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What's the best way to pay your bills and go to school full time???

jlamar11 jlamar11 (New) New

Hello all,

I plan to apply to an accelerated ABSN program within the next couple of years. As I was in the middle of writing down my goals, it turns out that even though I plan to have my other debts paid off completely in 1-2 years (with the exception of car note and school loans from my undergrad), I still would not earn enough to cover expenses while in school...even if I chose to work full time as a CNA (which I understand would be crazy to do).

I'm thinking that I may have to take out a $35k+ loan, give or take, to last 12-18 months while I'm in an ABSN program to cover my expenses. In addition, I was seriously thinking about working part time to have a buffer for small unexpected costs. I'd REALLY rather not do this if at all possible, but if I have to then I will. I'm not married, no children, and I'm only supporting myself...which is kind of a relief lol. But I'm curious to know how any current nursing students (preferably ABSN) are managing their expenses while being in school full time AND while maintaining a good GPA??? I'm trying to develop a plan before jumping into a situation without considering other options and/or ways to do this strategically.

Thanks for reading! All suggestions welcomed


A little about me: 26 years old. I already have a B.S degree but I'm trying to make a career change. Currently working full time as a lab technician and I got my CNA certification in Dec 2014. Currently looking for a second full time job to work as a CNA (no luck yet, but I'm still pushing.)

My advice would be to embrace the "starving student" lifestyle right now -- cut down your expenses as much as possible and save up as much money as you can in advance. Is it possible to eliminate the car payment (get rid of your current car and get a cheaper one you could own outright)? Is moving to a cheaper place a possibility? Taking on a roommate? You mention you are already paying on student loans -- I'm sure you realize the benefits of not taking on any more student debt, for the nursing degree, than absolutely necessary.

Which job pays you more (per hour) -- lab tech or CNA? I would focus on working at whichever pays your more (i.e., if lab tech pays more, look for additional lab tech hours rather than a CNA job).

Re: working during school, I went through a v. rigorous graduate program in which I was one of only a few students working. I found that, by budgeting and using my time carefully, I was able to work one shift (8h) a week (on the weekend) and as many hours as I could get during the holiday breaks without hurting my grades or study time. The medical center that was attached to the university was v. accustomed to working with the nursing students, and they were extremely mellow and flexible about letting me work around my school schedule and took for granted that my studies were my first priority (my nurse manager was a graduate of the same graduate program, so she was v. understanding). If you end up at a university with an attached medical center, you are likely to have some flexible work opportunities.

Best wishes for your journey!

mimibrown, ADN, BSN

Specializes in Med-Surg. Has 7 years experience.

Is there a way you could decrease your expenses greatly, or even move back home? With 35000 in loans on top of any loans you may currently have, how much would your repayments be? Could you afford to repay your loans and all of your bills? I would find another way. The economy is far too unstable and there is no nursing shortage. You don't want to find yourself in some position with $50000 in loans and no job in sight. Do you have anything saved currently?

Eta you are doing this in a couple of years, so you definitely have time to figure out something that is more manageable than taking out an extra 35k. Just my two cents.

Edited by mimibrown
thought of something else

Natasha, CNA, LVN

Specializes in Psych. Has 1 years experience.

Lower your expenses if possible. That's what I started to do.. I found a company that gives free cell phones for low income...*got it. I refinanced my 7k car loan to lower payments and reduced my student loan to lower payments. Try to cut down if you can. It will be worth it in the future. I work once a week and also receive unemployment on my days I get called off. My goal is to move out of state to a cheaper living area for my RN once I finish the LVN program which was 4k and we had to pay out of pocket. have you looked into that? 50k+ loans is really risky in this economy.

Correct my If I'm wrong, but your taking out a $35,000 loan just for expenses? What about the school fees ? I personally feel that too much debt for a nursing degree. You also have other debts such car debt and student loan. Also think about the interest rate that you would get, since you have a some debt before, lenders may not want to give you the loan and the ones that do will give it to you at a very high interest rate because your debt to income ratio is high. You need to look for cheaper options. I'm very thankful that in high school, I took a personal finance class and one of the assignments given was to research the starting pay of profession we were interested in and based our expenses on that starting pay. After doing that research, I was able to establish how much I was willing to spend on my education, even though it going to take me longer to graduate with my degree, I'm going to graduate debt free which is the most important thing to me.

Thank you all for the feedback. So, basically, I need to just wait and pay down majority, if not all, of my debt first before jumping into another program. Not what I really wanted to hear BUT I kinda knew it would be the situation. If I wasn't knocking on 30 in 4 years, this wouldn't be that big of a deal to me, but I know that I'm getting older and for me, time is of essence. And at 26, I don't prefer to move back in with my parents :nono:; I am trying to remain as independent as possible--mainly for my own ego. Lol.

(If moving in with your parents is an option to save money, I would really recommend doing that. Of course, you would prefer not to. But it's time-limited, and your student loans are going to be there for a looooong time. And if you're worried about your ego, just wait 'til you start nursing school. You'll forget what having an ego feels like. :) Living with your parents again would just be a good warm-up for that, and good practice in taking whatever help you can get, because you'll need it to get through school. :) Best wishes!)

WookieeRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in PACU. Has 4 years experience.

Right now, the only way I've been able to pay my bills and go to school is by striking a deal with my parents. They said either they pay for school, or they pay my expenses. So I took out the Stafford loans and they pay for everything else but my car note. It seems like a pretty good trade off. As for my books, etc my grandparents stepped in an have been covering all of that for me as pre-paid birthday/Christmas gifts for the next few years.

I am also working full-time right now to save as much as possible before my nursing semester starts in August. I take classes at night now to finish up my remaining classes before I start in August. I don't have cable (wouldn't have time to watch it anyway), just Internet for school, and the days of retail therapy are long gone. All I can say is work when you can, and save when you can. My brakes now need to be replaced on my car, so I'm thankful for what I did manage to have saved up.

I would definitely start budgeting now in preparation for school starting so you aren't trying to get used to a new lifestyle AND nursing school at the same time. Cut everything and anything you can that isn't necessary. Go on the ramen diet. Save, save, and save some more. Scholarships, grants, and more scholarships.

vintagemother, ADN, CNA, LVN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Psych, Geri, LTC, Tele.

Reduce your expenses as much as possible. Do you have a retirement plan you can borrow from? Not saying you have these bills, but when I attended school, I didn't have cable, not a car payment. No credit debt. I lived in a cheap apartment not in greatest area, I never got my hair or nails done professionally.

Basically my only expenses were rent, food, internet, gas and electric utilities, vehicle gas. About 3/4 the way through I did get hulu. ($8/mo) I lived off of about 1237/mo incl rent of $700. I have a child, so I did get food stamps and free medical.

When I began working full time as an Lvn, I kept my expenses low becuz I knew id return to RN school. My expenses are still less than $2000 per month.

BuckyBadgerRN, ASN, RN

Specializes in HH, Peds, Rehab, Clinical. Has 4 years experience.

Guys, this is so easy. Two words!

Sugar. Daddy.

Lol @ Buckybadger!!!

Guys, this is so easy. Two words!

Sugar. Daddy.

Bucky, let's not forget equality:

Sugar. Mama.

BuckyBadgerRN, ASN, RN

Specializes in HH, Peds, Rehab, Clinical. Has 4 years experience.

Point taken---OP seemed to be a female however, so I was responding with her in mind =)

Bucky, let's not forget equality:

Sugar. Mama.


Specializes in PCT, RN. Has 3 years experience.

It really just depends on your job/pay.

I'm about to begin the RN program soon and I don't have an option but to work during school. Right now I make enough to float my bills on 40 hours a week, but it just depends on what you make.

Bartending can be great money if you're good at it, but unfortunately the money is never guaranteed.

If I were you, I'd stick with the CNA job (unless you can find something better) and work as much as you can without falling behind in school and if you start running low on money, then focus on taking out loans.

Try to avoid taking out loans as long as possible because that's going to hurt you later.

Msmedic68w, ASN, MSN, RN

Specializes in psychiatric. Has 6 years experience.

in home care as a CNA....more flexible hours.

I have found that home care is very flexible. If you are lucky you might even find overnight shifts with a client who won't need much assistance and you can use that down time to study too. Good luck!


Has 1 years experience.


Everyone has left some really good advice on here, here is my two cents!

In 2013 I was laid off from my bank job and was able to take funds from my 401k to pay off as much debt as I could (only leaving my student loans from my 1st Bachelor's and my car note- which will be finished in a little over a year). I also took some of that money and paid for my first semester of pre-req's (which was A&P I and A&P I lab).

It took me 2 years to complete my pre-req's, I will be finished this mid- May and will begin my ABS the following week. I paid for the rest of my pre-req's out of pocket while working full-time (at another banking institution) and taking pre-reqs part time, and continued to pay off additional bills (and finding ways to get existing bills lowered).

This past January/February I quit my bank job to obtain a per diem Nursing Assistant position at a local hospital. The per diem scheduling allows me to work as much as I need to (full time and close to fill time) while finishing up pre-reqs. In mid-May (next month) when I start my ABS program I will work my minimum requirement as per diem, I week day/evening/night shift and 2 weekend day/evening/night shift) per month. I also intend on working more during school breaks.

For my ABS program I was offered loans to cover 75% and I will use private loans to cover the rest (plus some living expenses- mostly rent for the next 12 months). I will continue to work during the ABS program, just not as much as I am working now. The way I see, I rather take out loans so that I can focus on my studies and get good grades, as I hope to also get my FNP. Also, I found a program that will repay Nursing school loans. Although nothing is a guarantee, I did as much 'clean up' of financial affairs as I was doing my pre-req's to put myself in a situation to work less while in nursing school.

Good luck with everything & I hope this helps!

NurseGirl525, ASN, RN

Specializes in ICU.

I'm sorry, just had to laugh at your one comment. I'm pushing 30 in the next 4 years!! Lol. You do realize how young you actually are? I'm 39 and in the ASN program. There are a bunch of people older than me. You will be fine on time. Get your stuff paid down and then go to school. You will be so much happier without tons of debt hanging over your head.