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Budgeting for Nurses: Where to Begin?

Nov 3, 2020
Lauren Mochizuki, RN, BSN

I recently hosted the first event of Trusted Health’s “Healthy Finances for Nurses” series, which includes virtual events that give nurses the education, resources, and know-how to achieve financial wellness and growth. During the session, we discussed effective budgeting options for nurses.

Doctors and business professionals alike are routinely offered financial tools and advice — through retirement planning, wealth building, custom investments and beyond. But what about nurses, the 5th most popular career in the United States? 

Whether you need to focus on budgeting to pay off a debt or are looking to build up to a life that's "work optional," there’s an opportunity to prioritize your financial health for years to come. Every nurse is capable of achieving financial freedom! Are you ready to feel confident with your finances? Keep reading to learn how to make a budget that is personally crafted to fit your lifestyle and achieve your financial goals.

Budgeting for Nurses

So, who am I, and why am I here to talk about budgeting? My name is Lauren Mochizuki, an ER Nurse of 11 years. My husband and I paid off $266,329.01 debt in 33 months with intense budgeting. Let’s just say I love budgets like I love chocolate.

What do you think of when you hear the words "budget" and "finances?" I, for one, used to think it meant boring, dull, and controlling. But now, I think it means exciting and confident. Why? Because when you control your finances, you control what you’re able to do with your hard-earned cash, and ultimately, you will gain control of your time. But first, let’s talk about some financial challenges (and their opposites).

woman in black sweater holding dollar bill in front of her budgeting for nurses

Common Financial Challenges

Challenge: "I keep overspending; I have no self-control."

Solution: Feel in control of your spending by making well-informed and planned purchases.

Challenge: "I'm tired of living paycheck to paycheck/"

Solution: Be so financially secure that you forget when payday is.


Challenge: "I feel inundated with debt."

Solution: Feel the burden lifted as you pay off your debt and achieve your financial goals with a clear plan.


Challenge: "I can't figure out how to save money."

Solution: Feel organized and confident by having a budget and a savings fund for emergencies.

Now, let’s talk a little about how to remedy the above challenges and get to those solutions.

Habits of Financially Successful People

In financial success, as in all success, consistency is key. Here are some of the characteristics of financially successful people. They:

  • Keep promises they make to themselves
  • Spend less than they make
  • Don't try to “keep up with the Jones's”
  • Budget routinely
  • Practice gratitude
  • Plan for emergencies

Definition of Budget (Webster)

“The amount of money that is available for, required for, or assigned to a particular purpose.”

BUT, realistic budgeting has to be sustainable, otherwise you are setting yourself up for failure. As with exercise, the best kind of budget is the kind you will stick with.

unicorn piggy bank with coin stacked in front of it budgeting for nurses

Budgeting Methods

30-50-20

50% of your income goes to your true needs, 30% goes to your wants, and 20% goes to your savings.

Envelope System

Withdrawing cold, hard cash for certain budget categories. You withdraw a fixed amount of cash at the beginning of each month, and only spend what’s available in your envelope(s). This can be used in conjunction with a zero-based budget.

Zero-based budgeting

My preferred method: budgeting every dollar until you have $0. In other words, your income minus your expenses equals zero.

Budgeting Principles

Within these methods, there are various principles you should follow:

  • Spend less than you make
  • Check in with your budget regularly
  • Get a budget (accountability) buddy
  • Budget for the most important things first

Common Budget Categories

When setting up a budget, these are some of the most important categories to monitor.

  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Recreation
  • Utilities
  • Housing
  • Health & Medical
  • Insurance/Taxes
  • Work Expenses
  • Debt Payoff

Refining Your Budget

Over time, you may find that your budget needs small changes here and there, so don’t forget to:

  • Give yourself time 
  • Give yourself grace 
  • Be flexible
  • Hold yourself accountable

Choosing your Budgeting Buddy 

So, what are important characteristics to look for in a budgeting buddy? Someone who:

  • Is trustworthy 
  • You respect
  • Won’t enable you (to go off the tracks)
  • Cheer you on

How to Handle Big and Unexpected Expenses 

No matter how diligent you are, you can’t see the future, and there will inevitably be a time when you need to pull out a significant amount of money in a hurry. So, what can you do to prepare for these situations?

  • Save for big expenses, monthly, at the least (it all adds up for when you need it)
  • Establish sinking funds for foreseen expenses
  • Establish an emergency fund (healthcare, emergency travel, etc.)

Debt-free Framework

In summary, something to keep in mind (and keep you on track) throughout your budgeting journey is what I call your debt-free framework. Essentially, to budget successfully and reach your goals, you should:

  • Form your plan and purpose from the start
  • Reinforce your goal by writing it down and post it somewhere visible
  • Establish a rainy day fund
  • Establish a zero-based budget
  • Decide on an accountability partner
  • Organize a regular budget meeting
  • Maintain consistency and regularly pay extra toward your debt

Now that you have the tools you need to start paying down your debt, what are you waiting for? Get started!

Budgeting Apps

There are also a variety of helpful budgeting apps (aside from the classic pen and paper or Excel spreadsheet) that can help make your budgeting journey a little more straightforward:

  • Mint (free)
  • YNAB (yearly fee)
  • EveryDollar (free)
  • Personal Capital (free to use generally, but fee-based to manage your investments) 

But seriously, don’t forget about pen and paper budgeting! It often helps to have something tangible that you can see and feel in front of you. You can download my budgeting sheet here or access all of my budgeting resources here! Ultimately, you must choose whichever method you will actually stick to! 

Ready to Get Started?

For more nursing resources, including a salary calculator that can help you maximize your nursing income (and help you pay off your debt faster), create a free Trusted profile.