27 and a PhD

Home » Grad school » Postdoc salary and how to live on/with it – Part 1

Postdoc salary and how to live on/with it – Part 1

Welcome to my blog!

Hello there, awesome reader. My name is Dr. 27. I'm older than that now, but I'm staying faithful to the origins of the blog.

This blog started 2 months before completing my PhD in a pretty southern university back in 2009. It was a way to practice my writing and take a break from all things thesis. My PhD is in a branch of structural biology where I studied some rather impressive stuff.

After completing the degree, I packed my life of 6 years in 3 days and moved to Canada to do a postdoc in a completely different field. Two years later, and after attending a lot of seminars, workshops and doing some much-needed soul-searching, I ended up getting out and looking for an alternative path to academia and industry.

The blog chronicles my mishaps, ideas, musings and tips on entering, staying and finishing grad school. It also talks about some (or a lot) of personal stuff. For a while, the blog became a place to talk about the frustrations of not knowing what to do after PhD. I wanted to explore alternatives to the traditional paths of research (academia, industry and goverment) whilst going back to my field of training (if at all possible). Eventually a job materialized. Follow my quest as I navigate the waters of being a staff scientist at a core facility.

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So, this Friday I get my first official postdoc check …. YES!!! Well, I shouldn’t celebrate, being that I will need to spend most of it to a) buy health coverage, b) get furniture to replace the pieces I left/sold prior to relocating, and c) pay some of the more than 20k I ran in debt while being in grad school.

I also need to take into account that out of my >3000 CADs stipend (Canadian dollars), I must save ~25% for when tax season comes. I’d love to pay my 23,793$ in debt in no time, but for the first few months I’m here I’d also like to save some money for (hopefully) next year’s vacay with the boyfriend and his parents. I also need a computer, possibly a laptop since my 2004 Dell is in good condition, but has no monitor and runs a bit slow (plus I don’t have a personal computer at work, I used to have one when I was in grad school).

Let’s break down the monthly costs of living as a postdoc and sharing an apartment with the BF:

  1. Rent is 985$, which we break in half.
  2. Cell phone – ~50$
  3. Car insurance – for 2 people 230$ (I know it’s a lot, I didn’t shop around).
  4. Card payments: Card 1- owe 14100, with a minimum payment of 350/mo. Card 2- owe 4600, with a min. payment of 130$. Card 3-owe 4090, with a min. payment of 95$ and a 4th account, for which I owe 930$.

This does not take into account gas expenses for the car, and any maintanance fees/charges associated with keeping your car running and functioning well. It also does not take into account that I rarely cook, since I’m either too tired, or lazy, or just plain too stressed.

I’d love to knock out 2 of those debts by the end of this year. It’s a promise I made to myself prior to starting in my new lab. I hate living in debt, especially because I had no real reason to get in debt, other than wanting to live the american dream and trying to fill in gaps and things in my life with nothing other than stuff.

I knocked a couple of smaller debts prior to moving, but I’d love to be able to stop feeling guilty everytime I cannot afford something I like, yet put it on the card because I “need it/deserve it). I’d love to stop feeling guilty about not telling the BF I’m in debt, because of my own irresponsibility. I’d love to purchase the things I need right out my pocket, without using a credit card. That’s my true dream. Not to have a fancy lab and tons of expensive equipment. My dream is to live debt free, to enjoy life and to stop worrying about money …. live as I used to back in college.

So you see, because of stupid mistakes I’ve made I cannot truly enjoy the fruits of my labour and sacrifice now that I have my first real job. Instead, because I was too stupid and consumed by capitalism, a weak mentality and laziness, I robbed myself of that chance. And I’ll be dammed if I let this happen again, and if I don’t warn future grad students and postdocs about the importance of planning and staying out of debt.

My dears, save your money. I know it’s hard, especially when you have a truly hellish day/week/month/year in the lab or at school. But like Dave Ramsey says, you need to live below your means, so you can live like no one else because you’ve done things like no one else (referring to saving money and spending it wisely).

My goal for now is to keep paying my debts, use the debt snowball method and in ~ 2 years finally knock this debt off. I don’t know if I’ll have the same job next year (I hope I do a great job in the lab and the reviews go well); but if not, I’d love to reduce my debt significantly, so that I can live like no one else.

I’ll write more about this later. And also, about any and all progress I make towards erasing my debts.

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9 Comments

  1. […] October 11, 2009 Since I get a laugh or two when I find out how people have landed in my blog …. I’ve decided to write a few posts inspired by such search terms. The first of such posts was on my salary, which I have no trouble talking about as you can see. […]

  2. […] – got my first paycheck as a postoc …. a-w-e-s-o-m-e. Oh, the boyfriend goes on a school trip and while I […]

  3. […] debt … especially because unless you get a kick ass fellowship, or get a postdoc in industry, you won’t start earning tons of money right away … or […]

  4. […] grad student, or prof) can make to “live comfortably.” I’m sure that if they read my post on postdoc living expenses they would disagree, though I’m the only one responsible for this as I, myself, moi, got into […]

  5. […] You’ve gotten out of school without having a few months to breathe and take it all in because bills had to be paid. Or maybe you thought that job interview at Big Name University (or even community college X) was […]

  6. […] 6 years ago I wrote this. I’d just gotten my first paycheck as a postdoc and ran down a list of where money was being […]

  7. I love reading through an article that will make people think.
    Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

  8. […] are in debt. Hell, there are lots of people from all other backgrounds in debt too. If you’ve been reading here for sometime now, you’ll know that I have talked about money issues, stupid decisions I made, […]

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