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Welcome to Racked’s How Do You Shop? series, in which we ask a variety of people some deeply personal questions about how they earn, save, and especially spend their money. If you know or are someone with an interesting relationship to $$$, email email@example.com.
This week we spoke with Steph, a 26-year-old licensed practice nurse (LPN) who lives with her two young boys (ages 4 and 6) in Lawton, Oklahoma, just south of Oklahoma City. In addition to balancing life as a nurse and young single mother, she’s studying to become a registered nurse (RN). Her busy lifestyle requires a lot of financial planning, and she’s learned how to budget, but it didn’t come easy — just ask her about her motorcycle.
Salary: “I make $950 per paycheck and I get paid every two weeks, but that’s when I’m working three days a week.” (Roughly $22,800 annually without overtime.)
Rent per month: “$575 for my house.”
Utilities per month: $300
Most she’d spend on jeans: $100
Most she’d spend on a T-shirt: “$20-$30, maybe.”
Most she’d spend on a fancy outfit: “$100-$150, depending on what I’m doing.”
How do you balance school and your job as a nurse?
On Monday and Wednesday, I cram five classes into both days. I work on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Sunday and Tuesday are my study days and spend-time-with-the-kids-days.
Sounds like you’ve gotten the work-life-school thing down.
Girl, it’s taken me some years to do! I graduated high school in ’09, and in 11th and 12th grade I knew I wanted to become a nurse. I won a $3,000 scholarship, but things got hectic; I was crazy and ended up getting pregnant, so I packed up school for a bit. Towards the end of my pregnancy I got back into going to school, but then had my son and took [another] break from school — it was on and off for a long time. Me and my ex-husband, we split up, and because I was working and a full-time mom, I couldn’t do school. When we separated, I got determined and did LPN school. It’s a lower level than an RN, but you still do a lot of the things nurses do — IVs, stuff like that. I went through the program for a year, and I was working full-time for the state of Oklahoma — that was crazy enough. I got back to school, and now I’m working towards my RN.
Never a boring day.
Never, ever. And both of my boys just started school this year.
Do you have other sources of income?
Sort of? I get income to help my kids — child support from their dad. It’s enough to help sustain them. If I need extra money, I’ll work an extra day and my job will pay me for working the extra day. Overtime is frickin’ amazing! It burns you out, but it’s amazing.
How do you save?
If I’m working overtime I’ll put all my extra pay into savings, which is, like, $400-$500. Whenever I work an extra day I get $1,300 per paycheck, and if I work two, it’s $1,700.
How much do you normally spend on clothing each month for you, specifically? I know kids are a different conversation.
Good lord, I am a clothes hoarder! I have clothes from back in the day, so I really don’t need to [go shopping regularly] because I haven’t really changed too much. I have a lot of old clothes, and they take up the vast majority of my house.
What’s the most expensive clothing item in your closet?
Probably my prom dress. It was, like, $800-something! I wanted to be a princess, shit. I can hold on to it and look at it like, “Oh yeah! That one time…”
What’s your biggest monthly expense besides rent? Are your kids in daycare or anything like that?
No, because they’re in school now. My biggest expense other than rent is between my car and motorcycle insurance. I’m a registered badass! I’m just kidding. But motorcycle insurance is a lot, lot more expensive than car insurance: I pay $96 for full coverage on my car; my motorcycle insurance is $297.
Do you have a weekly or monthly budget that you operate by?
I do, only because I’m very picky with my money. It depends on if I have the kids or not — my parents help me out a lot with watching the boys so I can work and go to school to become an RN. They make double what an LPN makes and they only do a little bit more. It’s ridiculousness! If I have my kids for the week, I’ll budget $100 or so. If it’s just me, I can buy a four-pack of those burritos from Walmart and survive for the week.
Do you shop online at all, or in person?
Sometimes I’ll shop online. I use the Wish app —it’s great. I got a whole lighting system for my car for $12. It’s so cheap, and they have clothing, too.
Do you exclusively shop sales?
I do, and sometimes I’ll coupon. My friends will tell me about discounts. Sometimes I splurge with them — mainly I’ll look for sales.
How does your approach to shopping compare to your friends?
I think I’m a little bit more responsible with my money than my friends are. I think they’re a little compulsive. I’m being real — I’m the parent of the group. Ha!