Let’s face it – The amount of work and stress your average college student has to juggle, along with sorting out financial responsibilities, is enough to make anyone’s head spin. When you start to add the strenuous demands it takes to be a medical student into the equation, managing a budget is often the last thing that will spring to mind. However, it’s inevitable that medical students will have to not only learn more efficient ways to stretch out their budget every semester, but also comprehend how frivolous spending will only make handling their educational duties a more daunting task. Whether you’re just beginning medical assisting classes or you’re nearing the end to graduation, it never hurts to receive some essential tips for managing a budget while being enrolled in medical school.

Know your financial obligations
As with anyone attempting to project their budget, medical students need to be aware of what their essential financial obligations are and how much that will take out of their monthly or annual budget. This should always be done at the beginning of a new school year or semester, as figuring in your budget weeks before final exams will only increase anxiety. For starters, factor in how much your books, medical supplies and any other mandatory accessories for school will cost. Add those up and compare the figures to what your projected cost of living bills will be. This can include everything from rent money, credit card bills, groceries or any other type of expenses you simply can’t ignore. If all these essential costs start to add up quickly, it’s smart to consider making certain lifestyle adjustments. Maybe moving into a smaller apartment that’s more affordable is a cost-effective idea that will free up finances. If you’re spending more on groceries every month than what you’re paying for rent, your supermarket purchases may need some auditing. Setting aside the necessary funds for your top billing priorities is the first step medical students need to take for efficiently budgeting out their year.

Write down your expenses
You might find it easy to keep track of all your finances in your head, but how much you’re spending may not be fully registering to you with this strategy. Learning how to effectively budget your finances may take some visual realization, so at the beginning of every month, review your online banking statement and write down all the costs of purchases you made that didn’t go to essential expenses. You may start to see a trend on how often you eat out at restaurants, or notice that those weekend shopping excursions aren’t doing your bank account any favors. Managing personal spending should always be a budgeting concern for medical students, and cutting corners any which way you can will only lighten the load of your financial responsibilities.

Make goals
If you’re attempting to make a commitment to spending less money this semester, write down some actual budgeting goals you wish to accomplish. Maybe you’re trying to save $25 every time you go out to buy groceries. Keep track of previous receipts of trips to the supermarket and keep them in your wallet, so the next time you go grocery shopping, you can see what you spent your money on last time and try to make cost-saving adjustments. While the weekends are a utopia for every college student, those two days certainly make spending money much easier when one has less time constraints. Perhaps you can make a commitment to staying in on either Friday or Saturday night, opting to catch up on school work rather than using your debit card while you’re out and about with friends. Limiting the amount of time you spend eating at a restaurant to once a week can always make a financial difference in your budget as well. Remember, any progress you make to save up more money is always a positive step forward for maintaining a budget.

Cut some corners
It’s very easy to overlook how many ways we can save a few bucks here and there just by utilizing resources, especially with friends or other students. Rent is always cheaper when you’re splitting an apartment with a roommate, and if you’re taking the same courses as people you know, share books instead of buying each one individually. Transportation is another factor that many people don’t factor into their budget. Instead of driving your car and spending money on gas or hailing a cab, invest in a bike or try to take some form of public transportation. Even saving up on coupons is an effective attempt at freeing up some money every month. Sometimes it just takes thinking outside the box to finally begin seeing new ways to maintain a sufficient budget throughout medical school.

1 “Budgeting 101: Money management tips for medical students,” American Medical Association, Dec. 22, 2014. http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/ama-wire/ama-wire/post/budgeting-101-money-management-tips-medical-students

2 “Budgeting Basics: Managing Your Money During the Lean Years,” Association of American Medical Colleges. https://www.aamc.org/services/first/first_factsheets/111932/budgeting_basic.html

3 “Budgeting in Medical School: Does It Really Matter?” Brent Schnipke, The Student Doctor Network, Jan. 23, 2015. http://www.studentdoctor.net/2015/01/budgeting-in-medical-school-does-it-really-matter/

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