I remember so clearly sitting across the table from the three faculty members who would determine if my life-long dream of becoming a veterinarian would come true.

You know, the scary interviewer drilling you with tough questions, the nice interviewer relating to you about your “outside” hobbies and the third interviewer acting sympathetic when you were asked a tough question.

The tough interviewer looked at me and repeated the question, “Do you understand what the expected hours and salary is for a recent graduate of veterinary school?”

I had done my research, I knew all the facts.  

I knew I would be taking out student loans to the tune of $57,000 every year for four years. I knew the average starting salary coming out of school was $60,000. I knew the average hours were never set in stone and veterinarians were expected to be on call… always.

I answered with the “correct” answer of a below average salary and above average hours with the expectation of staying late and always going above and beyond. The tough interviewer seemed pleased. He must have been thinking, “this kid knows the reality of the profession.”

What he didn’t know was I didn’t believe in my answer. I was thinking, “I’m not average. That won’t be my life, and I am going to make my life exactly what I want it to be.”

I was 24 years old, single, no children and I had nothing but big dreams. When I saw my future, all I saw was me, doing what I loved. I would pay off all that debt super easily within a few years of graduation. Easy peasy.

Flash-forward 8 years, I am 32 years old, a veterinarian, a wife, a mother to two children and am $270,000 in debt (purely vet school debt).

What I didn’t take into account when making my life plan was freaking life. You know all those expenses that come with having a life and a husband and children? Ya, all those little things.

True confessions of a working veterinarian mom in massive debt who never saw this coming:

  • I resent my profession for the amount of debt I’m in and some days, it makes me feel trapped and hate my job.
  • I regret that I never once thought about how long it would realistically take to pay back my debt load without owning a practice or specializing.
  • I feel stupid that I never once thought about the possibility of me wanting to stay home with my children. I took away that chance when I took on more than a quarter of a million dollars of debt. Talk about mom guilt on a whole other level!

This brings me to the “B” word. Budget.

If you are like I was and had put all of your focus on your career, you are probably lacking the life skill of knowing how to manage your money.

You may be thinking, “Rachel, I totally know how to manage my money. Next article!”

Truth time: If you have debt you can’t pay off, if you are coasting through life without knowing what your money is doing or if you find yourself living paycheck to paycheck… you don’t know how to manage your money!

I thought I knew how to manage my money and I managed myself into half a million dollars of debt when it was all said and done.

Budgeting is a basic skill that was somehow missed in my upbringing and education. Veterinarians are smart, but sometimes (myself is probably the best example) we are really stupid with money.

Being in debt is crippling and it is terrifying to face a future where you feel there is no hope and no way out.

My 24-year-old self was unable to recognize the disadvantage she was putting her future self at when she signed up for the hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt that seemed like monopoly money at the time.

She didn’t realize future Rachel would have to drop her kids off at daycare every day with strangers. She didn’t realize she was taking away the choice for future Rachel to stay home with her kids if she wanted to.

Take the time to understand your money. Understand the position you will be putting yourself in when you take on debt. If you know you are going to have debt or if you are somewhere being crushed with a mountain of debt currently, there is a way out.

You need to budget. You need to live on a written plan. Once you understand how to do this, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to with your money. Are veterinarians in a crap ton of debt? Uh… most definitely.

Is there a way out? Absolutely! It’s that dreaded “B” word that everyone thinks will destroy their lives. A budget will actually give you freedom.

If you are a pre-vet student, a current vet student or a veterinarian with adorable babies, start living on a budget now. What you do today will impact your future in ways you can’t even imagine.

Embrace that “B” word and take back your life to live it the way you want to!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.


Hi, I’m Rachel. I’m a mom, wife, veterinarian, donut lover (preferably with sprinkles), and finance blogger.  I am a budgeting master on a mission to teach women the skills to become financially confident and live the life they want.  I blog about budget mastering, debt conquering and expense planning to end financial stress at www.BudgetwithRachel.com.