Firstly, I will tell you that I don’t have all the answers; I can speak to my experience and things that I’ve done to help finance this latest educational venture of mine. Each individual’s circumstances are different, as are our financial attitudes. However, if any of you have it figured out- besides winning the lottery- I’d love to have you pass that information on!
As I mentioned in my first post, I was a public school teacher for many years before leaving that profession to enroll in massage therapy school. And while I’m sure I’d be crushed if I actually figured my teaching salary into an hourly rate, it still paid a decent wage for someone in my lifestyle: no mortgage, no children to support. I’ve always been pretty practical with my spending, with my splurges being mostly in travel, for which I always saved and paid off before my first flight departed. I am highly uncomfortable being in debt, so I paid off my undergrad student loans before I started my Master’s program, and paid that off before starting massage school. Knowing that I was leaving teaching also was good motivation for me to start saving more even while I had a comfortable paycheck coming in. I had- hopefully!- positioned myself to pay a good amount of my tuition while I was still in school, while remaining current with my bills.
When things have been financially lean for me (I wish I didn’t have so much experience in that situation!), I put into effect what I call my own personal “austerity measures.” I don’t fritter away money on things like a cup of coffee on the go, or other little treats that I allow myself when my income is steady. There are no movie nights at the theater; instead I use my local library and Netflix, and try to invite friends for movie nights at home to make it seem more of an occasion. Having spent so many years in the restaurant business, I enjoy dining out, but that falls by the wayside as well when I’m trying to conserve. Cooking at home is far more economical, and I typically cook with beans and whole grains that are inexpensive and still nutritive. These to me are some of the easier ways to maintain a lifestyle that affords some fun, but involve practical use of money that will soon have to stretch much further.
This time around, I kicked austerity measures into high gear. In addition to all of the cutbacks mentioned above, I became more thrifty with food, less wasteful of meals I’d prepared that I wasn’t completely thrilled with, and reintroduced PB&J as a regular staple. I gave up my expensive gym membership, as I was unable to use it much with my injury anyway; I forced myself to stay in shape using the meager equipment I’d amassed at home. I began commuting as much as I could on foot or bike, saving gas money (oh! for the days of 89 cents a gallon!). While my social life certainly took a hit, I was busily occupied with school and study, community service and clinic. I was also able to take on a part-time job in the restaurant business, which certainly didn’t pay my bills, but gave me some cash flow and still afforded me the mental energy to devote to school. Having lost my health insurance with my employment, I discovered a local college with a dentistry program, which would allow me to maintain my dental upkeep at a minimal cost.
Being comfortable with writing, I also devoted a good deal of time to searching out scholarships and applying for as many as I could. A number of classmates did the same, but many gave up after the first 5-10 attempts led to no response and no money. I kept at it, and wound up with $1000 from massageschool.org (thank you!). There are a number of options available to search out scholarship monies; any national massage therapy organization offers them periodically throughout the year. Contacting local organizations of which you are or could be a member- women’s groups, veterans’ councils, etc.- could also be a source. Online searches may provide you with good matches for free monies, and fastweb.com is one such site. Be aware that such group searches may involve a good deal of time on your part; many will send lots of emails and even may call you to recruit you to various colleges, as well as match you up with scholarships you don’t qualify for. However, getting money for tuition that you don’t need to pay back will save not only that output in dollar amount, but also any interest accrued in student loans.
And while the above are all ways to save, or to cut into tuition specifically, there are other options. Financially, it would have been wiser for me to keep my teaching job and attend massage school part time; in all other manners, it would have been detrimental, so the decision I made was best for me. If you can help it, don’t quit your day job!! Because the reality is that even once the education is complete, there will be loan repayments for most of us. This is also not a career in which you step in fresh and new, making enough to live on. It takes anywhere from 2-5 years to make a livable wage in this field, from what I’ve gathered. Another benefit to maintaining employment in other fields is that you potentially have a client list in the making with fellow employees. Paying for massage school –paying for any education- isn’t necessarily going to be easy or cheap, but the rewards of a career in which you can partner with clients for lifelong wellness are beyond dollars and cents. Seeing improvement in a client’s condition, all the while learning so much about yourself and others, goes beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary.