If you’re like the vast majority of veterinary students and professionals in the industry, you probably have some student loan debt to pay off. One moment, you’re celebrating finally finishing school with your family and friends and the next moment, you realize you’ve got what looks like a mountain of debt from those student loans you took out. You start asking questions like, “Was it worth it?” or “How am I ever going to pay these off?” It can be a rude awakening, or at least a serious wake-up call. We’re here to tell you to keep your head up and that it may not be as impossible as you think. Here are 5 tips that could make getting out of veterinary school debt easier than it seems.
1. Create Realistic Goals and Expectations
We all have that ideal life in mind for when we get out of college and start our careers. A new car, your dream home, and the taste of finally making your own money. However, those first few years out of school probably won’t be the time to make all those things happen.
While you definitely will be making money, it’s important to set goals and expectations about where you want that money to go. Remember that the quicker you are able to eliminate those debts, the quicker you’ll get to do the things you want to do in life and not just the things that you need to do. Those high-dollar purchases may have to wait a little, but buying those things after you’re out from under student debt will make you feel so much better.
2. Set a Budget
We know. You’ve probably heard those 3 words a million times throughout your life, but we cannot stress enough how important this tip is for getting yourself out of debt as quickly and easily as possible.
Making money feels rewarding, but knowing that you have control over where your money is going is even more so. Set aside time to write down and figure out how much money per month you want to allocate towards your loans, your bills, your savings, and for yourself, and stick to those numbers. Sometimes, you might find that you’ve made more than what your budget had planned for. It’ll be nice having full control and discretion over where that money can go, whether it’s paying a little extra off of your loans or treating yourself to a small gift, but we’ll talk more on that later!
3. Analyze and Weigh Your Options
There are plenty of ways to pay off student loan debt. Taking the time to learn your repayment options with each lender can help you in the short and long term to make sure you’re making the best choices for your financial future. There is no one-size-fits-all method to paying off your student loans, so depending on your circumstances today and where you see yourself in a couple of years, you can determine the best strategy for paying back those loans.
You can also consider hospital size and location while job hunting as well. Different hospitals may pay differently depending on whether they are underserved or hyper-competitive, and different locations may have higher or lower costs of living. Some of these hospitals (including those in our Suveto network) may even offer student debt assistance in addition to salary during your tenure. Both of these can play a huge role in your budget and how much you are able to put towards your loans, so be sure to weigh your options out thoroughly!
4. Practice Ownership (Yes, Really)
At Suveto, our veterinary associates get to take part in our shareholder program called VSOP®. This allows you to have risk-free ownership in the hospital that you work at and provides you the tools you’ll need to grow financially and professionally.
The idea is that as the hospital grows from your hard work and dedication, so does the value of your share in the hospital (aka, your VSOP®). Basically, we believe that you should be rewarded above and beyond your normal compensation for investing your time and hard work into your practice. This money could be used as extra funds you put towards your loans to help cut down your debt and repayment period! If this is something that interests you, start your journey as a veterinarian with Suveto today!
5. Treat Yourself (In Moderation)
We told you that we’d come back to treating yourself to a small gift here and there back in the budget section! As mentioned before, sometimes you’ll end up with a little more (unbudgeted) money than expected and you won’t know exactly what to do with it. Some people call that “fun money.” Whatever you decide to call it, know that it’s ok to treat yourself to something you like from time to time. Make sure you’re still being smart with that money and allocating at least 80% towards your debt, but with the remaining 20%, do something that makes you happy!
All work and no play is hard on anyone, so rest assured knowing that no one will blame you for taking a little bit of that hard-earned money to do something kind for yourself.
As you walk through this journey, it’s important to know that you are not alone. There are so many veterinary professionals in the industry who have been in your shoes and understand what you are feeling. If you need some mentors or peers in the industry to talk to or walk along with while you work towards financial freedom, join the community of veterinary professionals at Harbor.vet! Connect with and reach out to students and professionals just like yourself and support each other as you continue to grow in your careers as veterinarians.