Technicians: It's time to invest in YOU

August 10, 2017
Julie Carlson, CVT

Julie Carlson is a freelance author and certified veterinary technician in Phoenix. She is the founder of Vets for Vets Pets, a nonprofit organization providing supplies and medical care to the pets of homeless and at-risk veterans.

You have a passion for the profession and a craving to learn more. And, let's face it, you need a few days away from your practice. Use these timely money tips to make your dreams of attending a national veterinary convention a reality.

It's no secret that veterinary technicians aren't exactly diving into piles of money, à la Scrooge McDuck. We have to stick to a pretty tight budget just to make ends meet. So how do we make room in that budget to attend a CE conference like Fetch dvm360 conference? Here are some small things we can do that will add up to a big payoff.

Photo: Shutterstock.comFix your broken budget    

Looking at how you spend your money can be uncomfortable, but it's necessary to see where you have room to improve. Pull up your bank statement online and make a list of how much you've spent during the last three months on the following expenses. A lot of banks will even provide you with a breakdown of your spending on these expenses on their website. Here are the main categories you should consider:

> Groceries

> Dining out

> Clothing

> Rent/mortgage

> Utility bills

> Student loans/tuition

> Gas

> Oil changes

> Car payments

> Medical expenses

> Childcare

> Entertainment

Add it all up and compare it to your incoming cash from all sources, including:

> Paychecks

> Alimony

> Child support

> Veteran's Administration benefits

> Social Security

> Disability

> Welfare/public assistance


Spend less

Here are some ways to cut your spending-and still have fun: 

> Instead of driving through Starbucks for a hit of caffeine, stop at a gas station for coffee. You'd be surprised at the variety of hot and iced coffees most offer, and you'd be saving yourself around $3 each time. That adds up.

> For a fun evening of dining out without the cost of a restaurant, throw a progressive dinner with neighbors instead. Each family could make one course of the meal. If you have a lot of neighbors wanting to take part (because it's so fun!) you can add in a soup course, cheese course or wine tasting. Gather all at one house or move between houses.

> Going to the movie theater is a lot of fun, but it can be pretty expensive-especially when you buy snacks. Save that money and instead host a movie night with friends. You can supply the movie and the venue, they can supply the snacks.

> For free entertainment, check out your local library. You can get movies, CDs and books. You can take classes to learn a language, a computer program or a new craft. Many libraries also offer a Culture Pass, which gives you free admission to a local museum or park event.

> Between paying for gas, oil changes, tolls and general upkeep on your vehicle, transportation costs really start to add up. Try taking public transit at least once a week, or carpool with coworkers. 

> Fast food seems like an easy option during a busy workday, but a meal can cost anywhere from $5 to $10. Do that every day, and you're spending an extra $100 to $200 each month. Instead, pack a lunch from home. For a break from sandwiches, shop the grocery store sales and prepare meals for the week on your days off. You can find easy meals that you can make in large batches online.

> Trade babysitting services with friends and neighbors to cut down on childcare costs. You take care of their kids so the parents can have a night out, and they'll return the favor for you.

> Barter for services. For instance, my neighbor is an electrician who loves cats. He replaced a light fixture in my laundry room, and I helped give his cats their medicine when they got sick.



Earn more

Consider these ideas to get started: 

> Know someone who's going on vacation? Offer pet sitting services. You can also offer pet sitting in Facebook groups and post fliers in your neighborhood or at your local animal shelter.

> Good with a camera? Lots of people are looking for family photos, and professional sessions can be expensive. Make an even bigger profit by offering your customer a digital package where you take the photos, do the editing on your computer, then give them a thumb drive with all of the images.

> Clean out your house and sell your unwanted items to a consignment shop. Clothing, small furniture and toys can net a hefty profit. Vintage items and collectables are easy to sell for a profit on eBay.

> Enjoy needlework, crochet or scrapbooking? Turn your hobby into an online shop with Etsy and sell the items you make.

One of the easiest ways to start saving is to have $10 automatically taken from your paycheck and transferred to your savings account. Most banks will help you set this up, and a lot of times having an automatic transfer will eliminate a monthly service fee on your account.

Here are some other ideas to help you reach your money goals:

> Get a pretty jar and decorate it-this will be where you keep your savings. Put loose change in it whenever you have it. Watch your progress as the money pot grows.

> Sometimes you just need a venti mocha caramel frappuccino with double whip. On occasion, the extra spending might be worth it to you. But temper the spending by putting an extra dollar in your savings jar every time you indulge.

> Buy some of your most loved candies and put them in a container next to your savings jar. Every time you make at least a $5 contribution to your savings, enjoy one of your favorite treats.


Spend wisely. Photo:

Now it's convention time

You've diligently saved all year and you're ready to spend it. Here are some tips on how you can stretch those dollars and make the most of your hard work:

> Ask your practice manager to cover the cost of the convention. In many veterinary practices, this is one of the benefits-find out if it's true for your hospital as well. Sweeten the deal by offering to teach what you've learned to the team at a staff meeting, or use your new knowledge to create a client handout or add to the hospital website or blog.

> Register as soon as you can-early bird registration can save you as much as $160. And sometimes if you're a member of the organization hosting the convention, you will save even more on a ticket.

> If the convention is within driving distance, carpool with coworkers to save on gas. If none of your coworkers are attending, post a notice on veterinary websites that you're looking to carpool with other attendees.

> If the conference is too far to drive, look for discount airfare online. You can also check out ticket prices for taking the bus or a train-they could work out to be cheaper.

> Hotels can be expensive. Find friends who are also attending the convention and split the cost of a room by sharing. This will cut your lodging fees in half. Save even more by splitting the room with two or three friends. Convention organizers will oftentimes arrange reduced-rate hotel rooms, but sometimes these can still be more expensive than a hotel that might be a few miles away from the event. Compare the cost of a cheaper hotel a few miles away from the event-but don't forget to add in the cost of transportation to and from the convention site to make sure it's a good deal. Bonus points if the hotel offers free continental breakfast!

Need a visual? No problem. I've created a sample monthly budget based on a veterinary technician's average salary ($15.62 an hour, in case you were wondering) according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some expenses happen infrequently throughout the year, but make sure that you include those. You might need to add in expenses for childcare or tuition, so use this basic outline as a tool to help you develop a detailed budget of your personal expenditures. Click here or on the photo to download a copy. 

Julie Carlson, CVT, is a freelance author. She is the winner of the 2015 Hero Veterinary Technician Award from the American Humane Association and the Founder of Vets for Vets' Pets, a nonprofit organization providing medical care to the pets of homeless and at-risk veterans. Julie has five cats and two Chihuahuas and lives in Phoenix, Arizona.