We believe most teachers enter the profession as a result of their passion for education. And while the joy of giving back to the community might bring immense pleasure, real-life responsibilities can catch up quickly, potentially leading to financial stress and may even suck the joy out of the job.
There are numerous expenses that a teacher has to pay for like bills, mortgage, debt, classroom expenses, continuing education, and whatnot.
With all these expenses, it’s easy to lose track of money.
And if your financial situation is already on the brink of distress, losing sight of where your money goes is the last thing you want to do.
So, it may help if you could build a realistic budget and stick to it.
In this article, we are sharing some tips that may help you build a budget, take better control of your money, and potentially lead a more financially-empowered life.
Important Budgeting Tips for Teachers
Budgeting can be intimidating. But with a bit of help, you might be able to master this life-critical habit and leverage it to potentially build a more financially secure present and future.
Here are some tips that can possibly motivate and help you get into the habit of successful budgeting:
Choose the Right Budgeting Method
Choosing the right budgeting technique is extremely important for budgeting. Not every type of budget is made for everyone. You are unique, and so are your saving/spending habits and income.
Therefore, you may not benefit from a type of budget that other people you see are benefiting from.
So, it may help if you do your due diligence and spend some time researching types of budgets and select the one that fits your budgeting capabilities, income, and financial goals well.
There are many types of budgets you can choose from. We will discuss the most popular ones here to help you make your selection process a bit easier.
Firstly, there’s the zero-based budget, which is probably what comes to mind when you hear the word “budget.”
In a zero-based budget, you list your income and subtract your expenses from it until it becomes zero. That means this budget allocates each penny from your income to an expense.
This kind of budget is more detail-oriented and may be difficult for you to manage with your teacher’s routine.
The second type of budget is the Pay-Yourself-First budget. This budget prioritizes savings and debt repayment. It allocates some part of your income to savings/debt and allows you to spend the rest of it wherever you want.
As a teacher, with not enough time to sit down and think of all the little things you have spent money on, this type of budget may be easier to manage.
Finally, there’s the 50/30/20 budget, where you allocate 50% of your income to necessary expenses, 30% of it to discretionary expenses, and 20% to savings.
This budget is generally more suitable for people who cannot think of how much money to put where.
Of course, the numbers aren’t fixed but may be used as a starting point. You can then optimize them each month based on your income and expenses.
The budgeting method you choose could mean the difference between sticking to this habit and abandoning it. So be sure to select a method intuitively and practice discipline.
Try to Have Your Income Spread Over 12 Months Instead of 10
One of the biggest financial dilemmas many teachers face is that they are only paid 10 out of 12 months. And having your income stream cut off for two consecutive months can make budgeting extremely difficult.
But luckily, there is a relatively workable solution for this.
Some schools give teachers an option of getting their salaries spread over 12 months instead of 10 .
Opting for this, you may get paid less per month since your annual salary remains the same. But you may have a steady income stream during summers so that you can continue with your usual budget with only some minor adjustments.
Monitor Your Spendings
Even if you are not using the zero-based budgeting method, monitoring your expenses is a good habit, especially if you are guilty of splurging a little bit here and there.
Tracking your expenses can help you see where all your money goes. And once you have that knowledge, you have more power to optimize your expense stream and have more control over your money.
There are numerous budgeting apps out there that can help you track where your money goes. You may have to put in the effort and log in every purchase you make, which can be tedious.
That’s why having a financial goal may help. Whenever you feel demotivated, you can focus on why you are doing all of this by thinking of your goal (buying a car, going on a vacation, making a down payment for a house, etc.).
This may help you stay on track.
Budget Each Month
Budgeting is not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. Even if, as a teacher, your income may be fixed, your expenses can vary from month to month.
You may have back-to-school expenses one month, birthdays, and other special occasions another month.
Revisiting your budget every month allows you to address and prepare for such fluctuations in your expenses.
Therefore, it may help immensely if you adjust your budget at the start (or end) of every month, anticipate the upcoming expenses, and allocate money accordingly, so you don’t end up spending any more than you have.
Build an Emergency Fund
Having an emergency fund can help take care of financial stress that may arrive with bad times, so you have one less thing to worry about.
An emergency fund is considered critical for families, especially single-income families, since its entire purpose is to get you through unforeseen events like sudden unemployment, house repairs, unexpected car breakdowns, medical emergencies, and whatnot.
These expenses can become impossible to pay for and may potentially push you towards adding more debt.
An emergency fund provides a safety net and becomes your financial cushion to fall back on in the face of unforeseen events, helping ensure you can pay for them with your own money and avoid more debt.
So, try and allocate some portion of your income to your emergency fund regularly.
Typically, most professionals recommend having at least 3-6 months of living expenses in your emergency fund.
But while that should be your ultimate goal, it may be better to start with smaller goals, say, having one week worth of living expenses, and build your way up from there.
Having smaller goals may result in quicker wins and motivate you to keep going.
Get Rid of Debt
According to a survey, 30% of teachers have almost $65,000 as their student debt load , while teachers’ median salary is around $63,000 .
So, unless you prioritize paying off your debt, you may not be able to get rid of it that fast.
Going for a Pay-Yourself-First kind of budget may help if you decide to pay your debt as soon as possible. You can allocate a certain amount each month to debt and pay it back more quickly.
It may also help if you could get rid of your credit cards.
Credit cards are one of the biggest debt traps. Giving you a false sense of financial freedom, they can gradually nudge you towards a habit of splurging on things you neither need nor you can afford.
And eventually, the debt resulting from buying unnecessary things can come back and haunt you later.
Moreover, using credit cards can inhibit the development of healthier financial habits, and that may be counterproductive to what you are trying to achieve with a budget.
So, try to minimize your credit card use and work your way towards eliminating them entirely. You may even want to consider carrying less credit cards with you at all times and instead opt to use cash or debit cards.
Leave Room for Unexpected Expenses
Life is full of unexpected events.
Your kid may inform you of a sudden birthday party they have to go to. A friend may invite you for a housewarming party, and you don’t want to be one of those people who go without gifts, or your car could break down.
Such unforeseen events can throw your entire budget out of whack.
It may help if you leave some room for them in your budget so you can pay for them without dipping in your emergency fund.
Budgeting can be intimidating to some people. It is almost akin to starting a new diet or a rigorous exercise routine that you know you will never keep up with. But this thought should not compel you to give up on this healthy financial habit.
Being a teacher, you may not have enough time or mental capacity to think about your finances.
But try and motivate yourself to first build and then stick to a budget.
Of course, you will most likely make mistakes and have slip-ups. But don’t let them stop you from budgeting. Give yourself some time and space to adjust and get the hang of how a budget works.
And if you are having trouble navigating the complex world of financial planning, talk to a financial professional.
At Dayton and Sydney, we help teachers like you with customized financial advice. Feel free to reach out and talk to our financial professionals to get a customized financial plan tailored according to your current financial standing and future goals.
This information has been obtained from outside sources and is provided for general informational purposes only.
1 “How to Survive the Summer Paycheck Gap”, NEA Member Benefits, Jan 3, 2022.
2 “Teachers Drowning in Debt Face U.S. Moratorium End With Dread”, Nic Querolo, Olivia Rockeman, and Madison Paglia, Bloomberg, Sept 9, 2021.
3 “Here’s how much every US state pays its teachers and how much they spend on each student”, Marissa Perino, Andy Kiersz, and Madison Hoff, Business Insider, May 7, 2021.