10 money-saving tips just for physicians

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, for MDLinx
Published March 16, 2020

Key Takeaways

In Europe, credit is strictly regulated to protect the public from going into excessive personal debt. In Germany and Italy, for instance, consumers have to pay off their entire credit card balances each month. In the United States, however, credit is king, with public policy and commercial banks pushing lending with rampant credit card offers, home equity lines, and more. 

The free availability of credit is just one reason why many Americans—even physicians—end up having money problems. But, with some strategic planning and smart spending choices, personal debt can be alleviated and even eliminated. 

Here are 10 ways you can cut back on your spending, both at home and at the office, to save money and quash personal debt.

Track waste of medical supplies and medications 

If you own your own practice, keeping an organized list of expiring medical supplies and medications is a must. Keep track of which supplies and medications are expiring and use them first. Doing so will not only save you money by eliminating unnecessary expenditures, but also reduce the likelihood of giving a patient an expired device or drug that could result in adverse outcomes. 

“Expired medical products can be less effective or risky due to a change in chemical composition or a decrease in strength. Certain expired medications are at risk of bacterial growth and sub-potent antibiotics can fail to treat infections, leading to more serious illnesses and antibiotic resistance,” according to the FDA.

For especially busy practices or those short on manpower, consider investing in a digital system like the Date Check Pro for Healthcare, which keeps track of supply waste and expired products in a single dashboard. 

Enforce regulated medical waste 

Decades after the Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988—which defined hazardous medical waste and established regulations for disposal—sharps containers and red biohazard bags are still being filled with trash such as dressings, test strips, empty medication vials, device packaging, adult diapers, and the like. These transport bags and containers should only be used for the disposal of potentially infectious materials, such as blood, body fluids, needles, scalpels, tissue, slides, and media dishes. Because you have to pay a premium fee to discard regulated medical waste, be mindful of your use of regulated waste collection bags/containers and enforce their classified use among your staff. 

Even if you don’t own your own practice, do your employer a solid by using the sharps containers and red biohazard bags to discard regulated medical waste only. (Remember that your employer’s financial health indirectly impacts your own remuneration.)

Reduce use of printer paper and ink

Paper and ink cost money, but for physicians who see a high volume of patients, these office expenses can be especially hefty. While some processes require the use of printed paper—such as patient admission/discharge and consent forms—it’s important to remember that we are now living in an age of advanced digital technology. Things that were once printed—like mailers to patients, brochures, billing statements, and prescriptions—can now be sent electronically via EHR software. Sure, EHR systems get a bad rap—likely owing to some of their trade-offs—but they can save you money and improve clinical care over the long haul.

Adjust the thermostat

There’s no doubt that heating and cooling are among the most expensive utility bills—both at home and at the office. But, there are some ways that you can keep your bill from skyrocketing. For starters, in the office, you can lock the thermostats to 74-78 °F in the summer and 68 °F in the winter. According to industry experts, these are the ideal temperature ranges for both comfort and energy savings. In addition, you can have your staff take an “energy pledge” to reduce the costs of heating and cooling. Encourage your employees to wear layered clothing so they can don more or less to suit their temperature preferences.

At home, a thermostat lock may be overkill. Instead, encourage your family members to be conscious of the level at which the thermostat is set. Remind them that using less energy is good for the environment (and your wallet).

On a related note, you can schedule energy audits of your home and office to look for inefficient lighting and appliance use, insufficient insulation, air leaks, insufficient insulation, defective ducts, gas leaks, and ventilation issues. Contact your electricity provider to learn more. 

Sublet office space

Perhaps you have the desire to strike out on your own and test the waters of private practice but are wary of the associated expenses and return on investment. If so, consider subletting office space in blocks of time. You can definitely minimize financial liability this way, and there are even companies such as Clinicube that offer space for rent. After all, every physician’s worst nightmare is to open up a practice and have no patients!

On the flip side, if you have an office and are not using it full-time, consider subletting out the space when you’re not there.

Refinance your mortgage

When the stock market takes a dive, as with our recent entrance into a bear market(ie, 20% correction in stock indices in March 2020), investors move to bonds, which ends up dropping mortgage rates. Although your investments may be taking a bath, you can capitalize on lower mortgage rates by refinancing your home or commercial property, such as your office. Lots of people are refinancing, with an increase of 479% in applications between March 2019 and March 2020. 

Refinance your student loans

Unsurprisingly, physicians have among the highest student loan balances of all professionals. Six-figure debt can be financially crippling. Fortunately, you can leverage the ultra-low interest environment to your advantage by refinancing your student loans. This is much like refinancing your mortgage, and may be done in as short as one afternoon. 

One caveat: If you’re participating in a Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, refinancing your student debt may cancel your eligibility for that program. 

Save on banking and credit

You have plenty of options that will save you on the eye-gouging costs associated with banking and credit cards. For instance, avoid extra ATM fees by only using your bank’s ATMs. Also, pay the full balance on your credit cards every month. Doing so may save you from high interest charges, depending on your APR. (While you’re at it, check your credit score, which is often a free service provided by your credit card provider or bank. A strong credit score may enable you to bargain for a better interest rate.) Finally, if credit card debt is your Achilles’ heel, try consolidating debt using no or low-credit promotional offers from another credit card or bank account. Just don’t run up credit debt once you consolidate!

Install Wikibuy

My, how times have changed! A mere 25 years ago, Amazon was simply the name of a South American river. Fast-forward to 2018, and this ever-expanding online platform accounted for 49% of US ecommerce. If you spend a lot on Amazon—either for personal shopping or for the office—consider installing the Wikibuy extension on your browser. Wikibuy queries thousands of merchants to see whether you’re securing the best deals, and it tests coupons, too.


Ever get an email for something you definitely don’t need—like a promotional hotel stay or designer item—but end up buying it anyway? You can avoid this temptation by unsubscribing from marketing emails and texts. Moreover, uninstall apps that make shopping at your favorite stores oh-so-easy.

On a final note, it may help to consider cost savings as a game. Keep a budget and see how much you can save over a 90-day period. You’ll be greatly satisfied once you realize how much money you can keep in your pocket. Just because you make a decent living doesn’t mean you need to fall prey to profligate spending habits.

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