Studying medicine can be expensive. Any degree has its expenses, but medicine has a couple extra years to finance, a few other expenses, as well as less free time, however it is possible to find the money to finance yourself. I wrote this blog post to share the tips I’ve learned while studying that helped me finance my degree.
I have just finished my final year at medical school and looking back, it was a financially challenging experience! When thinking of finances, I like to think about inputs and outputs or income and expenses. In this post I will explain some methods I have used to maximise my potential income and to reduce expenses whilst studying medicine.
Considering your circumstances…
Before talking about income/expenses, there are some extra considerations that may have to be considered. Attending university can be a very financially stressful time of life. In medicine, students come from all sorts of backgrounds; some have done previous degrees, some are slightly (or considerably) older than others, and some are international students. Of course, there are many other backgrounds of students who attend university, but each individual has differing financial hurdles.
Now, I’ll be sharing my tips!
Dividing your finances into income and outgoings is helpful.
Firstly, income. Most students studying medicine (but not all) will be eligible for Student finance, yet sometimes this will be less than you may need. Another standard source of income is the NHS bursary available for final year students. This might sound great, and for some it is, but for others this can be less than needed as well. So how else can we supplement our income during med school?
This can be a difficult one to balance. The most obvious way to increase income is to undertake some paid work. There needs to be caution with this, as the ultimate goal is to pass your medical degree.
If paid employment is negatively affecting your studying/placements, then this is completely counter intuitive. It may sound obvious, but it is easy to fall into this trap, only to discover come exam time that you should have devoted more time and energy to study rather than work. This could result in you having to resit a year (and having to fund another year) or even leaving study altogether.
With part time employment try to find something as flexible as possible so that you can prioritise your time for studying, especially during exam time. Some examples include casual work like tutoring, child-minding, dog-sitting etc. Another tip would be to undertake work that would be beneficial to your studies, for example working as a healthcare assistant or similar in your local hospital, with good planning this can become a paid learning opportunity.
Read more about part-time employment in a blog by Aisia, here:
I was surprised at the number of bursaries and grants available to medical students. Bursaries and grants are charitable, so you don’t have to pay them back like you do with student loans. I was able to find some through my own university and some from further afield. Medical schools often offer bursaries to attend conferences etc which is a huge financial relief. Other bursaries include hardship bursaries, these may be from your own medical school or elsewhere. A good resource that I wish I knew about sooner is blackbullion. (www.blackbullion.com) This is like a directory of all the bursaries and grants available to apply for and can be filtered to show more specific options.
As mentioned above, there are many grants available to medical students. Grants are available from specific organisations and charities and you don’t have to pay them back. These grants are often intended to be used for a specific purpose, for example to fund an elective placements. It is worth looking at specific colleges (such as the Royal College of Surgeons etc.) as they will have their own grants for specific purposes. If you have a speciality interest, it is worth signing up to these organisations as a student member or to their mailing list at the very least as this will allow you to be aware of specific grants that may apply to yourself. Charities offering grants are also a possibility if you come from a widening participation background. The most obvious charity for more senior medical students and doctors is the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund. This is an amazing charity that supplies financial support to medics in times of need. This support can be in the form of grants, but also valuable financial advice.
It’s important to have a long-term perspective as a medical student. When you get to the end of your degree you are more or less guaranteed a job, so during the student years it is important to be conscientious with your spending (more about this in expenses later) but specifically to save. If you have been getting through med school so far without a financial struggle, then that is great! But it doesn’t mean there won’t be financial hardships on the way. Even putting a small amount aside as savings can be extremely useful, even if just bridging the gap to that next student finance payment.
We’ve discussed income, but what about expenses? Standard expenses that cannot be avoided include rent, bills and food. There is always room for saving even within essential expenses though.
With bills it pays to shop around, for example, Wi-Fi, energy etc. Look out for deals (usually companies have ones for students, but they may not always be the best value!) and use comparison sites for this, but also, calling suppliers before you switch is a great little way to make savings. Usually, suppliers want customers to stay and will offer better deals if you call and ask.
When it comes to food bills, it can be tempting as a student to eat out (or order in), as loads of places seem to offer “great” student deals. This is usually nowhere near as cheap or nutritious as cooking for yourself. Studying medicine often does not allow for loads of free time so it is usually worth doing careful meal planning and prepping. Luckily this is quite on trend and there are loads of resources when you search for meal planning guides online or on social media.
Travel is also another large expense, which often goes under the radar. One of the biggest savings can be made by changing how we travel. Walking is free, and good for you. Especially with hospital parking prices, changing your commute to a walk, or cycle if distance is further, is a huge saving. If this isn’t possible – such as travel to placement – then take a look at student fares for buses and trains, and ask your university if they have any funding to help cover your travel expenses to placement.
Textbooks are crazily expensive but as a student you shouldn’t need to buy (at full price at least) textbooks. Universities and hospitals usually have really well stocked libraries and these days that includes online resources too. Before buying a textbook check your library first! If it is not in your library, or you like to annotate your books, it is worth looking at second-hand. Wob.com (World of Books) is a game changer for textbooks.
Finally – ‘shy bairns get nowt’. This has become my mantra through my student days. If you don’t ask for discounts etc, you will never get them. You will be surprised at the results of simply asking for deals or discounts. Obviously do this politely, it’s not a demand and there is no entitlement. With human interaction in all aspects of life seeming to dwindle, take advantage of business dealings with a real human. The worst they can say is no!