As a dental student no one has to tell you that dental school is expensive. In Canada, 9 of the 10 dental schools are 4-year programs (with the University of Montreal being 5 years) and the total dental school tuition for the 4-year program ranges from $60,000 to $233,000 depending on the school.1
A dentistry degree is one of the most expensive degrees partly because of the high costs of instruments and supplies that students must purchase in order to train. Clinic fees are also high. Unlike medical students who obtain their clinical training in hospitals already funded from the social tax-base, the costs of dental school clinics are borne partly by the students themselves.2
Students need to prepare to pay more than just tuition. The hidden costs can easily add up and tend to catch you by surprise including the cost of living in various cities where the universities are located.
The First Rule
First, students should make a budget and try to stick to it throughout the year. Budgeting allows you to understand how much money you have to spend after tuition expenses. It’s a plan for how you'll direct funds toward all areas of your financial life, such as necessary expenses (rent, food, transportation, phone, internet), discretionary purchases (pub night, food delivery services, clothes, entertainment), and even your personal savings goals and investing for retirement. Before you create a budget, remember that the best budget is one you can stick to. It’s there to guide you, not to add stress to your life.
There are templates on Microsoft Excel you can use to create a budget, but there are also great online tools that are available that you might prefer. Check out this list of recommended budget applications from investopedia.com. It’s important to review the privacy policies as many budgeting apps may connect to your bank account and credit cards to automatically download transactions and categorize your spending to match the budget you choose.
Other Budget Items to Consider
We’ve talked to dental students and found some important and some surprising items to include when you’re planning your budget.
1. Dental Tools & Loupes
Other than tuition, one of the big costs of dental school will be your hand instruments and loupes. Talk to your classmates and your professors for recommendations and features you’ll need.
Remember that if you’re signed up for the CDSPI No-Cost Student plan your dental tools are protected for up to $15,000 in case of theft or damage.
2. Travel and Transportation Costs
- Students who live off campus must account for transportation costs in their budgets. Even on-campus students should plan for some transportation costs to cover trips home and/or trips during school breaks.
- Having a car on campus
- Having a car on campus can be expensive. Students must account for fees such as purchasing a parking pass to park on campus and/or at off-campus housing, gas, insurance and even parking tickets.
- Car maintenance can also add up, from services for normal wear and tear — like oil changes and winter tire changeover — to larger repairs.
- CDSPI, through The Personal offers preferred pricing for dental students for tenant and car insurance.
Definitely a necessity and with the current inflationary environment, getting more expensive every day. While eating out or getting delivery is so easy and convenient, it is also very expensive; delivery fees alone can be more expensive than the food. Even mundane activities like meeting for coffee, can add up quickly if you don’t pay attention to these daily expenses. Visit Lifeworks.ca and search for “nutrition” to find out ways to eat healthy. The login is 'Dentalstudent' and the password is 'CDSPI'.
4. Furnishing Your Space
Most students move multiple times throughout their dental school experience. Some start in residence for an undergrad degree but most eventually move to off campus housing.
Students who live off campus often need additional furniture and kitchenware. These costs can quickly add up, so consider reusing what you can from year to year or purchasing desks, couches and other necessities through Facebook Marketplace or other used furniture online sites. The best time to buy is in the spring when students are graduating and want to offload furniture which is harder to move.
5. Technology is Expensive
It’s not just your laptop that accounts for a large part of your technology costs. Your cell phone is a big monthly cost to consider.
Another unexpected cost that can sneak up on you are monthly bills for streaming services. Of course, streaming isn’t possible without access to the internet which is a “must-have” for students. There are budget options available that are worth price-checking against the big providers, especially if you live in a city with viable internet and cell service alternatives.
6. Professional Clothing and Scrubs
Admittedly you will live in scrubs on clinic days—and the wardrobe of a student usually hovers between jeans, leggings and hoodies or sweats. But there are occasions where purchasing business attire is another essential cost. Many students attend networking events and career fairs and undergo job interviews—all events that require business attire.
Sure schlepping all your dirty clothes home to use the parents’ washer and dryer is the preferred method of getting your clothes clean. But that’s not always possible. When looking for accommodation, having an on-site washer and dryer is a “nice-to-have” even if you have to pay a little bit more in rent, just for the added convenience. The cost of washing and drying multiple loads of laundry can add up quickly.
8. Banking Fees and Credit Cards
Any financial advisor will warn you to not carry a balance on your credit card. If your monthly costs are too high to cover the expenses, use your line of credit which has a much lower interest rate than the 19% to 23% charged when you carry a balance on a credit card. But remember that your line of credit is still borrowed money that one day will have to be repaid.
Most financial institutions have banking fees on regular accounts. Make sure your bank knows you’re a student as fees may be waived.
CDSPI has a strategic alliance with Scotiabank to offer banking solutions designed to meet your unique needs as a dental student. In addition to the Scotia Professional® Student Plan Line of Credit, as a dental student you can receive savings and rewards on personal banking solutions to help you manage your finances. Check it out at Banking for Dental Students | Scotiabank Healthcare+ Dentist Banking.
9. Emergency Expenses
Budgeting for emergency expenses can help you feel more in control of your finances when problems do arise. Most students will experience some unforeseen expense during their time in school, whether it's a car breaking down, a sudden change in travel plans, or a new laptop. If possible, set aside some funds at the beginning of each school year in case of an emergency. This will help you cope with unplanned events when they happen; including items like exam fees you weren’t expecting, legal fees to review your Associate contract when you graduate, relocation or interview costs.
Your best resource is an Advisor from CDSPI Advisory Services Inc
For years now, Advisors from CDSPI Advisory Services Inc. have been visiting dental students on campuses across the country, talking with students about how best to manage their money. CDSPI provides financial wellness sessions every year, helping to educate and empower dental students to make informed financial decisions today and as a new dentist. If you’d like to learn more and/or set up a no-cost, no-pressure one-on-one personal finance session visit cdspi.com/students.