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25 Things Doctors Never Ever Need to Buy

I love The Office. And in one episode, Michael, the lovable but hapless boss, talks to Oscar, the pragmatic accountant, about his money troubles. Oscar helps break down Michael’s spending, ultimately concluding that the majority of Michael’s money is spent on things that “no one could ever ever need” to buy. Like professional bass fishing equipment.

I rewatched this episode recently and as I was cracking up at this scene, a truth hit me. There was a time before my financial education where I was in a similar predicament. Selenid and I spent up to our income with a 0% savings rate. We even spent beyond out income building up credit card debt.

Things changed as we began our financial education, created a budget and written financial plan, and grew our net worth exponentially.

However, many doctors, despite high income, still are working because they have to, not because they want to

Because they need the paycheck to cover expenses.

And while one solution is to increase income via improved clinical compensation or side gigs, the most direct and easiest way to fix this problem is to decrease expenses.

Because, truth bomb, if you cannot save and invest at least 20% of your gross income on a doctor salary (any doctor salary), the issue is a spending problem.

That means you are probably definitely spending money on things that no doctor ever, ever needs to buy. Like these 25 things…

things to buy
A worthwhile purchase?

25 things no doctor ever ever needs to buy

Here we go!

1. Whole life insurance

Every doctor who has family that depends on their income to cover expenses needs life insurance. But you pretty much never need whole life insurance.

You want to buy term life insurance. This is insurance that covers you for a set period of time, usually 30 years. And if you pass away during that time, the covered amount gets paid to your dependents. And once the term is over, the insurance is gone. However, by that time, you and your loved ones should be financial free if you are following the simple formula to get there.

While life insurance meanwhile is a mixed insurance/investment product with high fees that no doctor needs. Most doctors who defend whole life insurance bought a policy in the past and it has now matured to actually be worth something.

The problem is that if they just got term life insurance and invested the difference in premiums in index funds, they would have ended up with much better returns…

2. An exorbitant watch

I really don’t get this one. And I’ll admit that I’m not a watch person. But seriously, in the era of smart phones, do you really need something else that tells you the time?

And fine, if you do, does it need to be ridiculously expensive? No way. You work in a field where you are constantly near dangerous bacteria. Plus if you are a surgeon like me, you can’t wear your watch in the OR. So it’s off again, on again, off again.

Forget it.

3. Top line hobby equipment before you’ve done that hobby 10 times

I hope this is self explanatory.

4. A luxury car

I’ve argued that my decidedly non-luxury car has more advantages than any luxury one. And I stick by it!

You need a safe car that gets you where you need to go.

It just doesn’t need to be the most expensive version out there. And all those gadgets you just need to have. Once the dopamine stops hitting after a few drives, you won’t care much about them.

5. An abundance of useless medical association memberships

There will always be some associations in your specialty that are worth joining. Whether for continued education, interaction with colleagues, or philanthropical support.

But what drives me nuts are the associations that really no doctor needs to buy. Like someone recently asked me why I wasn’t a member of the American College of Surgeons.

My response? Why are you a member? And it was tough for them to spell out any reasons other than having the letters FACS after their name in email signatures.

Trust me, you don’t need those extraneous letters. Your patients don’t even know what it means and your colleagues don’t really care. And you definitely don’t need to pay hefty annual dues to get and keep them.

6. 100 pairs of shoes

Yup. This is a real example.

You need dress shoes, sneakers, sandals, and an old junk pair of shoes. That’s my collection at least.

7. Actively managed mutual funds

Passively managed index funds outperform actively managed stock and bond funds 80% of the time for less fees and taxes.

And this post goes in depth about how and why.

That means that actively managed funds are one of the things that no one ever ver needs to buy.

8. An expensive website

Private practice physicians will need to put more time and effort into their website. But it shouldn’t be that expensive. This site which is more active than most practice sites costs about $14/month to run.

Yours shouldn’t be more.

9. A boat

Don’t even get me started…

Ok fine, I started. If you do buy a boat, please don’t buy it with a loan. Just please.

10. Vacations you can’t afford

If you can’t pay for it in cash, you can’t go.

11. Any more than 3 things in your Amazon cart

Amazon has gamified consumerism maybe better than anyone else ever. People notoriously buy things they don’t need on Amazon.

That’s why on your budget I strongly recommend not having a simple “Amazon” category. Break down what you actually buy.

Anyway, in addition to these 9 strategies to curb Amazon spending, I have a theory that no one pretty much ever needs to buy more than 3 things at once on Amazon. So, if you have more than 3 items in your Amazon cart, at least one and likely a few of them are something you don’t need to buy.

12. A vacation home

Honestly I thought for a minute of just listing a home on here. Because in many ways, especially for your first home, renting makes more sense than buying. But there is nuance to that.

What no doctor ever ever actually needs to buy is a vacation home. But it’s one of the most common things that doctors do. And I know, I know. You’re going to use it as a short term rental…but are you really? I’ve heard that story before…

If you want to go on vacation, rent a place. Or stay at a hotel. You don’t need to buy a place year round to stay at occasionally.

13. Insurance on anything but yourself, your home, and your car

You don’t need insurance on your cell phone. If it breaks, just buy a new one. Any doctor income can support that.

Same with your vacuum cleaner. Or garage door. Or your kid’s new toy.

Doctors actually need term life insurance, own-occupation liability insurance, home and car insurance, malpractice insurance, and maybe umbrella insurance.

That’s it. Nothing more.

More here: What Types of Insurance Do Doctors Actually Need

14. Cable TV

Everything is streaming now!

15. A bar, brewery, or restaurant

I know multiple doctors who have tried buying a bar, brewery, or restaurant as a type of investment.

I’ve yet to see it work out.

There are better ways…

16. A desktop computer

Just get a lap top already. And you don’t need both!

17. A credit card

I’m sure there will be some blow back here from the travel hacking crowd. However, no doctor needs to have a credit card.

You just don’t.

You should be paying for items, including any bigger items, in cash. With a credit card you will rack up interest rates of >20%. Even if you plan to use it and pay off the total amount each month, there’s still a risk that you will be tempted to misuse the card and fall victim to these predatory fees.

Oh, but the points! You need to get the points! Guys, points are largely a scam. You get 1% or maybe 2% cash back. Why do credit card companies do this? Because of their kid spirit? No! It’s because they know you probably won’t pay it all off right away so they give you 1% in exchange for their 20% interest rate. That’s a pretty good deal for them…

Selenid and I used our free Cash Sapphire 1-2% cash back card and paid it off regularly for 3 years. Want to know how much cash back we ended up with? $1000. That’s it.

Not worth the even just potential risk for misuse for a high income earner.

And forget about opening tons of new cards for bonuses and rotating them to work out free trips using points. Is that really worth your time and energy and also the risk to your credit? When you can work another shift and make enough money for the same plane ticket?

And yes, you do need to buy most good credit cards. That’s what the annual fee is.

18. A Peloton

Chances are you aren’t going to use it as much as you think. Try biking outside first…

19. Country club memberships

There are public golf courses and swimming pools.

20. Taylor Swift concert tickets

We’ll see if Selenid reads this far…because you know...

21. A car service

There was a very famous New York City plastic surgeon who used a car with a driver to go everywhere. Even just a. few blocks to different hospitals.

Sadly he went broke shortly after retiring at a very old age. Older than I can imagine he actually wanted to work.

That example hopefully will speak for itself…

Buy a reasonable car. Drive it yourself. Or use Uber.

22. An escalating financial advisor fee

If you want to pay a financial advisor fee, go ahead. If it is the only way that you will invest your money, then it’s worth it as long as you are getting good advice.

But you don’t need to. The path to financial freedom via investing is one any doctor can do herself or himself. Start by creating a written financial plan like ours.

23. Avocado toast

I mean, I guess you can buy this if you want. I don’t think this is the reason that many millennials can’t afford to buy a house. But can’t we all just agree there’s just nothing that special about avocado toast?

It only comes in two forms:

  • Dry toast with cut avocados on it. Just make this yourself.
  • Dry toast with some poor guacamole substitute in top. Which is just no good. At all.

24. An airplane

It also seems like a lot of doctors like to fly recreationally. My advice: find a better hobby.

It’ll save you money and maybe your life.

25. Multiple magic kits

Michael Scott didn’t need ’em. And neither do you!

So, where do we go from here?

If you made it this far, you probably have realized some of the tongue in cheek nature of this post. You also may have noticed that I have bought some of the things on this list…like Taylor Swift concert tickets, and a Peloton that I hardly use.

The point here is not that you can’t or shouldn’t buy anything. Even many of the things on this list. However, the point is that, even as a doctor and high-income earner, you can’t buy everything. The goal is to employ intentional spending so the things you buy actually bring you joy and fit in your plan to reach financial freedom.

However if you haven’t created your path to financial freedom, there are steps to take even before you reach the stage of inetional spending. If you aren’t able to save at least 20% of your gross income to invest and pave the path to financial freedom, then you need to start by taking a hard look at your expenses.

And just like Michael Scott in The Office, you need to determine what are needs, wants, and things that no one ever ever needs to buy.

Then make some changes! Create your savings rate. Invest your money. Begin the journey to financial freedom.

Here are some resources to help:

Or, for a full comprehensive resource, check out my best-selling book, Money Matters in Medicine!

What do you think? Are there some things that doctors don’t ever need to buy? What are they? How do you manage your expenses? Let me know in the comments below.

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    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected].

    6 thoughts on “25 Things Doctors Never Ever Need to Buy”

    1. I generally agree with you regarding #5: not paying for useless medical memberships, but as a general surgeon, I don’t find the American College of Surgeons to be one. For general surgeons, being a Fellow of The College does mean something and FACS after our names does add prestige. Besides that, I’ve been using it to keep track of all my CME and operative cases since leaving residency in 2004. Both my CME and case log repositories can port their information to the American Board of Surgery when needed for MOC and/or recertification, which is pretty sweet. Do I find the nearly $800/year dues excessive? Yes, I do. But, I think I’m mostly getting my money’s worth.

    2. Thanks for the post especially about credit cards. I was about to get FOMO-ed with the credit card travel hacks. I have zero annual fee credit cards that I have since residency and those with annual fees pays for itself.

      I make my own Avocado toast and manage my mutual funds

    3. I was with you until you started hating on Taylor & avocados!
      Jim Dahle owns a boat and Lief Dahleen owns a bar, so ….
      Once FI, we should buy whatever we want, right?


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