Choosing Between Provided Lodging or the Housing Stipend

choosing between provided lodging and housing stipendBy Kimberly Rae Dixon, Contributor
As a travel nurse, you typically have two options when it comes to housing: accept the provided lodging that's offered by your agency or find your own accommodations and accept the agency's housing stipend, also sometimes known as a per diem.
Both options have advantages and disadvantages, which can make it difficult to choose the best option. Use the guide that follows to help you make the right decision when choosing travel nurse accommodations that best suit your lifestyle.

Traveling with companions

Some travel nurses choose to bring their spouse, children or a friend along on assignment. Although some travel nurse agencies are willing to provide lodging that can accommodate nurses who are traveling with others, some only provide shared accommodations. If you're traveling with loved ones, it's best to find out how flexible your agency is with its travel nurse accommodations. If it doesn't provide lodging that works for your lifestyle, the housing stipend is probably a better choice for you.

Weigh the financial pros and cons of each option

There are several financial points to consider when deciding the best travel nurse accommodations for your next assignment. While both options come with their own conveniences and luxuries, they also come with their own set of financial pros and cons.

Provided lodging

Provided lodging is generally the most convenient option. All housing, including furnishing, is pre-arranged and provided by the agency. Utilities are typically covered, as well, which means you're not required to cover any expenses during your assignment aside from groceries and entertainment.

Housing stipend

The housing stipend is a tax-free reimbursement for housing expenses. Travel nurses who accept the stipend are responsible for finding their own housing while on assignment, which usually means paying upfront costs out of pocket, securing their own furnishings and passing any necessary credit checks that are required by the landlord or hotel.

Research the cost of living in each location you're assigned to

Housing rentals, transportation, utilities and other expenses can vary drastically from city to city. Before you choose between provided lodging and the housing stipend, you may want to do some research to determine just how far a stipend will go in the city you're assigned to. While in some cases you can find low-cost accommodations and end up with a little leftover cash from the stipend, some cities may have high housing costs that leave you with little to no leftovers or even require that you pay additional cash out of pocket.
For example, listed below are the average rental costs for a one-bedroom apartment in some of the country's top nursing states.
You can see just how widely these rent amounts can range. And while travel nursing organizations often adjust for this difference in costs, doing your research first ensures you make the best possible decision for your own wallet.
It's also important to consider other average costs such as utilities, which in California cost just 2.4% more than the national average while New York's average utility cost is more than 15% above the national average.

Look back on your previous experiences with travel nurse accommodations

If this isn't your first assignment, you've likely had some first-hand experience with some of the points discussed above. If you've chosen to find your own accommodations before and decided it wasn't worth the extra work, discuss provided lodging options for your next assignment with your agency. If your last assignment's lodging wasn't what you'd hoped, consider looking for your own accommodations and accepting the housing stipend on the next assignment. Discuss these experiences with your recruiter so they can do their best to help you make the right choice when it comes to future assignments.
One of the greatest things about travel nursing is having the opportunity to call a different location "home" with each assignment. Search available assignments at Onward Healthcare and find your next home now.

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