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UK PhD Budget

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Introduction

So... It's come to that time where every Masters student must decide whether to continue down the ludicrous route of education or the luxurious route of industry. We'll find out which was the right route in the next few years, but of course I have chosen to do a PhD. My reasons for doing so are:

  1. Self-development (how far can I go?)
  2. Interest in the subject (it would help)
  3. Partially crazy (apparently you need to be!)

This does of course bring me to my first problem presented by this little idea - funding.

Initial Estimate

So we work out how much this little adventure will cost over a year - with as best estimates as we know.

This puts us an amount of ~£18,528. Oh dear.

Bare in mind, this is a very strict budget as it is! This doesn't take into consideration anything going wrong. For me, this will give me just two years of PhD using my savings and parent's money. Let's fix things...

Reducing Our Costs

Next we look to reduce the costs in the most drastic way possible.

Food

Okay, we can reduce this to £2 a day by doing the following:

  1. Buy food on mass. This reduces the costs slightly, but does mean that fresh food does need to be your core diet whilst you eat it.
  2. Cook on mass. Don;t just make small dinners - feel up containers and put them in the fridge. Don't eat lunch out, eat a variation of dinner for example.
  3. Buy the cheapest food possible, regardless of quality difference. Sorry, you'll need to buy the value/smart/rubbish food in order to get by. You really can't afford to be picky on this budget.

Some meals look very sad, I have to admit. The trick is to make a lot of what you want to eat in order to get the cost down. Want spaghetti and bolognese? Make tonnes!

There are another few tricks to get your money's worth when it comes to making the food:

  • Get your carbohydrates in - these are your energy givers. Pasta, potato, rice, all make good core sections to your meal. What you add to them can really transform their taste and texture.
  • If you're to buy meat, buy chicken. It's cheap and goes a long way. You get a lot of protein for your money.
  • Shop after 2000 at night, often things such as bread or sandwiches will be reduced to very low prices.
  • Almost out of date bread will freeze - the trick to bring it back is to Microwave it and then toast it. You honestly won't notice the difference from normal toast.

Tuition

Something not normally advertised is Universities that offer part-time PhDs. What you don't get is a desk, but your room and local library is mostly okay - after all, where do normal students go to revise? You'll need a laptop 100% to make this work. You have to walk around with your office.

Doing a part time PhD can reduce the costs to ~£2k.

Rent

Luckily, I was able to find a very cheap place close to the University for ~£70 a week. For that kind of money you need to be willing to take a few sacrifices - but with a lock on the door and some will power, anything is possible.

On a part-time PhD with no government funding and no job - the local council will support housing. If the housing is cheap enough (as mine is), the council will pay the full amount. This brings the price to zero.

Re-Evaluating

The following is the breakdown of the prices after the adjustments:

Now the price is down to £3,624 - which in theory should buy me four years - perhaps more.

Conclusion

Hopefully somebody will be able to take something useful from this experience - I wish my fellow students the best of luck in self-funding through such a difficult life decision.