Want to Make a Full-Time Income From Home?
Sign up for my Free 5-Day Course!
Just type in your name and email address below and I'll get you signed up for this 5-day course—for FREE!

We Paid Cash: Nursing Degree

We paid cash!

A testimony from Elizabeth

My husband, Christian, was a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), and wanted to further his career by becoming a Registered Nurse (RN). We had paid off his student loans completely from his LPN program and had no credit cards or debt of any kind. We had worked hard to be debt-free and we wanted to stay that way!

I have been blessed to be a stay-at-home mom (our boys were 2 and 4 at the time). Staying at home meant that with only one income, we’d have to be extra creative with how we would save and afford nursing school on top of everyday expenses. It took a lot of dedication (especially on his part!) to stay afloat.

Christian studied through Excelsior College of Nursing, a school designed specifically for working professionals. He would study the information required, and take each exam at a testing center. Once he completed all of the necessary exams, he had to fly to New York (a long way from Oregon!) and take a 3-day clinical exam (CPNE) that cost several thousand dollars.

There were many tuition fees, textbooks, exam fees, uniform costs, and travel expenses. There was a great deal of stress involved as well — especially since the CPNE only had a pass rate of 68%!

Normally the program would take several years or more to complete, as the student is working at the same time. With his amazing dedication, Christian accomplished it in only twelve months!

Here’s how we did it:

Working full-time, including a lot of overtime.

A lot of honest, hard work was involved for Christian! This meant evenings and weekends for study time (and not much time for anything else.) Almost every moment not spent at work was study time — dedication and focus was key!

Preschooling at home.

This meant no childcare or schooling expenses for the boys! Lots of frugal adventures to nearby parks or play dates at friends’ homes kept us busy!

Coupons, coupons, coupons!

I made use of couponing blogs (such as MoneySavingMom.com) to aid me in matching store sales with coupons in order to get the best deals on groceries and household items!

Sacrificing space.

We moved into a two-bedroom apartment, and doubled up our bedroom as a study space for Christian as well. We chose a “middle”, downstairs apartment to save a bit on heating/cooling bills, as well as the monthly rent amount.

Moving close to work.

We chose an apartment that was only one mile from his job, saving gas money and travel time (meaning more time to study)!

Owning only one vehicle.

We sold one of our two vehicles, cutting down on gas, insurance, and maintenance costs. Since we lived so close to his job, he was able to walk or ride his bike to work on the days that the boys and I had to go somewhere during his work hours. For the most part, his “study days” were the days that I would take the kids to go run errands/activities so that it’d be quiet for him to concentrate!

Garage sales, Craigslist and Amazon.com!

Throughout the summer months, the boys and I scoured garage sales for clothing in sizes that would fit them for the entire upcoming year. When they outgrew clothing, we sold it on Craigslist to make back our money! Once Christian was done with his textbooks, we were able to sell some of them to Amazon.com.

Getting work involved.

Once Christian’s boss learned that he was bettering himself for his profession, he offered to help a bit with the education costs. Every little bit counts!

Vacation Time.

During Christian’s 3-day clinical exam in New York, as well as several days reserved for studying, we used all of his vacation days saved up to carry us through.

Dedication, determination, focus!

I have never met a more dedicated person than my husband! He sacrificed personal time, sleep, family time, and so much more to be as efficient as possible at achieving our goals. God has blessed me with a husband who inspires me every single day!

As Christian wrapped up his RN schooling, we were able to purchase our first home. Being debt-free and not owing a dime for his Registered Nurse associates degree, it was quite simple to obtain our home loan! We’ve been in our new home for 10 months now and guess who’s back in school!

Christian has just begun school once again to earn his Bachelor’s degree in Registered Nursing (the associates’ degree was required first in order to work towards the bachelor’s degree.) We are now using all of our money-saving tips to make it through another round of school…. once again debt free:)

Formerly a member of the Air Force National Guard, Elizabeth went from working on fighter jets to staying home to raise their two little boys. She and Christian, along with their boys Josiah (5) and Judah (4) live in Oregon and are working hard towards their dreams and goals — one debt-free day at a time!

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

Share This:

Subscribe for free email updates from Money Saving Mom® and get my Guide to Freezer Cooking for free!

Read Newer Post
Read Older Post


  1. says

    Amazing! This is so inspiring and I love that you thought of every last detail to save money (ie; middle apartment to save on utilities- I would never think of that!).

  2. Gina says

    Don’t under-estimate your own dedication and sacrifice! My husband works and goes to school and I know how hard it can be to give up the family time in favor of study time. Congratulations on working together to achieve a goal for your family!

  3. Nicole says

    Thanks for your story- I am working on my prereqs now for the nursing program at my local community college and having been feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Reading your husband’s story about his dedication to succeed for his family inspires me to do the same for mine! Thanks for sharing :)

  4. Meredith says

    Don’t forget your role!! I’m sure he couldn’t have done it without your dedication. Good for you both. You should be very proud of yourselves.

    • WilliamB says

      Hear, hear! It was definitely a team effort. I hope he can spend extra time with the kids now, so they catch up with him and you catch up on your me-time.

  5. says

    Yeah, seriously, don’t forget your major role in all of this! He was certainly dedicated but you had to be as well.

    My wife and I don’t have kids but we miss our time together as we sacrifice some of it to get debt-free as well.

    Many people might have objections to dedicating an entire year of personal and family time to a goal such as this, but I think that’s simply a short-sighted perspective.

    Sure, there was a year there that he may have missed some “special” moments, but you have decades that will be changed because of this sacrifice.

    Congrats and good luck to Christian on the Bachelors!

  6. Kimberly says

    This story is so inspiring and thought provoking. The middle apartment to save on heat and AC bill, I would have never thought about that. Thanks for posting!!!

  7. kathy says

    So proud of them. There are so many who will not do what it takes to get through hard times. Most would rather complain and go along as usual . Need to see more like them!

  8. Tali says

    I was so excited to read this! I did the same thing. I graduated from LPN school without any debt and had 2 kids right away. Years passed during which I felt strongly that God wanted me to home school my girls which was more important than my schooling. I finally got to the point that my girls didn’t need as much help with their school so I started back taking one class at a time. We have endured many hardships (husband unemployment, me having 7 surgeries) but 3 weeks ago (after 1 year in Excelsior – all tests completed within 5 months) I passed the boards and I am finally an RN! Not just that I didn’t take any student loans I also paid off (with my husband of course) a few debts.

  9. says

    Congrats on his RN degree. I just graduated in December 2011, took boards in February and just started my first nursing job last week!

    It does take a lot of personal (and family) sacrifice to get through! I couldn’t have done it without my boys (hubby and 5 year old….and the babysitters as well!)

  10. El says

    I am so proud of ALL of you, and I don’t even know you! Christian, your dedication and hard work while working toward your goal is beyond amazing. Elizabeth, your understanding and lovingly helping your husband and children with whatever it takes to accomplish your goals is also amazing. Josiah and Judah, your cooperation in helping your parents achieve their goals is so unselfish and wonderful. You boys must be really fantastic. Congratulations, everyone! What an inspiration you are to all of us. This limited family time is just a season in your lives, so it won’t always be this way. You seem like such a loving family who appreciates all you have and cherishes what little quality time you have together. May God heap His awesome blessings on you all!

  11. says

    What a dedicated family you guys are! Another piece of advice would be to never underestimate the blessing of scholarships! I was blessed to be able to receive a full scholarship for 4 years of nursing school and graduated with a BSN/RN debt free. Now we are just working on paying hubby’s school loans.

  12. says

    Way to go Christian on the RN- and you for all you did to help him save and support him in his studies. A nursing degree is *hard* work, but it’s really inspirational that he managed to earn one *and* stay out of debt.

  13. Janet says

    I am a Professor of Nursing at a college in Texas. I often encounter students with stories similar to yours. I am inspired by the sacrifices of the the students as well as their famillies and am proud to be a part of their professional growth. Congratulations to your family for this major accomplishment.

  14. Emily says

    Congratulations you guys! My hubby just finished his BSN in December 2011. We were able to pay for his ADN and BSN with cash (we got some help through a education advancement program at his work). I wish that I had the financial dedication that we have now when I was in nursing school years ago, but we finally paid off the student loans from my BSN last year. :-)
    Good luck on the BSN! So many more job opportunities open up when you have it!

  15. Vale says

    Both of you are very inspiring – and great examples of determination and goal acheiving for your kids. Congrats to you both!

  16. Charlotte says

    This is what we are trying to do. My husband is on the waitlist for the fall RN program. Been doing his pre reqs in the evenings and working fulltime. I work part time, one day a week as a RN right now. Not sure what we will do this fall as he likely won’t be able to work his current job then nor earn as much. I will prob work more.End of last semester was crazy….we had a new double wide house delivered to our property on a Monday (we were living in a 728 sq ft single wide). He had a final exam that night, a final exam the next night (which was also our 3 yo’s bday, and then I had our 3 month old at 5 am Wed morning..(two weeks early). Good news is that it looks like his pell grant might be covering our costs this year. So fill out those FASA forms! And watch the deadlines for them.

  17. Charlotte says

    *FAFSA forms. His first couple semesters we got some Pell grant money, then I was working more and last two semesters we didn’t get any. Kudos to this family. It is stressful for everyone and cuts into time you’d rather have for other things, but we keep telling ourselves as you probably did, that the end result will be worth it. Does Christian have a job now that will offer tuition reimbursement for his bachelors?

  18. Toni says

    This post touched me personally, as I too paid cash for my RN license/education. It was *very* difficult for us to come up with the cash needed each semester for tuition and books. But we sacrificed and thrifted like crazy (I seriously recall rejoicing when we found $2 under the seat in our car), and made it through entirely debt free. Kudos to your dh for a difficult job well done.

  19. Lisa says

    I didn’t know that nursing degrees could be got by studying books . I thought you had to do clinicals , at least everyone I know that has done it here had to. I got to check out this school.Could you tell some more about how this works when nursing is so much hands on & this is books at home , if I understand right. Thank you!

    • Elizabeth says

      Lisa, in order to do the Excelsior RN program, they required that you already be a medical professional (in my husbands case, he had already gone to school and obtained his LPN degree). During his LPN schooling he did many hours of clinical work. With Excelsior, the CPNE exam (3 days of intense, hand’s on work in a hospital with an evaluator) counts towards clinical hours for the RN degree, in addition to the hours he obtained in his LPN schooling. Also, as Excelsior is for working professionals, he was actively working as an LPN while doing his RN schooling. You can find out more info about the program at Excelsior.edu :)

  20. says

    Elizabeth, that’s such an awesome and inspiring story. I wish more stories like yours get publicity instead of the consumer and lavish oriented lifestyles often portrayed in the media. Kudos to your family in working as a team to achieve your goals. I wish you continued success!

  21. jennifer says

    I too paid cash for my graduate nusing degree while working full time. Coming out without any school debt really helped make my income last!

    and to Lisa above, all nursing degrees do require clinical time.

  22. Kae says

    Congratulations! My daughter is in the LPN program at a Community College in Oregon and her instructor told the students about this program for a RN degree. She too is paying as she goes! As a wife who has a husband that went back to college to get a BA degree, while basically going to school full-time and working full-time, I know the sacrifices everyone makes. We too had two small children at the time. It can be difficult at times, but it was such a sense of accomplishment for all of us! Blessings and we wish your family well and continued success!

  23. Sally says

    Would you mind sharing how you bought a house after all of this? Where did the money for the down payment come from? And what kind of house? Did you have a lot of savings? And does a RN position in Oregon allow one wage earner to afford a house there? I am baffled by your buying a house after living on so little so recently. Please let me know what your secret is.

  24. Dianna says

    Wonderful story! I’ve been an RN for 19 years …the flexibility with scheduling is amazing. My husband is back in school now to become a nurse … we’ll be paying for this all out of pocket, so I’ve bookmarked this story and emailed it to him.

  25. says

    I made it through my ADN program debt free as well! Unfortunately I didn’t qualify for any financial aid. I chose to go to a community college which is considerably cheaper than a major university. I found a forgivable loan/scholarship that gave me $5,000 which covered nearly all of my tuition and books. I only had to come up with a few hundred dollars my last semester to finish up. My commitment was to work 2 years in a certain geographical area (which was several counties wide) after I got my license. I had a lot of places to work to choose from. I started off in a hospital for the first 7 months and now I work outpatient. $200 comes off every month that I work. I’ve already worked as an RN for 10 months. I encourage anyone who wants to go back to school for nursing to look for programs like this. It’s like getting a degree for FREE!

    • S says

      Can you talk more about this forgivable loan/scholarship ? My husband just finished his LPN and I would love it if he finished up RN as well, as we don’t have any kids now.

Money Saving Mom® Comment Policy

We love comments from readers, so chime in with your thoughts below! We do our best to keep this blog upbeat and encouraging, so please keep your comments cordial and kind. Read more information on our comment policy.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *