Q&A: “I’m terrified of nursing school debt…help!”

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Dear Nurse MER,

I have one more year of nursing school. I am excited, but also terrified because I am about to be in so much debt.

College has been way more expensive than I thought. Do you have any advice for a new nurse struggling with finances?

I like you already. You’re smart and thoughtful. This is a major concern that most new grads try desperately to avoid. Your trepidation is understandable. It’s a sad thing that young people do not leave university feeling free—student loans weigh you down. Luckily, there are steps you can take to make sure you’re paying off your loans the right way.

I cannot stress enough how important it is that you focus on paying off your debt. Could you move back in with your parents while you gain experience as a new nurse? There are so many new grads rushing to gain independence, but living with your parents, even for just a year, can save you some serious dough. Plus, what’s the rush? Adulthood is coming either way. Rent is basically money you are throwing to the wolves. Instead, you could keep those thousands of dollars to pay off loans or save in a retirement fund. Amazing! Plus, you’ll be able to focus on your new job instead of paying bills.

You must learn to use money to your advantage. It may be enticing to buy a new car or expensive purse or designer leather shoes, but if you can use these first years as a new nurse to max-out your retirement fund, pay off a hefty chunk of your students loans and start saving (or ideally diversifying) your investment portfolio, you won’t be sorry.

I hear my nursing coworkers use the adage, “You only live once, I need this new [insert unnecessary material of your choice].” This is not true. I urge you to pay attention to your day-to-day spending habits. Starbucks does not deserve your well-earned dollars and those daily lattes add up both in monetary and caloric terms. Bring your lunch. Do you really need to see that $15.00 movie or does it suffice to snuggle up with your sweetheart once it comes out on Netflix? There are so many ways to save.

When you’re 30 years old, debt-free, taking a two-week vacation to Europe and buying your first property, you’ll see what I mean.

Frugally yours,

Nurse MER

Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in your Twenties and Thirties by Beth Kobline was one book that helped me learn to navigate my finances (I was terrified at first, too). Please take it out from the library (time to get a library card–buying books is WAY too expensive) and let this be the start of your path to financial freedom, confidence and success.

Got a question for Nurse MER? Leave it in the comments below and she might answer it in a future article!

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Mia Ross

Mia has had the soul of a nurse since birth. She has spent the last decade honing her inherent skills of promoting healing, health, and happiness. Mia has experience in cardiac telemetry, orthopedics, and is currently working at a preventative medical clinic in New York City. She is especially interested in using language, honesty and human connection to inspire, motivate and ignite conversations which afford patients (and nurses!) an opportunity to create their own unique paths toward better physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

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2 Responses to Q&A: “I’m terrified of nursing school debt…help!”

  1. jedihealer

    What if you are in your 40s or 50s and going to nursing school as a second career? How do you manage your debt then?

  2. Granny RN RN

    School is indeed expensive-and more difficult as one gets older!
    Look over your financial obligations. If you have a Federal Student Loan they are usually fairly low interest and the payment cycle has a ‘grace period’ after graduation of usually about 6 months to allow you to find a job and get on your feet. Also if you have more than one loan they will combine them into ONE with one interest rate.
    Depending upon your state there may be service cancelable loans where nurses are considered to be ‘critical need’ workers. If you have a high interest loan and a good credit score (cost is $1.00 at NationalCreditReport.com-this is the ‘government’ site and the ONLY report that is close to ‘free’) you should try to negotiate for a lower interest rate.
    Remember that there is also a ‘deference’ period in which your interest will still add up but when you will not have to make payments (if you request it) and will not be reported to the Board of Nursing by the credit company as being delinquent. You can do this several times if necessary and the deferment will be ‘renewed’.
    The point is to STAY IN COMMUNICATION with your creditor(s) until you get back on your feet. As long as you act in good faith most credit organizations WILL work with you.
    Meanwhile, you have other, more pressing matters to deal with-like finding a job and honing your skills as a new grad.
    Focus on what you can do TODAY and do not lose your mind worrying about loans that you plan to pay in the future. Remember that Student Loan interest is TAX Deductible if you itemize your tax returns! And your school expenses (books, tuition, travel, uniforms and their maintenance, job search expenses; due to professional organizations, etc.) are also!