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How I paid CASH for an MBA Program

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The following is a guest post from Kimberly Kesterke, a new blogger on financial abundance, budgeting and financial creativity. Feel free to visit her blog at You can also e-mail @ [email protected]  Just remember it is NEW, but all self-created to provide a valuable and useful information.

Call me crazy, but in 2009 I decided to finally move forward with a Masters of Business Administration program (MBA). Call me even crazier, I vowed to do it debt-free. Here is my story and my advice on how YOU can tackle a large expenditure- one day at a time!


First of all, I realize that there is a vast amount of funding programs available at low interest rates and I have nothing against a student loan. However, when I was done with the MBA program, I wanted to feel free and not have a large obligation to pay off. For me, it would have added undue stress, and the biggest goal for me after the program was to launch my career, not to have to worry how I would pay for it after the fact.

So the year before, I started stocking away cash. I had an idea of a program I wanted to attend, however did not know how much I would actually need.  I took my GMAT test, and started applying. When I got accepted to University of Georgia (Go DAWGS), I immediately accepted. That’s when all the fun started!!

I had enough savings to get me through the first semester, but then after that, I had to come up with $1850.00 per month additional for the next 18 months. UGH! For being such a frugal gal, why did I pick such an expensive program?

Well, for starters, I knew that the network of people would be strong, UGA offered amazing free programs, and finally I figured that if I wanted to change my career, there would be great resources to do so. Plus, I was 28 at the time and figured,” It’s now or never baby! Put those budgeting skills to the test!” And that I did.

My Plan

The golden rule of budgeting is spending less than what you make. If you can’t skim anymore out of your expenses, then frankly, you have to find ways to earn more. I was in a situation where I had to bring in more income and spend less. Oh yeah, and still have somewhat of a life.

I have to admit; I was extremely overwhelmed and wondered if I could really do it without going into debt. So, I made a plan that I vowed to stick to. This was a commitment to find the income I needed to continue paying for the program. After looking at what I could trim I realized I had to find an additional $1000.00/ month to pull this thing off. Being in sales, I could definitely sell more, but there were certain months I couldn’t always count on that, so it required getting extremely entrepreneurial!

Creative Ways to “Find” the Money

1.       Scholarships

As soon as I had the number I needed to hit, I started looking at every single scholarship site known! I searched,,, and many others. Interestingly enough, the awards I ended up finding were through the University of Georgia, and the National Association of Women MBAs. Yes, there was a lot of work involved, but this shaved of $4K off the total amount I had to pay. (4 Months)

Tip: Look into every scholarship program you can think of. Go to, type in Scholarships and let the magic happen! Also, your local library has thousands of resources on local community groups who provide funding for students and government grants for non-traditional students. Also, look into your own University scholarship offerings and see what you can qualify for.

2.       Re-selling Items on Ebay

In my younger years, I used to play an instrument and was able to sell a few used items, as well as did a huge deep clean of my closet. I found things I did not even think would sell, but overall sold enough to pay for three months of school (3 Months)

Tip:  if you are looking for extra money, think of an item that you really like and know is worth something. Go onto Ebay’s website, look at past auctions and see what it has sold for. Then go scour every garage sale, thrift store and Goodwill store to find that item, or the list of items you brainstormed and researched. Then, get selling!! Yes, you will have to pay taxes on the profits, but the expenses are tax deductible. Try it out and you will find that you can bring in a minimum of a couple hundred bucks a month.

3.       Pet Sitting

Pet sitting in my area is extremely competitive, and I simply got lucky by finding a couple whom loved to travel and trusted me with their pets. Between the three different visits, I cleared enough for three months, so was able to add that to the overall budget. (3 Months)

Tip: If you are active in your local community, let your network know you are available to take care of their pets! First of all, you get great exercise by walking various dogs, and if you include house-sitting in your list of services, then you can earn a nice chunk of change. Try it out! You will be surprised how easy and fun this side project can be.

4.       Cutlery Demonstrations 

Although I do not do these anymore, this was a very fun way to bring in cash during the month. Not only did it help me improve my customer relations skills, but I was able to show off some very expensive, high quality cutlery! It was an absolute blast! The even better thing was that these demonstrations were in great stores such as Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table and Crate and Barrel. It was a fun, low key way to earn income. After taxes, I cleared enough to cover an additional 5 months of tuition. ( 5 months)

Tip: Brainstorm your hobbies and see if you can do a presentation in your community to attract customers, find a side job as an employee, or market your skills to bring in more income! Millions of people do it every day, so why can’t you? If you enjoy engaging in your hobby, why not earn extra income doing so?

5.       Great Selling Months.  

The remaining amount came from digging deep and getting motivated to increase my sales. It was not easy, but there were some great months that I was able to apply the excess to my tuition payments. To earn more, I had to become better. This meant refining my sales skills – pushing the envelope and stepping out of my comfort zone. By having a sound plan of action, I was able to relax which caused my customers to relax around me. I truly believe I sold more because I knew what my goals, how they were going to be reached, and did not use selling more as my only plan. Diversification is what kept the stress levels down.

Tip: Are there areas in your job that you could bring in more income? Could this be via bonuses, overtime, extra commissions, or a promotion? Seriously look at where you could generate a bit more income and then GO for it! To be honest, bosses LOVE employees with an initiative. Have you seen a need in your organization? Then create a detailed action plan to fill that need and present your plan to your boss.  Word of advice, do things like this a couple of times, and you will be primed for more money. Period.

Drumroll Please….

May 15, 2012, I graduated with a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Georgia DEBT FREE!!! I don’t know if I was happier to have the education or no debt…. I’m pretty sure both!  😀

I was able to change careers and started my first management role.  It taught me how to work with a  team, taught me the art of budgeting, and taught me how to earn more  income than what my job provided. Those skills are invaluable.

Living without debt provides the creativity to achieve those dreams and goals you formulate. You see, with a credit card always in our back pocket, or loans readily available, it limits our creativity to what we really can achieve. It puts us in a mentality of lack rather than a mentality of abundance and creativity! Next time you are ready to make that big purchase, ask yourself two questions. “Can I make a plan?” and “What creative activities can I do to generate the income I need?” Make a list for your goal, take action and achieve your goals bigger and better than you ever thought possible!!

Crystal’s Comments:  You made a plan, stuck to it, and succeeded.  That’s the true secret of success, right?  There isn’t magic.  There’s just some stick-to-it and a dash of luck.  In your case, you made your own luck with a solid plan.  Congratulations!

FYI:  I worked at a dead end cubicle job from 2005-2011 for about $30,000 per year.  I went self-employed in July 2011 and make between $70,000-$90,000 through blogging, professional pet sitting, hubby's reffing, and our rental home.  If you’d like to start your own site (link to my free step-by-step guide), I highly suggest checking out Bluehost (my referral link with a nice discount for you, PLUS a free custom header banner from me!).  Please contact me any time at budgetingfunstuff*at*gmail*dot*com with questions or just to brainstorm! I’d love to help!
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11 thoughts on “How I paid CASH for an MBA Program

  1. Way to go on getting creative and showing that it can be done. Even if you can’t cover it all, you should try to minimize what you borrow. Would you still have done it if your job had a strict salary and there wasn’t potential for extra income or would you have put it off until you saved up? Just curious.

  2. This story is great evidence of a good problem solver. I would include it in any interview. Too often people just accept things the way they are vs. doing something about it. Congratulations.

  3. Okay, I’m pretty sure I started drooling half way through your post. I just went back to school for my Bachelor’s on a “strong suggestion” from my employer (I currently hold an AAS is Computer Animation). I did have to take out a loan for the first 2 classes, but I also received a Federal grant, which cut my loan by a third, and my employer offers tuition reimbursement beginning for me in May. I’ll still end up in a little bit of debt, but not nearly as much as I originally expected. Plus, my goal for the next year is to dig my family out of its current hole and hopefully this (plus our mortgage) will be all that’s left of our tie to a money-master.
    Great job – what an inspiring story!

  4. Having been through business school full time to get an MBA, I can attest to the high cost of getting one and the level of financial commitment involved. That’s great that you got out of it debt free, through your own resourcefulness. Well done!

  5. Thank you all for the great comments! To respond to [email protected] Eyesondollare, that is a great question if I would have done the same things had my job provided more of a steady paycheck? After a lot of thought, I think that I have taken commission/pay for performance type roles due to the fact I like having a little more control over my paycheck. However, had I known what was coming in, I still would have worked to supplement the difference. It would have changed the numbers in my plan, but not actually the plan itself.

    Again, I appreciate all of your comments. Also, thank you Crystal for the opportunity to post.

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