Course Description

If you've tried to keep a budget for more than a few months, your budget has almost certainly been busted by an irregular expense. Irregular expenses are those that occur once or a few times per year, such as travel, car repairs, shopping, entertainment, and university/research/conference fees. The discretionary spending available in a graduate student or postdoc budget is often insufficient to handle large irregular expenses.

One solution to the problem of irregular expenses is a system of targeted savings buckets. With this system, you anticipate your irregular expenses and save for them in advance.

This course teaches you to:
  • identify the irregular expenses in your life
  • group the irregular expenses into targeted savings buckets
  • calculate a savings rate for each targeted savings bucket
  • set up your bank accounts to house the targeted savings buckets
  • incorporate the savings rates into your budget
  • troubleshoot the common issues with your targeted savings system

After you complete this course, your money management system will be transformed into one that is not broken or stressed by irregular expenses, which enables you to optimize how you use your money over the course of a year.


Emily Roberts

My mission is to inspire and empower early-career PhDs to make the most of their money. I engage with students and postdocs through the Personal Finance for PhDs talks and my websites, Grad Student Finances and PhD Stipends. I started delivering seminars about personal finance for PhDs-in-training shortly after my PhD defense in fall 2014.My passion for personal finance is rooted in my experience as a grad student, and I speak to my audiences as a more experienced and knowledgable peer. When I first started in graduate school, I knew that living well on a grad student stipend would be quite challenging, so I continuously learned and refined my money management strategies throughout my PhD.I received a PhD in biomedical engineering from Duke University in 2014 and a BS in physics from Harvey Mudd College in 2007. I live in Seattle, WA with my husband, Kyle, who also holds a PhD from Duke University, and our daughter.

Course curriculum

  • 1

    What Are Irregular Expenses and Targeted Savings?

    • Module 1 Video

    • Module 1 Homework

  • 2

    How to Get Started with Targeted Savings

    • Module 2 Video

    • Module 2 Homework

  • 3

    How to Manage Targeted Savings in the Real World

    • Module 3 Video

  • 4

    Troubleshooting Your Targeted Savings System

    • Module 4 Video

  • 5

    Example Targeted Savings Calculation

    • Module 5 Video

    • Module 5 Download

  • 6

    Concluding Remarks

    • Module 6 Video