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5 Ways to Stretch Your Budget as a Travel Nurse

Being a travel nurse has many benefits—in addition to helping people, you get to experience new cities, make new connections, and enjoy variety in your job, among other things. Plus, travel nursing usually comes with an additional stipend that you can use for food, housing, and other expenses. Here are five ways to get creative with your budget so you can make the most of your travel nurse stipend. 

1. Take Assignments with Friends 

If you are looking to cut down on costs, taking an assignment with a friend may be beneficial to you. This would allow you to save money by sharing housing, transportation, and more. At Planet Healthcare, we’ve seen this be really successful – we have a husband and wife RN duo that are on an assignment together, for example, and we also have a few groups of friends who do this and love it! Most hospitals typically have a multitude of specialties and positions available that aren’t limited to nursing and can include allied health positions as well. So, whether you have a fellow travel nurse you’d like to go on assignment with or someone who works in allied health, you should be able to make this work. 

2. Consider the Suburbs  

Every traveler has a different priority. Some are more focused on location while others want to put away as much money as they can. Taking an assignment in a big city means you may get paid more in stipends, but the cost of living is significantly higher. Instead, consider a travel assignment in a more rural/suburban area. This will allow you to find more affordable housing and, in turn, save more of your nontaxable stipends.

3. “Local” Travel 

Most hospitals tend to have a mileage rule, which allows travel pay (via a stipend) if the travel nurse’s main address is further than 50 miles from the hospital site. Those looking to dip their toes into travel nursing might find it best to start work for a hospital that is closer to home but meets this mileage requirement—typically anywhere from one to three hours away. RN’s or other allied health professionals who do this will usually request block shifts for their schedule and stay in a hotel during their shifts. Then, on their off days, they can easily head back home. This is a great way to save money since you aren’t paying for housing for the whole duration of the assignment. 

However, there is also such a thing as local travel nursing, which can be lucrative while saving money. If you accept a nursing contract living within 50 miles of the facility, the typical pay is $10-$15 more per hour than the permanent staff – it just doesn’t include a stipend. 

4. Additional Housing Options 

Choosing an assignment where you have friends or family to stay with is also very popular. Most assignment are 8-13 weeks long, so if you have relatives you do not get to see often this is a great opportunity to stay with them and work at a hospital in their respective city. Also, there are many Airbnb’s or long term stay hotels that offer discounts to healthcare professionals. This has become increasingly common during the pandemic to help Covid-19 responders. It’s a good idea to call and ask since discounted rates are not always publicly posted.

5. Remain PRN at Your Permanent Job 

If you are leaving a permanent position to take a travel nurse role, try and remain in “PRN” status rather than quitting altogether. That way, when you are off your travel assignment or in-between contracts you have an opportunity to pick up shifts with your home hospital. If your contract falls through for any reason, having a job waiting for you can ease financial concerns until you can get set up for something new. 

Photo Credit: Alexey Zatevahin for 123rf

by Alexis Zess, Senior National Recruiter, Planet Healthcare

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