Becoming a travel nurse is an incredible way to see the country, travel the world, and most importantly – make a lot of money. But the thing about travel nursing is that there are so many upfront costs and unpredictable factors that could end up costing you a lot of money too. After traveling for 4+ years, I eventually got really, really good at managing my money – although it didn’t start that way. Below I’m sharing how to best manage your money as a travel nurse including how to save, tips on investing, and more.
How to Manage Your Money As a Travel Nurse
Before reading further you should know, travel nurses not only make quite a bit more money than staff nurses but travel nurses also get paid weekly instead of bi-weekly. This is important to note when talking with recruiters about pay packages and when budgeting your money.
How much money should you save before you become a travel nurse?
I think that the most important thing to realize about traveling nursing is that while you will get paid more than you do as a staff nurse, there are a lot of upfront costs with travel nursing. While your travel nurse company SHOULD cover a certain amount of your transportation costs (moving to a new city is expensive), the amount that is given to you probably won’t cover your entire move and sometimes this “bonus” won’t come on your first paycheck. You also have to keep in mind that while you’ll be getting paid weekly, your first paycheck won’t come until the end of week two of your contract and it may be less than usual if your company decides not to pay you for certain days or you don’t get a full work week of hours in and your stipends are cut short.
Do these concepts confuse you? I talk about all of these things and more in The Ultimate Travel Nurse Bundle. If you want more clarification, I highly recommend purchasing this bundle to get a grasp on ALL things travel nursing from start to finish!
So, how much money should you save before starting as a travel nurse (and each time you switch assignments)? The things that you need to keep in mind when saving money before travel nursing are – how much does your rent cost? You’ll have to pay one month’s rent upfront and you may even be required to put a deposit down too. You’ll also need to budget for the move itself. I like to budget as though my travel nurse company won’t be giving me any money (it makes for a nice perk when you do get reimbursed!). You’ll also want to consider how much it will cost to get settled into your new place. You’ll need to buy groceries, maybe even buy new things for your apartment, and your paycheck won’t come for two weeks so you’ll need enough money to hold you over during that time. With all of these things in mind, depending on what your costs are for everything, I like to save about $3,000 before heading out on an assignment. Most of these costs you earn back, but again, you need a large amount of money to begin.
Another good reason to save a bit of money before becoming a travel nurse (or when starting a new assignment), is because as a travel nurse, you always run the risk of having your contract canceled. In my five years as a travel nurse, this never happened to me, but I do know people that it has happened to. If your contract gets canceled before you begin, you likely won’t get paid anything and you might even be out first month’s rent depending on how your landlord handles the situation. Please don’t let the fear of getting your contract canceled deter you from becoming a travel nurse. Instead, make sure to read this post to mentally prepare for a cancelation.
How much money should you put in a savings account?
Another important aspect of travel nursing is having a savings account. While I highly recommend investing, travel nurses don’t usually have the luxury of having a 401k (or a 403b) so it’s important to make sure that you’re saving money each week. (Please note, some companies do offer their travelers an option to opt into a 401k after a certain amount of time. Ask your recruiter for this information if you’re interested).
I like to save 10-15% of every single paycheck that I get and put it into a savings account that is separate from my checking account. My savings account is then available for any emergencies or if I need a big lump sum of money before I begin my next travel nurse assignment.
If you’re the type of person to be tempted by your savings account, I suggest opening a savings account at a different bank – separate from the one that you have your checking account at. This way when you log into your checking account, you won’t even see your savings there. Out of sight, out of mind! If you do this, make sure that you can transfer money between banks without a fee.
For more on how to save money, make sure to read How I Save Money to Travel and Build a Hefty “Travel Savings” Each Year
Investing your money
I am by no means an expert on investing and this is not the space to get expert advice. If you do want expert advice I highly suggest finding someone at your bank that can lead you in the right direction. I’m just here to share different options and share what I have found that works for me.
In a staff nursing job, you’re eligible for a 401k or a 403b. And while some travel nurse companies offer this, it usually comes with strings attached and it’s usually hard to qualify. With that being said, if you can open a 401k with your travel nursing company, I highly suggest you do so. But I wouldn’t count on it because again, it isn’t the norm.
A couple of other ways that you can invest your money is by opening an IRA or Roth IRA. Again, I’d consult with your bank to figure out the best option for you.
Beware of scams
Lastly, travel nurses are at a unique disadvantage when it comes to several things (like finding housing), and for that reason, we’re also vulnerable to scams. My biggest piece of advice is that if something seems like it is too good to be true… it probably is. Make sure to always book through booking platforms and ask other travelers for their recommendations! Word of mouth is how I’ve found some really great hidden gems in the cities I’ve lived in.
Read about the time I lost $4,600 in a scam
What other tips do you have for getting ahead and saving money when you’re a travel nurse? Let me know in the comments below!
For more tips on managing your money, don’t miss: How Much of Your Travel Nurse Housing Stipend Should You Spend on Rent?