If you’re a teacher, you probably understand what it’s like to work hard without earning a high salary.
No matter how dedicated you are to improving the lives of children, it’s sometimes a struggle to make ends meet, let alone invest in your own future. In fact, according to U.S. News & World Report, the highest paid teachers earn anywhere from 40k/year to almost 100k/year. Depending on where you live, this can make it difficult to pay off your own student loans, buy classroom supplies, and save money – especially when you may only get paid for nine months out of the year.
Fortunately for you, if you’re smart about managing your money, you can still reach your financial goals, even without a high salary. In recognition of National Teacher Day, take a look at our 7 savvy strategies teachers can use to save more money.
Infographic Credit: U.S. News
1. Complete a Master’s Degree or Extra Certifications
If you are interested in continuing your education, you may be able to get a master’s degree for free or for an affordable fee. And, depending on the district where you teach, having a master’s degree may mean a higher salary for you. In some cases, even earning a specific certification can lead to higher pay.
Better yet, your school district may have a list of available courses that you can take advantage of. If not, you can also scout around on your own. You may be surprised at the number of classes and courses you can take to both enhance your skills and salary. If you’re a Texas middle school math or science teacher, for example, you may be able to get a free online education master’s degree from the University of Houston. So, it’s worth it to do your homework!
2. Volunteer for Extra Responsibilities
In addition to chasing more credentials, you may want to take on some extra responsibilities at your school. Things like being a class advisor to a student club, coaching extra-curricular sports teams, or tutoring during after-school hours may yield some extra money – above and beyond your salary. Since every school operates differently, if you’re interested in these opportunities, talk to your school’s administrators to find out how you can step up to the plate.
3. Avoid Lifestyle Inflation
Avoiding lifestyle inflation is a sound financial strategy for everyone, especially teachers.
Don’t believe me? Imagine this: You just graduated with your teaching degree and landed your first job, so you treat yourself to a new car because you deserve it. To go along with that new car, you sign a lease for a nice apartment with a spare bedroom you can use to store all of your stuff. Then, you plan a vacation to celebrate the next chapter of your life. Sounds pretty normal, doesn’t it?
But, let’s back up for a minute. This kind of carefree spending can easily get out of hand. Instead, why not spend less and save money by keeping the car you drove in college, moving in with a roommate to save on rent, and skipping vacation until you have enough cash to pay for it. By optimizing the major financial decisions in your life, you stand to save big bucks over the long term.
4. Automate Your Savings
One of the easiest ways to start saving money is to make it automatic. For instance, if you have a Chime bank account, every time you use your Chime Visa® debit card, the transaction is rounded up to the nearest dollar. That rounded up amount is then deposited into a savings account. Cha-ching!
It doesn’t stop there. As a Chime member, you can also start paying yourself first by earmarking a percentage of each paycheck into your Savings account. This is particularly important for teachers who are sometimes only paid for 21 pay periods. Other times, teachers get paid for 26 pay periods, even if they only work for nine months of the year, says Vicki Cook, a 29-year teaching veteran and co-founder of Women Who Money.
“For those who struggle creating (and sticking to a budget), the 26 pay period option helps them receive a steady paycheck all summer long. If that isn’t an option, setting up a consistent auto-withdrawal from each paycheck to a separate summer savings account can work well,” says Cook.
5. Take on a Side Hustle
Talking about saving up for the summer months, why not take on a summer job or start a hustle to supplement your teaching income?
For example, you can use your teaching experience to offer tutoring services or even teach classes online. You can also earn money doing something completely different than teaching, like selling jewelry on Etsy or driving for Uber. The point is: you’ve got the summer off. Why not earn some extra cash?
Lindsey Oura, a science teacher for the past 16 years in suburban Boston, knows first-hand how to earn extra money doing something she enjoys.
“Before I had children, I would always work at least one summer job, usually as a camp educator,” says Oura.
When her two children came along, she had her hands full as a mom and a school teacher. But recently, Oura decided to combine two of her passions – teaching and yoga – and take the online Pretzel Kids yoga certification course. Now a Pretzel Kids teacher, Oura is looking forward to earning money teaching kids yoga classes and leading birthday parties this summer.
6. Pack a Lunch
As a teacher, you may be tempted to hit the cafeteria each day for lunch instead of packing your own lunch.
But, believe it or not, you can save loads of dough by brown bagging it. Even if you only spend five dollars a day at the cafeteria, that adds up to $25 a week, $100 a month, or $900-$1,000 a year! Just think of the jump-start you can get on your savings by socking that cash away. Sure, you’ll still have to go to the grocery store to buy sandwich fixings but by shopping wisely, you can even save money at the supermarket.
7. Save for Your Retirement
If you’re eligible for a retirement plan at your school, take advantage of it. And, if you’re not able to invest through your employer, you should still consider opening your own retirement account. It’s never too soon to start saving up for your future.
Making a difference in the world each day you go to work is something many people will never experience. So, savor it, make the most of your salary, and enjoy your life.
One final thing: thank you for all you do. Happy National Teacher Day!