Debt While Travel Nursing: 3 Ways to Avoid It

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By The Gypsy Nurse Staff

July 17, 2022

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3 Steps to Avoid Debt When Travel Nursing

When it comes to a career in travel nursing, one of the best ways to find success in the field is to become comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Over your career, you will travel between assignments and locations and will always be working with new people. Successful travel nurses are flexible, confident, and can adapt to anything thrown their way. While these traits are important to the job, there are other factors to consider when travel nursing.

Thinking outside of the mental and physical tolls of the job, what are some other hurdles associated with travel nursing? In this time of steadily rising costs and inflation, finances should be right at the top of the list. Whether you’re an individual considering a job in the industry, or if you are a current travel nurse who’s looking to improve their financial standing, here are 3 useful tips any travel nurse can use to avoid falling into debt when on the road.

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Fully Understand Your Financial Situation

Seeing as travel nurses are expected to move locations every few months or even every few weeks, you’ll find that financial literacy can be your best friend. Without a firm handle on your finances, expenses for things like travel, transportation, housing, and food can easily get out of hand. You don’t want to get to a situation where you are away from home and find yourself struggling just to get by. By diving headfirst into learning about your finances, you can gain control over your current and future financial standing.  A good first step to gaining a better understanding of your financial situation is to calculate both your net worth as well as your debt-to-income ratio.

First, let’s take a look at what net worth means and why it matters. A person’s net worth is calculated by adding the value of assets they own subtracted from the value of liabilities against them. Some common assets to include are cash reserves, home equity, investments, and liabilities include student debt, credit cards, and a mortgage. The first time you calculate your net worth will most likely be overwhelming. It can be hard to remember every little asset or liability you have accrued. Using something like a personal net worth calculator can help facilitate the process to ensure you don’t leave anything out of your calculations.

Your net worth calculation will give you a snapshot of how your past has impacted your financial situation. Calculating your debt-to-income ratio will help you understand what your current financial situation is looking like. To calculate your debt-to-income ratio, all you need to do is take your total amount of debt payments made each month and subtract that amount from your monthly income. Most people aim to have a debt-to-income ratio of 30% or lower. This means that if you took home $5,000 in a month that your monthly debt payments should be $1,500 or lower. Again, if you need assistance with calculating your ratio, there are debt-to-income calculators available for free to help you along the way.

After you have a full view of your past and current financial situation, you can now start thinking about the future. As you start to think about your next travel nursing assignment, consider how much you can realistically spend in one month. You should be using your net worth and debt-to-income ratio to help guide you here. As mentioned, you want to keep this ratio below 30%, which makes the 50/30/20 method of budgeting a great option to try. This strategy separates your monthly after-tax expenses into three categories: 50% towards necessities (housing, food, transportation), 30% towards wants (shopping, social activities, travel, dining out), and the remaining 20% towards savings or paying off debts. In the context of travel nursing, utilizing a method of budgeting such as this one can be extremely beneficial for navigating price fluctuations between assignments and building out your savings.

Think Proactively About Where You Choose to Live

Although some travel nursing assignments offer living accommodations, some do not, and finding temporary housing can be difficult, costly, and can bring on unwanted stress. This is where being proactive can be hugely beneficial. As opposed to lengthy hotel stays or crashing with friends or family, there are several options available to find short-term living accommodations without breaking the bank.

First off, subletting is a great option in temporary situations and can allow for the flexibility you need when changing travel nursing assignments. Sublets come in all shapes and sizes, whether you need the whole place to yourself or if you’re okay with renting a room and sharing your space with others for the short while you’re on assignment. Depending on your desired location and proximity to work, subletting allows you to find affordable housing without having to make long-term commitments. A good place to look for sublets is either within a local Facebook community or housing page.

Rental intermediaries such as VRBO offer alternative solutions for short-term housing but can come at higher costs with additional fees included. A way to circumvent this is to reach out to the property manager, explain your situation and ask if they might be willing to offer a discount for stays longer than a typical weekend or vacation rental. While this is completely subjective to the manager, if they are open to working with you and providing a discounted rate, you may be able to find a stable home at a fraction of the price in comparison to booking hotel stays or subletting.

Given the long hours and stress, you’ll likely encounter during your assignment, finding a comfortable space to come home to and decompress is crucial to being successful in the role and ensuring the stability of your physical and mental health. Since housing will be your biggest expense during your time, you might as well plan as best as possible and work towards saving yourself the funds and reducing the stress that comes with the housing search process.

Don’t Be Afraid of Outside Help

Now that you’ve completed the first two steps in creating a budget and finding adequate housing accommodations, you must remain cognizant of your finances and be smart about how you choose to pay for everything. Far too often, people think they need to handle this all on their own, but leaning on outside help can both lower stress levels as well as improve your financial standing. Outside help can mean a lot of different things. Most often, outside help either will come in the form of an outside financial product or leaning on family and friends.

If you become friends with some of your travel nursing peers, looking for housing together can be a resourceful option for reducing your living costs and allocating more money to your savings budget each month. Finding short-term housing with another person allows for twice the reach in your search and provides you with some company at home, rather than living all by yourself or with strangers.

Another option that could provide more flexibility is applying for a personal loan to use for expenses and purchases while on assignment. This option provides you with the necessary funds to use for your needs upfront as opposed to dealing with the credit limits of cards. Loans are the best for longer-term stays as you will make payments in monthly installments that come with lower rates than credit cards and allow for less of a hassle when it comes time to pay your bills.

If you are thinking about applying for a loan:

Make sure that you are only making purchases that are necessary to your living situation. Things like furniture, utilities, or breaking an old lease are what outside financial products should be used for, not a new wardrobe or other impulse buys. And remember, no matter what method you choose, all that matters is that it’s the best for your situation and provides you with the least vulnerability to debt.

A career in travel nursing is both an exciting and fulfilling experience vital to our communities’ health and prosperity. Whether you’re new to the job or a seasoned veteran, planning for a new assignment can prove to be stressful in more ways than one, but with the right attitude and proper financial planning, you can reduce your anxiety and focus better on the job. At hand: saving lives!

Our job board is a great place to search for your next travel nurse assignment. We have you covered with our housing page if housing is an issue. You can search for what you are looking for.

If you are a new traveler or looking into becoming a Travel Nurse:

Travel Nurse Guide: Step by Step

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