How to Save Money this Month

5 Things Residents, Fellows and Even Attending Physicians and Surgeons

Can Do to Save Money This Month

By Katherine Vessenes, JD, CFP®, RFC

The year I started MD Financial, I put myself on a strict budget. After all, I wasn’t sure it would work. By the end of the year, as I reviewed my spending, I noticed three things:

1.    I had only eaten dinner out two times the entire year—both times for dinner meetings.

2.    My entire clothing budget for the year was $169. This covered the cost of one new pair of jeans, as my old ones had holes in unfashionable places.

3.    I discovered some penny pinching ideas that could help our clients stay on a budget.

No matter where you are in life, there are steps you can take that will put you in a better financial position by the end of the month. Here are a few of the things I do for my own personal penny pinching plan that will work for doctors, too:

  • I make my own lunches. Each Sunday, I spend about 45 minutes chopping vegetables and making salads. I put the dry veggies in a quart jar, starting with cucumbers, bell peppers, scallions, cherry tomatoes and other goodies, and then topping the jar with the greens on top. Wet ingredients, like my protein source and salad dressing, I put in a separate container.  At lunchtime, I invert the glass on a plate, top it with the protein and dressing, and I have a great salad. This helps me get to my goal of 7 servings of veggies a day, keeps my weight down, saves a lot of time heading to a restaurant or cafeteria, and saves money.

  • We rarely eat dinners at restaurants. I will freely admit this took some time to change a bad restaurant addiction. There was a time in my life when I enjoyed eating out—I was too tired to cook or clean up. Gradually I began to see that I really didn’t enjoy spending an hour or so in a restaurant, sitting down, waiting for service, getting mediocre food, when I could be out doing things I really enjoyed. In fact, it was more draining for me to eat out than have my own dinner at home.

    Fortunately, I married a great cook. So during the summer months, while I am making our salads for the week, my husband Peter is grilling our proteins for our weekly dinners. Yesterday he cooked turkey and pork bratwurst and chicken breasts. Last week it was turkey breasts, hamburgers, and roast chickens. We make enough for the week and then freeze half of them. On weeks that he is out of town, I create a couple of crockpot dinners of chili, stew, or soup. When we come home tired from work, it never takes longer than 10 minutes to pull the dinner out and heat it up. By the time we have finished eating and have done a quick clean up, we are ready for a fun evening. All of this was done in the same amount of time it would take us to reach the restaurant!

  • I buy my clothes at resale shops. As I am writing this, I am wearing a new autumn weight jacket. Retail price: About $179. My cost: $28! Yes, it still had the tags on it. Most of my clothes are purchased at upscale resale shops. One of my biggest finds was a couture suit that was probably about $2,000 at retail. I paid a whopping $90 and I always feel like a million dollars in it. Peter has found Lucchese boots that would retail for $500 - $700, at the price of $65. If we had small children at home, I would get all their clothes at children’s resale shops. I feel like I am saving the environment by keeping good clothes out of the dumps and saving money at the same time.

  • Credit card purchases are immediately paid off. We do use credit cards, partly for security purposes and partly for the loyalty benefits. However, I hate seeing a balance on the cards each month. As soon as I get home from making the credit card purchase, I log onto our checking account and do a transfer to the credit card to immediately pay the recent purchase off. This means I won’t have to pay a carrying charge on the credit cards, and it will immediately show up in my bank account as a reduction.

    This reduced bank account balance is important to my pinching pennies plan, because I check it every few days for fraud and for the balance. If there is a sizable balance, then I know we can do the special vacation, buy furniture, or go to the spa. If the balance isn’t high enough, those activities can wait until next month.

  • Save Every Month. All of our doctors know how important we feel it is for them to save money. Yes, even the residents and fellows. I am so proud of them. Sure they have high student loans and aren’t making much money, but it is important to get into the habit of spending less than you make and setting money aside for a rainy day or a brighter future.

I find when doctors have the funds automatically taken out of their bank accounts at the beginning of every month, they seem to subconsciously adjust their spending to live on the rest—they never miss it.

As you are creating your own penny pinching plan, remember what the Brits say: if you watch the pennies, the pounds take care of themselves!

©2019 Katherine Vessenes. No reprints without permission

Katherine Vessenes, JD, CFP®, RFC, is the founder and CEO of MD Financial Advisors who serve 500 doctors from Hawaii to Cape Cod. An award-winning Financial Advisor, Attorney, Certified Financial Planner®, Registered Financial Consultant, author and speaker, she is devoted to bringing ethical advice to physicians and dentists. She can be reached at