Going Back To School is Different the Second Time Around

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graduate school, college, saving for college, financial planning, cutting expenses

The following post is by MPFJ staff writer Kristina. Kristina has over a decade of experience working in personal finance at a bank branch. She helps people plan their financial lives from college to retirement.  You can follow her on Twitter @TKBlogs.

The decision to return to school in my 30s was a decision that I took almost six months to make because returning to school affects so many other aspects of our lives.  Going back to school, attending classes, studying, and working on assignments all require changes to be made in other aspects of our lives. The decision to return to school and make the commitment to attend college for another four years definitely requires a lot of dedication both personally and financially.

The decision to go back to school

I made the decision to return to school because after working as a financial advisor in a bank branch for over a decade, I decided that I wanted to make a career change. I wanted to be an author. I am currently working on a self motivational book titled, “A Better You: We Don’t Have to Be the Best, But we Can All Be Better.” I am also in the early stages of writing a book called, “Cash for College,” which teaches teenagers the importance of financial responsibility so that they can get out of high school and get into college without getting in to an uncontrollable amount of debt.

Until the day that my dream of becoming a published author comes true, I want to stay in personal finance and pursue a career in written communications. My twelve years of experience in the business world and my passion for writing are not enough to get hired – employers want to see a diploma. Therefore, I decided to return to school at the age of 32.

It is safe to say that making the decision to return to school in our late 20s or early 30s as a mature student and experienced professional is a very different experience from attending school as a freshman in our late teens and early 20s.  As a mature student, we know what to expect from a typical day on a college campus, we know how to manage our time, and we know how to prioritize our tasks. 

Going back to school affects your finances

Returning to school in our 30s is a decision that affects many aspects of our lives.  Attending classes takes time away from our home life, and it also takes focus away from our work life.  However, the biggest aspect of our lives that is affected by the decision to return to school is our personal finances. The question that I asked myself before sending in my application was, “Can I honestly afford to go back to school?”

If you are like the majority of people, then you probably live on a fixed budget because you have a fixed income.  The decision to return to school has a large impact on our personal finances because we have now made the commitment to pay tuition, buy our books, and buy snacks/drinks on campus.  I know that I can’t afford to maintain all of my little luxuries, such as dining out regularly or taking unplanned vacations, and afford to go back to school at the same time. I had to set my financial priorities and make adjustments to my monthly living expenses in order to be able to afford to go back to school. 

I sat down (with my boyfriend) and went over our personal spending for the last three months; we made the decision to cut out most of our unnecessary costs.  We stopped two magazine subscriptions, we decided to spend more money at the grocery store and spend less money in restaurants, and we also cut down our monthly utility bills such as eliminating channels from our monthly satellite package.

When you are a freshman or a student in college who is working towards your first degree, you are probably already living on a fixed budget, and you don’t have to make cuts in your lifestyle or spending, but as a professional who is living on a fixed budget and who makes the decision to return to school you will be forced to make cuts in your monthly expenses and changes in your current lifestyle.

We all make sacrifices in order to achieve our personal goals, but cutting monthly expenses when returning to school can definitely be a lifestyle adjustment. The key to making sacrifices is to cut back, but not necessarily cut out.  I have cut back my monthly savings, but I have not cut out my savings all together.  I have cut back my monthly subscribed satellite channels, but I have not cut out my monthly satellite service all together.

How about you all? What is your dream and what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve it?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/lollyknit/336511240/sizes/o/in/photostream/


    1. Your story sounds almost like mine. I went back to college to finish up at being away for almost 10 yrs. With having a family, full time job and other obligations school didn't seem realistic. I really even didn't want to go but everyone kept saying you need to get your degree. I was working in the financial industry for what at the time was Wachovia.

      There were a lot of sacrifices that had to be made starting with devoting more time to school, cutting spending, and finding a way to balance an already hectic life with the additional to a full load of classes.
      In the end I finished and it worked out but man students loans rack up quick.

      My current dream is to start a start up while working full time. I hope to one day make enough money online to be able to move abroad and still have a good chuck of money coming in. I believe everyone should follow their dreams but its easier said then done.
      My recent post ISH Happens Now Move On

    2. My dream was to try living in another city before settling down, so my fiance and I decided to pick up our lives and move from New York to San Francisco. Since San Francisco is even more expensive than New York, we've had to cut out a lot of things we were used to – such as dining out, traveling often, having less money to put towards planning our wedding, and so forth. But we both were able to get jobs we love and start this new adventure together, so the sacrifices have been well worth it!
      My recent post How to Get Your Finances in Order As a Couple

    3. Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence says:

      That is a very brave move, wish you all the best! My dream was to travel the world for a year so during my last year of college, I stopped going out, buying clothes, made food from scratch and everything else to save every spare penny. I was so motivated by my dream that the sacrifice didn't feel like one.

    4. I absolutely love my decision to return to school. I am tired and I am making sacrifices but it's all about setting priorities. My priority is to go back to school, graduate and find my dream job so for the time being everything else takes a back seat.
      Thanks for readiing.
      My recent post Money Advice from 2 Broke Girls

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