9 Financial Tips For Optometry Students


  • Live below your means-Spend less than you earn to avoid debt

  • Create a budget and track spending to manage finances effectively

  • Stay disciplined with debt and limit your equipment purchases

  • Build a 3-month emergency fund (expenses)

  • Invest in yourself via education vs. side hustles/part-time jobs

  • Invest for the future, fund that Roth IRA if possible!

  • Protect your income with life & disability insurance

  • Devote time to your financial education

  • Avoid toxic relationships during school

As an optometry student preparing to enter the field, it's important to understand the financial implications that come with this profession. From budgeting for school supplies to managing debt and investing in your future—all these responsibilities add up quickly! With these 9 financial tips, you'll equip yourself with the knowledge needed to navigate a successful career as an optometrist. Chock full of expert advice from industry professionals, this article will provide you with invaluable guidance on how best to manage your finances during and after your studies. Read on and get ready to take charge of your future!

(1) Live below your means

It can be tempting to want to keep up with your peers, especially those working full-time, but it’s important to remember that you are a student and your income is likely limited. Try to live within your means and avoid taking on too much debt. Avoid credit card debt at all costs.

⚠️ What did Dat do wrong?

As a former college party boy, I was quite a reckless spender back at SCCO. I even took out a $10,000 private loan at 7.5% interest during 4th-year rotations because I wanted to travel on weekends with my friends who worked full time. After being in school for 3+ years, I somehow convinced myself that I was already a doctor, deserving to live on a doctor's salary during my 4th year. Oh man, was this an awful financial mistake? Yes!

✅ So what is the lesson?

Accept you are a broke student and live below your means. It is 100% socially acceptable for you to be frugal because likely all your other classmates are in the same boat! Trust me, as a practicing doctor, it is almost socially taboo to be frugal and not live the "rich doctor's life".


Financial Pearl

"It's okay to live below your means as a broke student and be frugal, as it's socially acceptable since many of your classmates are in the same situation. However, as a practicing doctor, it's almost taboo to be frugal and not live a lavish lifestyle, but it's important to stay financially disciplined and invest in yourself and your future."

(2) Make a budget & cut down on spending

One of the best ways to stay on top of your finances is to create a budget. Determine how much money you have coming in each month and track your spending so that you know where your money is going.

⚠️ What did Dat do wrong?

My monthly budget consisted of rent, books, Panda Express, Jameson whiskey, and massive bar tabs. My highlight after a long week of class was going to the clubs on weekends and dropping $200 on bottle service, trying to impress people that I would never see again. I was constantly living month to month, and just waiting until the next loan distribution to come so I could spend again. It was this irresponsible mindset that caused me numerous amounts of stress during my 4 years of optometry school.

✅ So what is the lesson? 

Make a budget and stick with it. Your loan gets distributed every quarter, so split it into a monthly budget. Any additional cash flow such as a part-time paycheck, or side hustle should be added to your fund allocations.

  • (1) What are your FIXED EXPENSES? This includes rent, utilities, car insurance, cellphone bill, gas/fuel
  • (2) What are your NEEDS? This includes necessary things for you to function in life, such as groceries, personal care, home supplies
  • (3) Lastly, what are your WANTS? This includes Netflix, coffee, music (Spotify), restaurants/fast food, entertainment (Concerts/bars/gifts to others, essentially anything that brings you joy)

I recommend using Mint’s Budgeting App to track your spending for the first month, don't worry, it will take you a few months to get to a consistent level where you will usually only overspend $5-10.

I know that budgeting is not fun, but everyone should budget for a minimum of 3 months to know exactly how much they NEED for necessary expenses (such as rent/utilities) vs WANTS (such as that Beyonce concert ticket).  You will learn to live on less and prioritize whatever little is left on things that truly bring you joy.

(3) Stay disciplined with debt and limit your equipment purchases

It is no secret that optometry school can be expensive for students. Many times, the costs associated with purchasing textbooks and equipment are not covered in scholarships or loan packages. This is why many optometry students should consider buying used equipment for school.

Not only will second-hand equipment help save money, but it often allows you to network with current doctors who are trying to offload their old equipment online. With the extra money saved, students can use these funds to pay off tuition fees or buy additional items they need for their studies. Additionally, buying used equipment reduces waste while giving valuable resources a second chance at being put to good use - making it an ethical and cost-efficient solution that optometry students should seriously consider.

⚠️ What did Dat do wrong?

Well, I brought every single thing that was on that school list, all BRAND-NEW. Did I need a 78D lens when I used my 90D lens literally 100% of the time? And don't even get me started on all the VT/binocular vision supplies that I never once touched post-school.

✅ So what is the lesson?

When possible, ask your upperclassman what is needed for school. Then hop online where there are many OD Facebook groups such as ODsonFinance and ODs Selling Things, where current doctors are trying to sell their school equipment, usually at a 50% mark-down.

(4) Build a 3-month emergency fund (expenses)

Things happen and it’s important to be prepared for unexpected expenses. Try to build up an emergency fund that can cover 3-6 months of living expenses in case you face other financial challenges such as unexpected medical or car expenses.

⚠️  What did Dat do wrong?

Simple, everything because I did not have an emergency fund back then. All kidding aside, I did not have an emergency fund because I was living paycheck by paycheck.  I remember one time, I accidentally broke my car mirror so I needed to get it replaced. It was a bill of $300, but I was so stressed that I couldn't afford it, so I ran to my parents to help cover it. I was a 27-year-old man asking my mom & dad to bail me out. Don't be like me.

✅ So what is the lesson?

Having a safety net of a 3-month emergency fund will prepare you for the unexpected life events that come your way. Even having one month's savings will reduce any unnecessary stress and allow you to focus on your studies.

Financial Pearl

"It's important to have a safety net of a 3-month emergency fund to prepare for unexpected life events. Even having one month's savings can alleviate stress and help you focus on your studies."

(5) Invest in yourself via education vs. side hustles/part-time jobs

For optometry students, focusing on studies should always be the priority. Not only does investing in your educational pursuits provide you with a valuable degree, but also an extensive knowledge base on the subject is essential to acquiring relevant skills for working as an optometrist. While it can certainly be tempting to pick up a part-time job during your studies, having a successful career years down the road should be the main focus for any ambitious optometry student.

While different revenue streams are important, pursuing a career in optometry requires something more: investment in one's future self.

⚠️ What did Dat do wrong?

Surprisingly, in optometry school I did this one 100% right! I focused on learning everything in the clinic and school and being the best doctor that I could be. Unlike my undergraduate, optometry school was really interesting (don't get me wrong, it was hard as heck) because I knew that every topic I learned during school would be practical in real-life later on.

✅ So what is the lesson?

Optometry school is rigorous and often requires a full-time commitment, so that should be your primary focus. While it is okay to pick up a limited work-study position such as optometric assistant (bonus if it is a chill position where you can study during your shift) the last thing you want is to fail your courses and be held back a year! Remember that for every single year you lose, you also lose a year's worth of a doctor's salary (avg~$150,000)!

Yes, while we are a big fan of multiple streams of revenues, any small side hustles you have now will pale in comparison to your future doctor's earnings.

Financial Pearl

"During optometry school, your primary focus should be on your studies as it can be rigorous and require a full-time commitment. While it's okay to work a limited work-study position such as optometric assistant, failing courses and being held back a year can cost you a year's worth of a doctor's salary (avg~$150,000), so it's important to prioritize your education. Any small side hustles you have now will pale in comparison to your future earnings as a doctor."

(6) Invest for the future, fund that Roth IRA if possible!

While it is nearly impossible to think about investments when you are minus $200,000 in student loan debts, any small amount that you can tuck away now will get you off to a great start once you are done with school.

For anyone with earned income from a work-study job, one great way to secure your financial future is by contributing to a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA allows you to diversify your investments for the long term and benefit from tax-free growth of investment gains (up to $6,500 Single for 2023). For students with limited funds, a Roth IRA offers many advantages like the low maintenance required and flexibility in selecting where to invest money. Even if you only have a few hundred dollars available, investing in a Roth IRA can be an excellent way for optometry students to develop good habits that will benefit them for years to come. While investing early does come with some level of risk, developing the habit of saving money through a qualified retirement plan during school years means more freedom later on in life.

⚠️ What did Dat do wrong?

I was pretty reckless with my budget, so living month to month did not leave any extra funds for any investments. I remember being so financially uneducated when I was a new graduate in 2015, I did not even know what a 401K was!

✅ So what is the lesson?

Just open a brokerage taxable account on Fidelity or Vanguard, it is completely free to open up and you can deposit as little as $100 in it. Buy a simple S&P 500 Index fund like Vanguard S&P 500 (VOO) just so you can get your feet wet with investing. The money that you might end up spending on that $18 cocktail every week might be better used for investment. You will be pleasantly surprised by how much it will grow once you graduate school.

Financial Pearl

"Opening a brokerage taxable account on Fidelity or Vanguard is free and requires as little as $100 deposit. Investing in a simple S&P 500 Index fund like Vanguard S&P 500 (VOO) is a great way to get started with investing. Consider redirecting money that would have been spent on non-essential expenses towards investing, and you'll be amazed at how much it can grow by the time you graduate."

(7) Protect your income with life & disability insurance

This is especially important for students who have kids or spouses (essentially anyone who depends on your future income) while in school.

If something happens and you are unable to work later on, term life or disability insurance can help protect your income. While these policies might not be much, they will cushion your loved ones in case anything happens. The great news is that these policies are relatively cheaper while you are in school and healthy/young. Remember that disability insurance can be bought against your future doctor's earnings and you can get a small benefit ranging from $1,000-$2,500 per month if you become disabled as a student.

⚠️ What did Dat do wrong?

Since I didn't have anyone depending on me, I didn't need to buy term life insurance in case of my death. But I should have maybe considered a small disability policy in case I got permanently disabled to help subsidize some of the cost for my family.

✅ So what is the lesson?

If you have anyone relying on your current or future income, consider purchasing a small-term life or disability insurance.

(8) Devote time to your financial education

Optometry students should make time to read financial books and learn about investing for a variety of reasons. As aspiring medical professionals, it is important to be well informed on the various aspects of managing money, especially since understanding investments and income will be critical when they start their practice. Moreover, learning the basics of personal finance can help them start saving money at an early age, which can lead to just as much security after obtaining a degree as it would during university life.

⚠️ What did Dat do wrong?

I don't think I read a single personal financial or investment book while I was in school. This was the reason why I was so bad with money during my first year as a doctor. I remember making over $100,000+ back in 2015 as a new grad but only having $4,500 in my checking account after a year of working. How? Because I didn't educate myself on personal finance and continued all my bad habits.

✅ So what is the lesson?

Listen to a personal finance audiobook during your workout, and read an investment book during the weekend on your time off.

I cannot tell you how reading financial books provided me with the business knowledge that I apply daily when dealing with patients or other customers. Having these skill sets will be invaluable in setting up a successful career long-term and thus reading about finances should not be underestimated or ignored by students.

Financial Pearl

"Reading financial books while in optometry school can provide students with essential business knowledge and financial preparation necessary for a successful career in the real world. These skills will be invaluable in setting up a long-term career."

(9) Avoid toxic relationships during school

Optometry students have a lot of challenges during their studies, and relationships can add to the stress they're already experiencing. They should look out for toxic relationships, as having too much drama or emotional distress in their lives can bog them down and lower their focus on school. It's important to remember that just because someone might be very attractive, that doesn't mean it's worth giving up your goals for the relationship.

⚠️ What did Dat do wrong?

I was a little hesitant to include this section but the people you surround yourself with often greatly impact your financial well-being later on. I remember having this toxic college girlfriend coming into my first year of optometry school (we had been dating for almost 3 years prior). Without going into too many details, we drifted apart and since I was not smart enough to end the relationship, it drifted into countless late-night arguments.  It got so bad that I often missed classes the next day because I was so tired, which would eventually impact my grades.

✅ So what is the lesson?

By avoiding toxic relationships, optometry students can stick to the path of getting good grades and learning all the necessary skills to become successful doctors. You will grow a lot during your 4 years of optometry and develop lifetime friendships, so it is okay to cut ties with people in your past who don't support your personal goals.

I love the saying "you are the average of your 5 closest friends". So remember to surround yourself with positive and like-minded people, especially those who are financially focused.

Financial Pearl

"During your four years of optometry, you will grow and develop lifetime friendships. It is essential to surround yourself with positive and like-minded people who will support your personal goals and aspirations. Remember, you are the average of your five closest friends, so choose wisely!"


In conclusion, optometry students need to take the necessary steps to ensure their financial stability while they are still in school. From developing budgeting strategies to investing in savings, students need to be aware of both opportunities and challenges.

With these nine tips as a guide, optometry students can make the most of their money and prepare themselves for the future when they get their big doctor paycheck. Don’t forget that no matter what life throws at you financially, guidance from experienced people and sticking to your unique financial plan are key. Good luck & cheers to financial freedom!


Want to learn how to build your own portfolio? Check out  The Optometrist's Guide to Investing 101

Want to know how to manage your student Loans? Check out The Optometrist's Guide to Student Loans   

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About DatBuiOD

Dr. Bui is an optometrist at the Apple Wellness Center in the heart of Silicon Valley. He has a deep passion for ocular disease and healthcare technology. He started his career with $220,000 of student debt and was able to finish this massive debt in 5 years using budgeting and personal finance strategies, along with aggressive investing. He is a big advocate for passive index funding with a small portfolio toward individual technology stocks. Lastly, he wants to help all new doctors and high-earning professionals navigate toward wealth and financial independence.

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