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5 Things Nurses Can Do Right Now to Address Decreased Income

May 26, 2020
Lauren Mochizuki, RN, BSN

Right now, many nurses across the nation are experiencing an unprecedented decrease in pay and hours because of the current coronavirus pandemic and some of its less talked about impacts: hospitals have closed many outpatient clinics, elective surgeries have halted, and many facilities are encountering a low census.

This has left nurses feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious about their finances.

Six years ago, my husband and I paid off $266,000 of debt while I was working two jobs as an ER nurse. I know well the feeling of financial stress, because I was living paycheck to paycheck, had nothing in savings, and was heavily in debt.

Yes, the salary of many nurses has been decreased and hours have been reduced, but more importantly, this situation has revealed a bigger concern that needs to be addressed. 

Some of us have relied solely on job security throughout our careers.

However, we can’t predict what will happen from one day to the next, and we need to ensure that we take the necessary steps to emergency-proof our finances.

Nurses are resilient and familiar with challenging situations. I am confident that nurses are able to learn how to financially adapt to the current situation… and successfully implement strategies in managing their finances.  

If you are currently dealing with a sudden decrease in income, there are several things you can do today to mitigate your financial situation.

woman holding dollars in hand nursing pay decrease nursing during covid19


What You Can Do Today to Save Your Financial Situation

Audit your expenses

As nurses, it isn’t uncommon to have our charting audited. The process of auditing works as a safeguard, with checks and balances to gauge where we can improve.

The first step to gaining financial clarity is to establish where your money is being spent. 

Start by going through all of your monthly bills. Are there subscriptions you no longer are using that you can cancel? Price check all of your utilities. If you have credit card debt, I recommend calling your credit card company and renegotiating your APR. 

The next step is to track your expenses. The beauty of reviewing expenses is that it reveals where your money is being spent. Spend 10-20 minutes writing down a list of anything you spend money on that is not a monthly bill. This will reveal budget categories that are problem areas.  

Titrate your income

There are several ways that nurses can increase their income. The first is to file for unemployment or partial unemployment (if you qualify). Secondly, you can increase your income by seeking employment with a nursing position that is currently in need. I'll be addressing unemployment in an upcoming article that will released on Thursday, so stay tuned!

Another approach to (immediately) increase your income is to sell household items you no longer need. By selling items such as clothing or furniture, you accomplish both decluttering and quick cash. This can be particularly helpful when trying to increase debt payments in short bursts.   

Renegotiate terms of your accounts

There is no reason why we should be paying fees for having a checking and a savings account. If you find yourself having to pay a minimum balance fee, transfer fees, or a flat monthly fee for your banking services, it’s time to call up your bank and renegotiate the terms of your accounts or even take your business elsewhere.

Create your emergency plan

In addition to the previously listed items, I recommend doing the following four things: 

First, take inventory of how much money you currently have, in both your savings and checking accounts (excluding retirement).  

Next, establish how much money you will need to cover your most necessary expenses such as housing, food, and transportation for the next 4-6 months depending on when your income will stabilize. If you want to learn more about budgeting, this article and this article will help get you started. 

Lastly, write down your current financial goal(s) and get an accountability partner you trust and respect. Have weekly check-ins with your accountability partner to monitor your progress.

Your financial goals should be specific and measurable. For example, I will save $3,000 in three months. Post your goals in a highly visible location in your house so it’s one of the first things you see when you wake up, and one of the last things you see before going to sleep. 

I have a free savings tracker you can use for yourself as well as a 4-day Healthy Finances mini-bootcamp to help you gain financial clarity and to begin to achieve your financial goals.  

Reevaluate your plan as you go

Just as we frequently reevaluate our patients, it’s important to reevaluate our finances. Regularly check-in with your spending plan, your financial goals, and your accountability partner. Celebrate the small wins, and know that if you can graduate from nursing school, pass the boards, and save a life, you can most certainly learn how to thrive with your finances.

Despite many contract cuts or hiring freezes, there are still some facilities in need of travelers and additional support. We can help you find them.