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How much does a person need to be able to live on his own without any support?

  1. Jun 12, 2012 #1
    I've been thinking about it once I graduate from college and going to support myself in grad school. That means no financial support from family and owning no property of my own (no car, no bike, no house which means I will rent, etc).

    So how much would a person need? I heard most grad schools will waiver my tuition, but do they actually pay the students so they won't live on the streets?

    I am a person who doesn't buy clothes occasionally, I eat plain meals (steaming fish and rice, don't judge...), I don't own a car so i won't have to pay for gas, and overall I think i am pretty cheap.

    I guess this also depends on where I plan to go to grad school (if the area is expensive or not).

    What net income do people need to survive? Is $10,000 enough? Or am I being naive? Other grad students or people living on their own, please share your wisdom with me. I thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 12, 2012 #2
    How are we supposed to answer this question if we don't even know where you are located? Cost of living is commensurate with location.
  4. Jun 12, 2012 #3
    That was one of my worries. That's why I would like a range if possible.

  5. Jun 12, 2012 #4
    I'd say an absolute minimum would be $500/month.

    For food, $5/day is doable.

    For rent, you can find as cheap as $200.

    Throw in cell phone, and whatever else you need, and you'll easily hit $500.

    Realistically, though, I'd say $800 minimum.
  6. Jun 12, 2012 #5


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    Almost all graduate schools will support you enough to live in the area of the school. It is not a particularly glamorous lifestyle, but you will have enough to put a roof over your head and hopefully eat more than ramen. For reference, the stipends I was offered for graduate school ranged from 17-35k/yr. Perhaps take a few minutes and draw up a simple budget based on what you use/buy right now and just see how much it comes to.
  7. Jun 12, 2012 #6


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    $5/day for food is way too little, unless one is planning to be malnourished.

    More like 15/day min. so that one can buy fresh fruit (apple or orange) and vegetables (tomato, carrot, spinach). A loaf of bread can last a week. If one can grow ones vegetables that helps to reduce what one buys.
  8. Jun 12, 2012 #7

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  9. Jun 12, 2012 #8


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    Years ago when I applied to grad schools and got their offers back, I ended up choosing Michigan which was the "best" school of the bunch. They also offered the largest stipend, which was probably influenced by the fact that off-campus student housing in Ann Arbor was relatively expensive. I did OK financially, nevertheless, because I always shared an apartment with someone: an engineering grad student the first two years, then another physics grad student for five years, then a bigger apartment with two other physics grad students and one of their girlfriends for the last year. I ate in restaurants only maybe two or three times a week. Also, I didn't own a car until my last year there, and got around in town mainly by bicycle. And no expensive girlfriends. :wink: I had enough extra money to visit my parents twice a year (bus or plane trips), and travel to Europe a couple of times (staying with relatives and friends and mostly youth hostels otherwise).
  10. Jun 12, 2012 #9
    Wow. Are all those years in Ann Arbor for grad school?

    In terms of the OP's question, sometimes you're better off financially in the long run if you get a car at the beginning. Housing around large universities could be VERY expensive due to the popular demand so if you have a car you can live at cheaper place that's further away.
  11. Jun 12, 2012 #10


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    Yeah, I spent eight years in Ann Arbor, but I finished my degree in seven. I stayed on for another year as a research assistant for the group that I did my dissertation with, plus another group, while I was looking for a "real job". They had enough extra work to keep me busy. I could have finished my dissertation at least six months earlier if I had hustled, but I wasn't in a hurry to leave Ann Arbor. It was a nice place to live, even if it was a bit expensive.

    As for a car, you have to evaluate the tradeoffs for yourself, for wherever you end up going to school. In my case, I don't think I would have saved enough money in rent by living further out, to make up for the extra cost of insurance, gas, repairs, and the fee for a spot in a university parking garage. Parking near U of M was and probably still is very tight. That last year, my parents gave me their second car (a 7-year-old VW Beetle) because they didn't need it any more, so at least I didn't have to deal with car payments. And my rent was lower that year because I was sharing an apartment with more people.
  12. Jun 13, 2012 #11
    It's not. Just supplement it with vitamins and you can do half that a day, or at least I can. And that's without dipping into the abyss of horrible food, that being ramen.

    I live in Austin, and I pay about 700/month for food, bills, and rent, and I live in a pretty nice neighborhood, run the a/c (a lot), go out to eat a lot, and only have one roommate. Austin is on the less expensive side for a large city, so take it from there.
  13. Jun 14, 2012 #12
    A new word into my vocabulary and now I know what to google@

    Thank you for answering this question in spite of the lack of information
  14. Jun 15, 2012 #13
    Not to be mean, but by the time you graduate with an undergraduate degree, one should know how much it costs to live on their own.
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