This post hits home for me (*gets on soap box*). In America we have a major problem with the Joneses. They (the Joneses) buy something, and then something within our nature compels us to try and keep up with them. Even though as a family their net income is five times our gross income. That doesn’t matter, if we don’t keep up with them we feel less than, unimportant, or incomplete. It is truly a sad state of affairs, when our self worth is attached to what we own or what we can (or cannot purchase). But do not despair, there is hope! (*steps off soap box*)
As a grad student you can live within your means provided you plan ahead. The easiest thing to do is to create a budget. This is fairly easy to do. I would recommend using Mint.com. The software enables you to track your spending and analyze your purchasing habits. But making a budget is not enough, you must follow it.
In addition to using mint, I also keep a simple ledger where I personally track my spending each month. I use an excel spreadsheet to balance my checkbook. It’s not perfect but it helps me stay within my means. And believe it or not because I have balanced my budget in grad school, I have not had to take out any loans. I will graduate with my PhD without borrowing any money. You can do it too. All you have to do is plan.
The FTOD is make a budget and follow it. Simple to say but hard to do, but worth it in the end. Be well friends!