Financial Finesse

Secure the Bag

Best ways to leverage your money while working as a travel nurse

Trading time for money

What could you or would you do if you weren’t trading your time for money? If the trajectory of your day or even your year wasn’t determined by someone else- what would that look like? Is early retirement really a thing?  And if it is a thing, is it really attainable for the common, everyday person?

The unsexy truth about debt is that it’s not going away until you do something about it. Though it may seem like a cumbersome topic- it is far too important not to address it. I mean where do you even begin to tackle what to some is a losing battle? In retrospect, we can all reflect over our lives and determine ways we could have done better. But today, I am specifically talking about the dough. The bread. The cheese. The dead presidents. Money. We’re honing in on one of our largest wealth building tools. Our income.

Traveled to Haiti with a non-profit organization, Juste Inc. – something that I enjoy- in between my travel assignment

Work while traveling

I shifted my career to travel nursing 14 months ago.  Understanding that I needed to find a way to support myself while on the road, I took up the opportunity to begin traveling as a nurse. I also determined that this would be a good time to re-start my mission of becoming debt free. I had started and stopped so many times… will I ever get out of debt?

If you want to make a change in your life—make a change today.

$1 at a time. One debt at a time. Paying off debt. Living debt free is doable. The ability to accomplish this great feat began with a mindset shift.

Remove the self-limiting beliefs in your mind and get started.

Show me the money

As a novice nurse, my earning potential was very much determined by the hospital that I had applied for. The rate for nurses like many other professions are affected by what part of the country you live in. The starting rate at the time was $21.50. If you agreed to do what some called the “graveyard shift” otherwise known as the overnight shift- you received a $6 shift differential per hour. This would make the difference of $10,000-$11,000 over the span of a year.

Last clinical assignment as a student-
just a few days before working as a student nurse. I would later transition to work as a registered nurse on that same unit

Working evening and/or night shifts. Working holidays. Working weekends. Additional hours beyond your shift. Are all different ways to increase your income as a new nurse without the backing of experience. Capitalizing on those incentives can help move the needle when it comes to your financial goals.

Location, Location, Location

Many hospitals institute criteria that require a nurse to live x amount of miles away from the respective hospital to be considered a travel nurse. My local hospital required a mileage of at least 50 miles. This number is very common. However, that number can vary based on each facility’s protocol.

Day #1 after leaving Florida to work on the West Coast

Living below your means

Maintaining a lower cost of living while increasing your income can absolutely change the game regardless of what your financial goals are. For some it’s to save. Others it’s to pay down debt. Perhaps you want to do more traveling in between your assignments. What ever your reason may be, it’s beneficial to use the varying income based on the assignment to your advantage.

The travel nursing pay is unique in that you have the opportunity to increase your salary significantly based on where you choose to complete your assignment. Areas with a higher cost of living- California, Washington D.C., Massachusetts serve as some of the higher paying states for registered nurses. 

Continue to lower your expenses while working in areas that offer a higher salary to give yourself an upper hand.

Realistically you can make mad bank in any career as long as you increase your income while you decrease your expense. But traveling from one assignment to another while taking advantage of both taxable and non-taxable wages create a whole other avenue in which you can maximize your salary.

Orientation Day at my third
travel assignment

The breakdown

Travel nursing contracts average 13 weeks with some shorter contracts available. When you receive your pay package as a travel nurse, included are both taxable and non-taxable wages. Your taxable wage is your hourly rate- at times lower than what your permanent staff counterpart may receive. The bread and butter of your pay package is your non-taxable or tax-free income which includes your housing stipend as well as your meals and incidentals.

Housing can be provided via company housing which is where the agency selects your housing for you. Typically removing the responsibility of you handling your overhead such as furniture and utilities. Your housing stipend however, is a designated tax-free amount paid to you. You receive the stipend if you decide to pass up on company housing. 

Your meals and incidentals amount is also tax-free. Think of this category as the amount of money you use for food and whatever miscellaneous costs that you may accrue while you’re on the road.

So where do you see yourself making the most financial gains moving forward? Are you working towards FI financial independence? How are you improving your financial flow? Let me know down in the comments!

Suggested Reading:

Atomic Habits: James Clear

Prefer audio books like I do? Click here


AJ Mobile Money

Disclaimer: Vintage Traveling Nurse is a participant in the Amazon Services, LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. It is designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and its partners. All recommendations of products and services listed in each blog post are my own.

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