[Editor's Note: This is an essay from one of the finalists in our scholarship competition. I have no financial relationship with any of the finalists, except the eventual winner, who will get a big check from WCI.]
Why My Wife Deserves This Scholarship
She's been cooking for four full years without beaters. She whips cream in the blender. She went through an entire pregnancy without purchasing any maternity clothes. We have six forks and four spoons. She hasn’t cut her hair in over a year. And there have been many times when she’s awakened at 3:30 am, carried our little boy to the car, and driven me to the hospital for a rotation, so she could have the car for a day.
This may sound familiar to many medical students. We all know what it's like to be poor. But if you were to ask my wife why she still hasn't purchased beaters, maternity clothes or a car, her response wouldn’t be, “We don't have the money.” Rather, she would say, “It's not in the budget.”
You see, before we even got married, she sat me down, pulled up a Google spreadsheet and said, “Here’s my budget. Where’s yours?” I thought she was joking, but after about 30 minutes she was still talking about it. As she went on and on about the importance of living on a budget and how fun – yes, fun – it can be, I just kept thinking, ‘I'm a single dude in college living off Top Ramen and chocolate milk. Why do I need a budget?’ Luckily, I didn't say that out loud. If I had, I can almost guarantee I’d still be living on Top Ramen and chocolate milk.
I'm not sure where my wife got her passion for budgeting, but it's a part of her. In one of her childhood journals she wrote, “When I get married, I hope I'm poor. That seems like a happy life to me.” If you don't believe me, stop by and I'll show you the page.
We make a pretty good team, my wife and I. She does all the budgeting, she pays all the bills, she takes care of all the insurance, and then she tells me what I can and can't buy. It works for us.
I distinctly remember calling her one day when I was studying for the MCAT and asking if I could buy a candy bar. You better believe she pulled up the budget to make sure the money was there.
So maybe it seemed a little controlling at first, and maybe I didn't completely understand why she had to be so precise about everything. And maybe sometimes I just wanted to throw caution to the wind and buy a Snickers bar. No questions asked. But over the last few years, I've seen what an incredible blessing it is to stick to a budget.
Let me explain. My wife and I were married six years ago. Two short years later, we welcomed our beautiful, budgeted boy into the world. Life was good. I was a dad, my girl was a mom, our little boy was perfect, and we’d been accepted into medical school. We were on our way to the life we’d always dreamed of.
Except for one thing. My wife had always dreamed of having a large family. Eight children, to be exact. So soon after we got our bearings with Baby Number One and before we entered into the craziness of medical school, we began trying for Baby Number Two. We really didn't think much of the negative pregnancy tests when we first started trying. Our little guy wasn't even 1 yet. But after about 14 months of trying, we decided to go see someone about it. Our OB/GYN was confident that there were no serious problems, and that we’d be expecting a baby “in no time.” But “no time” slowly turned into “no idea.” And “no idea” slowly turned into “I can't help you. Here is the number for an infertility specialist.”
That was a hard day for us, but we called the number and hoped for the best.
It took one appointment for the specialist to diagnose my wife with Lean PCOS – a common cause of infertility. But there was hope, the doctor said, because there was a treatment that had good success rates. A treatment that would cost us anywhere from $2,500-$15,000. Of the two new pieces of information, can you guess which one broke my wife’s heart more? Yep. The money.
So the first thing she did when we got home was look at the budget. Her worlds were colliding. How was she going to have a big family and not go into additional debt? I still remember sitting in the rocking chair, watching her on the sofa across the room, starring at the computer screen. After about an hour of silence, she said, “Okay. We have $6,400 to work with. Things will be even tighter and we’ll have to dip into our savings, but it will be worth it.”
I laugh a little bit every time I look back on that moment. Two days prior to that appointment she wouldn't let me buy a Junior Frosty on the way home. But on this day, she was able to find 6,400 extra dollars? I almost didn't believe her.
Today, as I write this essay, work on my applications to residency, watch a little college football, and listen to my wife rock our beautiful budgeted Baby Boy Number Two to sleep, I’m pretty happy. Happy and grateful for the lesson my wife has taught me.
Good habits can’t wait until you've made it. Good habits are the REASON you make it. My wife learned how to keep a good, consistent budget when she was young. And because of that, we’ve had peace of mind, we’ve been independent, and we’re debt-free. (Except for our basic medical school loans.)
But most important of all, we have the sweetest little guy sleeping upstairs – a gift of immeasurable worth.
I'm now a firm believer. Budgeting matters.
What did you do to save money in med school? How has budgeting affected your life? Are you the budgeter in your house? Why or why not? Comment below!