10 Smart Financial Steps for Teachers
As you may know, I used to teach high school English in the tiniest of 'burbs in South Carolina. I'm not even sure if the town (nay, village? hamlet?) qualifies as a suburb since, if I took a gander, I'd say that roughly 75% of the population lives on rural property... although, I've yet to receive fresh eggs or vegetables or any other idealistic farm-town teacher gifts. Let's be honest, I was lucky to get $5 to Starbucks and a soap tchotchke last Christmas, so let's count our blessings, shall we? C'est la vie of a high school teacher.
P.S. You remember that, first-grade teachers, when you are wiping down perpetually sticky children and bemoaning your career choice. (Most) of you will receive normal gifts for Christmas and may never again have to ponder the pronunciation of tchotchke.*
I tend to listen to or watch YouTube videos on various subjects while driving to work (listening, only--hands-free!) or while putting on my make-up, etc. in the mornings. One of my favorite channels lately has been The Financial Diet cause ya know ya girl's broke and needs reassurance that she's not the only one....
BUT I also needs tips and tricks for making do with a teacher salary so that I don't have to turn tricks, if ya know what I mean.
Tbh, that would be entirely too much untaxed income to account for and a tax NIGHTMARE come April 15th.
While listening, I got to thinking about how some of the most commonly-offered financial tips don't always apply to teachers: for example, most of us don't have the opportunity to put any of our income in a 401K (from which money can also be borrowed) and when 8.5-10% of our untaxed income goes into a state retirement account, it can be hard to find any more $$$ to put into a smarty pants retirement account like an IRA (especially when you're paying a million dollars in student loans each month, gulp). We also rarely get to indulge in off-campus lunches, so "Pack your lunch more often!" is usually not an applicable way for us to cut expenses.
However, these gals are smart and have over half-a-mil YouTube subscribers for a reason, so I thought about how I could apply some of their dollar sense to my life and career and came up with a few helpful tidbits that you, if you are a teacher or know and love one, may not have thought about. (Oops, I ended a sentence with a preposition... my bad.) SO, without further adoodoo...
10 Smart Financial Tips for Teachers:
#1: Warehouse or retail side gigs may not be the answer.
Unless you have crunched the numbers are are certain about what you will be making and how much you need, a low-paying side gig a) won't make you very much extra money, b) may exhaust you to the point of burnout from both jobs, and c) could potentially push you into a higher tax bracket which increases that amount of taxes you are obligated to pay and your Income-Based student loan payment each month. I am by NO means an expert, I just know this from experience. Not to mention that English teacher + Barnes and Noble discount = disastrous spending. Have I mentioned that adulting is hard?
#2: Don't forget to claim your educator tax deductions!
If you are a bachelors-level teacher with only a few years of experience, you may file a 1040EZ because you don't own property and want the easiest/free option when filing your taxes; however, if you are already counting deductions, don't forget that you can include up to $250 of items purchased for your classroom. Don't worry about keeping receipts cause we all know you spent well over that $250 on Amazon alone last year.
#3: Create a budget, stick to it, and track your expenses.
There are apps, spreadsheets, or super cute budget trackers all over the place. Be realistic about how much you have to spend and always overestimate how much things may cost. Plug in your income and deduct all of your expenses right away so that you don't dip into important bill money and so that you aren't holding your breath and rationing ramen until your next paycheck. (*Raises hand* been there, done that)
#4: Offer rewards for students whose parents get stuff for your classroom.
Now, okay, I don't mean for you to give out free As to kids whose parents bring in Pinterest-worthy decor for your Teachergram classroom. I mean, offer extra credit, homework passes, or drop the lowest quiz grade of kids who bring in tissues, Clorox wipes, Expo markers, or (dear Lord) pencils. I tried it this year and I'm pretty sure I have enough lined notebook paper to last me until the apocalypse.
#5: Use reward apps or checking account rewards.
I bank with Suntrust, so I get little bonuses every quarter for using my debit card to make purchases or payments at certain businesses. I don't make a lot of money, so I don't spend a lot of money, but last year I earned almost $25 in coinage from Suntrust rewards. Sometimes I forget to sign in and set up the rewards, but when I remember, things add up nicely. Also, for you Starbitches out there, make sure you're using the Starbucks app to accrue points and thus, free overpriced coffees! (Please don't take offense. I paid $5 for a mocha latte today, which, hello? Where have you been all my life?) Chick-Fil-A's app works similarly and you can earn free drinks, shakes, or even meals. I'm sure there are a TON out there that I don't know about, so holla at your girl.
#6: You're a teacher... take advantage of teacher discounts!
Some of y'all are lazy... and convenience can get expensive. Googling "teacher discounts" yields a butt-ton of results. I recently signed up for the Adobe Creative Suite since I'm blogging more and playing around with photography; this regularly costs over $50 a month, but teachers get it for less than $20 a month (that's. what's. up.)! Apple and At&t both give product and service discounts, as well as West Elm (if you really think you can afford that shit to begin with). P.S. - NEA members get discounts on more stuff than I can even begin to mention, so that's a membership worth looking into. The point is: remember that teachers get discounts, especially before making big purchases or signing service contracts.. and if you're not sure, ASK! We do enough for the world, sheesh.
#7: Keep up with classes you take for PD or recertification/renewal and add that !@#$ to your license so you can get paid!
You know all of those after-school or planning-period meetings you have to attend? And the summer sessions? Or the online trainings? And maybe even those courses you have to pay for out of your own pocket (unless you're lucky enough to have a boss or district that pays for it)? Yeah, that stuff! It's more than just for learning! Keep up with your transcripts and certificates and be consistent about sending them to your state department. A lot of districts or states offer a bump in pay for a certain number of credit hours above your degree.
#8: Manage any debt you may have as best as you can.
PHEW. I could have just left this one off. This one stresses me OUT. But let's face it, avoiding our problems never makes them go away. Except sometimes with zits. Sometimes those go away on their own. But debt? It doesn't. It might not even go away if you are paying your monthly minimum. Force yourself to look at your debts and take baby steps to manage them. If you regularly pay $30 towards that credit card, maybe try $35 next month. If your power bill was on the cheap this month because the weather was hella nice, take the difference and throw it at a student loan. Debt can be suffocating and even the tiniest of baby steps towards paying it off can feel super liberating.
#9: Save whatever amount of money you can afford to.
If you can afford to stop by Chick-Fil-A even once a month to satisfy your addiction, you can afford to save money. I signed up for a Roth IRA because I was tired of being a dumb millenial and some months I put $10 in, some months I put in $20. Think about it - that's one meal and one margarita at your local Mexican restaurant. Maybe less. Set it up to transfer automatically and you won't even miss it... I mean, you may miss it, but you won't really have much of a choice.
#10: Perpetuate that circle of learning and educate yo'self!
LEARN! As teachers, you are responsible for the education of hundreds of kids each year, but that doesn't mean you should stop educating yourself! And your education does not have to be limited to your subject-area or the depressing !@#$ on the news. Libraries offer thousands of e-books or audiobooks about anything you could possibly want to learn about, including budgeting and investing; you're obviously here, so let me just say that BLOGS are a great resource, and there are millions of YouTube videos and podcasts that focus on personal finance or just GYST in general. I promise, if you find a podcast or audiobook you love, your house will never be cleaner.
Regardless of your financial situation, I would like to leave you with one of my favorite Internet images of all time, and a mantra I chant to myself regularly during meditation (especially panic-induced sessions):
Cause you ain't, girl. Or guy. Life is a LOT more.... and like my dad says, you're going to be paying a bill until you die because you can't produce energy or water yourself, so just BREATHE.
Until next time,