This Travel Nurse is Debt-Free — And Sharing Her Secrets
Emergency room travel nurse Kayla Cummins, BSN/RN started a mission sixteen months ago to get debt-free by travel nursing. In a celebratory post on her Instagram page, Cummins shared that she had succeeded in her mission, paying off $67,588 in debt.
Cummins tells TravelNursing.org just how she managed to pay down so much debt, how travel nursing helped her get there and why she believes talking more openly about finances can help increase our financial literacy.
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Starting Her Debt-Free Journey
Cummins became an RN in 2016 but she didn’t start working as a travel nurse until July of 2019. She quickly picked up assignments and discovered a love of cosmetic nursing, which she plans to return to in the future. Cummins tells Travelursing.org that she decided she wanted to pay down her debts to stop “paying for the past.”
“I wanted financial freedom and for my money to go towards the future, especially my future family and retirement,” she said. Her total debts included:
- Medical bills
- Her iPhone
- A furniture card
- Apple card
- Auto loan
Although it may seem like a daunting task to approach paying down debt, Cummins broke her journey down into small, manageable steps. Here’s how she did it.
Combed Instagram for resources
Cummins was able to find finance-focused accounts, like @debtfreeinsunnyca, who offered a free downloadable debt tracker to help her get started.
Cummins decided to choose four of her debts to tackle first, adding them all up and dividing the total by 100 so she could have a tangible, achievable goal to work towards.
“Each week that I was paid I threw every last extra dollar at my debt,” she explained.
Made a “starter budget”
Budgeting can be intimidating for a lot of people, but Cummins says taking the time to do it is worth it.
“Making a budget and sticking to it is what allowed me to really see how much additional money I had that could go towards my debts,” she said.
To take some of the fear out of the budgeting step, Cummins suggests making what she calls a “starter budget” that lists every single monthly expense, when it’s due, and how they make that payment (auto draft vs. manual payment). Once your expenses are added up, you can subtract that number from your monthly take home pay.
“Some people are shocked to see they actually spend more than they bring home, and others are even more shocked to see the amount of extra money they have each month that they have no idea where it goes,” she said.
Once you have your starting point and are actually aware of your expenses, you can start to decrease expenses, she says, with steps like canceling subscriptions, picking a cheaper phone or Internet plan and cooking at home. And don’t forget those seemingly “small” expenses, like Apple music, Hulu and Netflix.
For her own budget, Cummins stopped shopping completely and gave herself a very small food budget, which she says she stuck to very strictly. She also made sure to establish a true emergency fund savings account before she began paying off her debt, by calculating three months of expenses and saving that amount in a separate bank account.
Took advantage of pandemic pay
While the pandemic has not been a good situation by any means, in Cummins’ case, she was able to utilize her increased travel nurse rates to pay down her debt even faster. She explains that the pandemic brought rates that she had “never seen before” and by continuing to stick to her strict budget, she was able to put the extra wages towards her savings and car loan.
Budgeted her luxuries
Cummins stresses that sticking to a budget doesn’t mean sacrificing everything. In fact, she believes the key to successful budgeting means including the things that are important to your own self-care.
For her, that meant that her monthly facials and nail appointments had a place in her financial plan.
“I wanted to still give myself some luxuries in life,” she said. “I love self care and I do feel that we should treat ourselves still during our debt freedom journeys.”
Sharing Her Journey To Get Debt-Free
Along the way, Cummins has shared her financial journey both on her Instagram page and her blog and tells TravelNursing.org that she enjoys being open along the way because it allows others to take control of their own finances.
“I believe that my own transparency regarding my debt and finances has shown people it is okay to discuss these things with friends and family,” she said.
She also points out that young adults are often not financially educated. By sharing her own financial journey, she hopes to change that.
“I can’t tell you the last time I had to figure out the circumference of an object, but I do have to manage my money each week that I am paid,” she said. “I have to know how interest rates work and how to apply for mortgage loans, but this never makes it into our education for some reason. I just hope that I can help others feel more educated and comfortable with managing their own finances.”
Life After Debt
Now that she’s debt-free, Cummins doesn’t anticipate changing her lifestyle drastically. Well, aside from working a few more meals out into her budget.
“I love to eat!” she said with a laugh.
Instead, she’s going to continue to carefully tend to her finances and save for the things that are important for her.
For instance, she’s already planning a travel fund adding to her saving funds. By budgeting and tracking expenses, Cummins will live below her means to allow her to strategize her next financial move, which at the moment include big goals like paying down her mortgage, maxing out her retirement account and personal Roth IRA, investing and building a down payment fund for investment property.
“I now have the decision of where I want every single dollar I earn moving forward to go, and that is very exciting,” Cummins said. “What used to be so hard — living with less — is now so easy and peaceful and I plan to continue this. I work hard and need to enjoy the beautiful life I have been given now too.”