5 Ways to Thrive on a Teacher’s Budget

Everyone warned me upon graduation that budgeting my finances as a post-grad and new teacher is difficult and challenging. I took their advice with caution and prepared myself as much as I could for the financial reality of being a rural, public school teacher. Although my financial situation may differ from other new teachers (I do have a hefty amount of student loans!), here are a few tips and ideas I have for budgeting smartly, saving for the future, and feeling financially stable in your first few years as a teacher or recent graduate.

1. Be smart and calculated about when you grocery shop.

As a vegetarian, I already reduce my grocery bill by a lot since I’m not purchasing meat. But, I’ve found other ways to keep my food bill at a manageable sum. I grocery shop bi-weekly and make a detailed list of what I need, a few things I’d like to indulge in, and food that will last me longer than two weeks. Buying healthy and organic can be a financial challenge, but as long as you’re intentional about fitting it into your budget, it’s a little easier!

2. Save, save, SAVE!

Although you may look at your paycheck and not see where you can put aside money because of the monthly expenses many of us have (car payments, internet, rent, student loans, groceries, cell phone bills), I would highly suggest taking a portion out of every paycheck and put it into a savings account. If that seems overwhelming at first, you can start out with a relatively small amount. After a while, you may feel more comfortable putting away a larger sum. Just make sure you budget the rest of your month accordingly to ensure that you’ll still have enough without having to take money back out of your savings to make ends meet. I take a specific amount out of my paycheck and put it towards my savings with every paycheck I receive. This financial routine allows me to feel more organized and financially stable.

3. Budget FUN and be mindful of not overstepping that limit.

As a recent post-grad and resident of a completely new part of the country, I’ve had the pleasure of doing a great deal of exploring and adventuring. I’ve traveled to new states, dined in downtown Memphis, attended an NBA game, and went to a concert in Nashville. All of those experiences have been entertaining and are a great break from my busy teaching schedule. With that said, those experiences also cost money. Every month I try to plan a few weekend trips or local experiences and am deliberate in setting aside money to do those things. Having fun in your new environment is exciting but you don’t want to strain your budget in the process!

4. Be aware of the daily expenses that can add up.

Before I bought a coffeemaker (which happened a lot later than I had originally wanted, but the craziness of teaching can sometimes make you forget small things!), I was getting a cup of coffee before school every morning. Although the cup itself wasn’t that expensive (it definitely wasn’t gourmet coffee), my credit card bill was a surprise to me. All of that coffee eventually added up and was an unnecessary bill I had to pay off. If you are making a daily (or pretty regular) purchase, ask yourself how necessary it is and if there are ways around that regular expense.

5. And lastly, take on extra responsibilities at school.

Aside from how meaningful it is to be involved in your students’ lives outside of the classroom, another smart finance tip is to look into after-school programs or coaching positions that pay in addition to your regular paycheck. I took on an after-school tutoring position at my school that meets twice a week. Although it’s just for two hours, the little bump in my paycheck is what I typically put towards gas and other necessary expenses. See if there are similar opportunities at your school that you can take part in!

A lot of these tips took me a while to master—and I’m still trying to figure it all out! But practice makes perfect, and I’m certainly glad that I have worked out a financial routine and plan that helps me feel on top of my finances, financially stable, and responsible.

What are some budgeting tips you have as a new teacher? Share your comments below and help brainstorm more ideas!