So you’ve been accepted into a PA program, and are embarking on your education and training – congrats! This will be some of the hardest 2 to 3 years of your life, but you can do anything for only 2 to 3 years, right? The long days during PA school can drag (especially during didactic year), but the months will fly. Then each of your rotations will seemingly go by faster than the last. Here are some suggestions to try to be a PA-S the FI Way.
Try to Live Below Your Means During PA School
Unfortunately, during PA school, I do not feel as though I followed this advice very well. It is so easy to have the mentality that you are just “borrowing from your future self” when you are spending your loan money on items outside of tuition (such as food at restaurants, clothes, etc.). You may think your future self will of course be loaded! Ha! Having monthly student loan payments larger than our first mortgage certainly did not make me feel wealthy – it made me feel somewhat depressed! A few of my PA school friends were very good about sticking to their monthly budgets that they had developed for themselves during PA school. Also, one lady in our class even worked part time from home during PA school, AND she had kids! I don’t know how she managed all of that, as I could barely take care of myself during PA school, but props to her for being able to do that! Try to take less out for your loans or spend less of your loans so that interest doesn’t increase drastically over time. This will help your already high student loan payoff amount to not increase to an even larger amount.
Get a Roommate, or Continue or Start House Hacking
If you’re up for it, live with a roommate to save on cost, or continue to house hack if you’re able to, or start house hacking if you have not yet done so. An example of house hacking would be to find either a single family house and have roommates or find a multi-family property (such as a duplex or triplex) and have tenants. Either way, you would live in a portion of the property, and collect rent from you roommates or tenants, while putting that money towards your mortgage payment. This may make the rest of your mortgage payment very small, or it may cover your mortgage completely!
Save on Medical Equipment
As a PA student, you do not need very fancy medical equipment. Many PA programs will require certain kits, such as ones that have a blood pressure cuff (sphygmomanometer), ophthalmoscope, otoscope, reflex hammer, pen light, etc. Some programs allow you to choose from various kit options, or pick a stethoscope from a list of options. If you have the option, I would encourage you to choose nice equipment, but not the very fancy / expensive options, which just would not be needed as a PA-S.
Try to Get Rotations Close to Home or Friends / Family
Now, you may not be fortunate enough to have this option as a possibility through your PA program, but many PA programs will try to work with you to get rotations close to your home or other family members or friends. Sometimes, you can even try to help facilitate a rotation close to someone you know if you know a potential preceptor close by. Unfortunately, there can be a bit of a shortage with providers (PA-C, MD, DO, CNP, etc.) that are willing to be preceptors, so many programs welcome some help in trying to place PA students for some rotations. Ideally, this would mean either free or very affordable housing during that rotation. Even though I went to PA school in a state other than my home state (which was just the next state over), my PA program already had several rotations available within an hour drive from my home. My mom was still kind enough to let me stay with her at home for free during each of those rotations, and I would just commute to each rotation site from home.
Get Creative About Places to Stay for Rotations That Are Not Close to Home
For rotations not close to home, sometimes the rotation site will already have suggested housing. For example, several of my classmates actually stayed in a room at a nursing home, which was next to the rotation site for a month! Another idea would be to reach out to classmates about either staying at their home during your rotation, or with their friends or family members nearby. I had one rotation that was in the city of my PA program (but I did not keep my apartment during rotation year as each rotation was in a different city or state). One of my friends from my PA class had a different rotation in the same city at the same time. We researched options for housing, and ended up staying at a temporary housing site, which was basically a hotel room with a small kitchenette (most of the other people staying there seemed to be truckers). Sometimes you just need to get creative to find housing that is convenient during your rotation and that does not break the bank! Consider searching for places on AirBnB or Vrbo as well. After our year of rotations, our whole class had to meet back at school for a few weeks to wrap up final exams and have graduation. During those few weeks, several classmates opened up their homes to several of us who did live locally. Myself and a few other gals brought our air mattresses to crash at the home of a lady in our class with her husband and their two teenage boys. They were so kind and welcoming, and their sons were hilarious making our time there entertaining! The various housing arrangements that I encountered during PA rotations ended up contributing to some of my fondest memories of that time in my life.
Are you a PA-S or PA-C who has more ideas for PA students to be able to save on expenses during PA school? Perhaps you experienced some creative, affordable living arrangements during your rotations during PA school that you can share? Leave them in the comments section to help a PA-S out there!