Med student back-to-school budgeting
Between paying rent, buying textbooks, buying your white lab coats, commuting and other expenses, it’s no secret that school is not cheap—without even factoring in those cruel tuition fees.
For those of you who are already neck-deep in it, whether you need some extra cash now or are looking for ways to have a little more on-hand during the semester, it’s always wise to find ways to save a few bucks where we spend the most: in everyday purchases.
This week, we’re going to give you some tips and tricks on how to optimize your spending and saving (funny how those go together) while in medical school, nursing school, pharmacy school or the like. And the best part about these tips? None of them are complete overhauls. All of these are small and manageable changes that keep you alert and conscious of how much you’re spending already, and how you can get by spending less.
Sound fair? Great! Let’s jump in.
One of the most painful purchases during college comes in the form of textbooks: they’re heavy, they’re incredibly expensive, and you’re only going to use them for a few months.
That last point doesn’t have to work completely against you, however. If you haven’t already sold your old textbooks, do so now! Chances are you won’t use them much anymore—maybe you didn’t even use them much during the semester (he-hem).
But beware, textbooks rapidly go down in value as classes move on to new editions. You probably won’t get anywhere close to full price, but you won’t get “nothing,” either. This is a good way to make some money quickly and get rid of some heavy, cumbersome things you don’t want to pack with the next move.
Textbooks aren’t the only thing you can sell, of course. Anything you needed to buy for a certain course that you don’t use after the fact (and that can be resold, of course) can be sold to someone about to take that course. Maybe a friend or a sibling is entering medicine, too, and you have an extra lab coat lying around that you don’t use anymore? Or maybe you just upgraded to a designer lab coat, and you’re feeling generous…whatever the case may be, med students selling to new med students is an age-old practice that does everyone favors.
Yes, even if you don’t hit the gym every day, meal prep is a win-win for saving money. While meal prep is normally associated with sticking to a strict and healthy diet, it can also be a powerful tool for saving a lot of cash.
First of all, cooking and eating at home is almost always less expensive than eating out, and it can make a huge difference in your spending in the long run.
And even before you commit, you can take a week to jot down every food item you buy—every meal, and also every snack and treat. Add it all up and see how much it costs you. If you’re spending a lot on snacks and treats, chances are you aren’t eating enough during your regular meals, which are already costing you more money than necessary. Take this spending total and go to the grocery store and check out how much it would cost you to make the equivalent meals for a week yourself. The difference will be drastic—and even more so when you realize it will add up week after week.
As an added bonus, keeping track of your food-related spending will make you more conscious of your impulse snacks and treats, which could indirectly help you refrain from spending so much on food. After all, just because you can fit a lot of snacks into your designer lab coat pockets, that doesn’t mean you should.
If you do decide to go through with the meal prep, it can also lead to eating healthier. Even if it isn’t a strict diet, the fact that you’re taking time to put all the ingredients together for your meals can help you think twice before dousing your meal in oils, fats and sugars—something you would rarely consider when ordering at a restaurant.
Track your spending
Similar to the last tip, a great savings tactic is to track of how much you’re spending in general. Do you know exactly (or even approximately) how much you spend every month? Every week? If not, there’s a good chance that a lot of your expenses aren’t completely necessary.
Again, if nothing else, keeping track of your spending can help you at least be a little more conscious of what you’re spending money on. Maybe you’re buying a lot of snacks, maybe you’re spending a lot on water bottles when you could be refilling your own water bottle, maybe you’re spending a lot of Lyfts and Ubers when you could be taking the bus. All of these can add up, and—let’s be honest—none of them are completely necessary.
If the majority of your unnecessary spending is on snacks and treats, you might want to take another look at the previous tip.
Shop with student discounts
Of course, fashionable lab coats aren’t the only thing you’ll need to buy regularly. Clothing, school supplies, food, household or dorm accessories, maybe even a laptop—there are loads of things you’ll need to buy with money you’d rather not spend. Luckily, many of stores offer student discounts on a variety of different things. Here are a few:
- As far as school supplies, especially when ordering online, you can get discounts from FedEx and Amazon. FedEx offers 20% off their shipping for students and Amazon offers discounted Prime membership and free shipping (hello, stylish new Amazon lab coat).
- Many different electronics stores offer a great deal of student discounts as well. , which can save you up to $200 on a new Mac. Adobe student discounts offer Acrobat and Creative Suite at lower prices. HP offers custom PCs at student prices as well as free shipping. AT&T and Sprint both offer student discounted services, too.
You can take advantage of discounts at clothing stores as well. For students, Sam’s Club offers a discounted membership (and is great for so much more than clothing), J. Crew offers a 15% student discount, Toms offers free shipping, and Banana Republic offers 15% off.
And perhaps best of all, student discounts are available for food as well! Participating Subway locations will give you 10% off your order, and Burger King will also take off 10%. Certain Kroger locations can offer 5% off for food purchases, Waffle House offers 10% off, and many Dairy Queen locations have a variety of student discounts.
On top of these national chains and options, you should also see which places near you offer loyalty cards, or what local places (especially in college towns) have student discounts. Perhaps your favorite supply or food shop doesn’t offer any student discounts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get any sort of discount—racking up points on loyalty cards by going often can earn you future discounts and free items.
Cheap flights back home
Perhaps one of the most expensive purchases you’ll make during the semester (if you study far from home) is the plane ticket to visit your family over break. Luckily, there are many ways to save on these purchases, too.
For starters, plenty of websites offer fares at much lower prices for students. For example:
Student Universe offers special rates on flights, hotels, and tours for students between the ages of 18 and 25. These discounted prices are offered only to students, so you’ll need to prove your student status by showing your ID, your class schedule, or some other school document.
STA Travel offers fares of all kind, but some are only available for full-time students (and are the ones you’re going to want to check out). An International Student Identity Card is useful to get the discount with STA, and is also useful to get student discounts for flights and hotels around the world.
There are loads of ways to save some money and end up with a few more bucks in your wallet by the end of the semester. Try out any or all of these and see how much you save—whether it’s enough to buy a new computer or a new lab jacket, any amount will be a win.