Freedom. Adventure. Lucrative opportunities. Your decision to become a travel nurse shows you appreciate the best qualities a career can offer. These traits go hand-in-hand with savvy decision-making and frugality. How do you get the most out of your time and money? Here are 25 tips for stretching your funds and finding great deals while you’re on the road.
- Map out your route and decide in advance where to stop for meals and overnight stays. Pick a small- or mid-sized city — you’ll avoid big-city prices and still have plenty of options for lodging, food, and fun.
- If you’re planning a long stay, consider shipping items ahead. You’ll clear up cargo space and lighten your load, saving on gas.
- If you plan to bring books, DVDs, or other media, Media Mail rates through USPS are very affordable.
- FedEx Smart Post is your best choice for large packages, such as those containing clothes, pillows, and other bulky items.
- Bring plenty of scrubs and be sparing in the number of clothes you’ll wear off-duty. Planning outfits in neutral colors can stretch your wardrobe. Plus, you’ll avoid the cost and time of doing laundry.
- It’s all about balance, though — you want to make sure you don’t bring too little and end up shopping too much. If space allows, bring extra for any items that are expensive or difficult to replace. That means two pairs of your shoes (Danskos!), full bottles of any medications, and an extra set of contact lenses. If anything happens to these items, you’ll avoid scrambling to replace them at a full-price retailer!
Save on gas
- You’ll typically find the most competitive gas prices slightly outside of city limits. It’s also good to look where several gas stations are clustered together. Gas Buddy is a great resource for comparing prices. All you have to do to find local prices is enter a zip code.
- Look into whether your current award cards partner with any gas chains. A few examples:
- If you often travel long distances, you might consider trading in your vehicle for a more fuel-efficient one. Nearly all car makers now design fuel-efficient or hybrid vehicles with ample cargo space. This Regions Bank calculator can show you how much you’ll save on gas.
Take it easy
- Use cruise control and drive at the posted speed limit to get better gas mileage.
- Without careful planning, food expenses can add up quickly. Skip the pricey snacks at gas stations. Instead, pack a cooler full of your favorite treats and beverages from the grocery store.
- While you’re stocking up, trim your bill using Ibotta. The app gives you cash back on everyday purchases at dozens of retailers — Kroger, Safeway, Target, Walgreens, Whole Foods, and more.
Get the most out of your meals
- When you’re eating out, order water instead of sodas or alcoholic beverages, which have high markups. (The average markup on a bottle of wine is 300%!)
- Consider buying an appetizer instead of a full meal. Another practical, money-saving idea is to order a full-sized meal and take half of it to-go.
- Most chain and fast food restaurants now have apps full of coupons and rewards codes. Many of these apps offer special discounts you won’t find anywhere else. Chili’s, for example, is currently offering free chips and salsa or a non-alcoholic beverage every visit.
- Try Restaurant and Groupon to buy discount vouchers for up to 50% off at fancier sit-down establishments. (But don’t forget to tip on the full amount!)
- Finally, take a good look at the menus. You might be surprised by the deals you can find outside traditional value meals. If you’re at McDonald’s, it’s not against the law for an adult to order a $3 happy meal. And the new $1/$2/$3 menu makes for quick, cheap meals.
- There are dozens of options for finding discount hotel rates on the web.
- Orbitz offers an easy-to-use amenities search, a rewards group, and an insider pricing discount.
- Priceline, another reliable source, offers similar options.
- For your best bet, search multiple engines before booking. Kayak searches a bunch of sites for you and gives you the best deal.
- Book in advance if you’re headed somewhere small. A conference, sporting event, or holiday can cause rooms to fill up quickly, requiring you to book a more expensive room or drive a long distance to another hotel.
- But, if you’re traveling to a big city and know there’s no shortage of hotels, wait a bit. As check-in dates draw near, hotels often slash prices to occupy empty rooms. Trivago is a great source for finding last-minute deals.
- Location matters — find a place close to the interstate to avoid traffic and cut extra miles.
- Get creative. Camping out can be a great, cheap way to spend a night on the road. ReserveAmerica can help you find a site, cabin, or even a yurt!
- Finally, consider hotels with free breakfast options. La Quinta Inn & Suites provides affordable rooms and a complimentary breakfast that goes beyond the standard Continental fare.
Stay on track
- It can be tempting to let go of normal budget expectations when you’re on the road — but it’s actually the most important time to keep an eye on spending.
- Mint is a leading budget app that lets you monitor all of your assets and syncs your daily spending through your bank account.
- Goodbudget is an even simpler solution — it uses an envelope design to help you visualize your expenses.
- Credit cards can be a great resource. In an accident or emergency, they can be a godsend. Many offer highly competitive rewards and cash back offers, especially related to travel, hotels, gas, and restaurants.
- Compare Cards lets you measure up the differences between cards and links you directly to card applications.
- Searching Slickdeals.net is also a fantastic way to compare credit card reward offers and promotional deals.
Live it up a little
- The experience of traveling is no doubt a big part of what drew you to being a travel nurse. Make your fun thrifty by exploring Groupon for offers on spas, activities, events, and more. We all need a chance to wind down and recharge.
- TripAdvisor’s “Things to Do” sections offer user-ranked lists of tourism activities and search filters by price. In Memphis, for example, less than $15 can get you a Beale Street walking tour, a tour of the Gibson Guitar Factory, or admission to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
Looking for more tips to make your dollar go farther in travel nursing? Check out our travel nurse salary guide.