Personal accounts: A week in Virginia on $90k a year


This associate recently relocated and has started a new job at a busy general practice.

Of course that purebred Frenchie came in with a certificate for reduced-cost spay. |

Hi! I am a 2014 graduate of Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (though I hear they recently dropped the “Regional”). After graduation, I went to work in Florida. Following some difficulties with my employer, I left my first job and did relief work for several months. Now, my family and I have recently relocated back to Virginia. My family consists of myself, my husband, a dog-Birdie, and four cats-Moses, Juniper, Hamlet and Thibodeaux.

Personal accounts: True tales of veterinary spending

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.

Want to submit a Personal account diary of your own? Or have a question for us? Send an email to and we'll get the information to you.

Relocating as an adult is complicated. My husband found a new job first, and that determined our general location in northern Virginia-that mass of suburbia surrounding Washington, D.C. I had not finalized new employment when we moved, so we decided to seek temporary housing until I figured out where I would work. This is important for work-life balance in the area, as commuter traffic is pretty terrible.

This period of limbo, where we had no real address, no real home, and all of our things were in storage, was a strange three months. We lived in an AirBnB that miraculously allowed our pets. It was a great experience, and we even tried to talk our hostess into letting us extend our stay for a year when I accepted a position at a nearby clinic. When she didn't take that bait, we were left with the daunting task of finding a rental property that would allow pets. There were roughly five options in this great sprawl that met our needs: allowed our pets, was big enough to fit our furniture and had a yard for our dog.

As of June 1, we have settled into our rental property, where we signed a one-year lease. We're renting a house that's too big, on a property that's too big, but we have a yard for the dog and-somehow-the landlord seemed to forget to add on a pet deposit.

I took a job at a busy small animal general practice. I work on a “production salary” basis, so I'm guaranteed an annual salary of $90,000, and make commission on what I produce for the practice in excess of my annual salary. That means I have to earn the “guaranteed” annual salary before I make any extra. I'm still in my initial 90-day trial at the clinic, so I have no idea how the numbers are looking production-wise, yet. My husband also works full-time, and is lucky to have no education loans.

Here's a snapshot of our monthly expenses:

Because we just moved into the house, we haven't received an electric bill, yet. We're crossing our fingers it's not awful. The house is big, but we set the thermostat at 76 degrees to try to keep the AC from upping the bill too much.

Here's a look into my weekly spending from July 19 through July 26. This is reflective of what I purchased during this time frame and does not include purchases made by my husband, though some purchases involve him.

Day 1: Wednesday

5:15 a.m. My cat wakes me promptly for breakfast time. This sounds absurd to most people, but I've always been an early riser and I haven't had a need for an alarm in years. It works for us. I relish the quiet morning hours. I let the dog out, pack lunches for the day, and take my coffee to the porch for fifteen minutes of “me time.”

8:30 a.m. Surgery day-my favorite! I perform a single surgery, a spay on a 35-pound dog. Because I'm new to this practice, my surgery schedule is disappointingly light. I'm building a client base for myself, but in the meantime, I'm happy to have the single procedure to perform-it's better than nothing at all, and will hopefully help me to meet my production requirements for the quarter that ends next week.

3:30 p.m. I finish up the last of my paperwork and callbacks and planning for tomorrow, and head out for the day. I stop by the gas station on my way home for fuel. Total: $36.23

7:00 p.m. While finishing up my evening routine, I remember that I wanted to order some household items from Amazon. With my Amazon Prime membership I can get things delivered in two days, which is faster than waiting for my next day off. I purchase a set of (ridiculously difficult to find) air filters for the house ($40.23), makeup remover ($4.17), and some laundry detergent that will hopefully work better in the incredibly hard water our well provides ($38.00). Total: $83.37

Daily total: $118.63


Day 2: Thursday

5:15 a.m. Like clockwork, Moses wakes me. I have to be at work at 8 again, so my morning routine repeats: lunches, coffee, shower, and work.

12:15 p.m. One of my technicians asks me about ordering out for lunch. A few of them are placing an order at a sandwich place. I brought some leftovers, and resist the urge of having someone order me a meal. Later, I'll scarf down my brown-bagged lunch while typing up my records.

8:30 p.m. A friend from out of state is having a baby. I get a polite invitation to her baby shower, and instead of booking a flight, I purchase something online and have it shipped to her. I don't have kids and I'm not really sure what's necessary for babies, but I've gotten into a routine for baby shower gifts: something for the kid, something for the mom and diapers. Always diapers. I choose an early visual development book for the kid ($8.44), a bottle of lotion for the mom ($7.50), and the biggest box of diapers I can find ($39.99). Total: $55.93

Daily total: $55.93

Day 3: Friday

5:25 a.m. Moses is running late. Repeat morning routine.

8:00 a.m. Today is my regularly scheduled double shift. I hate it. The only silver lining? Fridays are “short” by an hour, as the clinic closes at 7 p.m. rather than 8 p.m. So my double shift is only 11 hours instead of 12. Silver linings.

7:35 p.m. Overall, a good day with only manageable disasters to work through. I commented to one of my technicians that the worst part of the day was that I would go home and there would be no wine. My tech told me that was a stupid reason to be upset, and thus convinced me to swing by the grocery store on the way home. Total: $20.13

Daily total: $20.13


Day 4: Saturday

5:45 a.m. Moses is on time, but my husband is up first so I take advantage of the opportunity to relax a bit longer. I work roughly every other weekend, and today I have to go into work. As I'm getting ready to go, I kiss my husband goodbye and leave him with a “honey do” list for the day.

2:00 p.m. A thunderstorm rolling in makes my last appointment cancel. A cancellation is normally annoying, knowing I'll lose that opportunity for income. However, a last-minute cancellation of the final appointment means I get an extra few minutes to finish charts, and I get to leave precisely at closing time. A rare occurrence on a Saturday!

10:30 p.m. My husband and I meet his sister, her husband, and their baby at a local brewery. The beers that we try are not to our taste, but the veggie burgers from the food truck outside are satisfying ($20.96 for beer, $25.30 for dinner). The boys convince us to stop at a second brewery in search of a more satisfying brew. The second establishment proves worthy of the extra trip ($22.02). Their beers are better and we leave satisfied with an enjoyable evening with our family. Total: $68.28

Daily total: $68.28

Day 5: Sunday

7:30 a.m. Sunday mornings we take our weekly coffee walk. We get iced coffees ($7.53) from a coffee shop and walk a few miles with the dog through a park and the surrounding neighborhood. One of my biggest complaints about our new living situation is that the house sits right off a very busy road. There is no easy way to take the dog for a walk and we have resorted to driving to the closest residential area for exercising the dog and ourselves. Total: $7.53

11:00 a.m. I love to cook. On Sundays I typically meal plan for the week and then complete my grocery shopping. I convince my husband to come along and we start at the farmer's market for some fresh veggies ($23). I hate the extra cost, but love the local sustainability and support for local artisans. After peering at the other vendors, we decide to grab a healthy lunch at a nearby casual eatery ($25.64). I guilt the husband into accompanying me through the rest of the grocery shopping - mostly weekly needs with some restocking of staples like Diet Coke. The biggest and most questionable expense-$30 bags of frozen shrimp that are buy one get one free. It seemed like a good idea, anyway ($153.94). Total: $202.58

Daily total: $210.11


That overdue fee is how much?!? |

Day 6: Monday

9 a.m. My day off! Because of all of the errands run yesterday, I don't have many things that I have to do today. I take out the recycling, walk the dog, do a bit of exercise for myself, and waste a lot of time on the internet. I also have the dreaded task of contacting my internet provider to attempt to understand an overdue balance charge on my bill. It turns out, they sent a paper bill last month that the auto-pay wasn't ready to handle. I don't understand how the auto-pay could take weeks to set up, but that's their policy. I sigh and resign myself that it is my fault for not following through with the paper bill and assuming the auto-pay would work. At least the customer service representative was really polite once I finally got to talk to a live person. ($188.97-$40 for service, $50 for a portion of the new modem we had to purchase, and the rest for the overdue balance. I'm still mad about it, obviously.) Total: $188.97

Daily total: $188.97

Day 7: Tuesday

5:15 a.m. Up and at 'em!

8:30 a.m. I get to do surgery again! Because I'm the newest associate, I have a very irregular schedule and I don't get to have a surgery day every week. Getting surgeries two weeks in a row makes my soul happy because I do love surgery. I have a quick mass removal and then a routine spay on a purebred blue French bulldog with a certificate from the local humane society for a discounted spay. Classic.

The surgeries don't take long, and once I'm done, I help my colleagues working appointments catch up a bit. I euthanize a wild injured rabbit dropped off by a good Samaritan and then euthanize a cat from an appointment that turned into a quality-of-life discussion. The owners decided not to be present for the cat's euthanasia, which is always a little sad. My kennel technician holds the cat and strokes her while I help her die as gently as I can.

A drug company is trying to promote its heartworm preventive to our hospital. They've donated quite a bit for employees to use and “test.” I ensure six months of prevention for my own dog for some savings of my own.

Daily total: $0

Weekly total: $662.05

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