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The nurse’s guide to budgeting

iStockphoto | ThinkStock

iStockphoto | ThinkStock

After a long shift, do you prop up your feet, close your eyes and imagine flying somewhere far away for a blissful vacation? Or do you simply dream of the day when your nursing school loans are paid off? Your dreams may be more attainable than you think! A budget is a great tool to help your hard-earned dollars reach their maximum potential.

If you are intimidated by creating a budget or just don’t know how to start, check out these easy steps. You will find that you already use these nursing skills each day; just transfer your nursing savvy from the floor to your finances.

1. Determine your goals.

Are you trying to eliminate debt or stockpile savings? Your goals will determine how you tweak your numbers later on.

2. Document, document, document.

As the adage goes, “If it wasn’t documented, it wasn’t done.” Record every dollar spent and where it went, along with any paychecks or other income as well. A check logbook, Excel spreadsheet, or a free online budgeting tool like mint.com is a great tool for keeping track. Recording expenditures for at least one month prior to creating your budget can help provide a baseline for your first actual budget. In addition, you may start to find lost money when you realize that maybe, just maybe, you don’t need those $5 coffees quite so often.

3. Determine your ins and outs.

As a nurse, you know that a keen eye for I’s and O’s is important for patient outcomes. Use this skill to your advantage when pursuing your own financial health. What is your income? What are the vital outs (bills, food, home cost)? Once you have determined the minimum you have to pay each month, add categories for the non-necessities using the leftover income.

Two simple solutions: If you have a negative balance, increase your ins OR decrease your outs.

4. Assess and reassess.

At the end of each month, ask yourself:

  • Is my plan working?
  • What changes do I need to make?
  • Am I nearing my goal?
  • Should I set a new goal?

If you have gone over your budget, you may need to cut spending in one or more categories. If you want to increase your monthly budget or achieve your goal faster, you may consider picking up overtime.

Be patient and give yourself 2-3 months to create an effective budget—the results will be well worth the effort. With a little dedication and your nursing know-how, you can make your money work for you.

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Sara Beth Furey, RN, BSN, CPN

Sara Beth Furey, RN, BSN, CPN is a nurse and professional writer. Her unique educational background consists of a BSN from Indiana University (IUPUI) and a BA in both English and biology from Butler University. Writing pursuits have sent her foraging for wild edibles, exploring auto repair shops to learn about “hubside manner” and investigating countless other topics. Past publications include magazine articles as well as educational materials.
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