[Editor's Note: Today's guest post was submitted by Morgan Sweere, a former guest post contributor and an MS3 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences pursuing a career in emergency medicine. Sometimes it is hard for me to remember what it was like to be a poor medical student and recall what a huge blessing an extra $100 a month was back then. While the apps discussed below aren't going to dramatically speed your way to financial independence, they may make your life in the “early years” just a little easier. We have no financial relationship with Morgan or any of the apps or businesses that she recommends.] 

Before my first day of medical school, I knew that each day would be tough. My mom told me “when your back is against the wall, you will have no choice but to figure it out”. I have found out that this piece of valuable advice is true for medical school but also for finances, and for life. I thought my professors would teach me all that I would need to know for exams. I did not realize I would have to spend hours studying on my own because, while my professors have done a terrific job, no question or piece of information is off-limits in medical exams. I have learned that no topic or piece of information is too tough for me to learn when I apply countless hours of studying.


Using Money Earning Apps to Help with Medical School Expenses 

Though class and studying takes up much of your time, you also hear of “what’s to come”. As a medical student with no outside financial help except scholarships won on my own, these extra activities and their associated costs put almost as much stress on a person as the exams. Well maybe not quite, but you get the picture; it is still a lot. As a person with my financial back “against the wall”, I knew I had to figure it out early so the stress would not eat away at me for years. This includes not only what you learn in medical school but how to pay for the activities you have to do in medical school.

Late in January, the AAMC released their recommendations for the 2021-2022 academic year, which include that away rotations will resume in August. While this could still change, it is imperative for current first, second, and third-year students to begin preparing for the fourth year of medical school. Fourth-year is likely the most expensive year of school because there are extensive “hidden costs” apart from the other years, including those that are associated with away rotations and interviewing. If a student is not particularly financially educated on these costs and is unprepared, the expenses, which can be tens of thousands of dollars, can be quite shocking.

Away rotations are one of the most important parts of the residency application for competitive specialties, such as emergency medicine. Other articles have spent time trying to conquer this topic and decrease money spent on traveling and staying in other locations during this time, so I will not waste time sharing the more mainstream tips. What I will do here is look at some of the more unconventional ways I have tried to reduce these costs.


Best Money Making Apps

Morgan Sweere

Morgan Sweere

Throughout medical school, I have tried to earn money through various avenues, such as working as a phlebotomy tech at a local ER on the weekends, tutoring, proctoring for the ACT exam, and other odd-end jobs which have contributed to my ability to pay for these expenses. My father is the youngest of nine, so I have numerous relatives as well as friends who will allow me to stay with them if one of my rotations is close to where they live. However, there are some other small, easy apps I’ve found which students can use to help accumulate some money over time. I have used these for years and have relatives who also use them and send their rewards to me. I have saved the rewards from these apps for the last three years for my away rotation costs and for my interviews. Thus I have accumulated quite a bit over time, as seen in parentheses below, without it straining anyone’s budget.

  1. Shopkick: Shopkick is an app that will give you money simply by ENTERING the store! You don’t even have to buy anything. You can get “kicks” by walking into the store, scanning certain products, and making purchases. You can save your points to add up to get gift cards that could be useful for rotations, such as for Uber, or even for PayPal credits. I earn about $10 to $15 monthly on this app. (approximately $500)
  2. Fetch Rewards: Fetch is a receipt scanning app that can be used to earn points towards gift cards on hotels, flights, and Airbnb. I earn $10 to $20 monthly on this app. (approximately $500)
  3. Ibotta: Ibotta gives rebates on grocery items. Through this app, I was able to earn about $15/month. Over time, these rebates could be used to pay for travel expenses—without purchasing anything extra! These rebates can be redeemed for gift cards or through Paypal. (approximately $500)
  4. Receipt Pal: Receipt pal is another receipt scanning app that can be used to earn Visa gift cards on all receipts. You can even scan receipts from friends, family members, and the dropped ones you find in the parking lot. I earn about $5 per month and redeem it via Paypal. (approximately $150)
  5. Coin Out: This is another receipt scanning app that gives you cash. It is usually pennies per receipt but, as I use the receipts on numerous apps, every little bit adds up. It also has a survey badge and other badges where you can earn more. I only average $2 to $3 monthly but every little bit counts. (approximately $80)
  6. Rakuten: This app pays me for shopping. If I go to shopping sites on the app, it pays me a percentage based upon the site of my purchases. As I am a broke medical student, I do not make much but purchasing essentials like ink and dog food earns me roughly $30 every three months and is sent as a check to me. (approximately $350)

Many of the receipts I use can be input into multiple apps, capitalizing on the rewards earned through them. These are seemingly small amounts of money, but through such small actions, I have been able to save over $2000 towards paying for travel associated with away rotations and interviews.

It is each student’s sense of responsibility and hard work that gets them through the coursework and exams in medical school. I took the same sense of responsibility and hard work to the finances involved in medical school. I have learned how to manage my money to help me through the required activities, and to enable me to do my best in medical school while taking out the least amount of loans I can.

How have you creatively generated funds during medical school? Comment below!