How This Mom Became a Nurse and Built Her Dream Family Life

Charis Schnee left her San Diego hometown to start a new life in Oklahoma, paving the way for her financial health and family life. Here are her best tips for anyone hoping to follow their dreams on a budget.

When Charis Schnee was growing up in San Diego, she always dreamed of becoming a nurse. "I always knew I'd be good at it because I'm a caring and compassionate person," she says. "But in California, it's really hard to get into nursing school."

Because she didn't have a 4.0 GPA, she felt like she had to write off her dream career. She initially pivoted to communications, but when she graduated with her degree, she knew she wouldn't use it. "I started looking into nursing schools in different states," says Schnee.

Thanks to a suggestion from a friend, she soon landed on Oklahoma City, and in 2016, started nursing school there. "That was when that entire journey began," says Schnee.

The aspiring nurse took out private student loans to get an apartment and started her prerequisite classes. About a year into school, in 2017, Schnee met her now husband, John, a pharmacy school student, on a dating app. Two years into dating, the couple moved in together. "We both had our own separate apartments, but we were staying in one apartment, so we thought that was silly," she remembers. "So, we decided to buy a house together."

The pair had been spending $1,300 each on rent, and when they bought their house, the mortgage was $1,014. "We ended up saving money by buying a house," explains Schnee.

But the couple faced a jaw-dropping expense when they welcomed their identical twin boys in July 2021. "After insurance, it costs us about $14,000," notes Schnee. "I was like, 'We have to do something, like we are never going to get out of that because this is crazy.'"

That's when she began looking into travel nursing jobs, which typically pay more, and picked up a contract in Oregon this past January. Even upon finding out that she was pregnant with the couple's third child, Schnee was having fun, working hard, and was able to pay off their hospital bills, credit cards, buy a pizza oven, and save money for baby No. 3.

And to cut down on the exorbitant cost of child care, Schnee and her husband also came up with a plan to hire an au pair from Colombia. "I just think having our family exposed to someone from a totally different background is going to be super beneficial later in life," says Schnee. She also hopes their au pair will benefit from them too. "We really want her to be like a part of our family."

Here are Schnee's best tips for paving your own path for your financial health and family's well-being.

Consider a Big Move

"Sometimes I think we get so comfortable where we're living," says Schnee who adds she was content in San Diego. "But I moved to Oklahoma and it completely changed my life."

It became a place where Schnee could really start living her life. "It wasn't me trying to play catch up later," notes the mom. "I just was able to actually live."

That's why she recommends "getting out of your comfort zone." And if it doesn't work out? "You could always return home if that's something you want to do later."

Do Your Research on Loans

If you need to take out a loan, it's important to research what kind will work best for you now and in the future. In hindsight, Schnee wishes she had taken out all federal student loans for her nursing education, because they offer lower interest rates, can be grants, and come with a higher chance of loan forgiveness programs than private loans.

Look Into First-time Homebuyer Savings

Leading up to buying their first house, Schnee and her husband weren't budgeting, she explains. When they applied for a mortgage, they needed two months worth of pay stubs, but the couple didn't have to put any money down, thanks to a program geared toward first-time homebuyers. That said, one of her top tips for aspiring homeowners is to look into similar programs and offers that will help you save, which will vary by state.

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