How to Budget as a Travel Nurse

Health Carousel Travel Nursing
May 6, 2022
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Even among non-healthcare workers, word on the street is that travel nurses make a lot of money. For the most part, that’s true, especially compared to what staff nurses are earning. But that doesn’t mean that what you're spending can now be a free for all. More money is awesome, but it also means that more money management is required to avoid squandering what you’ve worked so hard to earn.

Use and Save Your Stipend for What it’s Intended for 

Unless you’re traveling locally, as a travel nurse you’ll typically receive a generous tax-free housing and food stipend. It might sound obvious, but budget that money for the intended costs of food and housing. If you’re able to stay with friends or family, save the leftover money for future housing costs.

Choosing a savings goal can be motivating to save that extra money. Maybe you need to save for a down payment on a house or want to stay at a nicer place on your next vacation. Saved housing stipend money will be incredibly valuable at that point. The more down payment you put on a house the less interest you’ll owe, and taking vacations can be huge in preventing nurse burnout

In case you haven’t noticed, inflation has been dramatically driving up the price of groceries. This is where your food stipend will come in handy! If you still have money left over it could be used as a dual purpose food and entertainment fund if you enjoy going out to nice restaurants with friends. Or, if you’re looking to give back, you can use your extra food stipend money to donate to a local food bank or charity aiming to reduce hunger. 

Plan for Time off Between Assignments 

Last summer I took three weeks off between assignments in August. It was fantastic, but I spent a lot of money on my outdoor adventures. Thankfully, since the start of my previous assignment, I’d planned for that time off and had money set aside specifically for those three weeks. 

Since travel nurses don’t receive paid time off, a few weeks of vacation means a few weeks without pay at a time when you’re probably spending more money than usual. It’s up to you to save some extra money from the increased salary to create a time off/vacation fund for when you’re not working. While on an assignment before some planned time off, consider living at what would be a typical staff nurse salary and save the excess pay for your well-deserved vacation time. 

Quickly Pay Off Your Debt 

It’s important not to get so excited about your large weekly paychecks that you forget to stay on top of any credit card or loan payments you may have accrued. Paying down high interest debt quickly can save thousands of dollars over time. Consider paying off whatever balance you have on your credit card weekly when you receive your paycheck rather than waiting to the end of your billing cycle. 

I personally find a smaller weekly bill to be easier to manage than a larger monthly one. If you have a student loan, car payment, or any other high interest debt, try to pay more than what’s due and reduce the total amount of interest you’ll pay over time. Your future wealthy self will thank you in the end. 

Having extra money can set up a situation like lottery winners who suddenly have far more money than they’re used to, don’t know how to use it, and then go bankrupt within a few years. If after these tips you’re still not sure how to budget well, seek advice from older successful friends or family members you trust. They likely have some dos and don'ts from their experience over the years! Or, if you want personalized professional advice, find a financial advisor. Spending a small amount of money to get your finances straight can make all the difference in the long run. The demand for travel nurses has never been higher, so it’s an exciting time financially for nurses. As long as you are responsible with what you’re given, you can set the basis for a comfortable financial future ahead.


A registered nurse since 2016, Mary has experience in internal medicine, international medical aid and emergency medicine where she currently practices. Mary is most passionate about empowering patients through education and creating safe, supportive work environments for nurses. In her free time Mary finds joy in her catholic faith, running, trying new recipes and spending time with friends and family.

Health Carousel Travel Nursing

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