Budgeting Tips for Travel Nurses

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By Medely

July 5, 2022

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Top 5 Budgeting Tips for Travel Nurses

Medely provided this article.

As a travel nurse or allied professional, you may find yourself trying to manage an income that fluctuates from assignment to assignment. Uncertainty makes it more difficult to stick to a budget, particularly when your living costs are also changeable.

With thoughtful planning and research, you can get control of your finances and choose contracts that move you closer to your goals. Here are five of our favorite budgeting tips to help you put your money where it matters most.

1.   Set clear and measurable financial goals

What attracted you to the free-spirited lifestyle? Maybe you want to pay off debt, build your savings account, be closer to family, or gain experience in different types of healthcare facilities. Maybe you just want to have an adventure and explore the country!

Whatever your motivation, design a plan to help you reach your goals—now and in the future.

In explaining the importance of setting financial goals, the team at Investopedia recommends setting short-, mid-, and long- financial targets:

  • Short-term goals (6-12 months) can help you build confidence in your ability to follow a plan and gain knowledge to support your longer-term objectives. Set yourself up for easy wins—find goals you can achieve within the coming year, such as rebuilding your savings account or choosing one debt to pay down quickly.
  • Mid-term goals (1-5 years) are multi-year goals that may not show an immediate impact but make a noticeable difference over time. Mid-term goals often overlap with your long- and short-term goals. For example, you may want to save up for training that will expand your knowledge into

higher-paying specialties down the road, or put money toward a milestone for a downpayment on your first home.

  • Long-term goals (5+ years) apply to future life events such as not carrying a mortgage, saving for retirement, or sending your kids through university. You may need to regroup from time to time as you achieve these goals and your life circumstances change.

Clearly defined money goals—whatever their timeframe—are the “big rocks” for you to prioritize as you figure out the different pieces of your monthly budget.

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2. Adjust your budget regularly

Your income likely fluctuates as you move between travel nursing assignments. Importantly, so will your expenses—and there may be variables between contracts that you’ll need to account for, such as medical and

dental benefits, accommodations, furnishings, or travel stipends. To keep your budget on track, you’ll need to review it regularly and adjust your calculations as your cost of living varies.

First, let’s look at the main pieces in your monthly budget. It will likely include some combination of the following categories:

  • Accommodations
    • Debt payments (i.e., credit cards, unexpected costs)
    • Entertainment and dining out
    • Groceries
    • Transportation (i.e., car, metro)
    • Travel
    • Savings toward your goals

But how can you think about budgeting without adding extra stress and a lot of admin to your day-to-day life? There are three popular approaches to setting a budget: 50/30/20, zero-sum, and the envelope method.

A 50/30/20 budget splits your income broadly into three categories: 50% goes toward things you need (i.e., transportation, groceries, essential bills); 30% is to spend on things you want (i.e., dining out, travel for fun, clothes shopping); 20% goes toward savings or debt payments.

A zero-sum budget gives every dollar you earn a job. This doesn’t mean you spend all your money; it means that 100% of your take-home pay is allocated to something, so there’s no money left just “floating around” at the end of the month.

An envelope budget splits your expenses into specific categories, with a set dollar amount assigned to each category that you can spend until it’s gone.

Find a budget strategy that will enable you to reach your short-term goals without running calculations in your head before every transaction. And don’t forget to scan your expenses for potential tax deductions.

3.   Choose travel nurse assignments that fit within your budget

Just as changing jobs can impact your budget, moving to a new location can boost or hinder your financial plans. That’s why choosing a location that’s in sync with your current priorities can be helpful.

For example, a winter travel assignment in budget-friendly Phoenix, AZ, can ease the stress on your living expenses and bank account while giving you access to plenty of low-cost activities in spectacular national parks and nearby mountains. And if you need extra money, common travel nursing advice is to keep an eye out for rapid response jobs or less-desirable assignments.

Accommodations, transportation, and groceries (not dining out) are some of the essentials that can vary a lot by region. To find the right balance, you may want to consider:

  • Food: What’s the cost of basic groceries and what are your options for buying them? Food availability and pricing, particularly for fresh fruits and vegetables, can vary from one part of the country to another.
    • Travel expenses: How will the location impact your discretionary travel budget? For example, will friends and family be easier to reach or further away?
    • Transportation costs: Will you require a car to get around, or is there a solid public transportation system? For example, considering gas prices in 2022, it may not be an ideal time to take a job that requires a big commute.
  • Entertainment: Is there a lot to keep you engaged in the local community? A big city offers a lot of variety, and while fees can add up, you may also find more deals and cheap tickets. In a rural area, however, there may be many free options outdoors with an occasional trip to nearby cities.

Try to estimate these costs ahead of time so you can anticipate how to adjust your budget to match.

4.   Get resourceful about meals

We barely need to mention that dining out can quickly add up, while planning and meal prepping in advance can save time and money. Knowing this common advice and following it when you’re coming off a double shift are two different things. But there is help!

Take advantage of Facebook groups and smart apps to connect with your new neighbors and get their recommendations for affordable groceries and cheap eats. For example:

  • Which grocery stores offer the best value?
    • Are there farmer’s markets or coop programs that allow you to buy direct or in bulk?
    • Are there options such as Too Good to Go, which make it easy for stores and restaurants to sell surplus food?
    • What restaurants offer healthy and cheap meals?

And don’t forget to consider the value of your time. Prepping ingredients ahead of time is great—but only if you do it. It’s less ideal if your fridge is filled with well-intentioned ingredients that never quite make it to the table. A meal prep service might help you get past that hurdle and stock your fridge or freezer with leftovers.

  • Don’t hesitate to ask a local

As with groceries, local residents and your fellow travel nurses can be your best resource when it comes to budget-friendly tips and great deals. Reach out to get insights into the best options in an area for:

Budget well and create a travel nursing experience that works for you

Being a travel nurse or allied professional can be a fantastic way to save money and achieve financial goals of all sizes. With planning, research, and an understanding of the type of travel assignments that are an ideal fit, you’ll have a positive and memorable experience wherever your career takes you.

Our job board is a great place to search for your next travel nurse assignment. If housing is an issue, we have you covered with our housing page. 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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