Wednesday, November 30, 2011

8 stupid things I've done with money

That's right, CJ. You paid money to see me,
The Big Aristotle. (credit: carltonjordan.com)
Adam is blogging about higher education and he talks a little about his personal story with student loan debt. Having been there before, I thought I'd lighten the mood and list a few stupid things I've done with money around the time I was a grad student:
  1. Paid for subscriptions to J. Org. Chem. and Org. Lett. as a recently graduated B.S. chemist. Didn't read them much. (OK, this was long before online access was widespread.) 
  2. Weekend trip to Boston to see an old friend. It was cool and all, but the neatest thing I saw was Shaq's head floating above a crowd of onlookers. Did I mention I hate the Lakers? 
  3. Blasted through my cell phone minutes and paid $200+ in overage fees. Ooops. 
  4. Missed credit card payments early on -- you know, that's a really good way to get your APR raised on you. 
  5. Paid for many, many, many forgettable restaurant meals by putting them on my credit card balance. 
  6. Bought many intended-to-be-read-but-never-quite books on my credit card balance. 
  7. Not having a roommate early on in grad school. Dude, cut your rent in half? 
  8. Speeding tickets. Short-term expensive, long-term expensive. 
That said, after I graduated, a lot of things changed about life and it wasn't very hard to rebalance my/our lives to pay off the student loans that I took out to cover my dumb credit card debt. We were very fortunate in this regard -- a bad illness or accident could have made things much, much worse. 

Undergrads, grad students and postdocs, be careful with your money. 

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for the links, and thanks for commiserating with me :)

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  2. Until a lab-mate told me he needed to go pick up his check, I didn't even know you could get a student loan in graduate school.

    No regrets living on two graduate student stipends, although it sure did get thin towards the end of every month...

    (My lab-mate financed his engagement ring with student loans...)

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  3. It is also important to be conservative with your funds even when you start getting real full time employment pay. You never know when a massive layoff may arise. One failure in Phase II or III, and your company will be looking to cut costs fast. Suzie Orman suggests a 6month emergency fund. I strongly suggest a bigger emergency fund for those who love chemistry.

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  4. Crazy idea I've heard: you should have as many months of expenses in your emergency fund as points in the unemployment rate.

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  5. I decided the luxury of living by myself during grad school was worth it. I also got by on the teaching/research stipends alone, but man was I running on fumes by the time I graduated. I had to take a small loan from my family to live on until the reimbursements starting to come in from my relocation package.

    Another dumb thing I did was use a debit card all through college and grad school. I thought that and paying rent/utilities would build my credit rating. Wrong. So once I did apply for a real credit card through my bank, I was rejected. Couldn't afford to set aside $2k for a secured card, so I had to ask someone in the family to co-sign for the card. Man was that embarrassing - the bank rep looked at me like I had three heads when she learned I was in my late 20s without any credit at all.

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