As a travel nurse, you’ve got a complex financial situation. Not only does your pay rate and stipend vary from one assignment to the next — you’ve got a lot to keep track of come tax time, too.
If you’re looking for new ideas about how to organize your finances, and want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your travel nursing salary, check out the tips below. Whether you want to go old school with a paper filing system or up your game to a more tech-based solution, there’s something here for you.
1. Go comprehensive
Let’s start with a bang. Do you want to keep track of the whole picture of your finances, from the equity in your house right down to the last cup of coffee you bought? Try an all-in-one software — an easy-to-use program or app that allows you to monitor your spending and assets.
- Quicken is an established (decades-old!) software that will monitor your assets, show your net worth, track debt, and even let you pay bills directly from the software.
- Mint is another leading software from Intuit. Mint automatically syncs your accounts, provides your credit score, and offers many asset-monitoring options. It’s been highly recommended for creating and sticking to your budget.
- Two newer budgeting alternatives are Power Wallet and Personal Capital.
2. Get inspired (and educated)
Knowledge is power and it’s money in the bank, too. Educate yourself — you’ll feel more confident and inspired to stay on top of finances.
3. Track your expenses
You’re always on the go, moving from one assignment location to the next throughout the year. That can make it hard to keep track of all of your expenses — which you really need to do, for tax and stipend purposes! Here’s how.
Use your smartphone for organizing. Consider making it easier to keep track of receipts by using one of these great apps:
- Expensify is one of the most popular receipt- and expense-tracking apps.
- Evernote is a general note-taking app that can scan your receipts and allow you to search for them.
- Zoho Expense has a whole suite of expense-tracking options, including receipt scanning.
Bonus tip: some apps will even pay you cash for scanning your grocery receipts!
. . . or file them. If you want to stick to a more tech-free way to keep your receipts, buy a 12-section accordion folder and keep your receipts organized by month. Make sure you bring it with you as you travel, at home and on assignments, to keep everything in one place.
4. Keep it simple
Sometimes things can be so old-fashioned they feel a bit radical, but these lo-fi tips are a very practical and low-maintenance way to manage your budget.
Try a cash-only budget. Research shows people are less likely to fork over the dough when it comes in paper form than if they’re using cards. Load envelopes with your allotted spending amount at the beginning of each month. Purchase a small lockbox so that you can take cash with you while you travel. (Bonus: you’ll avoid some credit card processing and ATM fees!)
Find a savings buddy. Since travel nurses are a financially savvy group, you might find it easy to pair up with a colleague who can help hold you accountable for your savings. It’s free and simple! You can even hold each other to your goals through a challenge app.
5. Invest and save
A penny saved is a penny earned. Here are some ways to maximize your earnings and get your finances to work for you.
Try out stocks and mutual funds. Have you landed a lot of high-paying assignments over the past year, established an emergency fund, and think you might want to try your hand at investing? Future Advisor is a recommended software for anyone interested in making a DIY attempt at investing.
Save your change. Want to round up your dollar amount for all your expenses to stash away a nickel at a time? There’s an app for that!
Buy a house. Is this tip for real? You’re a travel nurse! Yes, it may be a good idea to buy a house in 2019. While no longer at their lowest, mortgage rates remain historically low and are predicted to increase. Many say that leads to a buyer’s market. Buy a property within your “tax home” to firmly establish your residence for tax purposes. (Read more about tax homes in our guide on Travel Nursing Taxes.)
6. Trim your expenses
Perhaps the best financial and budgeting advice is to find ways to keep cash in the bank. Here are a few ideas for travel nurses:
Do your own taxes. If you’ve got a knack for numbers and have a clear sense of your tax obligations as a travel nurse, you might want to take a stab at doing your own taxes this year with a reputable software like TurboTax. Depending on how complicated your tax picture is, you could save yourself hundreds in tax preparation fees.
Share and borrow what you need. Keep a special storage bin of the “little extra” household items you bring for your assignment housings: small kitchen tools and appliances, coat hangers, etc. Doing so, you’ll avoid buying duplicates when you’re on the road. When you find yourself in need of something else on the road, check with a fellow travel nurse before purchasing it.
Wait 24 hours to make any purchases. If you’re thinking about buying an item that’s out of the ordinary or not a replacement for something you need, wait on the decision. You might find you don’t really need it or can borrow it. As a professional traveler, you’ll appreciate the benefits of keeping your load light!
Get those discounts! You’re probably already taking advantage of customer loyalty programs and member rewards cards. Did you know that as a nurse, you’re eligible to receive even more great deals? See this list — or this one! — for tips on reduced Disney tickets, movie theater tickets, insurance, and more!
Want more information on staying savvy about finances? See our posts on 7 Salary Mistakes that Cost Travel Nurses, 10 Tips for Negotiating a Higher Travel Nursing Salary, and 25 Money-Saving Tips for Travel Nurses.