Spending an additional one to two years in postgraduate residency training certainly, has its benefits. This long-term investment in your career does, unfortunately come with sacrifices, and the financial sacrifice may arguably be the greatest. The majority of physical therapy residency programs pay their residents a percentage of a full-time employee, but I have heard of some resident salaries as low as $20,000 a year. If you are a third year DPT student, your perspective may be that any salary is better than no salary, especially after spending the past three years "paying to work." Alternatively, if you are like me and have been practicing for a couple of years, you might be looking at that number as a drastic change in style of living. Either way, the value postgraduate residency training brings to a physical therapists career can be worth the sacrifices, so we ultimately bite the bullet and figure it out.
Here are some money saving tricks I have used to lighten the financial burden while in residency. Keep in mind that these options may not be of any personal benefit depending on your financial situation. Nonetheless, they are options and might be worth further investigating.
Most student loans will have the option of deferment while in residency. Alternatively, you may not want to defer if you are employed by a non-for-profit and plan on taking advantage of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. In this situation, any payment made towards federal loans will count as a qualifying payment.
Refinance private loans with high-interest rates. I refinanced one of my private student loans with a ridiculous interest rate of 15%. I refinanced through a company with terms of interest-only payments for the first two years. Not only was I able to significantly reduce my interest rate, but the interest-only payment option provided me with a low monthly payment until I complete residency.
Luckily these days there are several companies available that refinance all loan types. A simple Google search will yield many results. Be on the look out for special refinancing options for auto loans. I recently refinanced my car loan for a lower rate with no payments for 3 months.
Money Saving Tricks
Since starting residency I have been forced to become more cognizant of my spending habits. I am now a HUGE fan of money-saving mobile apps. Why? Because over the past 4 months I have saved nearly $300 with just my top 3 apps! Here are some of my fave apps that require the least amount of time to see turnover.
Raise. Save money buying gift cards or make money selling unwanted gift cards. Almost every time I make an online purchase I search the Raise marketplace to see if there are any gift cards for sale at a discounted rate. I purchase the gift card from Raise and within minutes it is available for me to apply to my online order. I’ve seen gift cards discounted as high as 55% off! The gift cards may be available for online use only, and/or, home delivery. I’ve also used the delivery option to ‘gift’ gift cards.
Ibotta. Who wants to get cash back for items they already buy? Every week the app features hundreds of products from different stores that are available for cash rebates; that includes grocery, apparel, beauty and cosmetics, etc. The app also partners with other mobile platforms, such as Groupon, which gives you additional cash back on purchases. Furthermore, one of my favorite features are the stellar cash back rebates on beer, wine, and spirits; I usually save $4-$10 with the purchase of a single item. The trick is to pair a rebate with an in-store discount.
Checkout 51. Similar to Ibotta in that you are getting cash back for items you are likely already purchasing.
Walmart Savings Catcher. By scanning your receipt, the savings catcher compares prices against top competitors and you get the difference if a lower price is found.
Shopkick. Rewards you for shopping by accumulating “kicks,” which is the apps version of reward points. Accumulate kicks by simply walking into certain stores, scanning products, and/or purchasing select products. Redeem your kicks for gift cards to your favorite stores. Kicks are easy to accumulate quickly if you use the app diligently. This would likely be in my top 3 if I had the location services for the app ‘always’ on.
Surveys On The Go. This app is more of a money maker than a saver, because it is a mobile market research tool that pays users for their opinions. Surveys usually take me less than a minute to complete.
Field Agent. Also a money maker. Make money with your mobile device by completing small jobs at everyday places from your local grocery store to your living room. Get paid anywhere from $2 to $12 per job by collecting information like photos or product information. Jobs are on a first come first serve basis and based upon location. I usually will complete jobs when I'm already in the area that a job is available and I have extra time to kill. The higher paying jobs take me around 10 minutes. The jobs may be more time consuming than SOTG, but there is potential to make money a lot quicker.
Just like anything else, small wins add up! Small savings here and there will add up to fortunes in the future (seriously, though, have you read the book The Richest Man in Babylon).