Thursday, August 7, 2014

money talk: new budget for starting dental school

With the new year starting, I've been getting a lot of emails about budgeting from new dental students (congratulations and good luck, by the way!). I've briefly talked about budgeting and finances here, but I found that the questions go beyond the general tips I've discussed in those posts. Like these:

  • Are the dental school budgets and spending estimates accurate?
  • How do you set up an accurate spending budget for dental school?
  • How do you keep track of your spendings in dental school?

Money talk isn't fun, but it's necessary. Plus it will be satisfying when you hit those financial goals- I promise. I'm assuming we know the basics of budgeting (your usual balancing in's and out's), so we'll start with how to modify our existing budget. Not only are you moving to a new city, you also have a new dental school lifestyle. For example, when I moved to Philadelphia I spent more money on groceries and now zero on car insurance and gas, having sold my car.

Dental schools do publish spending estimates/budgets. However, sometimes the published budget is for ten or eleven months only while school is in session. Or, you may find that the budget (which assumes you are a single 20-something without major financial commitments) does not fit your lifestyle. So here's my tips on creating a budget for your new fabulous dental school life.


1. Spend money comfortably- for first few months.
To get a good idea of how much you'll be spending with this new lifestyle/location, spend like you normally do. This way, you can get a realistic idea of what it is like to be living "comfortably"- whatever this means to you. If you want to cut down on your spendings, you will have this realistic baseline number to go off of.

2. Allocate correctly between one-time spendings and recurrences.
There'll be TONS of new things to buy as you move in. These will be one-time expenses you won't repeat next month- such as furniture, deposit for apartment, and pantry stocking necessities. I like using mint.com to track all my spendings. Differentiate between these so you'll know what your month-to-month spending will be like.

3. Be honest about all your spendings!
As painful as it may be, don't "hide" your impulsive buys or irresponsible purchases. I had a blanket "education" budget for all things school-related and I've hidden many flats underneath that category... . If you find yourself spending tons of money on something, it might be a better idea to actually create a budget for this item- so you can spend money responsibly and predictably.

Hopefully after a few months, you'll have a better idea of how much you should budget for your spendings as a newly white-coated dental student. That's it!

Keep your eyes out for personal finance tips in the ASDA publications- I love reading these in our monthly publications. Click ahead and read this one about how to budget for couples when one is in dental school- hint: try the envelope method.

What money tips have you found helpful?
What app's or systems do you use to track your spendings?


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