Sunday, September 16, 2012

Glorious resident lifestyle of the not rich or famous

You are sitting in the pediatric ER with your child that may or may not have appendicitis. First, you saw the medical student who talked to you for 30 minutes. Then you saw a tired looking pediatric resident who talked to you about the exact same thing for 15 minutes. Then you saw a much more awake pediatric ER attending physician who talked to you for five minutes, agreed to admit your child, and get a surgical consult. 30 minutes later, the surgery resident sleepwalks in, presses on your child's belly and mumbles that he's getting a CT of the abdomen with a blood draw, and wanders away.

D@mn, you've been here 3 hours and what the heck? Why did those residents look so tired and am I seriously expected to leave them in charge of my child?

Before discussing the actual resident lifestyle, let's lead with resident compensation. The federal government pays teaching hospitals $200,000 to train each resident per year. The resident is actually paid, pre tax, in the $40-50K range. Med students pay $40-50K for the privilege of training.

During my residency, I had an 80 hour work week and no call lasting more than 30 hours. New regulations recently moved the limit to a 60 hour work week, no first year call over 18 hours, and no later year calls more than 24 hours per the schedule. Some leeway is given for emergencies and unstable patients.

How did that translate into actual money and hours? Well, I made $40k my intern year. I worked 80 hours a week while on service, did not have any holidays off, got three weeks of call free vacation and one call free month. That averaged out to 70 hours a week for 49 weeks - 3430 hours a year. Taxes/insurance took about 20% of my salary, no 401K for such lowly peons. That led to $32K over 3420 hours - $9.35/hour. That is similar to a McDonald's manager, except a typical resident is 27 and already completed 4 years of college and 4 years of medical school.

Oh, I got two $5 coupons for hospital cafeteria food for each call night. An 80 hour work week required call every 4th night, which I got to do for 45 weeks of the year. 45weeks x 7 days/4 days is 79 calls x $10 = $790 in 'food' perks. Yes, just like the McDonald's manager.

How anyone can pay off their $150K+ in loans on a salary of $9.35/hr and $80/month in 'food' perks just boggles the mind. Does anyone have that much self control when working 80 hours a week? If you were wondering, the 60 hour work week essentially will remove call free months for everyone, so do the same calculation with 60 hours - $10.88/hr with less food perks.

So what was my personal resident financial lifestyle like? I lived across from the hospital, so I didn't ahve a car. I was supporting first 2, then 2.5, and then 3 people on my salary alone. (Remember HubbyJD was originally HubbyLawStudent?). I packed my own lunches and used my cafeteria cards to buy food that I took home. Keeping kosher, I was able to take milk, cereal, fruit, hot chocolate home with the plastic silverware in $5 increments every 4 days.

Stay tuned for more glorious residency lifestyle next week . . .

Monday, September 10, 2012

BJ's and I agreed to see other people

If you didn't know, BJ's offered their 3 month trial membership this summer. With my family of 4, I was not certain I would shop there often enough to make it worthwhile to buy a membership. I assumed that the 19 Kids and counting people used BJ's . . .

In my 3 month trial, I went to BJ's 4 times. The first two times I bought the objects I was scouting to see if I'd like them in bulk. On my 3rd visit, like a good scientist, I took my shopping list from Walmart to BJ's, recorded all the prices on similar brands, and then put it in a spreadsheet to compare my savings. I also examined which items and brands BJ's vs Walmart vs specialty grocery store carried. The last visit was the big purchase when I spent $350.

The good: I was able to buy challah (Jewish bread), kosher salami, and stuffed grape leaves for rock bottom prices I could not find anywhere else. I went a little wild and bought ALL of their two loaves of challah for $5 compared to my local grocery stores $7 per loaf. Similar issue with the salami - I bought all of it they had in stock and put 20 loaves of bread and 30 12oz salami in my fridge. I bought bulk plasticware, nuts, cups, and nice paper plates. I had enough storage space that I may not have to do that again for another year.

The so-so: I was able to find peanut butter $0.50 cheaper per container than Walmart. Not too exciting. I was underwhelmed by their bulk oreos, frozen vegetables, and Mrs. T's Pierogies. I found deodarant cheaper by $0.25 a container, if I didn't care about the brand. Morning Star Farms products cost almost exactly the same since Walmart started selling the 8 pack burgers.

The bad: CFLs were $0.60 more expensive per bulb than at Walmart! BJ's bulk diapers were more expensive than Walmart bulk diapers. Black beans, chick peas, and lima beans were $0.10 per can more expensive than Walmart-even though they come in six packs. Bagged sandwich bread was not cheaper than Walmart. Bulk fresh fruit - apples, oranges - were all cheaper at Walmart. Whole wheat nutrigrain waffles and egg beaters were the exact same price. Walmart brand protein bars were cheaper than the namebrand ones sold at BJs. They had very narrow brand selection and few whole-grain choices.

I also noticed how tempting it was to 'overbuy' things. Look, paper towels in bulk! I should buy those . . . except we use rags instead of paper towels and just wash them. There were tons of products I almost bought and then remembered that I did not miss the object before I saw it at BJs and it didn't have a place in my house. I think having so much on hand would tempt me to make larger meals and consume more items. For example, you make a tray of brownies for dessert on Monday (bought in the Duncan Hines brownie mix 4 pack) and have half left over - which you end up snacking on all week and put on some weight. Or you can use spend cut the recipe in half of the 5-minute Chocolate Mug Cake, even cheaper.

Quick, buy 30lbs of whole wheat flour . . . nevermind, don't need flour now that I froze all that bread . . .

Once I stocked up on my specialty kosher items, the difference in cost between what I regularly buy at Walmart and BJ's wasn't worth the temptation to overbuy. I am hoping that the next few months grocery bills will be lower because of this, but that remains to be seen. Should I ever need bulk purchasing of those items, I have some friends who shop there regularly and are happy to buy for me.