Cost of Living Across the U.S.: What to Expect in Your Search for Travel Nurse Housing
Most people live in one place for several years at a stretch. They get a feel for the cost of living in their area and recognize it as normal. But this isn’t the case for travel nurses. A 13-week assignment is just enough time to get used to the cost of living in one area before readjusting to a higher or lower rate at the next assignment. Imagine paying $850 for rent in Milwaukee, then $1,450 for comparable housing in San Francisco a few months later. It can be overwhelming if you’re not prepared.
While travel nursing contracts account for the cost of living in each specific area, nurses still need to understand what each change means for them.
What is cost of living, anyway?
Cost of living refers to the cost of everyday goods and services. Generally, it refers to the cost of purchasing necessities, such as housing, food, and utilities, but it can also include essential services and local taxes. At a high level, it’s the amount of money required to live in an area — and it varies widely across the country.
Cost of living varies from place to place
The easiest way to think about cost of living is to compare different areas of the country — or even different cities within the same state. These examples highlight how much the cost of living can vary based on area:
- The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Mississippi is just $795 per month. Go west to California and the average monthly rent for a comparable apartment is $1,400! Why such a dramatic difference? Housing demand is much higher in California than in Mississippi.
- Need to buy a loaf of bread? In Casper, WY, it’ll cost you an average of $3.64, but in Birmingham, AL, it’ll ring up at $2.99. This is because the cost of transportation to Wyoming is higher than to Alabama.
- Planning to visit the optometrist? Your eye exam will cost about 33% more in Boston, MA as opposed to Madison, WI. Wages run higher in Massachusetts, so professional services tend to cost more.
Sometimes, the transition from one cost of living area to another is a shock for travel nurses. It’s a smart idea to do some research with a cost of living calculator, so you know what to expect when preparing for life in a new city.
How to use cost of living to your advantage
Housing is one key area in which travel nurses can save money. Prioritize affordable housing when you can. This may mean using provided housing or finding yourself a roommate for the duration of your assignment. But this can be difficult in areas of the country where the cost of living — and the cost of housing — is higher. What can you do?
Some nurses plan to stay with family or friends to reduce their housing costs. Others take steps to lower their household budget. Reducing key expenses in areas with higher cost of living can mean saving money elsewhere to afford higher housing costs.
Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to cost of living. If you look ahead at your next assignment and get to know the cost of living, it’s easier to adapt your budget, plan expenses, and approach your next assignment with a mind for maximum earning potential.