One thing that not many nurses think about when they make the leap from staff nurse to travel nurse is the amount of money needed before starting travel nursing. There are a lot of expenses that come with being a travel nurse – paying for housing ahead of time, moving, not getting a paycheck for a couple of weeks. And while some of these costs are reimbursed and travel nurses make much more than staff nurses, you still need to think about saving money in case something goes wrong.
So exactly how much should you be saving to start travel nursing as a new travel nurse? Below you’ll find what has best worked for me after 5 years as a traveler. Plus tips on how to save money, manage your money, and more!
How Much Money Should You Save Before Becoming a Travel Nurse?
Upfront Expenses for Travel Nurse
Below you’ll find a list of upfront expenses that travel nurses need to save for, giving you a good idea of how much you should be saving if you plan to become a travel nurse.
Travel nurses are usually required to pay for housing up front whether you’re putting a security deposit down, paying first months rent, or something of the sort. Plus, because you’re supposed to be duplicating your expenses for tax purposes, you’re probably paying for rent at home and future rent as a traveler.
In my experience, there were times that I had to pay one month of rent up front, one month of rent and a $1,000 security deposit that was returned to me at the end of my assignment, and once I was asked to pay for my entire stay up front. (Read why that is not a good idea).
While you’ll make this money back with your housing stipend, you need a good chunk of change to pay for rent upfront before your first paycheck hits the bank.
For more tips on housing, don’t miss: How Much of Your Travel Nurse Housing Stipend Should You Spend on Rent?
Another thing to keep in mind is the cost to move. Again, you’ll get a travel reimbursement from your company but this doesn’t usually cover the cost of your entire move. You’ll need to figure out whether you’re driving or flying to your assignment. If you drive you need to take into account the cost of gas and if you need to stay in hotels along the way. If you’re flying you’ll need to consider the cost of airfare and whether or not you’ll be shipping boxes to your destination.
The other thing to take into account is once you arrive to your assignment, there’s usually about a two week time-frame where you’re not getting paid. Yes, travel nurses get paid every week, but there’s a week lack in your paycheck. Once you arrive on assignment you’ll need to consider cost of food, entertainment costs, and any bills you may have.
Don’t miss: Disadvantages of Being a Travel Nurse
Unfortunately, you’ll also need to take into consideration the possibility of your contract getting canceled. While this is rare, it can happen. When this happens you could be out quite a bit of money, especially if you’ve already traveled to your assignment and paid for rent. But I don’t want you to completely panic, I was a travel nurse for 5 years and my contract was only cut short one time and it was the last two weeks of my assignment.
Read more about What to Do if Your Travel Nurse Contract Gets Canceled
How Much Money Should You Save Before You Start Travel Nursing?
My general rule of thumb is to save about $3,000 before becoming a travel nurse/starting each assignment. The way I get to this is I figure I’m paying about $1,500-$2,000 in rent. I then figure I’m paying about $500 to move. And I like to have some wiggle room the first couple weeks I’m on assignment plus some money in case anything goes wrong – $1,000. Again, this is general rule of thumb and if you don’t have this kind of money saved up, I don’t think it should deter you from becoming a travel nurse. It’s just something to consider!
General Money Saving Tips
What’s worked best for me in terms of saving money, is to take a small percentage of each paycheck out and place it into a savings account and act as if the money isn’t there. The percentage changes depending on how much money I’m making at the time, and it’s ranged anywhere from 5%-20% of each paycheck. I like to do this before paying bills because then I’m not counting on it or overspending each week.
Another, more cliché tip, is just to keep track of your spending and put value in what’s truly important to you. If it’s truly important that you become a travel nurse, then maybe you need to skip dinners with friends a couple times a week and save that money instead. Maybe you need to shop less or be smarter about what you’re spending on groceries. Little savings each week can add up.
Read more about saving money:
How to Manage Your Money As a Travel Nurse
How to Save Money for Travel (and Stay Sane)
Why You Should Have a Side Hustle As a Nurse
How I Save Money to Travel and Build a Hefty “Travel Savings” Each Year
How much money do you like to save before becoming a travel nurse/starting a new assignment? Let me know in the comments below!