Saving Money While You Work: Tips For Nurses

Why does saving money feel so hard? Trying to save when you’re a nurse can feel like an uphill battle. You start with great intentions but somewhere things fall apart.

Maybe you’re dreaming of that Vegas or Mexico trip you want to go on next. Or you’d love to pay off the smallest of your student loans. 

How accomplished would doing either of these with one lump payment feel?

But then work happens.  You’re standing at your station charting, and you start to feel the after-lunch slump.  What will make it better? Fresh coffee? A snack? A tech runs by and offers a Starbucks run, you can’t resist. 

Not only do you order coffee but you splurge on a pastry as well. Not bad as a one-time incident, but you’ve been doing it every shift this month. 

If you’re dying to find a way to actually save money without feeling like you’re giving up all the good things, you’ve come to the right place.

Create A Goal A Savings Goal

Saving just to save is not inspiring. If you don’t know why you are saving your money it’s easy to abandon your plan with the first temptation that arises. 

There is no way around it, saving money can be a drag. It’s way more fun to spend your cash free of limitations. It’s hard to shift your mindset from never saving money to that of building security. But it’s worth it.

When you create a savings goal and map out how you are going to get there, the motivation will naturally appear. Think about something you would like to save for, break the goal down, and create a due date. Your nursing manager loves to call these SMART goals.

What Does A SMART Savings Goals Look Like?

Goal — Save $350 to pay for travel and lodging for your next Vegas trip in 8 weeks.

Break it down — 8 weeks is 4 paychecks, $350/4 paychecks = 87.5. 

You’ll need to put $87.50 from each paycheck in your savings account for the next 4 pay periods so you can pay cash for your trip.

The next time you’re considering blowing your savings fund you’ll be confronted with the option of jeopardizing a goal. New clothes now or Vegas with my friends in 8 weeks? 

Creating goals around your money forces you to confront what you value. Staying true to those values is very satisfying.

Save Money with Automatic Transfers

Log into your bank account right now and set up an automatic savings transfer on paydays to help you meet your goals. You won’t miss what you don’t see.

Meal Plan

Meal planning is a great way to improve your health and to save money. Planning out what you are going to eat for the week or for your stretch of shifts — before they happen — gives you the opportunity to make good choices.  

If it’s two in the morning and you’re in the cafeteria are you more likely to get chicken strips or a salad? That’s what I thought, don’t forget the buffalo sauce and ranch!  

On the other hand, if you brought a meal you prepared from home, it’s much more likely you won’t spend money on crappy cafeteria fare and you’ll eat a healthier meal. 

There is no way around it, buying and preparing food at home is ridiculously cheap compared to buying one-off meals. You know it and I know it. I bet you feel better when you eat good food at work too. 

This brings us to my favorite rule while at work, although I fully admit rules are meant to be broken once in a while. The rule — Don’t buy food when you’re on the clock. 

I decided years ago that I was never going to cut into my earnings at work by buying food while there. It annoyed me to think in terms of how many minutes or hours of a current shift were required to pay for an impulse crappy food item. 

What are some easy go-to meal options you can prepare for your next shift?

Inventory Your Scrubs

The scrub world has come a long way in the last few years. When I first started in nursing, jogger inspired scrubs were not a fashion item. They existed, but they were not cool.

Enter companies like Figs, their scrubs are comfy, stretchy, cut nicely, and their social media game is on point. They are a business and they know how to get you to spend your money. 

I still wear the same three pairs of free surgical scrubs I’ve had for the past year. You know why? They were free, they are comfy, and they’re scrubs. 

But you don’t have to be like me. I’m not suggesting a total moratorium on your scrub spending. What I’m suggesting is that you inventory what you have. In all honesty, if you work three shifts a week, you probably don’t need more than three or four sets of scrubs. 

If the fun new fashionable scrubs cost $50 or more a set, it’s okay to own a few. But make sure you aren’t throwing all your money towards work fashion. My favorite part of having a work uniform is that I have more money to spend on fun stuff outside of work. 

Don’t Park In The Patient Structure

You know you’ve done it. Employee parking is far away and it’s easier to roll into work minutes before your shift and indulge in the convenience of the patient parking structure. Don’t try to tell me you aren’t allowed to park there, you know it doesn’t stop you. 

What should stop you is that you are spending money during your shift that you are currently earning. I hope that bugs you as much as it bugs me.

Advantages of parking in the employee parking lot

  • No parking fees 
  • Extra minutes catching up with friends while walking to your car
  • Extra steps (as if you needed them)
  • A few minutes to decompress before driving home

Up Your Coffee Game

Nurses love Starbucks and the coffee cart, and they love you. It’s time to end the codependent relationship. You don’t have to sever it totally, I’m not on the “stop buying lattes train” but it shouldn’t be a habit, make it a treat. 

Try preparing pour-over coffee at home and put it in your hydro flask for delicious hot coffee all night. Or buy specialty K cups to indulge when you hit that downward slump. You’ll have extra time to sit with your feet up and you’ll save some money.

Spending an entire break walking to, standing in line, ordering, and waiting for coffee doesn’t sound fun. I bet you aren’t allowed to have it at your station anyways. 

Bring your own coffee and use those short 15 minutes to take a real break. 

Test It Out

If you aren’t convinced that you can save a significant amount of money making simple food and coffee swaps at work, test it out.  For an entire week record how much you spend every time you pay for parking, food, and coffee. I bet it will surprise you. There is nothing better than personal experience to test a hypothesis. 

Creative saving helps you reach lifestyle goals

Saving money can be hard, especially when it’s not a habit yet. Anyone who says it is easy is lying. It takes intentional lifestyle changes, but you don’t have to trade one activity for nothing. Try swapping something that normally costs money for something that costs a little less. 

Decide what you truly value and have that help guide your spending. Once you start paying attention you’ll be astonished by what you can do with your money. 

Remember that goal of saving $87.50 a paycheck to pay for Vegas? That’s only $14.50 a shift. You could save that money for your trip or you can spend $3 on parking, $5 on coffee, and $7 on lunch. Same difference, the choice is yours. What will you decide?

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