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Creating (and Following) a Budget: 15 Tips for Nurses

Gayle Morris, BSN, MSN
Updated September 5, 2023
    Creating and following a budget can be challenging. Use these 15 tips for nurses to help get control of your finances and meet your financial goals.
    Credit: coldsnowstorm / Getty Images
    • A budget helps nurses track their income and expenses and successfully manage their money.
    • A budget, also called a spending plan, helps you see areas where you are overspending, where you can afford to save a little, and helps you have enough to pay monthly bills.
    • Our nurse contributors suggest setting realistic goals and using tools to keep you on track.

    On average, nurses make $77,600 each year. Imagine having a plan that’s easy to follow and helps you save for the future.

    Although many people dread creating a budget, there are several reasons why it is beneficial for managing your finances and ensuring that you have enough money each month to cover the essentials. One of the tips for creating a budget is to know your financial goals as nurses typically get good pay. What future expenses are you planning to have? Do you want to buy a house, or are you saving for retirement? Setting specific goals and allocating money helps you reach them quicker and more efficiently.

    A budget also helps you identify areas where you’re overspending. One of the first steps is to know where you’re currently spending your money. You likely already know how much you spend on rent or your mortgage, electricity, and insurance. But do you track how much you spend on food, entertainment, or eating out?

    Using a budget gives you control over your finances and makes it easier to manage your money. Your money is a finite resource, so making informed decisions about your spending can reduce stress and anxiety. With a budget, you will have a clear plan on how you’re going to manage your money.

    A budget is a roadmap for your financial future. And, like a roadmap, a budget only works when you follow it.

    We spoke to nursing and financial professionals to ask for tips for creating (and following) a budget. Explore their answers in this article.

    15 Tips for Creating (and Following) a Budget as a Nurse

    Creating and following a budget or spending plan can be challenging, especially if it’s the first one you’ve done. Nurses have a unique set of financial challenges that a budget can help them address. For example, you may have student loan debt from college, and nurse uniforms and nursing gadgets and equipment can also add to your expenses.

    These tips for creating a budget can help you plan for these expenses and meet your financial goals each month.

    Tips for Creating a Budget

    1. 1

      Find a Method That Works for You

      You must find a method that works for you. If you struggle with the process, don’t like the spreadsheet or software you’re using, or the method doesn’t make sense, it’s likely you won’t follow it.

    2. 2

      List Your Income and Monthly Fixed and Variable Expenses

      Before you plug in numbers, it’s important to know your monthly income and fixed and variable expenses. Include fixed expenses, such as rent, car insurance, and fees, as well as variable expenses that may change, such as food, gas for your car, and entertainment.

    3. 3

      Set Realistic Goals

      Be realistic about how much you’ll spend on food, entertainment, and other variable expenses. Realistic estimates will give you a good idea of how much you can save for the future.

    4. 4

      Review and Update Your Budget Regularly

      Your budget is a living document. In other words, life changes and you must change with it. You may get a promotion or a significant pay raise or decide to move to a different state where living expenses are higher or lower. Regularly review and update your budget so it continues to meet your goals.

    What to Include in Your Budget

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      Annual Expenses

      Natalia Aseeva, a registered nurse and personal finance writer, recommends that you include annual expenses in your budget that come around once a year. These annual expenses may include malpractice insurance, license renewal, and continuing education courses. When you add them to your budget as a monthly expense and set the money aside, you’ll be ready to pay the bill in full when it comes due.

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      Savings and Retirement

      Gregory Lenzo, the chief financial officer for Investing Basic Rules, recommends including your savings and retirement in your monthly budget. You may feel like retirement is years away, but it takes years to save enough money to live without working. You want a comfortable retirement and to achieve your financial goals, so you need to budget for that.

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      Emergency Fund

      Lenzo also recommends having an emergency fund. You never know when the air conditioner, refrigerator, or car will need to be repaired or replaced. Your budget won’t be thrown off when you have a fund ready for such an occasion.

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      Nancy Mitchell is a registered nurse and contributing writer at Assisted Living. She cautions nurses to remember to include a line item for nurses’ self-care.

      “As nurses, we constantly give ourselves to others, but often forget to give back to our well-being. We can’t keep fighting for the health of our patients if we are run down and burnt out,” she says.

    What Not to Include in Your Budget

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      Estimates for Irregular Income

      Aseeva cautions nurses to ignore estimates for irregular income in their budget. For example, you might get bonuses at work or plans to pick up extra shifts. When you include a bonus in your budget that doesn’t come through, it can throw off your entire financial plan.

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      Trim the Fat

      Lenzo cautions nurses to learn how to trim the fat in their monthly budget. For example, only add credit card payments to your budget to pay off old debt. Once the old debt is paid, always pay off the credit card at the end of the month. Get rid of expensive memberships or subscriptions that you use sparingly, and don’t add income from loans to friends or family.

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      Impulse Purchases

      You should leave impulse purchases out of your budget. Instead, allocate extra money for miscellaneous purchases throughout the month. If your impulse purchase doesn’t fit into your miscellaneous budget, then you should wait to make it.

    Tips for Following Your Budget

    1. 1

      Keep It Simple

      You must keep the process simple. While a complex structure may give you more information, you will likely not follow it. For example, use only one credit card that you pay off every month and from which you can record your expenses. Many credit card companies will categorize your purchases for you, which can make it even easier.

    2. 2

      Automate What You Can

      Automation is the name of the game. If you have software or a smartphone app that can automate the process for you, it’s more likely that you’ll follow it and meet your financial goals.

    3. 3

      Consider Budgeting Apps and Software

      Aseeva recommends using budgeting tools, like apps and software, to help you create and manage your spending plan. “These can make the process easier and more convenient, especially if you are always on the go,” she says.

    4. 4

      Create Separate Bank Accounts

      Mitchell is a big fan of keeping separate bank accounts for different priorities. When you keep your savings and spending money in the same account, it’s too easy to spend. “However, by separating savings, expenses, and investments into three unique accounts, you’ll be less compelled to use money from the others, knowing their designations,” she says.

    Meet Our Contributors

    Portrait of Natalia Aseeva, RN

    Natalia Aseeva, RN

    Natalia Aseeva is a registered nurse and personal finance writer at Money Knack. As a nurse, she understands the demands of a busy lifestyle and the importance of taking care of both physical and financial health. Natalia’s goal is to educate and empower people with fast-paced lifestyles to make informed financial decisions and achieve financial stability.

    Portrait of Gregory Lenzo, CFO

    Gregory Lenzo, CFO

    Gregory Lenzo is the chief financial officer at IBR Info. He has spent many years in the financial sector. He is always interested in helping people budget, save, and invest their money wisely to ultimately reach financial freedom.

    Portrait of Nancy Mitchell, RN

    Nancy Mitchell, RN

    Nancy Mitchell is a registered nurse and contributing writer. She has over 37 years of experience in geriatric nursing care, both as a senior care nurse and director of nursing care.