Budgeting Ideas and Tips

November 30, 2022

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Living on a budget as a medical student or resident 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. Following are some tips and ideas to save money and/or time.

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Join a cooking co-op or cook several portions at once to freeze for a later date. A cooking co-op is not only a more social way to spend your meal, but it saves time cooking. You may even get a few new recipes or meal ideas.

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.

Try not to buy bottled water. Not only are all those bottles terrible for the environment, but they’re also expensive.

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.

Shop smart. Buying groceries online may save you time. If you go to the store, bring a list to minimize impulse buying and browsing time. Join your market’s “shopper’s club” to take advantage of weekly specials. Design menus based on weekly sales and take advantage of manufacturer’s coupons. Whenever possible, buy generic brands.

Take control of your credit cards. Avoid carrying a balance on your cards; this will save you money, as you won’t be charged interest. Additionally, use credit cards that don’t charge an annual fee.

Avoid late 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.

Avoid ATM fees. If you can, bank locally and use your financial institution’s ATM for cash withdrawals so that you won’t be charged a fee. Some financial institutions have ATM agreements that allow you to use specific machines without a charge – learn what’s available to you to save money.

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.

Bike to school/work. If your climate, schedule, and location are suitable, bike to school/work. This may also help you stay in shape, and it will be less costly than the upkeep, maintenance and gasoline for a car. To save even more money, buy a used bike.

Take public trans­portation. It may be more cost effective not to rely on a car at all. Public trans­portation will alleviate the expenses of buying gas, maintenance, and parking. It might be less stressful too!

Join a carpool. If you drive— form or join a carpool. This will help you save money on gas, parking, “wear and tear” on your vehicle, and you can share the driving responsibilities with others.

Buy big items from online classifieds. Try websites like “Craigslist”, “Facebook Marketplace”, “Letgo”, or other local classified ads or apps. You may be able to obtain merchandise at reduced prices. You may even want to try “Freecycle” to find deals on free items. Just be cautious and careful when using these types of services.

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 and make smart choices about how you spend your money now, chances are, you’ll be paying a lot less when you enter repayment on your student loans.

Small changes can make big differences over time.

Additional Budgeting Resources

Budget Worksheet for Students

Budget Worksheet for Residents

Budgeting Basics: Managing Your Money During the Lean Years Fact Sheet

AAMC’s Financial Wellness Program

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