Alien Citizen

  2. I hope a lot of people read this and realize stipends don’t cover everything especially emergencies. I’m lucky being a hard science our stipend is one of the highest and I barely get by. I would recommend student loans over credit cards, lower interest and you don’t have to pay it back till after your done. I’m sorry that your original situation changed. I couldn’t imagine having to deal with what your dealing with while going to graduate school.

  3. Barry has a really, really good point: subsidized loans are available for grad students. The interest rate is about 5-6% and doesn’t start accruing until after you graduate. Might be a good idea to go ahead and talk to your school’s financial aid office?

    I hope you get on a fellowship this spring and they pay you tons of money.

    • Theoretically I will get a decent chunk of change when the divorce is final, so I hate to take out long-term loans. I’ve asked some family members for short-term loans, and hopefully one of them will come through. They’re probably only earning 1% (if that) investing in CDs so I’m sure any interest rate above 2% would sound good to them.

      Also, I made the stupid mistake of filing for divorce around the time that fellowships were due, so I only got one application in–for the EPA STAR, which isn’t exactly the best-paying fellowship. It is more than I get now, however.

  4. I’m single and still pretty much a baby and I still feel like what I get paid from grad school is very minimum and I just barely get by and wow, I admire you so much for actually dealing with all this! With kids and all!

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