The first important step in affording the life of a graduate student is finding funding in the form of fellowship or an assistantship! My personal experience with finding funding for my Master’s and Doctoral degrees was not the usual case. Going into my Master’s program, my tuition was covered because I was a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, but that fellowship did not come with an assistantship, so I found a part time job so that I could pay for my books, apartment, and bills. In the meantime, I strategically BUGGED my department chair until I was awarded an assistantship for the second semester of my program. For my doctoral program, it was a tad bit more stressful. I did not receive any funding for the first year of my program and I was devastated! But, again, I was determined and BUGGED the department chair enough over the summer to be awarded a teaching assistantship (which I received the weekend before school started right after I returned from a cruise lol) for my first year. After constant visits to the department chair, at the beginning of the second semester, I was awarded a full fellowship for my degree for the next two year
Most graduate students enter their graduate programs with fellowships and assistantships already in place. But my story is for those that are not as fortunate. My ultimate advice would be to stay encouraged and determined. Strategically BUG the necessary people in your department until you receive the funding you deserve! Realistically, you may have to get a part-time job like I did in the beginning, but if you keep working hard, you will show them that you are deserving of being funded, even if it comes later than sooner.