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How do YOU do it?!

Discussion in 'Medical Students - MD' started by Atlas, Jul 28, 2001.

  1. Atlas

    Atlas Senior Member
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    I was recently looking at some of the student budgets of the medical schools I'm interested in and was surprised with what I found. Some schools actually limit you to how much money you can take out for personal expenses. They claim that they want to monitor how much students borrow in order to help them avoid future debt problems. This is fine and dandy, but can they do this? I'm poor (with $0 family contributions) and plan on using more than $11,000 a year to survive! How do you (medical students) survive?! I find this figure to be a wee bit small. Now, believe me, I'm probably the LAST person to shop at fancy stores, so don't get the wrong idea of me. At that rate (11k) though, I find it hard to come up with enough cash for rent, car payment, utility bills, insurance payments, personal expenses, FOOD, and a little (I mean MICROSCOPIC) spending cash for a new shirt! I will get no help from my parents because they're both poor, divorced, and are in no position to help me.

    How can a student, living on $11,000 per 9 or 10 mo. survive? How do you do it? Please tell me so I can sleep in peace! Thanks.
     
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  3. impassivemd

    impassivemd Member
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    I don't think it's too difficult if you don't have a family to support. Of course, the cost of living where you live may be higher or there may be circumstances I am unaware of.

    I don't have many problems living on my $1200/month, and I don't have an incredibly frugal lifestyle. I live in a relatively large city, so the cost of living isn't extremely low. I don't have a roommate. Honestly, I don't know where people are spending all their money.
     
  4. WingZero

    WingZero Senior Member
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    I don't think most school budgets allow for a car, at least not the first two years (you'll need a car the third year to get to the more distant clerkship sites). So if you take the car payment, insurance, and gas expense away, $11,000 is actually quite reasonable. I know that doesn't help your situation, but that's probably where they get the number from.
     
  5. Future GI Guy

    Future GI Guy Hoo Hoo....
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    I get about 14000 a year to live on. And I think the key is, you have to stretch it as far as it'll go in some creative ways.

    One mistake I see is that people rely to much on fast food for their meals. That's expensive. Buy some food at a farmer's market or a discount shop, and monitor how much you spend per meal. Don't rely on fast food or hospital food.

    Dont' smoke! This is obvious, but think about that medical studen who smokes one pack a day--that's an extra 100 bucks a month.

    Don't automatically eliminate the idea of a roommate. I have a roommate, and I pay 200 bucks a month in a town where singles go for about 400. I love living here, and I have a yard and stuff.

    As for health insurance, this can be a burdin if your school doesn't offer any. Mine doesn't. And so I shopped around and found some insurance that is suitable for a healthy 24 year old.

    Now, my strategy is a little strange. What I do when I get my 7k a semester is, I pay all my bills in advance. I write a check out to the phone company for 150 dollars (5 months times 30 dollars a month). The same with the cable company. The same with my health insurance and with my car payment. I also pay my roommate 1000 dollars for 5 months rent. All of these things take up about half of my money.

    So that leaves me 3500 dollars for 5 months. This is "living" money. And I can comfortably live off 700 bucks with no bills to worry about.

    It can be done.

    Keep in mind, when I was living in St. Louis, going to WashU, they only gave me 7000 a year to live off of. That is not enough for a big city like that. But you can stretch 11000. Do NOT get involved in Credit Cards! They are of the devil.
     
  6. Atlas

    Atlas Senior Member
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    Thanks everyone for your input, especially GI Guy. I live near St. Louis now, so I can relate. Why can't I have a car for the first two years, Wingzero? How do you get around town? I'm looking mostly at medical schools within a 300 mile radius of my home, so I can come home every once in a while. I want to do this because my mom and sister are both ill and I want to see them as much as I can. You know? I don't have a car payment now, but I'm planning on getting a new car in the future because my current car is a clunker. I realize how much money I would save if I didn't have a car, but then again, I'm used to having at least SOMETHING with 4 wheels getting me around. $14,000/year(9/10 mo.) is much better. Can you take out more money, exceeding the school's proposed budget? Just curious. I like the GI Guy's strategy. Not bad! That way..he doesn't have to worry about paying bills while studying for exams. Smart move in my opinion.
     
  7. Kirk

    Kirk Senior Member
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    This is something that is concerning me as well. I am married, and I bring home the bulk of the money. My wife works, but doesn't make near what I do. I know that there is no way to keep our current lifestyle if I go to medical school, so i am working now to pay off the cars and credit cards... which would really free up a lot of money! Still, 14,000 just doesn't seem like ANYTHING!
     
  8. double elle

    double elle Senior Member
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    I think Future GI Guy has the right idea. I, too, paid all my bills in advance while an undergraduate. However, one thing that I found EXTREMELY interesting was that landlords were MORE THAN WILLING cut you some slack on rent if you paid ahead like that. I would pay for the year and he cut 50 bucks a month off my rent!!!!!!! It's quite a lump sum at one time...but that's a discount of 600 bucks a year!

    Don't be afraid to ask about that! I never tried it with normal utility bills, but you can always check to see if your city/town offers 'budget billing', where your bill for gas, electricity, whatever...is that same every month. That way, you don't pay a fortune in the winter for gas...or a fortune in the summer for electricity while using the air conditioner. It was the same, easy payment all year with no unexpected increases.

    Another thing that is handy is a Sam's Club calling card. 4 cents per minute!

    As for credit cards..they can be dangerous. I have had my share of problems with them. However, if you are disciplined enough to pay it off EVERY month...they can work to your advantage. If you are in school far away from your parents...put stuff on your credit card and, perhaps, earn enough miles to fly home free once per year. My husband and I put EVERYTHING on the credit card (bills, groceries, restaurants, etc..), but we pay the balance every month. It not only cuts down on the checks we write at 'bill time', but it also earns us free points that we save up and use only once a year. Ours is a Cabela's Visa..and when September rolls around, he has 4-500 bucks worth of points where he orders all his hunting stuff for the year. However, it does take discipline.

    As for MAKING MONEY while in school...the easiest way I found to make cash without actually having to work is to offer to house/dog-sit. It takes no work at all..and you get to study. It won't make you a fortune...but it's cash.

    I was never too fond of having roommates in college..but I did it for a while. It did help with bills, but ultimately, I liked my privacy more.

    Also, there are ALOT of places that give student discounts....and that applies to medical students, too. It never hurts to ask while you are at a restaurant, pharmacy, bookstore, etc. I have a friend who owns a restaurant..and he was just saying the other day that giving discounts is the best way to get the students in there.

    Another way to make some cash...on your breaks..apply for a substitute teaching certificate. It can earn you from 50-100 bucks a day, depending on the school district. They will call early in the morning and if you can't...just say no and they will call the next person on their list. However, this process takes a while with the background checks and all. So, if you are interested..you need to get a hold of the school district office ASAP.

    Another thing with landlords...(my husband and I used to own rentals)...they have to pay quite a bit of money to have someone come and do repairs. If something happens, offer to fix it yourself if you know how. We always took money off their rent if they could fix a leak themselves, or even mow the grass for the summer. It was worth it to us to not have to worry about it.
    Of course, your landlord should pay for any materials needed.
    Well, I hope some of this helps. Best of luck.

    :)
     
  9. Atlas

    Atlas Senior Member
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    Double elle,

    Great idea about that Sams Club calling card! You can't beat it! You have some good and unique ways of making extra cash. The dog watching thing is right up my alley. I have three dogs myself. They'll stay home when I move away though. I'd really like to stay away from credit cards in such a volatile time in my life. They're nothing but trouble!

    Everyone,

    Anyone else have more "penny-pinching" ideas?
    I'm gonna need a new car and an occasional tshirt, so I'm looking to scrape up a few extra bones so I can afford my 'lifestyle'.

    Thanks
     
  10. Future GI Guy

    Future GI Guy Hoo Hoo....
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    Atlas,

    You can, and should, have a car for the first two years. If your school is like my school, they have extra money for those kinds of things (though it is a loan, and not a gift...). It helped me to be a brand-new, economical car, while having a very low car payment / month.

    Some more ideas for you, and this is key.

    Don't buy every book that's on the recommended or required book list, especially for the first two years.

    This is why...my school told all incoming M-1's that Harrison's Internal Medicine was a recommended text. This costs 100+ dollars, and I purchased it, along with many other useless books. I have not used Harrisons more than 5 or 6 times because all of the information is available on computers now.

    I assume this will be the case where you go to school. Having Harrisons online provides a much quicker way to access information. What made my purchase even more worthless was the fact that Harrisons came out with a new edition; thus, my edition is obselete.

    Don't make this same mistake.

    You should also seriously consider buying board review books (BRS or Lippencott's) instead of the Text books they recommend.

    They are paperback (thus, cheaper), much more friendly to the eyes, and they sum up the information without leaving any important items out. Plus, you'll re-use them at the end of your 2nd year, studying for the boards.

    Another example: We were told to purchase 3 biochem books. One of them was 100 dollars, and the other two were 50 dollars each (they dealt with molecular bio and with genes).

    Now, all of the information that I needed to know was located in a tremendous text called Lippencott's Biochemistry. This book costs 30 bucks. It has great pics, and I used it again and again, and I will never sell it. I used it a lot when I prepared for step I, and I did okay!

    Don't go into medical school thinking you have to purchase everything on a book list. You're throwing money down the drain.

    Hopefully, others agree with me.
     
  11. Atlas

    Atlas Senior Member
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    Thanks, GI Guy, for the tips. I hope the schools I'm interested in give me enough leeway to purchase a car, too. I'm gonna need it. It could be looked at as a persnal expense/transportation expense. As for the books, thanks for the heads up. I've heard Lippincotts is a good one. I'll probably get that when the time comes. Thanks again! :D
     
  12. cchoukal

    cchoukal Senior Member
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    I think the budget limits aren't necessarily all the school's doing. I think the gov't only allows you to borrow so much per year from them. I believe it's 38,500, a max of 8500 of which is interest-subsidized (deferred). The rest of what the school budgets you is often made up by the school in the form of other school sponsored loans and scholarships. In other words, it's in their interest to keep the budget low so they don't have to shell out for scholarships just to meet a student's budget they helped shape.

    As for saving money, I elected to have roommates. It's not easy at times, but it really helps reduce utility bills (2 people don't spend twice what one person spend on electricity, for example).

    I feel the same way you all do about a car: I can't live without one (God bless America). I know my school has a special program where if you "need" a car (not sure how need is determined), you can borrow $5500 once to buy it. If you come into school with a car loan, I think you can borrow the $5500 each year to make the payments (not 100% sure of all these details). The point is, your school may have a similar program. On the topic of cars, I know some people reduce their car insurance coverage to include just liability and/or increase their deductible amount (which lowers premiums). This is a gamble, of course, but your agent can tell you what the cost trade-off is, and it might be a lot of money.

    A lot of schools also let med students hold graduate assistantships, either through the med school or through other departments in the university. I know at MN, these pay pretty well (hourly wage, plus a small tuition remission, plus an upgraded health insurance plan), and you may find something that really helps your future (i.e., research experience/pubs for you residency apps.).

    There's also something kind of noble about poverty. When I was in grad school, I lived on about 1100 per month. Somehow there was always enough money for a pitcher of (cheap) beer with your buddies, or a pair of pants if you really needed it.

    I'll also add that for every 10,000 you borrow, in standard repayment at the max 8.25% interest, you'll be paying $125 per month for 10 years. Think carefully about borrowing more than you absolutely need, because you'll paying back about 1.50 for every dollar you borrow.
     
  13. star23

    star23 Senior Member
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    An interesting book about money management: Andrew Tobias "the only investment book you will ever need." It talks about investments some, but also offers many tips on how to live frugally. You might want to check it out - I found it VERY helpful in designing a creative plan to live on a small budget.
     
  14. mary

    mary Member
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    My husband and I are "secret shoppers"- we can go enjoy a nice meal at a restaurant and we get reimbursed for the cost of a meal for filling out a detailed survey concerning the venue. certain companies only do certain restaurants, but you can always say no if you don't like a certain place. You can sign up on www.volition.com- Enjoy!
     
  15. Djanaba

    Djanaba Senior Member
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    Another few tips, some more pertinent to years 1/2 and others 3/4...

    --if you are in a small city or one with a bus system, etc., find out if your school has cheap bus passes. When you figure the cost of maintenance, gas, etc., a bus pass is often cheaper -- especially if you have flexible insurance which will allow you to take, say, a 6-week insurance hiatus for a reduction in premium. Small city or close by, ride your bike.

    --contact major book publishing companies (Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, BRS, etc) and inquire as to whether you can become a book reviewer. They often offer cash honoraria or big book gifts (choose $100 of anything in their library) for some reviews. It takes time but works.

    --sell your old texts. You will likely NOT use your old college bio, orgo, or physics books. You might for a bit, until you figure out that review books are the way to go. Sell them on amazon, half.com, to incoming 1st years at your school, or put them in the classified section here.

    --don't buy prepackaged food. Buy ingredients and COOK. Say no to Lunchables, premarinated chicken, DiGiorno's pastas. Have yourself a little adventure, check out epicurious.com,food.com, and a few other good cooking sites and save lots of dollars. Dried beans are cheap as heck, and if you are creative they can be super fun.

    --bring lunch to school. don't buy it there or give in to temptation to go out for lunch each day unless you can find lunch for under $3. (ha.) Stay far, far away from vending machines. Invest in 2-liters of pop instead of serial cans or bottles, except the one or two you rinse and reuse, refilling from your big bottles.

    --do NOT go to Starbucks every morning. Get really good at brewing your own coffee at home.

    --encourage classmates to do fun, cheap things when going out, like to play frisbee golf, on a picnic, to go swimming or sledding instead of to bars and clubs. (Making your own martinis is still cheaper than buying those made by the bartender.)

    --don't use high speed internet. your school should have a fast connection; exploit it and be content with your dialup into your school's system when at home.

    --stop getting Cable. you're in school. study and watch pbs. (hee hee! tv and pinball were two tough habits for me to break.)

    --consider being an avon or tupperware rep at school if you are inclined/desperate. :)
     
  16. ghettobird

    ghettobird Member
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    When your school gives you the lump sum check for living expenses, you should take out 90 days worth of expenses, and invest the rest in 90 day T bills. Although the percentage that you make on your investment is small (<5%), you still will have an extra $500 or so, which for me means a couple months worth of food! ;) ;)
    Furthermore, your return on investment is guaranteed, unlike if you invest in stocks or mutual funds.
     
  17. Atlas

    Atlas Senior Member
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    That's an interesting idea, Ghettobird! Thanks. :D
     
  18. doughboy

    doughboy Senior Member
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    I had a question regrading loan money. I know at my school you can have the school be the lender. Actually, they encourage you to pick them because its supposedly easier. Anyways, if the school is loaning you the money and its financial aid then shouldn't they be giving us a better deal then the "market" If you think about it, the school is making money off you by the interest they charge you. And why is it the financial aid's "responsibility" to determine how much you should really take out. If I want more money they should find a way to get it for me. We're not 16 years old anymore. If you're single its another story but if you're married with a family you need as much assistance as you can get. For us younger people this is the prime of our lives to go out and have fun and enjoy life. Its just not the same when you're 40+ years old and now you're checking out the hot spots in town and going to concerts and ballgames.
     

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