Living on a budget as a medical student is an essential step for minimizing the debt you’ll face upon entering repayment. Try to think of a budget the same way you’d think about maintaining a healthy diet: make sensible, responsible choices and you’ll reap the benefits.
Save Money and Time by Cooking with Classmates
Join a cooking co-op with your fellow students or cook several portions at a time to freeze for the week. A cooking co-op is not only a more social way to spend your meal time, it also saves time cooking overall. You can even quiz each other on class materials. It’s also a great opportunity to get a few new recipes or meal ideas from your friends and classmates. Not to mention, buying groceries together in bulk could be cheaper than buying smaller portions just for yourself. This is especially true when you shop in places like COSTCO or Walmart.
Don’t Drink Away Your Budget
Make your own coffee or tea and buy a thermos. You’ve probably heard this before; endless cups of coffee from a coffee shop can really increase expenses. If you really must pay for coffee, consider opting for a smaller size or limiting yourself to plain drip-coffee instead of fancier drinks. Your wallet and your waistline will thank you. Purchasing a coffee machine and buying bulk coffee supplies could in the long run save you tremendous amount of money that you could use elsewhere in your budget. With some coffee machines as cheap as $20 and bulk beans a few dollars a bag, you can transition from spending dollars a cup at a coffee shop to cents a cup at home.
Never buy bottled water. Not only are the bottles terrible for the environment, they’re also expensive. Instead, purchase a filter for your tap and have instant filtered water that you can take with you to school or have in the fridge to drink, if you like it cold. A filter runs about $18 but when you consider the amount of savings over a year’s time, this is a good investment.
Bag Your Lunch
Being short on time and having irregular hours will be less stressful if you have easy, healthy, homemade food with you. Not only will you save time and money, but you may also eat better.
Buying groceries online may save you time. If you go to the store, always bring a list to minimize impulse buying and browsing time. Join your market’s “shopper’s club” to take advantage of weekly specials. For example, if you shop with a Kroger card you get to enjoy discounts and sale prices and gain points to save on gas. Design your menu based on weekly sales while taking advantage of manufacturer’s coupons (available online as well as in the paper). Whenever possible, buy generic brands. You can also save yourself time and money by using a free app like Basket.
Take Control of your Credit Cards and Fees
Try not to carry a balance on your cards, it will save you money. Additionally, use credit cards that don’t charge an annual fee.
Avoid late fees and ATM fees. Pay your bills on time and online. Late fees add up and they may have a negative effect on your credit rating. If you do miss a payment, call the creditor and ask to have the late fee waived.
Use Smart Transportation
If the climate, schedule, and location are suitable, bike to school and work. It helps you keep in shape and it is less costly. To save even more money, buy a used bike.
Join a carpool. If you do drive—form or join a carpool. This will help you save money on gas, parking, “wear and tear” on your vehicle, and also allow you to share the driving responsibilities with others.
Manage Your Shopping Habits
Buy used books. There are numerous websites where you can buy, sell, or even swap books. If you and your friends need the same books or several titles, try buying your purchases together to save on shipping or even qualify for free shipping.
The 30 Minute Rule: If you see something you “have to have,” wait 30 minutes, then if you still can’t live without it—make the purchase.
Think About It…
Decide what makes sense for you. If you live more responsibly now and make smart choices about how you spend your money now, chances are, you’ll be paying a lot less when you enter student loan repayment.
Small changes can make big differences over time.
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Jose Rivera Espada is the director of financial aid at IU School of Medicine, a nine-campus allopathic medical school in Indiana. Jose’s experience includes working as an assistant director of financial aid at Butler University and a financial aid coun...