Budgeting for Nursing School

Healthy financial habits can set students up for success for the rest of their lives. Whether establishing an emergency fund for unexpected events, a dream fund for future aspirations, or a down payment for a home, savings can significantly benefit your life. Students can manage and save money in a variety of ways, but creating and maintaining a personal budget is one of the most effective tools for financial management. A budget can give you greater awareness and control over your finances and life planning.

Despite these benefits, studies report that only 41% of Americans employ a personal budget. College presents an especially opportune time to create a budget and practice practical money management, since doing so at this time may seriously reduce the amount of debt students must pay off later.

Budgeting in nursing school can present several unique challenges. In addition to paying normal living expenses and school costs, nursing students also must save up money for certifications, clinicals, and uniforms. Students with full-time employment or dependents may face additional strains on their time and resources. However, taking the time to develop and maintain a financial plan can help manage these obstacles.

This guide describes how to create a nursing student budget from start to finish. The page also includes tips for saving money, basic financial terminology, and helpful finance apps.

Getting Started

Budgeting Terminology

Track Your Spending

  1. Assess Current Financial Spending: To get a sense of how you currently spend your money, go online and print a copy of your last few monthly statements from your bank or credit union. Make a list of everything you spend money on during an average month. Be sure to include the amount spent.
  2. Categorize Expenses: Go through your expenses and categorize items based on whether they qualify as essentials or nonessentials. The essentials list will generally include fixed expenses such as rent, mortgage, car payments, insurance, and tuition or student loan repayments. You should also include necessary variable expenses such as utilities, transportation, and groceries. The list should take into account education-related essentials such as books, internet, and class materials.
  3. Do the Math: Now, add up all the items on your essentials list. Subtract this number from your total monthly income. The resulting number indicates your discretionary income.
  4. Create Your Budget: At this point, you can begin to create your budget. If your discretionary income is negative, you spend more than you earn in a month. This can become a problem for students who rely heavily on student loans. In this case, students should look for where to cut costs, even for expenses that seem like essentials. For example, learners may choose a less expensive phone plan, plan their meals in advance, or rent textbooks instead of buying them. See the tips for cutting costs section for more ideas.

Budget planners often recommend the 50/20/30 rule when creating a budget. Approximately 50% of your income should go toward essentials, 20% to savings, and 30% to personal expenses (i.e., nonessentials). However, this rule should only act as a general framework. Many people, especially students, find it difficult to stick to these exact proportions. Find a budget plan that works for your needs and income.

Maintaining Your Budget

Once you decide on your college student budget, be sure to review and update it regularly. Your essential expenses naturally fluctuate based on seasonal, career, health, and social variables. At least once a month, take the time to fulfill the steps outlined above. Make sure that your expenses do not exceed your means.

While it may possible to overspend every now and then, especially for those who have the credit to take out loans or borrow money from others, try to avoid running up more debt than necessary. Long term, these debts can ruin your goodwill with creditors, including friends, and erode your chances of purchasing a car or home. Set up regular seasonal and annual goals for yourself. Compare your spending and income against a long-term plan for your finances. Quarterly assessments every three months, biannual assessments every six months, and annual assessments every 12 months can keep your budget up-to-date and manageable.

Budgeting Tools


Left to Spend: Available through the Apple Store, Left to Spend employs a unique approach to budget management. Users establish a daily allowance based on their discretionary income. Whenever users spend money, that allowance decreases. As long as users remain above $0 per day, they stay in the clear.


Microsoft Excel: Spreadsheet applications such as Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel allow users to track spendings, organize information, and maintain a budget. Some budget tracking templates already include formulas, tables, and other useful information. This article describes a few of the best free excel budget spreadsheets currently available.


Mint: Mint brings together information from multiple platforms to help users stay organized and manage their budget. Users can connect data such as their account balances and bills. Mint automatically updates information from linked accounts, offers customized tips, and provides special savings opportunities.


Personal Capital: Personal Capital provides free, award-winning financial tools, including the ability to link all accounts to the Personal Capital dashboard for a clear picture of personal net worth. Additional tools such as the fee analyzer, investment checkup, and retirement planner help users analyze the health of their current finances and plan for the future.


Simple.com: A branchless personal banking alternative, Simple grew from a small tech startup to an FDIC-insured checking account program with built-in budgeting tools. Created out of frustration with banks' excessive hidden fees and poor customer service, Simple aims to eliminate both of those issues for their clients.


Wally: Available on the iPhone, Wally displays users' income and expenses. The app breaks down where users' money goes and includes an option to set financial goals. Completely free, without any advertising, Wally provides total privacy and security to users.


YNAB: Created by a young newlywed in college, YNAB centers around four rules: Decide what funds should do before spending them; break larger, more rare expenses into monthly payments; update a budget as often as necessary; and only use funds that have been in an account for over 30 days. YNAB costs about $7 per month, but can help students reduce and avoid debt.


Tips for Cutting Costs in College

Additional Resources


Moneytrackin': A free online tool for personal budgeting, Moneytrackin' helps users keep track of shared bills, small business accounting, and expenses.


BudgetPulse: BudgetPulse users can view their month-to-month spending, cash flow, and bank accounts all in one place. Students can also share goals with friends and family.


Quicken: A classic, well-known personal finance management tool, Quicken allows users to create a budget, view all their bills in one place, and set up reminders. Users can also plan ahead to reduce debt or maximize investments.


BudgetSimple: Inspired by an excel spreadsheet and a period of financial desperation, BudgetSimple presents a free, user-friendly, online tool for personal and family financial management.


SavvyMoney: SavvyMoney integrates credit score analysis into mobile and online banking. The app especially benefits individuals looking to actively improve their credit score.


Buxfer: Buxfer offers an adaptable tool for money management and convenient, secure transaction monitoring. The app also helps users reduce unwanted spending.