Life on the road can be challenging when it comes to sticking to a budget. Eating out, transportation, and even laundry can add up quickly! The key is to experience new places while stacking your savings account. Here’s a list of strategies to trim your spending while living “life on the road”.
Bring Your Food and Coffee to Work
Let’s go right to the biggest expense and it was a huge one for me! I would easily spend $15 or more a day on coffee and lunch. It doesn’t seem like much, but when you start to add these $15 days up, they end up being a big chunk of your spending. Partnered with eating out a few times per week, or even more, and your food budget gets out of control quickly and really eats at savings. I budgeted and disciplined myself to always bring my own coffee and lunch to work so that on my off days, I’d take myself out for a nice meal — guilt free.
Carpool to Work
For the first year of being a travel nurse, I traveled with one of my best friends. We always worked the same shifts at the same facility. During the first part of our travels, we always drove separate because one may stay later than the other, but then we started carpooling to save money on gas and parking. If this is possible for you, I highly recommend it. Parking can be a huge expense that adds up quickly.
Look Free Activities
It’s easy to spend money on site seeing in a new place. Depending on what your hobbies are, challenge yourself to find free activities on your day off. Go on a hike, practice yoga in the park, or attend free meet-ups. Anything in nature exponentially increases healing, is therapeutic, and is typically free. There’s several state parks and other attractions usually offered by cities and states if you just look for them.
Use a Debit Card with Zero Transaction Fees
Since we are always on the road, chances are our bank isn’t always in the city we are in. I personally lived with this struggle for a long time before finding a solution. Every time I wanted to take cash from an ATM, I had to pay a transaction fee because it wasn’t my personal bank. I solved this problem by switching my bank to Charles Schwab (although there are other options). They reimburse for all transaction fees at the end of each month. This means you can travel anywhere (domestically and internationally) and not be charged for taking out money. This is a huge and an easy win!
Shop at Local Farmers Markets
Not only am I a huge advocate for supporting local farmers, but it also saves me money! Depending on the city/season, there’s usually an option nearby for local markets/stands. I’ve always found most farmers markets to be cheaper than chain grocery stores. They also have options besides food, so take advantage of them! You might be able to find a delicious coffee for your mornings or all natural snacks to give you energy throughout your work day. Don’t forget to bring your own reusable bags!
Use Apps for Deals
My go-to apps are Ebates, Gas Buddy and Groupon. All three have saved me a tremendous amount of money while on the road. Gas Buddy searches all the gas stations in your area and arranges them from cheapest to most expensive. Since we are always on the go, this is a must. I typically use Groupon for yoga studio memberships, massages, and other personal care. This app seems to be limitless and finds all kinds of deals going on in your area! Ebates is nothing new and you likely have used it. If you don’t, start now! Basically, you get paid back for the things you buy and all you do is log in to Ebates first. It’s a super simple step and basically free money! I’ve got back just under $500 back last year alone.
Use Apps for Making Friends
I can’t deny that I spend a lot of money on going out so I can network. Whether it’s to a bar, dinner, or event, I go to these social environments to make friends. One hack I’ve learned is that there are several resources for meeting people that are free! The app Meetup is a global network for meeting people when you are new to an area. Meetup has every hobby and category you can think of. All you have to do is join the group you’re interested in and watch for events. The first time I moved away from home, I used this app to find out about a 5k run in Orlando, FL. This is how I met my first friends in that area, and to this day, we’re still in touch. Facebook events is also another resource for making friends and networking. Checkout the events in your area and use them as a way to connect cheap!
Regardless of how you do it, the key is to watch the useless spending because it adds up! Be sure you are saving receipts, monitoring your bank accounts, and making a physical budget on paper or digitally. Being aware is the only way to correct the useless spending and get the most in your savings!