Education can be a big financial investment. Before you commit to attending an allied health program, you may need to budget or plan your finances accordingly.
“Saving to pay for school can be really hard, but we have to work and sacrifice for things that matter,” says Rochelle Foote, a dental assistant in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. “If it matters to you, fight for it.”
Where do you start? If the idea of saving money seems daunting, know that there are many resources to help you and many steps you can take. Yes, there will be sacrifices, but isn’t a career in a field you love worth it?
Here are seven tips to help you pay for school.
1. Find grants or scholarships
Grants and scholarships are excellent alternatives to loans when it comes to paying for allied health school. Some institutions give you the opportunity to apply for specific scholarships, but you can also seek scholarships from outside sources.
A quick Google search for scholarships in your desired area of study or geographic area may turn up fruitful results.
2. Create a budget—and stick to it
A budget can be your best friend when it comes to saving up. If you do this and don’t waver, you’ll watch your savings grow.
Popular budgeting methods include:
- The 50/30/20 method:
- Direct 50% of your income toward necessary expenses, spend 30% on discretionary items and fun, and save the remaining 20%.
- The envelope method:
- Analyze your expenses for a given month and make a budget. Then stuff cash into envelopes that represent different expense categories—for example, groceries, medical expenses, utility costs, savings, and so on. Limit your spending to what’s in each envelope.
- The zero-based method:
- Determine how every dollar you earn each month will be spent, whether that’s on expenses or savings. With this method, every dollar gets assigned a specific purpose, and anything that’s left over goes into savings.
Budgeting will help you avoid impulse spending, which can sabotage your efforts to save money. No matter which method you choose, you can use spreadsheets to break down your income, understand your expenses, and set hard spending and saving limits.
How one allied health student paid for school
Rochelle Foote budgeted to pay off her debts after paying for school, a strategy that she says worked very well:
“I didn’t go to college. I worked while my husband finished college and then we started our family. I am lucky to have been able to stay home with my daughters. When my youngest started school, so did I.
After one semester I realized it wasn’t for me. Then dental assisting came into my path, but schools were very expensive. They ranged from $5,000-$15,000. With three young kids, there was no way I would be able to pay cash.
So, like many students, we took on some debt to get me into a career faster. I started at a 13-week program for $5,500, charged to my Visa card.
I started saving after starting school. We made some lifestyle changes, as we didn’t want the debt hanging over our heads. We started saving and paying it off as quickly as possible. We ate out less, watched our budget, and had to say no to doing or buying certain things.
By sticking to our budget and getting our debt paid off, we were able to enjoy our financial freedom sooner. With a new job as a dental assistant, paying more than the minimum wage I was making, my family and I have been able to save more.”
3. Find a part-time job
If saving up for your entire allied health education before you start attending school isn’t a viable option, getting a part-time job could be a good move.
If you find a part-time job related to the field you want to pursue, you’ll also be able to network and make valuable connections that could help you when you launch your career after graduation.
This job could be directly related to what you’re studying, like working as a receptionist in a medical office, or it could be something like working at a local cafe or retail store. If you can find a job related to the field you want to pursue, you’ll also be able to make valuable connections that could help you when you launch your career after graduation.
With the rise of remote work, you also may be able to get a part-time role that allows you to work from home if that’s more convenient.
Better yet, try to get a job at a business that offers tuition reimbursement to their employees. Many different business offer some level of tuition reimbursement if you are also a student, even to part-time employees. This is especially common at fast food chains.
4. Open a high-yield savings account
If you’re saving up for a specific goal, like attending school, opening a high-yield savings account can help you reach that goal more quickly. High-yield savings accounts typically offer interest rates that are 20 to 25 times the national average, and online-only banks tend to offer the best rates.
You’ll need to do your research, though, to make sure you choose an account that meets your goals, has minimal fees and restrictions, and is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC).
5. Ask friends and family for assistance
There is no shame in asking loved ones for help. Your friends and family may be willing to pitch in for your education, so all you need to do is ask. A great way to do this is by asking for cash or monetary donations for school in lieu of birthday or holiday gifts.
You can also use popular crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe or JustGiving to collect donations from loved ones. These sites also make it easy for anyone to contribute, regardless of their relation to you.
6. Be frugal whenever possible
This goes hand-in-hand with budgeting. There are many ways to cut costs for both everyday and school-related expenses:
You’ll soon be a student, so it’s a good time to learn to live like one!
7. Enroll in an accelerated program
School can vary in length—some programs can take just months while others can take years. Shorter programs tend to be less expensive and can help you enter the job market sooner.
If possible, try to apply to accelerated programs in your desired field. These programs tend to have higher workloads and weekly time commitments, but by condensing your studies, you’ll save on major expenses like tuition.
Enrolling in an online program can also help you save on tuition expenses while helping you advance in your career. “I’ve also been able to take courses online and some in person to advance my knowledge and value, allowing me to have a higher pay rate,” Foote says.
8. Take advantage of student discounts
Many different businesses offer discounts to students with a valid student ID, including restaurants, apparel, bookstores, transportation, entertainment and much more. If you can, opt to shop at these businesses so you can take advantage of the lower prices they offer students. If you aren’t sure if a business that you frequent offers a student discount, just ask!
That being said, don’t go out of your way to claim a discount if the product is already expensive to begin with. In other words, 10% off at a pricey clothing store may still cost you more than paying full price at a generic store.
Resources for saving for school
There are plenty of tools out there that make saving for school easier. You can try downloading budgeting apps on your phone or laptop. Popular apps include:
You can also take advantage of free templates and spreadsheets through programs like Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel to track your budget.
If you have friends or relatives who have saved to pay for school, consider them as another resource. They might have been in a similar situation when they started saving, so ask them how they did it—what worked for them as well as pitfalls to avoid.
There are also many influencers on social media that provide finance and budgeting advice. Check out some of these TikTok accounts to discover some useful tips on how you can save money and make your allied health education a reality:
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