Personal accounts: A vet on the verge of being free from student loans

February 28, 2018

This veterinary associate put a premium on paying back her student debt and also on feeding her three dogs, four cats and three horses as well as about 200 wild birds. The usual.

Shutterstock.comEditor's note: This article is part of our "Personal accounts" series. Money management is all about choices: where you live, the job you take, what you spend. But when it feels like the money's drifting out of the bank account much quicker than it flows in, it's hard to get a handle on where it all goes. We asked several veterinary professionals from different jobs and areas of the country to track their spending for one week. Our goal: to share what they've learned from a deep dive into the cost of living and the choices we make every day. Read them all here.


A few notes on my monthly expenses:

I work entirely on production as an associate veterinarian, so my income changes from month to month. After taxes, I make closer to $6,000 a month.

My husband and I haven't combined our finances into one account, but we do divide up our expenses. I pay for animal care and food, and he pays for people food and our housing and utilities expenses (though I do contribute $110 a month to our mortgage payment).

The animals are a big expense. We have three dogs, four cats and three horses. The horses end up being about $500 a month between food, hay, supplements, vaccines, farrier services and so forth. One horse has been in training, so that's been an additional $400 a month, but the extra expense will be short-term. The cat and dog food end up being about $200 a month. I also pay $86 a month in insurance for the two younger dogs (the older dog was bequeathed to me in a will and was too old for insurance when I got him). Insurance on the horse I love the most is $50 a month. The other two don't get insured. I've decided insurance on the cats isn't worth it. I just pay for everything out of pocket. Don't worry-they still get excellent vet care!

Though my student loan payment bill is about $763 a month, I've been paying $2,100 a month to get it paid off sooner. I should have it paid off in three months!

Every month, I put $500 into my savings and another $500 into an IRA (except for the month of December, because the yearly total allowed is $5,500). My company doesn't offer a 401(k), which sucks. I'm also saving $300 a month for the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, which I plan to attend next year.


Well, it's a Sunday and I'm a hermit. Without leaving the house, I'm unlikely to spend much money.

I don't even need to leave my house for the insurance physical-the insurance guy came directly to my house on a Sunday morning! My blood pressure is perfect, which gives me great joy as my husband is on blood pressure medication.

I spent about three hours cleaning up inside and outside-lots of horse poo to scoop, hay to move and areas to vacuum inside-before settling in for a nap (glorious) and then going through emails, trying to keep up with people.

I really need to go to the grocery store, but I hate grocery shopping. My husband usually does all the grocery shopping, but we're one week into his two-week summer National Guard duty (which I like to call his “army vacation”). So, after one week, I'm mostly out of fresh food.

I managed to avoid the grocery store today, but I've decided to employ a nutritionist because I'm trying to lose weight (aren't we all?) and sent him a $400 check for coaching.

Daily total: $400

I was called into work early because the doctor who was supposed to work the morning shift had his schedule wrong and was already away on vacation. So, there's that. Between running in the morning with the dogs, scooping horse poo and heading to work early, I didn't really have much time to spend money.

I did stop at McDonald's for a cheeseburger and a small order of French fries on the way home. (Maybe this is why I need to spend money on a nutritionist for weight loss!)

Daily total: $4

I once again started the morning by running with my pups and scooping horse poo. I'm a creature of habit and I do love my routine.

Today was expensive. I'm attempting to open my own business on the side, but it ends up being a huge money suck. I'm keeping things small, ambulatory, whatnot. Still, I've spent so much money thus far. Anyway, I need a separate Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) license. I filled that out today to the tune of $731. Ouch!

Daily total: $731

Yet another day of avoiding the grocery store. Things will get serious here soon.

I was able to stop on the way home from work for birdseed ($30) and dog toys ($18). I feed about 200 wild birds every day, so they eat a lot. And if I'm going to stop at the feed store, how can I not get a dog toy or two?

Daily total: $48

I'm still avoiding the grocery store, and things are getting desperate on the food front.

Here's what the day looked like: Got up, fed all the animals, scooped some horse poopy, went to work, worked, worked, worked some more (over 11 hours today), came home, fed all the animals again and went to bed.

I also received an email that my DEA license is already approved. Is there any other government agency that is that fast?

Daily total: $0

Fridays are my day off, which usually means it's a day I spend too much money-definitely the case today.

I skipped my run but took care of the horses and did a lot of yardwork. I then spent the afternoon on a tattoo removal appointment ($100). Yes, I was the kid who got a tattoo shortly after turning 18. It wasn't a bad tattoo-I just got tired of it. Now I've spent years and at least $1,000 getting the thing removed … and it hurts! Anyway, the good dermatologist who uses lidocaine before burning my skin off is a two-hour drive away. I had to fill up my Prius and bought two Monster energy drinks ($26). I also made a stop at In-N-Out ($4)-I'm about to start eating healthy … tomorrow!

I finally went to the grocery store! Yay me! I do my grocery shopping at Walmart because they have the birdseed I like best. I was able to stock up on a few weeks' worth of birdseed. The birdseed I got earlier this week was lower quality but more convenient to grab on my way home from work. I spent about $100 on birdseed and $53 on human food.

Daily total: $283

Another day spent taking care of the animals and the yard in the morning and working a ton in the afternoon and evening. My last two appointments were surgical, so I was in surgery (laceration repairs) until about 8:45 p.m. No time for spending money.

Daily total: $0


I was a bit (or a lot) exhausted from working so late the night before, so I slept in and puttered around the house for a while before taking care of the animals.

I tried to take the dogs to the river around noon for a little walk (always off leash, as I'm a fairly lax dog owner). The 10-year-old bloodhound wasn't into the walk. I lost him about three minutes in. I went looking for him and finally found him back at the car. By that time, the other two dogs were over the walk. All four of us went back home for a nap.

My husband returned from his two-week National Guard training today, so we made a nice dinner, went for a walk, caught up on the last two weeks and called it a day.

I finally read over the stuff from a nutritionist, and he wants me to buy a food scale ($11). Makes sense.

Daily total: $11

My passport expires later this year, so I did the renewal paperwork today ($140 for the renewal; $3 for postage). I also did a dental on my old dog last week and paid for it today. We do get one “free” procedure every year at my job, so the dental portion was free. However, the old guy had an epulis that I removed and sent off for histopathology, so I had to pay for that portion ($136).

Daily total: $279

Not much going on today. I spent the morning doing yardwork and the regular chores with the dogs and horses. Went to work. Another busy day.

Daily total: $0

I had a riding lesson this morning and then worked the rest of the day. I did write out a check to pay for the horse that's boarding and in training and for my lessons. That was $580 this time around. The amount varies according to how many times the trainer rides the horse, but it's totally worth it. The horse has had a complete turnaround.

Daily total: $580.

Hellish day at work today. I took a mass off a leg that had been growing for at least a year. The dog's owners had come in to get it taken off six weeks ago, but preoperative bloodwork showed the patient was quite anemic. So first, we had to treat for immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, get her over that, get her off prednisone and then take the mass off. The biopsy had previously shown that it was not particularly aggressive, and the oncologist said I didn't need great margins, so that was at least good. But I've never seen a mass bleed this much!

Anyway, I finally got that off and went into a dental appointment, where I extracted 36 teeth. I was emotionally, physically and intellectually drained by the end of that day. The only thing I bought was grain for the horses ($51).

Daily total: $51

Fridays are usually my day off, but I had to reschedule my third procedure (a cat dental) from yesterday for today, given the nightmare nature of the two I did yesterday. So, I went in to work, did that dental and caught up a bit with phone calls and whatnot.

Then I ran some errands. I had to buy some shavings for the horses ($69) and buy an ad to publish in the newspaper that I'm starting a corporation, which is a requirement for all corporations ($89).

Daily total: $158

I woke up with a nasty head cold-my sinuses were bursting at about 4 in the morning. I got lucky and was able to get another doctor to cover my shift, so I did a bit of work around the house, but mostly slept on the couch all day. Hopefully this darn cold clears up soon.

Daily total: $0

The head cold persists. I got up, tidied around the house, went for a trail ride, napped and tidied some more. I have a nasty habit of just making piles of things rather than actually dealing with them, so today was my “deal with all these piles” day, which didn't cost me anything.

Daily total: $0