money, money, money

I’m in my late 30s and in a well-established career that I dislike. I’m single, and I have no dependents. I can pay my bills, but I don’t have a lot left over at the end of the month. Whatever I save seems to get sucked up in emergencies of one sort or another. (Last year, my car died. This year? Root canal and crown.)

I’ve spent the last few years thinking about making the jump into medicine, but now I’m certain I want to become a doctor. I can’t see myself being content doing anything else, but I’m scared about finances.

For the first time in my life, I have no financial safety net. My parents are gone (one died in a great deal of debt, the other’s spouse took everything…EVERYTHING). I never had a close relationship with my parents’ siblings, but I know they struggle financially, too. I live away from my close friends who are also all struggling in their own way. I’ve got no significant other. I feel like I could crash for a few days with a friend here or there, but to ask for and receive $1000 to fix my car? It wouldn’t happen. It’s not that my friends don’t love me, it’s that they genuinely don’t have the money.

I. Am. Scared.

And I would need to complete a post-bacc before applying, so hypothetically I think I’m looking at a seven year haul at a minimum.

Before I can even get to the point of thinking about GPAs and MCATs and GREs, I have to think about money.

How’s the money thing working out for you folks? What do you do for health insurance? What do you do when you have an expensive car repair bill? Can you afford groceries and winter tires and teeth cleanings and khakis and all of the things that are normal expenses on loan money? Do you work and go to school at the same time to make ends meet? And what happens financially during the glide year?

Anyone is welcome to comment, but I’m especially interested in hearing from folks out there in my shoes (NO safety net).

Thank you in advance to everyone who replies.

Ok, I know that you wanted people with no safety net in particular, but my safety net consists of my husband and he doesn’t make much money, so it’s not much of a safety net… I think for the post-bacc, unless you get into a post-bacc program, you could possibly just take one or two classes at a time at night while still working. That’s difficult, definitely, but possibly doable, although it largely depends on the type of job you have now. That would solve the issue of insurance and the safety net. If not, there are always loans, but you’re limited to $12,500 a year in federal student aid - pretty much nothing else is available to post-bacc students other than private loans, which are best to steer clear of, if you can help it. As for medical school, I think most people live on the loans they get for that, and there are scholarships and grants available, too. I’m not that far into the journey yet, so I can’t speak with too much certainty - only from what I’ve gleaned from reading this board and other conversations I’ve had. It also might be a stretch to say people can really live on fin aid they get in medical school, but you can’t really have a job while you’re in med school, so the financial aid packages can be generous. The fact that you don’t have dependents is a plus b/c at least you don’t have anyone who relies on YOU for money. I’m sure others will have more and better info for you, but I hope this helps some. Basically, it is doable. It wouldn’t hurt if you could save some money ahead of time, though, and if you could continue working while doing your post-bacc, if at all possible. Because the post-bacc is definitely, in my mind, anyway, the most difficult piece financially b/c of all the limitations on post-bacc students.


I, much like you, am chiefly concerned with money (in my case, the lack thereof). I just turned 30 (as of yesterday) and am currently completing the last leg of my pre-med journey. I have Org II and Phys II (along with the required labs) as well as Calc I and (possibly) Biochem. Financially, I’m strapped, having worked only part-time throughout the duration of this journey. I effectively live semester-to-semester, at times month-to-month. Had it not been for student loans and the much undeserved beneficence of a family doctor friend this would have been impossible for me. I did not go the post-bacc route, as my situation was much more conducive for a do-it-yourself.

To answer your question, I AM able to pay for my necessities, however, I have no health insurance and haven’t been to the dentist in eons. I am exploring opportunities at present, but I think I’m going to take these last 4 courses, at most, two at a time so that I can work more and put some money away (or at least pay down some of my more immediate debt).

Late 30’s? IF I get accepted to a post bacc, and IF I get the scores I need on the MCAT, and IF I get accepted to med school…I will be 60 when I complete my residency. I haven’t got a dime saved up. Am fully planning on financial aid, PLUS loans, and hopefully, becoming an NHSC scholar, or working at an NHSC site upon graduation. A whole lotta IF’S!!! However, my life experience has shown me, that if it is meant to be, a way will be provided, and I have stashed 2 or 3 “back up plans” if not accepted to one of the post bacc’s I apply to. I am just DOWN for this ride, and ready to rock if accepted. Kids are grown and gone. What’s the worst thing that could happen?? I continue in my current career. What’s the best? The plan works and I become a doctor. What’s to lose???

I can answer the insurance question - at my med school the students are required to have insurance. My policy (due to my age) costs about 320/month. The “budget” the school has for their living expenses figures $180/mo for insurance. So I have to save the additional (plus uncovered medical expenses) out of my budget. I looked at what they budgeted for housing and made sure I picked an apt. that was sizably under that, and this has helped me a lot.

In my experience, there were not sizable (or any) financial aid options. Applied for NHSC scholarship year 1, 2 and 4 without success, and the school offered no aid. They do have an emergency loan up to $1000 if your car dies or something similar.


Other thoughts as well - Things that I have done for years, so they do not frighten me. Travel light…most of the stuff you haul around with you is unnecessary anyways. Live on the edge of the “hood” Sometimes there are very decent apartments that are much less pricey due to location. You can make your own “heaven on earth” in any little corner of the world. Consider “less than” - Do I need a bedroom? Would a studio actually fit my needs better? Ditch the “extras” - Cable, satellite, landline phone, extra electronics, TV, Stereo, etc. I have my laptop and I-phone - period. and o Meets all my entertainment needs - books, movies, music, and daily news. Plain internet on a “dry loop” ( no active phone line and no cable) is 19.95 a month. Conserve - wash dishes by hand, get a Brita and a good water container, reduce cosmetics and cleaning supplies - Do you really need anything other than soap, shampoo,toothpaste, dishsoap, bleach and laundry detergent? Dishsoap and bleach in a multitude of diluted forms will suffice to clean any surface in your home. And of course, the issue of FOOD. Cooking a large pot of something, and divying it up in meal portions and tossing in the freezer will replace any number of “microwaveable” conveninece foods. Cooking your own food is cheaper than convenience food - ALWAYS - and healthier for you. Downsize your life, get it down to the minimum needs, not wants, and the budget you get on financial aid may actually suffice!! I raised two toddlers and commuted to grad school. When I got my financial aid disbursement, I bought my books, set aside the gas budget, and paid my rent six months ahead. Anything left over was for utilities and food. It can be done…

Vicki has it right. Be a minimalist live a spartan lifestyle.

Financially, you really only need to plan up to the point of making it into medical school. Once you in it will be easier to borrow money. So you can plan for that next step when you get there but I wouldn’t worry about it until you reach it.

For medical insurance if you aren’t working you might want to look into your states medicaid. In 2014, my state will start covering single individuals making less than $1252 a month. Even if they don’t have full coverage for single individuals in your state many have (share-of-cost) policies which might be cheaper than traditional.

For clothing I think Macklemore says it best with “Thrift Shop” Half the clothes still have original price tags.

For food get a rice/slow cooker: Rice, beans, a protein, and cheap veggies. Saves time and money.

Also check out plasma donation in your area. I spend two hours studying twice a week an make an extra $55 each week.

These are all things I found that helped me. But realistically if you are working full time and barely making ends meet you need to take a good look at your lifestyle. If it is debt or careless spending you should probably fix that before going back to school.

Either way I wouldn’t let that discourage you. When people starve a bit they seek out nutrition in stranger places.

Think of the movie office space where Peter says if he had a million dollars he would sit on his ass all day and do nothing. Then his neighbor says “Well, you don’t need a million dollars to do nothing, man. Take a look at my cousin: he’s broke, don’t do shit” I’m that cousin except I replaced the “nothing” with a post-bacc and some volunteering.

Agree with downsizing. If I would be single I’d find me the cheapest safe appartment I could and safe on everything else as Vicky said. I would save the rest while working full time and take a few classes at the time for the longest I could. I’m already saving but not as much as I would like to. My kid doesn’t like the word “budget” and my husband seems can’t live without HBO and ESPN channels …work in progress.