Keep Cost of Living in Mind as You Travel to New Locations
How you spend your money depends on where you live. A dozen eggs in Denver might be more expensive than that same dozen eggs in Dover. For travel nurses, cost of living changes are important factors to consider when taking on new assignments in different parts of the country.
What is “cost of living”?
“Cost of living” refers to the amount of money it takes to maintain a standard of living and cover basic needs, including food, housing, health care, and taxes in a particular location. Supply and demand of products, the minimum or average wage, and tax law in different states affect these costs.
The cost of living will change further based on where you live within a particular state. A more crowded, popular city such as Los Angeles will likely cost more to live in than a rural town in northern California.
The amount of money you make will be directly tied to your cost of living. While a salary might be considered great in a place where the cost of living is low, it might not be enough to make ends meet in another location.
The relationship between cost of living and your stipend
One of the main components of the cost of living is the rent in a given area. As a travel nurse, you will be given options for housing that can help alleviate the different costs of living you may encounter.
If you meet the stipend requirements, your pay package will include a tax-free housing stipend intended to cover the cost of housing while you are working. Your stipend will be based on the General Services Admission (GSA) per diem rates — the maximum travel expense reimbursement allowance for federal employees — for that area. Places with a higher cost of living generally have higher per diem rates.
Since the stipend rates are based on the GSA rates, which are based on location, your stipend will help cover the cost of living for that area. The other option you have is to opt for provided housing from your agency, which will be selected and paid for you.
Be prepared — cost of living might just take you by surprise
The cost of living in your temporary location may shock you in a positive or negative way. The cost of groceries, restaurants, entertainment, gas, and even basic items such as toothpaste can vary greatly from place to place. To prepare yourself before a new assignment, use an online calculator that can provide cost of living estimates between your current and new location.
To return to our earlier example regarding eggs in Dover, Delaware, and Denver, Colorado: The average cost of a dozen eggs in Denver is 12 cents higher. But the cost of eggs isn’t as big of a difference as rent — the average rent in Denver is over $400 more expensive per month!
If you find that news shocking, you’re in for an even bigger surprise if you’re heading to the Big Apple from a smaller town. Average monthly rent in the Manhattan area costs $3,984.33, compared to just $696.33 in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. And you can expect to pay at least $1 or $2 more for most grocery items in New York, as well.
Staying prepared for a changing cost of living is an essential part of being a travel nurse. Fortunately, with the right staffing agency behind you, you’ll be able to navigate the changes more easily.