Budgeting as a travel nurse or allied professional can be difficult. You may find yourself trying to manage your income that changes from one assignment to the next. This uncertainty can make it more difficult to stick to a set budget, particularly when your living costs are also changing.
There is hope! With thoughtful planning and research, you can have control of your finances and choose contracts that move you closer to your financial goals. This article has some of our favorite budgeting tips to help you control your finances.
1. Set clear and measurable financial goals
One of the biggest reasons people join the travel nursing lifestyle is the money! Some people want to pay off debt, build their savings, be closer to family, or even gain experience in different types of facilities and positions.
Whatever your motivation may be, designing a plan to help you reach your goals is a must!
In the article, How to Set Financial Goals for Your Future, Investopedia recommends setting short-, mid-, and long-term financial goals:
- Short-term goals (6-12 months): This can help you build confidence in your ability to follow financial plans and gain knowledge to help support your longer-term goals. It is recommended to set yourself up for easy wins and find goals you can achieve within the coming year. Things like rebuilding your saving account or choosing one debt to pay down quickly
- Mid-term goals (1-5 years): These are multi-year goals that may not have an immediate impact but can make a very noticeable difference over time. Mid-term goals are often overlapping with your long- and short-term goals. A great example is wanting to save up for training that will help expand your knowledge of higher-paying specialties down the road or putting money towards a milestone for a down payment on your first home.
- Long-term goals (5+ years): These goals apply to future life events like not varying a mortgage, saving up for retirement, or even sending your kids through college. For long-term goals, it may help to regroup from time to time as you achieve your goals and as your life circumstances change.
The main point is to have clearly defined money goals, whatever their timeframe may be.
2. Adjust your budget regularly
As we said before your income is likely to change as you move between each of your travel assignments. But more importantly, so will your expenses, and there may be other variables between contracts that you’ll need to plan for, such as medical and dental benefits, accommodations, furnishings, or even travel stipends. To make sure you keep your budget on track, you’ll need to review this regularly and adjust your calculations as your costs of living change.
Let’s first look at the main pieces in your monthly budget. They will most likely include some of the following categories:
- Debt payments (credit cards, unexpected costs, college tuition)
- Entertainment and dining out
- Transportation (metro, car, car insurance)
- Savings toward your goals
Now we know budgeting can be a bit stressful but there are three popular approaches to setting a budget that can help:
A 50/30/20 budget: This splits your income broadly into three categories: 50% goes towards things you need (like transportation, groceries, essential bills, etc.); 30% goes to things you want (like dining out, travel for fun, shopping for clothes, etc.); 20% goes towards savings or debt payments.
A zero-sum budget: This gives every dollar you earn a role. This doesn’t mean you have to spend all your money, but it means that 100% of your income is allocated to something, so there’s no money left “floating around” at the end of the month.
An envelope budget: This one splits your expenses into specific categories, with a set dollar amount assigned to each category that you can spend until it’s gone.
Finding a budget strategy that works for you will enable you to reach your short-term goals without running calculations in your head before every transaction you make.
3. Choose travel nurse assignments that fit within your budget
Just as changing jobs can impact your budget, moving to a new location can also boost or hinder your financial plans and goals. Therefore, choosing a location that matches your current priorities can be super helpful!
A great example, taking a winter travel assignment in the budget-friendly Phoenix, Arizona, can help ease the stress of our living expenses and your bank account while still giving you access to plenty of low-cost activities, like national parks and nearby mountains.
Accommodations, transportation, and groceries (not including dining out) are some of the essentials that will vary a lot by location. To find the right balance, you may want to consider the following:
- Food: What is the cost of basic groceries and what are your options for buying them? Food availability and pricing, especially for fresh fruit and vegetables, can vary from one part of the country to another.
- Travel expenses: How will this location affect your travel budget? For example, will your friends and family be easier to reach or further away?
- Transportation costs: will you require a car to get around, or is there a reliable public transportation system? For example, considering gas prices in 2022, it may not be an ideal time to take a job that requires a long commute.
- Entertainment: Is there a lot to keep you engaged in the local area? Working in a big city will offer you a lot of variety, and while fees can add up, you may also find more deals and cheap tickets. Versus a rural area, there may be less variety, but you may find many free options outdoors with an occasional trip to a nearby city for variety.
Try to estimate these types of costs ahead of time so you can anticipate any changes you need to make in your budget.
4. Get resourceful about meals
Ever since quarantine, we don’t need to remind you that dining out can quickly add up, while planning and meal prepping in advance can save you time and money. Just knowing this common advice and following it when you’re coming off a double shift are two very different things. But there is hope!
Try taking 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 store offers the best value?
- Are there any local 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 easier for stores and restaurants to sell surplus food?
- What restaurants offer healthy and cheap meals?
Make sure not to forget the value of your time. Preparing ingredients ahead of time are 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. Having a meal prep service might help you get past that hurdle and stock your fridge or freezer with leftovers that you’ll use!
As for groceries, locals and your fellow travel nurses can be your best resource when it comes to budget-friendly tips and great deals. Here are some things to look out for that will help you find the best deals:
- Group buy sites, like Groupon and LivingSocial
- Garage sale sites, like VarageSale and Craigslist
- Stores that sell antiques or estate sale treasures
- Cheap or by-donation sightseeing tours
- Discount days at local museums and attractions
- Top shops for cheap nursing scrubs and comfortable shoes
Budgeting well and create a travel experience that works for you
Being a travel nurse or allied professional can be a great way to save money and achieve your financial goals. With careful planning, research, and a good understanding of the type of travel assignments that are an ideal fit, you’ll have a positive and memorable experience wherever this career may take you. We hope you have found this article helpful! If you are interested in starting your travel med career, reach out to one of our recruiters or visit our jobs board today!