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I am a 22 year old full-time graduate student making about $17,000/year from my three part-time jobs

EDIT: forgot my location in the title, I’m in upstate NY
If I were to write an R29-style header for this, I would say "Today: a 22 year old graduate student who makes $17,000/year and spends some of her money this week on bagels and laundry". I submitted a Money Diary this past March so I guess this is technically a follow-up, but my life looks very different now so I'd really consider them entirely separate.

Basic Information

  • Age: 22
  • Jobs: I’m a full time master’s student, meaning I'm in class 18 hours per week and doing homework for probably another 10 hours. I work about 25-35 (somewhat variable depending on the week) hours as a teaching assistant in my department, graduate research assistant at a center on campus, and COVID-19 test center staff.
  • Salary: Right now I think of my salary in school yeasummer terms. I only made $1,500 this past summer through school-funded grants since I had two unpaid internships (rip). My school year salary depends on the hours I work, but I’m expecting around $17,000 for 2020-2021, which includes hours at a part-time job I pick up at home over school breaks. The breakdown is $15/hour at the COVID center job and $18/hour for my TA and RA jobs.
  • Net Worth: Since I have zero investments, zero debt, and don't own property, I'm assuming this would just be the balance of my checking account- so right now about $4,000.
  • Yearly Tuition Cost: Around $39,000 per year for tuition + fees. I don't pay this much since I have a scholarship.
  • Student Loans Total: None as of now, depending on how many hours I get at work for the fall and how well I'm able to restrict my spending I’m anticipating needing about $10,000 for the Spring 2021 semester.
  • Scholarship: $8,000 per semester, $24,000 total for my grad degree. This comes out to just over 1/3 tuition every year.
  • Pronouns: She/hehers

Monthly Expenses

  • Rent: $1,300. This is my major non-tuition expense, and is unfortunately market rate for a shitty-to-mediocre 1B/1B apartment in the area surrounding my university. I signed my lease right before COVID hit and was regretting it because of the cost, but now knowing that I have my own private space away from people who might not be taking the pandemic as seriously makes me feel a bit better about spending so much.
  • Utilities: $0. Everything is included in my rent, thank god.
  • Parking: $95. Technically this is what I’m supposed to be paying, I’ve paid nothing so far and I’m not gonna be the one to start that conversation with my landlord! I never signed the separate parking lease so they have nothing to force me to pay, and they haven't kicked me out of my spot yet.
  • Renter’s Insurance: $9.08, through Lemonade. There has been a string of break-ins near my apartment, and I decided that this was a justifiable expense given the circumstances.
  • WiFi: $50, the cheapest plan available in my area (fuck you, Spectrum). I was going to share internet with others in my building, but since we’re all in Zoom class and I have several devices I figured it would be best to have my own.
  • Hulu/Spotify: $4.99 with the student discount. I pay this and share the Hulu account with my family.
  • ESPN+: $4.99, but I've had it on hold since April because I only use it to watch college hockey games which have been cancelled :(
  • Netflix/HBO/Disney+/Cable: $0, dad pays Netflix, mom pays HBO and cable, sister pays Disney+. I share with them. I mooch off of my mom's cable subscription by logging onto her Fios on my laptop and AirPlaying it to my TV. Not the greatest solution but it works?
  • Cell Phone: $0, my mom works for a telecom company that gives her a big discount and she covers the remainder of our family plan

Yearly Expenses

  • Amazon Prime: $56.00 with the student discount. I’ve already cancelled it so I won’t get billed again when the cycle is up because I don’t use it enough for it to make economic sense, and because Jeff Bezos is a POS.
  • NHL TV: $3.56 with student discount. This was so ridiculously cheap I thought it was fake when I signed up, but I love hockey and I’m so glad I can watch at least some games this way since my mom's cable package doesn't include NHL Network.
Additional R29 questions/education expenses context because this is a grad school diary and I thought it would make sense to answer these!
  • Was there an expectation for you to attend higher education? Did you participate in any form of higher education? If yes, how did you pay for it?
    • Yes. Both of my parents have bachelors and/or graduate degrees, so it was always more of a question of where my sister and I would go to college, not if. My parents made it clear to us both that there was money to pay for 8 semesters of undergrad at the college of our choice (though my sister went to private high school while I went to public, so she was given less money for college). I graduated early with my BS in 7 semesters, so both of my parents ended up paying together for my first semester of grad school and my father is paying for my second (current) semester (the cost of 7 semesters of undergrad + 2 semesters of graduate school with a scholarship = cost of 8 semesters of undergrad, aka the original agreement. I realize this is a bit confusing). I had a $10,000/year scholarship at my first school before I transferred, got zero financial aid for my final 5 semesters as an undergrad, and received a scholarship that will pay $24,000 over my three semesters as a graduate student. I will likely be taking out $10,000 in federal loans to cover my final semester of grad school this coming spring.
  • Growing up, what kind of conversations did you have about money? Did your parent/guardian(s) educate you about finances?
    • Kind of going off the last question- I had very few conversations about money with my parents growing up and it really didn’t start to come up as a topic until I began applying for college, which was also in the middle of their divorce. We struggled a lot filling out the financial aid paperwork due to their mid-divorce financial circumstances, and I ended up learning a lot about their individual and joint finances over the course of my college career since I was the only one who was actually authorized to go into the financial aid office and see both parent’s forms. Imagine trying to do a really important group project where two people in the group keep their work on the project secret from each other and use you as a proxy. It was frustrating and I probably should have qualified for at least a bit of aid, but neither me nor the financial aid people could figure out where we went wrong on the forms. I also didn’t really receive specific education from either of my parents about finances, but they tried to instill some basic values of saving and not spending money that you don’t have. I would say I’m more frugal than both of them, even relative to our very different salaries. They basically taught me nothing directly about credit/stocks/loans/home-buying though so I’m trying to teach myself.

Monday, September 7

7:45 AM I have an 8 AM nonprofit finance class this morning, but it’s online so I can sleep in super late. I wake up 15 minutes before class time, pour myself a cold brew that I make in my french press, throw on a sweatshirt over my pajamas and brush my hair before heading back to bed with my laptop for class. I’m able to keep my camera off for most of the zoom call, so it’s a relaxing way to start my week.
9:30 AM Another online class! This one requires cameras-on the whole time, so I leave my bed and go chill on my couch so I look slightly more presentable. In-class group work over Zoom is really just not the same- does anyone else hate team breakout rooms? Near the end of the lecture I start getting hungry, but realize I won't have time between the end of this class and the time I have to leave for campus to make food. I order a bagel for pickup at a cafe on the way to campus while the lecture finishes up. $3.08
10:45 AM Time to get ready for my first in-person class of the week. I throw on athletic shorts and a bra under the same pajama t-shirt and sweatshirt I was wearing earlier- yes, I’m a fashion icon. Grab my mask and I’m out the door, I pick up my pre-ordered bagel on the way and eat it while I walk. The class is okay, it's a quant modeling class which is way out of my comfort zone, so I'm glad that I'm able to take it in-person (at least until we inevitably get forced online by NY regulations).
1:15 PM I’m back in my apartment and heat up leftovers from last night’s dinner for lunch (cauliflower rice with roasted chickpeas, sweet potatoes, tofu, and a tahini garlic sauce) while listening to folklore. I think I've settled on august as my favorite song. Email my landlord about fixing a few things in my apartment that I've been trying to get him to sort out for literal weeks.
2:00 PM I have a planning meeting with the professor that I TA for. He’s super busy and bad at communication, so I’ve been handling the brunt of student questions so far. I made the mistake of letting the first-years add me to their class group chat, and they’ve been texting me at all hours. We talk about this and clarify what expectations should be for my TA position- he seems to want me to work 10-15 hours/week even though I was told 5-9 by the admin assistant who hired me. I can probably do 10-15, just not every week. We'll see.
2:30 PM The meeting transitions right into the class- I mostly just chill (camera on, unfortunately) listening to the lecture and taking attendance/marking participation, and nod sporadically when the professor makes reference to me. I won’t have many out-of-class responsibilities until grading starts, since I don’t have to run open office hours. After the class ends I work on organizing the course website and figuring out what the hell the prof is trying to do with the syllabus. Class hours and all prep/grading is billable time for TAs.
4:45 PM Realize that my fridge is pretty much empty except for a few random condiments and the rest of the leftovers that I had for lunch. I head out for a Wegman's run and buy enough for at least a week and a half- I used to go once a week, but with COVID I'm trying to spend less time in crowded grocery stores. I don't feel like cooking so I end up having some of the chana dal snacks and ice cream that I just got for dinner around 6:30. So healthy. $98.67, split out into food & home categories
7:30 PM Another online class! I hate night classes and strongly dislike online classes, so this seems like a recipe for disaster- however it's actually a really interesting course on inequality in education with a professor I think I'll really like, so hopefully it'll be worth it.
9:55 PM Class is over. 2 and a half hours is absolutely brutal for a nonstop Zoom meeting, especially at night and for my fifth class of the day. I shower and change into pajamas and catch the end of the Lightning-Islanders game. My favorite team and all of the teams I ended up bandwagoning are now out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so I'm trying to find a new one to root for- the game was high-scoring and fun to watch but I still don't like these teams.
Daily total: $101.75

Tuesday, September 8

9:30 AM I get to sleep in a bit today! I was supposed to have a shift at the COVID center starting at 7:30, but the university keeps changing the hours of the sites (it's a total disaster), so now my shift starts at 10:45. First thing I do when I wake up is send a quick thank-you text to my sister who's going to visit our mom- she broke her foot last week and her boyfriend (they live in the same town in separate houses) is being shitty and not helping her, so my sister is leaving college to go stay with her for a bit. I'm a few hours closer to home, but I have in-person work and class whereas my sister's school is totally online this semester. I have some scrambled eggs with spinach and cheese for breakfast before I leave the house.
10:15 AM I'm out of homemade cold brew and have a bit of time, so I drive to Dunkin to grab a coffee. I reload my rewards card to pay for it, and earn a free drink for my next visit! I'm from Massachusetts and the fact that I actually have to go out of my way to drive to Dunkin in New York makes me a lil sad. $10.00
10:45 AM Time for work- one of the blessings of the COVID job is free parking in high-demand lots (where the yearly parking cost would be about $900) on campus near the test sites, so I drive there straight from Dunkin. Luckily it's not too crazy of a shift, but I end up seated at a station next to this really weird coworker who keeps making wack comments about his personal life that are extremely inappropriate for the workplace. I make note of his name and plan to email my supervisor later, he's making me kind of uncomfortable and he's saying awkward sexual shit around people who are at the site to get tested.
1:00 PM Done with my shift so it's time for class! It's another quant class where I'm wayyy out of my comfort zone, I haven't taken econometrics in three years and it looks like I'll have to re-learn a lot of stuff in order to keep up. The professor seems good though, which will make a big difference since my last econometrics professor was terrible.
3:00 PM I pick up my car and head home, and immediately am bombarded with texts from my TA class- the readings haven't been posted correctly to the class website. Quickly fix that and put out a few other related fires. Trying to run an entirely-online class where lots of the students are participating asynchronously from another continent is a nightmare, I shoot an email to the professor about monitoring asynchronous course participation since we need to come up with a system for that ASAP.
4:00 PM Heat up the last of the leftover veggies and cauliflower rice from a few days ago, and settle in to catch up on miscellaneous work stuff. I draft an email to my supervisor about my coworker and have my mom look it over (with names redacted) since she works in HR. I'm going to wait to send it for at least a day so if he gets written up maybe he won't realize it's me that prompted it. I wash my bedsheets and towels in my building's coin-op washedryer. $3.00
9:00 PM My meal schedule has been way off today, with a super late lunch and dinner. I make this recipe, with a plant-based sausage added for protein. I eat 95% vegetarian and I'm making a conscious effort this year to eat vegetables multiple times a day.
1:15 AM After another few hours of scrolling through TikTok and finishing fixing the disaster of a website for my TA class, I head to bed.
Daily Total: $13.00

Wednesday, September 9

7:00 AM It's too early and I went to bed too late. The 8 AM online class I had on Monday is in-person on Wednesday, and I'm kind of regretting not signing up for the fully online version since it means I have to actually get ready in the morning. I drag myself out of bed and into the shower, and before I head out I order a coffee and a breakfast sandwich to pick up from Starbucks on my walk to campus. $7.34
9:30 AM Second class of the day, online. I'm realizing I don't really like this course and will probably try to find another one to replace it before the drop deadline. I find a quiet-ish courtyard on campus to go on Zoom, since all of the normal study spaces are closed. This is not gonna work once it gets really cold in upstate NY. While listening to the Zoom lecture, I see that my manager at my COVID job has scheduled me for a last-minute shift that conflicts with a class tomorrow- I email her and hope that she sees it in time. This job creates 8-hour shifts in the middle of the day with no easy option for partial hours, and then they wonder why they can't get their student employees on the schedule.
1:00 PM Head home after my third class of the day. I was distracted the whole time, trying to sort through TA and other work stuff (my shift got fixed at the COVID job, thank god) during the lecture, so I'll probably have to skim the slides again later. I chatted with a classmate in my cohort afterwards for a bit, and realize that that's the first time I've talked to someone outside of my family in a non-work capacity in over a week. Yikes. I make lunch (roasted asparagus and goat cheese pasta, are you sensing the "roasted veggie + pasta/rice + cheese" theme that makes up the majority of my meals?) and chill a bit before my TA class starts.
6:00 PM After finishing my TA class and working through some course readings, I make a kale salad with roasted chickpeas, sweet potatoes, goat cheese, and a tahini dressing for dinner. While I'm cooking dinner my dad calls, and I talk to him for about half an hour- we haven't talked for two weeks so I update him on a lot of stuff. My sister also texts and says that our mom gave her a lecture about how she needs to be nicer to the boyfriend- we both agree that we're not quite ready to go back to being pleasant to him yet, and would like to hear his reasoning and perhaps an apology for being so unhelpful that my sister had to drive four hours to do what he should have been doing all along.
10:00 PM I'm not having a great night, feeling quite depressed and socially isolated. I struggled socially as an undergrad and didn't really have any close friends, and now that the majority of my friends/acquaintances from undergrad have left and I haven't made any friends in my short time in pandemic-grad-school, I'm stuck by myself most of the time. It's really difficult to look out my window and see houses full of friends hanging out on their porch on a beautiful night and wishing I could have had that while knowing I never will. I end up going to bed early since I'm just tired and sad.
Daily Total: $7.34

Thursday, September 10

9:00 AM I wake up feeling slightly better than last night, but still feel a bit worn out. My sister texts that my mom now needs to be in a cast for 6 weeks. Hopefully the boyfriend can get his shit together. I make a breakfast sandwich with eggs, cheese, and spinach. I hang around my apartment for a while since work doesn't start until 11:45.
11:30 AM On my way to work, I stop and grab a coffee at a cafe ($4.16) and then go to 7/11 to pick up a notebook for class and a pack of batteries that I need for my string lights ($14.56).
1:15 PM After spending an hour and a half at work, I take my break in order to go to class. I'm supposed to go in-person, but I can't make it across campus fast enough and end up just going to the Zoom session. I am going to need to do some serious studying for this class, stats and econometrics is like another language to me.
2:45 PM Class is over and I'm back to work. There's a nonstop stream of students and staff coming to get tested, I personally go through at least 100 people over the course of three hours. Near the end of my shift, my coworker (the same one I'm reporting, actually) checks his email and finds out that he's been given a $3/hour raise and is now benefits-eligible. I immediately race to my phone, but there's no email. Everyone tries to figure out who qualified for the raise, and we come to the conclusion that student workers didn't get it. I might reach out to my supervisor about that, seems kind of ridiculous given that we do the exact same job. I don't need benefits and probably don't qualify anyways but the raise would be awesome.
7:00 PM I get home from work and eat some of the leftover kale salad, lentil chips and a homemade za'atar goat cheese dip, and an apple with peanut butter. I'm so hungry since I haven't eaten since the egg sandwich at 9 AM.
11:00 PM I re-watch the two econometrics lectures from this week– a huge perk of Zoom class is recorded lectures– and try to take more detailed notes and go through the motions of the coding myself. I still don't really get it, and feel pretty dumb listening to the intelligent questions that my classmates (half of whom are undergrads) are asking. Math in all forms has been a weak point for me since middle school, but I'm trying to power through so I can enter the workforce with at least some quant skills.
Daily Total: $18.72

Friday, September 11

9:00 AM Wake up and scroll through my social media for a bit, and have the rest of the kale salad for breakfast. Not really a traditional breakfast but I don't feel like cooking anything. I have my orientation for my research job this morning, and I think it's going to be a great experience! The two other grad researchers are both students in my program, so it'll be nice to get to know some more people. My official start date is next week, though I'm being paid for training. Once I'm done on that Zoom call, I head to work at the COVID center at 11.
3:00 PM I finally get my lunch break- there's not much open, so I'm limited to the one cafe near my work site. I pick up a bagel and a coffee, and the women who work there give me free coffee add-ons (oat milk and vanilla syrup) since they recognize me after I did their COVID tests in the morning. I love the dining workers on my campus. I have some extra dining dollars from last semester that rolled over due to COVID, so I use the last of those and pay the balance with my debit card. $1.06, remainder was pre-paid from last spring
7:00 PM Finally home- I decide to clean my apartment for a bit before showering, and I'm disgusted by how dirty it got. I'm a huge clean freak and this apartment isn't super well-kept (thank you college town slumlords!) and has a lot of cobwebs/dirty areas, so it causes basically a constant undercurrent of anxiety. I've recently been thinking a lot about my old apartment, which was newly renovated and a 2-bedroom which would have cost me $1,000/month for my share this year. My desire to live alone and be in the area where I thought I could best make a last-ditch effort at meeting people and making friends won out over my love for that apartment, and I'm pretty seriously regretting it at this point given the whole COVID situation. Depending on how the spring semester shakes out, I might try to sublet it and find a different place.
9:00 PM I'm still feeling a bit anxious and unsettled after cleaning, and don't really have the mental fortitude to cook tonight. A $5 coupon from GrubHub arrives in my email inbox like they can read my mind. I order paneer makhani to pick up from the Indian restaurant a block away from my apartment, and try to turn it into a positive thought about the apartment itself- my old place wasn't walking distance from Indian food, this one is. $10.07
11:00 PM My mom sends me a link to a video that she found of my school's 9/11 memorial dedication. We lost 21 alums that day, and a permanent memorial was dedicated a few years ago. I've gone a few times to see it in person and met some of the families through my previous jobs, so I spend some time watching the video. I was just shy of 4 years old on 9/11 so I obviously don't remember much, but going to a school with a large number of students from NYC almost guarantees that everyone knows someone with a personal connection. It always feels a bit solemn around here on the day.
4:00 AM I couldn't sleep. Finally pass out sometime between 3:30 and 4.
Daily Total: $11.13

Saturday, September 12

9:00 AM Drag myself out of bed and make scrambled eggs with cheese, and some cold brew that's been sitting in the french press for several days with the coffee grinds- this is basically liquid cocaine, it's extremely caffeinated but I'll need that today. I leave my apartment around 9:40 and start walking to work.
10:00 AM Today isn't too crazy, which is unexpected given that the site I'm working at is usually one of the more crowded ones. The shift supervisor today is the sweetest woman, she comes around and takes our individual coffee orders and brings them to us at our stations. I take quick breaks whenever I can to run to the corner to slip my mask off and take a drink. I chat to some of the other student workers when we have longer periods of down time, they seem really nice. I might try to work this site more often and get to know them better.
3:00 I drew the short straw once again and got the late lunch break- nothing's open on campus since it's Saturday, so I run back to the cafe near my apartment and order a turkey sandwich. I know I need to start bringing my own lunch, but we have no microwaves and the only fridges we have at the sites are for test tubes and ice packs so that makes it a bit difficult. $9.08
6:00 PM Done at work and headed home- I make a roasted cauliflower pasta that uses the rest of the spinach as well, and save some for tomorrow's dinner.
10:00 PM Lounging around in bed and watching the Vegas-Dallas game. I think I'd rather have one of these teams win the Cup than either of the teams in the ECF.
1:30 AM Fall asleep

Sunday, September 13

9:00 AM Up for another day of work. I make some eggs and cut up an apple with peanut butter.
10:00 AM My job today is as a greeter, so I'm not doing the actual registration and test observation, and am instead in charge of getting people lined up and dealing with the logistics of the site. A lot of the people in the line tell me that they were supposed to have an appointment at another site, but they showed up and it was dark and no one was there to deal with the 75 people waiting in line. We realize there's been a huge staffing miscommunication with our local health system partner, and this happened at three sites. What a clusterfuck. I also committed the cardinal sin of autumn in New York by not appropriately layering- it's suddenly 50 and raining, and I'm freezing my ass off sitting outside in leggings and a t-shirt.
2:30 PM Lunch break- I go to the one place on campus open on Sunday afternoons to grab a salad. $8.70
3:00 PM Still a decent flow of people coming through the site since we're still taking over from the sites that unexpectedly closed. By the end of the day, we've tested over 1,100 people just at this one site. I'm developing a horrible crick in my neck from turning to look and point each person to where they need to go.
6:00 PM Home from work. I heat up the rest of the pasta from last night and try to massage my neck a bit- I can tell it's going to hurt tomorrow, feeling like I'm 82 instead of 22. I prep some cold brew for tomorrow morning.
10:30 PM I'm absolutely exhausted, so I fall asleep around 10:30 for the first time in weeks. Hopefully this means I'll be well-rested for my 8 AM tomorrow.
Daily total: $8.70

Monday, September 14

7:45 AM I wake up feeling somewhat well-rested, but my neck is still really hurting. I grab some of the cold brew from the fridge and go to my online class.
9:15 AM I find a class that I'm interested in to replace the one that I'm thinking of dropping, and start getting ready to go to it to check it out. Just as I'm about to leave, I realize my neck is getting to be absolutely unbearable and I don't think I can make the walk up to campus with my backpack without a lot of pain. I shoot the professor a quick email asking for the Zoom link, and he manages to get back to me before the class starts! I join the online section and like the course, so I plan to make the official switch in my schedule. The class I don't like is taught by my advisor (who I'm hoping to TA for in the spring), so that might be a little awkward when I leave.
11:30 AM I make some pasta with a veggie sausage for lunch and go to class- this is usually an in-person class for me but I stay home and go to the online section today because I'm still in pain.
2:30 PM TA class- I'm required to have my camera on, and after comfortably laying down all day I feel like I'm dying because of the position that I'm being forced to keep my neck in. I periodically turn my camera off to lay down for a minute and scream into my pillow before coming back and pretending that nothing's wrong.
4:30 PM I drive to a laundromat to wash my clothes- I'm out of coins and need to go to the laundromat to get them from the machine, so I do my wash there instead of in my building. While I wait for my wash I call my grandma and catch up for a bit, and when I move my clothes to the dryer I go to Target to return some stuff I bought for my apartment and get painkillers. Have a mini-breakdown in the parking lot of Target because I'm so anxious about my apartment and the cost and how it's not kept-up and how I'm feeling so much regret about the lease. I send a frantic 3-paragraph text to my mom and dad about this and tell them that I want to try to find a subletter and come home. $6.00 for laundry, +$51.69 in refunds from Target (not included in breakdown), $4.07 for Ibuprofen
7:30 PM Dinner (eggs on toast) and online class. I'm really distracted, I hate Zoom class. My mom texts me throughout and I reply for a bit, and kind of unload about feeling super lonely and stressed. My dad calls around 10 after class is over, and we talk for a bit. I'm not sure he really gets where I'm coming from but he does his best to provide support, in an emotionally-stunted-middle-aged-dad kind of way (which is mostly just him talking about how I always "manage to power through" and referencing sunk costs and uncertainty). Honestly, I probably won't sublet the apartment just because I don't know if I'm ready to move all my shit again and because it's a buyer's market for sublets right now, but I really wish I had tried to get out of my lease before it started in August. I always have a lot of anxiety and regrets about large purchases, so this is nothing new. What I probably need instead of a sublet is to go back to therapy.
2:30 AM I'm still up writing a paper, so I answer a text in the group chat for my TA class about the paper- the student who asked apologizes for bothering me so late, she's abroad and didn't realize what time it was in NY. I'm fine with answering if I'm up, but I'm going to have to force myself to not answer until the morning so they don't start expecting that kind of immediate response from me.
Daily Total: $10.07


Food and Drink $148.18 total ($53.49 from restaurants/cafes and $94.69 for groceries)
Fun and Entertainment $0
Home and Health $8.05
Clothes and Beauty $0
Transport $0
Other $23.56


This was a typical week for me- I work a lot, I spend a lot on food, and I don't spend on much else beyond my monthly expenses. Obviously I don't buy $100 of groceries every week, since those last about two weeks- I usually shop on Mondays, restock on fresh veggies at the Wednesday farmer's market the next week, which runs me about $15-20, and then go to Wegmans again on Monday. I'm trying to spend less on coffee since I realize it's ridiculous to buy a $4 drink every morning when I can buy an $8 bag of beans and get 12 cups out of it.
As I get more into my research job, I'll be shifting some hours from the COVID job to that- it pays more and is more beneficial to my career, and I don't have the physical or mental energy to continue at this pace for the COVID job. This pay cycle (Thurs 9/10 to Wed 9/16) I worked 32.8 hours, which will probably be typical as a weekly total for this semester- just with a different breakdown by job (6-10 TA, 15 research, 10-15 COVID). This coming week I'm scheduled right up against the 40-hour limit, with 39.6. And yes, I do bill my time answering questions at 2:30 AM, I just put it on my timecard as a more normal time lol
submitted by gradschoolMD to MoneyDiariesACTIVE

Tutorial: Playing Stadia in an unsupported country on PC, Android and TV.

I've been successfully playing Stadia from Russia for 3 days already. I shared my feedback in a previous post. In this post, I would like to share my setup and how I made this thing work.
I found two ways to play. 1. Free VPN. Has worse performance and maybe some privacy implications. Allows you to play on PC, in some cases on Android but usually not on TV. 2. Paid VPN (if you set up your own VPN, the 1st year should be free). I will explain how to create your own VPN setup on a Google Cloud machine. You will be able to play on PC, mobile. If you have a router that supports OpenVPN, then you will be able to play on TV.
Disclaimer: There is absolutely no guarantee that this setup will work. If there was a guarantee that it worked flawlessly, Google would probably officially support your country. Please do not complain that this isn't working.
Also, I am not an expert in networking and VPNs, so please correct me if I am wrong somewhere or if there is a better setup.

Checking viability

  1. Check that you have enough bandwith without a VPN. Go to the Project Stream speedtest and check your connection. I have 300Mbps download speed on the website when VPN is off and only 45Mbps with VPN on. VPN has some overhead that it uses for traffic encryption. I am not sure what bandwith hit you should expect as it highly depends on your ISP and your hardware, though you may try to use a better serer instance.
  2. Checking ping to the nearest Stadia-capable GCP cluster. Go to GCPing. It will ping every GCP cluster and tell you what's the closest one to you. Find the one with the lowest latency where Stadia is supported. The closest for me is Finland with ~30-60ms ping. I was able to log in with pings up to ~80-100ms from UK, but I had occasional stutters and the picture was blurry sometimes. I also tried Germany with ping 70ms and didn't have problems playing, but I didn't test it for a long time. I was not able to log in with 150ms ping from Canada.


The registration progress works even if you are outside of the supported zones. You just need to open stadia.google.com and follow the instructions.
Free Stadia Pro trial allows you to make sure that the setup works without spending any money which is exactly why I tried it for myself.

Free VPN

I will not recommend any particular VPN, but I can tell that I was able to play using 3 different free VPN services in Chrome. I haven't tried free VPNs on Android, but I think there should be a service that works.
This may be a good idea in case you want to test if playing with a VPN even works for you. If it works, you may set up your own VPN to play on mobile or TV.
Things to consider when choosing a free VPN: 1. Not all VPN services will offer you the country that has the lowest ping to Stadia from your region. 2. In my experience, free VPNs have higher input lag and more prone to stutters and video quality issues. 3. Personally, I don't trust free VPNs. If you are not paying directly, they are making money somehow anyway. For example, some free Chrome VPN extensions request to read and change all data on the websites you visit. They may be collecting this information and selling it to third-parties. I haven't personally analyzed these extensions and I don't know if they are doing it, this is just my opinion.

Paid VPN

I don't use paid VPNs, but I know that some VPN providers even advertise to support Stadia. You can do your own research and find a VPN that supports the closest Stadia region.

Setting up your own VPN on Google Cloud

Google is hosting Stadia in their datacenters. I assume that Google Cloud is also hosted in the same datacenters as Stadia. I think that by hosting our own VPN on GCP, we will get the best experience possible (except from playing without a VPN).
Before we start: if Stadia doesn't work on a paid VPN, it will not after you make your own VPN. This instruction explains how to create a cheap (or even free) VPN to play Stadia on every device.
If you register on Google Cloud for the first time, you will get free $300 on compute resources for a year. It will be enough to host our own VPN for an entire year for free.
To register on Google Cloud you should first go to cloud.google.com and click "Get started for free". I did this a long time ago, but the registration process should be straightforward. You will need to add your credit card information to unlock the $300.
For a VPN, I will be using Outline VPN. Outline is not a VPN service, it's just a program that will create a VPN server on a new Google Cloud machine. It will be enough to play on PC and Android.
  1. First, download Outline Manager from their webiste: https://getoutline.org/en/home
  2. Open the manager. When adding a new VPN server, choose Google Cloud Platform.
  3. Go to https://console.cloud.google.com/. Find "Compute Engine" in the menu on the left.
  4. Click "Create Instance".
  5. Name: Choose any name for your server.
  6. Region: In GCPing, the region code is under the location name. I am using an instance in Hamina, Finland which is the "europe-north1" region. Region zone doesn't matter, you can leave it unchanged.
  7. Machine configuration: Click "Machine type" and choose "f1-micro". It is the cheapest machine, has 1 CPU core and 614Mb of RAM and costs only ~$4.28/month.
  8. Then to the bottom of the page and click "Create". This will create a server that you can use inside a Google datacenter.
  9. You should wait for a while, it takes some time to create the server.
  10. Go to Outline Manager. It has instructions on how to create a new firewall rule. Without the rule, you will not be able to connect to the VPN server. After the rule is created, add the firewall network tag to our machine (instructions are also in the Outline Manager).
  11. On the Compute Engine page, in the list of machines, there should be an "SSH" button in the "Connect" column. Click it. It will connect you to the console on the server.
  12. There is a command in the Outline Manager that you need to copy-paste into the console. Copy-paste it and then press Enter. It should download all the necessary files and start the VPN server.
  13. After the server is up, there will be a line in the console that looks something like this: {"apiUrl":"https://xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx:xxxx/xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx","certSha256":"xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx"} Copy the line and paste it to the Outline Manager.
  14. After that, Outline Manager will guide you how to connect to your server. Outline has a subreddit, look your problem up if you have any. Personally, I didn't have any problems with the VPN at all. It has been the most stable VPN program I've ever used.
  15. Connect to the VPN on your computer and try Stadia. It should work now (or not, depending on your location and internet connection).
If you have any problems or would like to delete your machine to avoid any costs: 1. Go to Google Cloud Console. 2. Select "Compute Engine" from the list on the left. 3. You should see your machine in the list. You can click on the three dots icon on the right and choose "Delete". 4. This will delete your server, you will lose access to the VPN and will not be billed.

Making Stadia work on Android

If you are able to connect to Stadia on your computer, you may want to set up Stadia on your mobile phone.
  1. If you want to play on your phone, make sure that your phone is supported. If not, you may still want to change the stream quality in the app. As a sidenote, you can modify your build.prop to support playing on the device if your device is not on the list (requires root, and no guarantees it will work).
  2. There is a high change that you will not be able to download Stadia from Google Play Store if you are in an unsupported country. You'll need to download the Stadia APK. Just Google "Stadia APK" and you'll find the app download.
  3. If you download the APK yourself, you'll need to handle the app updates as well. You'll just need to download the new APK version again.
  4. When trying to play, connect to your VPN first. Outline is also available on Android. Look it up in Google Play or download the APK.
  5. The rest of the process is the same as if you were in a supported country.

Making Stadia work on TV

Disclaimer: I don't have a Chromecast Ultra and I don't have a Stadia controller, so I wasn't able to test it myself. That said, I have seen reports of this setup working.
For this to work, you'll first need a Chromecast Ultra and a Stadia controller. If these are not officially sold in your country, you can try to order it with a mail forwarding company (google it) or ask a friend travelling to a supported country to buy you these.
The controller and Stadia on a Chromecast Ultra won't work if your Wi-Fi network doesn't use a VPN. So, we should make our router use our VPN. Depending on the router, it may not support VPNs. Also, routers hardware is very power-efficient, so the VPN won't work at full capacity and you may not get the best experience on a TV.
I will be using the same server that we created above to also act as an OpenVPN server. This will allow us to connect to the VPN from the router.
  1. Go to the GCP console and then open "Compute Resources".
  2. Connect to your instance over SSH (SSH button).
  3. Enter sudo su in the terminal.
  4. Follow these instructions to set up OpenVPN: https://github.com/kylemanna/docker-openvpn. Copy and paste the commands from the instructions. There will be one command there where you need to replace udp://VPN.SERVERNAME.COM with udp://. You can find the IP address on the "Compute Engine" page (External IP column). It will also ask you for a password multiple times, you can choose any. It will also ask you for things like "Organization name", certificate authority (CA) name. You can choose any names there.
  5. After the instructions are complete, there should be a *.ovpn file in the folder (CLIENTNAME.ovpn by default). Make sure it's there. Type ls into the terminal. You should see something like this: [email protected]:~$ ls CLIENTNAME.ovpn
  6. We'll need to download this file to our machine. Let's locate the folder this file is in. Type pwd into the console. You should see something like this: [email protected]:~$ pwd /home/username
  7. The full path to the file is the folder and the file name. In my case, the full path is: /home/username/CLIENTNAME.ovpn.
  8. Now click the gear button in the top right corner of the console window. Select "Download file". Type the full file path into the window and click "Download".
  9. The file should be downloaded to your computer.
  10. Try connecting to the OpenVPN server using an OpenVPN client. I use OpenVPN connect. You should use the *.ovpn file.
When connecting on a router, you should consult your intstructions on how to use the file to connect from the router. You may be able to just feed it to the router and it may figure everything out on its own. In my case, I need multiple fields to fill. All of them I can find in the downloaded file (open it with a text editor like Notepad): 1. Server IP and port. You can see the IP in the line remote xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx yyyy udp (everything with xxx is the IP address), yyyy is the port. 2. Transport: UDP 3. Encapsulation Layer: L3 - TUN (IP), which you can see in the line dev tun of the file. 4. Authorization type: TLS client.crt/client.key. 5. HMAC Signature Check: TLS-Auth (ta.key is required). 6. Now we need the keys. They are in the *.ovpn file. Open it with a text editor. Root CA cetrificate (ca.crt) is the text between ... tags (including the begin and end certificate lines). Client certificate (client.crt) is between .... Client key (client.key) is between .... TLS Auth/Crypt Key (ta.key) is between .... 7. If everything is correct, your router should use the VPN and you should be able to connect to Stadia on a TV and use a the controller. 8. Also, if you are using this way, you don't need to enable VPN on your phone or computer. The router deals with the VPN.

My thoughts

I think that Stadia is amazing and the fact that it works even via a VPN makes me believe that streaming is the future of gaming. I am willing to play even with this setup because it allows me to play anywhere.
This process is quite complicated, but it works for me. It may be easier to buy a VPN, but they are usually more expensive compared to your own setup. There is a high chance that even a paid VPN won't work on your router. But if you set up everything yourself, you can make it work.
Feel free to ask any questions and share your setup as well.
submitted by PeterZhizhin to Stadia

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