Living Cheaply But Still Enjoying Life in Med School

I saw this post on Words of Williams about 11 things they don’t spend money on, and I thought a variation on that theme might be good for Medical Mondays this month.

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that med school ain’t cheap. There have been a few articles floating around recently about the high cost of medical education these days. Certainly, we have it better than some since I was able to find work allowing us to take out less in loans. I am so thankful for that! However, when it is all said and done, our med school debt will still be in the six digit range, so it is still important to us to cut costs where we can. Andy and I are savers more than spenders by nature, so I haven’t felt like we’ve had to sacrifice anything so far. (I think that is one of the advantages of being able to do med school early in our marriage – we don’t have a well established past to compare it to.) Nevertheless, we are always on the lookout for ways to save money, so I thought I’d share some of the things we think are worth ‘scrimping’ and ‘splurging’ on and I’d love to hear what some of those things are for you.

Here are some of the things we’ve decided not to spend money on right now:

  1. Smart phones OR a cell phone contract. In today’s world it is abnormal to have a cell phone that can only call and text, but we do! Last year we had a cell phone contract with smallest plan that included calling and texting. Andy did some research and wanted to try switching to a pay-as-you-go plan. We decided to go with TracFone. Admittedly, the phones aren’t as nice as the ones you get from one of the major carriers and I’ve noticed a moderate downgrade in service, but we’re saving about $1000 a year, so right now it is worth it.
  2. Andy’s hair cuts. Even if we were rolling in money, I don’t think we would pay for this one. He grew up getting his hair cut by his Mom, so Andy made sure that we had some clippers on our wedding registry. Luckily, Andy’s hairstyle of choice is a buzz cut so it is something I can handle.
  3. Cable TV. Another one that I’m not sure that we would pay for even if we had room for it. Between school and work we hardly have time for TV anyway. We have an antenna, but the major channels aren’t broadcast here. We do get Kentucky’s version of PBS, so that’s something. Otherwise, we just watch shows online or via Netflix or Amazon Prime Watch Instantly.
  4. Driving. Well, we do drive, but not nearly as much as we used to. We intentionally found a place to live that was close enough to Andy’s school (and luckily I got a job at that same school) that we can walk to school and work everyday. We can also walk to church and to any events that happen downtown. We pay a little more in taxes to live in the city limits, but we more than make up for it with how little we spend on gas.
  5. Napkins. Another crazy one, right? I’m sure this has saved us maybe $10 tops since we’ve been married, but every little bit counts. We got a set of cloth napkins for our wedding that are sturdy enough to use everyday. I put them out for use before we had a chance to get to the grocery store after our honeymoon and we’ve been using them ever since.

In contrast, there are some “extras” that we think are worth it even during this phase of life:

  1. Our Compassion Child, GabrielaNo matter what we plan to keep our commitment as Gabriela’s sponsors. While we may be low-income for Americans, we recognize that we have it SO good. Giving to others out of the abundance we have been blessed with is important to us.
  2. Traveling Home. While we try to drive less locally, making time and room in the budget to travel to see our families when we can is something we do without giving it a second thought. We haven’t been back to Virginia to see our families since we moved out here, but we took some time over Andy’s fall break to visit some of his family in Kentucky and we are planning to head to Virginia for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  3. Post-Test Celebratory Meals. After each of Andy’s block tests, we go out to eat. I always let him pick what we do the night after his tests. He get to pick the restaurant we go to and what we do when we get home that night. We did the same thing when I finished my mid-terms for my online classes. It is one of the only times we go out to eat, so it is something we look forward to weeks in advance.
  4. Eating (Relatively) Healthy. This item could get its own post (and has), but the short version is: we try not to go out to eat too often (maybe 3-4 times a month) and eat mostly fresh foods. I think buying fresh produce probably costs us more than buying pre-packed. We don’t buy frozen food but make our own freezer meals instead. It works for us, and we hope it will be healthier for us in the long run.
  5. A YMCA Membership. The amount we pay is pro-rated based on our income, and even if it wasn’t I think we would make this a priority. Andy goes to the Y at least twice a week and I probably go about once a week so we end up paying less than $2 per visit. We could find other free ways to exercise but having access to the equipment and the classes at the Y seems to be worth the money.

What are your ‘scrimp’ and ‘splurge’ items?

Much Love,
Sarah

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. I love the fact that you splurge after block exams. That is definitely needed. I wish I had gotten in the saving habit while I was in med school.

  2. We are back on a budget (thanks to college tuitions, private school tuitions, and home renovations gone wild), but I don’t think my Doc H would ever, EVER let me come near his hair with a pair of scissors!! LOL!!
    Thanks for linking up with us for Medical Monday!! Now following! Yay!

  3. Mandy says:

    You’re right….great minds think alike! Loved the post….I totally wish we splurged on a YMCA membership and haven’t….I still dream of the idea of working out and kids having free sports…ha! One day maybe we’ll splurge on that…well worth it I’m SURE! Good to “meet” you and your blog. 😉

    1. Sarah says:

      Yes, I need to take advantage of it more. Andy is the one that goes the most and really makes it worth the money. Nice to “meet” you too. 🙂

  4. Jane says:

    Thanks for linking up with Medical Mondays – I love this post. I know too many people who aren’t willing to live with what they have because in a few years it will be different. I think it is so admirable that you do – this will be a great blessing to you when you do start making more money:-)

  5. Love the balance of both your lists. Great job on cutting back, but also a great list of things you ‘invest’ in. Giving, family, celebrating, and health are all great things to invest in.

    1. Sarah says:

      Thanks. I am hoping the our ‘splurge’ items will prove to be wise investments. 🙂

  6. etfrench says:

    I like that your picture has euros instead of dollars 🙂

  7. There’s definitely great ways to cut back and still live an enjoyable life 🙂 My sis-in-law is a med student, finishing up her last year. Thanks for sharing!

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