Top 8 ways I increased my net worth during residency

Previously we discussed tips to supercharge your net worth during residency. The main aspect of your finances that you can truly control are your expenses. The following are some of the methods that helped me increase my net worth during rough times:

  1. I did not own a car. Fortunately I lived in a city where mass transit was somewhat reliable and I also lived close to my workplace. So I saved on car insurance, maintenance, and gas. In contrast, I did live in a high cost of living city, so rent was much more expensive than the average U.S. city. In retrospect, the higher cost of living area far exceeded what I saved by not owning a car. That being said, if I truly needed a car during residency, I would have sought out a 5+ year old used car on Craigslist, preferably from a grad student about to move out of the country and needing to sell immediately. High fuel efficiency would be emphasized, although one key component to saving is to minimize unnecessary driving trips.
  2. I maxed out my on-call allowances monthly. Our residency gave us approximately $10 for meals while on call. This was actually regulated through a meal card that contained roughly $100 a month. Maybe they assumed q3 call on a 30-day month. On days that I needed a meal, I would save on meal costs. Whatever was left over was used to purchase ancillary unhealthy snacks that I might have otherwise bought anyway. YMMV depending on how regulated your program is.
  3. I did not own any new furniture. My bed was given to me by a graduating medical student who bought it new but used it for less than one year (not sure why). My couch, desk, dining table, dresser, and corner table all came used via Craigslist. When I moved, I sold everything at a profit and more than doubled my initial investment after years of using the furniture (while maintaining it in good condition). I was quite fortunate in this regard—I doubt that I’d ever be able to replicate such bartering skills in the future.
  4. I found a Hispanic grocery store that sold dirt-cheap basic foods. Although I’m not sure how much pesticide I actually consumed from buying discount fruits and vegetables, it saved me a lot of money. Cuts of meats were also significantly cheaper than the average grocery store.
  5. I bought discounted food at Whole Paycheck. I discovered that said grocery store sold their blemished fruits at a deep discount and raided their selection every week. A bag of 6 fancy mangoes for $1.50! Or a 5lb bag of limes for $1.50! I once chatted with the fishmonger at the store and discovered that they discarded the fish heads and spines. I once bought 3 keta salmon heads/spines for $1. This is the same fish whose fillets sold for an obscene $28.99/lb. The fishmonger also did not fillet cleanly so the portions I purchased had significant amounts of meat. I used the bones to stew broth for ramen.
  6. I kept limited wardrobe. I don’t believe that I actually purchased any new clothing during residency, especially since I took care of my work clothes. This meant air drying dress shirts and ironing them myself.
  7. I cleaned my own apartment. That meant no housekeeper. Initially I thought that not having maid service as a resident was a no brainer, but it’s amazing how many of my colleagues were paying for a cleaner. It also helped that I did not have much furniture to begin with.
  8. I kept my restaurant tabs in check. I didn’t live in solitude but also kept a close eye on excess spending at fancy restaurants. Stressful jobs often lend themselves to retail therapy.

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