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Ask Dave

A Grad Student's Budget

Ilya is a graduate student. He receives $1,640 a month as a fellowship stipend. Ilya is struggling to complete the first Baby Step. Does Dave have any suggestions?

QUESTION: Ilya in Louisville is a 26-year-old graduate student getting his Ph.D. He has student loans and credit card debt, and he just graduated from Financial Peace University. He receives $1,640 a month as a fellowship stipend and plans to either do research or attend medical school. Ilya is struggling to complete the first Baby Step. Does Dave have any suggestions?

ANSWER: You’re not going to be working on the debt much until you finish this. If you can keep the debt at least stabilized ...

It sounds like you’ve got a real good plan. I like where you are and where you’re heading. Your first goal is minimum payments on everything, and quick as you can, get $1,000. You’re not allowed to work to earn any extra money, so your only hope is to cut your expenses further and further—as far as you can down to nothing. Get your $1,000 saved. A thousand dollars saved in your world is a lot of money. Once you do that, then begin to chip away at this credit card as you can. But basically, I would be content with not making a huge amount of progress during this three-year time.

I don’t worry about the tithe, but as an evangelical Christian, the tithe is off the top before you do anything. But I’m not worrying about it. I would do it, but it’s not a salvation issue, and God’s not waiting to bless you on that or anything along those lines. I have tithed off the top before I did anything for the vast majority of my life—as far as an adult goes—and I see good results from that. It’s a part of my spiritual walk, so I can’t recommend to you to not do it, but I don’t want to threaten you with it or something like that. I’m not legalistic about it. You’re asking for my recommendation. I would tithe.