Educators play a crucial role in our society. Unfortunately, some of the most important roles that make the most significant impacts on future generations also require the strictest budgets to help make ends meet. It’s with these thoughts in mind that we’ve compiled a list of our best money-saving tips for teachers to help you spend less on more and stretch every dollar until your budget matches your dreams!
1. Claim Your Tax Deductions
It might sound obvious, but claiming your educator tax deductions is one of the most overlooked ways to save money as a teacher! You can claim $250 to cover classroom supplies (we all know teachers spend more, but you definitely shouldn’t leave this money on the table). Plus, there are options for deductions for tuition and professional development costs to reimburse your continuing education.
Can you claim certifications, conferences and other courses you’ve taken to improve your skills as a teacher? The only sure answer is ‘maybe!’ so be sure to ask your accountant or check with the IRS when tax time comes to see what cost savings you’re eligible for!
2. Use Loyalty Apps and Coupons
If you can’t survive the day without your morning Starbucks drink (it’s okay. Neither can we!), you might as well make the most of it. If you haven’t hopped aboard the loyalty app train, now is the time. Restaurants, retailers and other chains love to reward their customers with discounts and free stuff for continued patronage, but it’s up to you to take advantage.
Did you know almost all coupons have gone digital these days? Many grocery stores have digital coupons built into their apps, and there are also apps like Ibotta that give you cashback on items you buy in the store anyways. You can also use browser add-ons like Honey and Capital One Shopping for online purchases. No clipping, just clicking!
3. Track Your Expenses
You’ll have an easier time saving money if you know where your money is going. Start with a simple spreadsheet or a budget tracker like Mint and record all the money that goes into and out of your bank account.
After a few months, you’ll get a clearer picture of how you use money both day-to-day and over longer periods of time, and you’ll start seeing places where there’s room for change. Additionally, some people find the accountability of having to keep track of where they’re spending money makes them more mindful of what they purchase and less likely to overspend.
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4. Stop Paying for Things You Don’t Use
How many subscription services do you belong to? Are you using all of them? If you’re subscribed to a meal subscription service, do you enjoy the meals and is it really reducing your grocery bill? Is the ad-free upgrade worth what you’re paying compared to the version with ads? Do you need all five of those video streaming services?
Maybe you do need all these things! We’re not judging, and it’s not our place to say. The point is, we want to ask the questions and make sure you’re getting the full benefit of everything you’re paying for. If you’re paying for something you’re not using, that money would be better spent elsewhere. Apps like Truebill can help you uncover subscriptions you didn’t know you were paying!
5. Take Advantage of Credit Card Reward Programs
Credit cards can be wonderful money-saving resources when used in smart ways. Make sure to thoroughly vet a credit card before you apply. Are there annual fees? What is the reward program like? Does using the card have cashback incentives?
If you’re using a credit card for the rewards, make sure the balance is paid in full every month to avoid interest—even a high rewards percentage like 5% cashback is more than canceled out by the regular interest charges on a balance that carries over to the next month. As long as you are methodical with your credit card purchases, you will experience significant savings on things you would be spending money on anyway!
You can also use investment apps, like Acorns, which rounds up your purchases to the next dollar and automatically puts that spare change (“round-ups”) into investment accounts. You can choose how “safe” or “risky” you want your investments to be. Apps like these put your money to work for you without any additional effort on your part.
6. Ask for Donations from Local Businesses
Many businesses have a process for making donations to worthy causes, and elementary classrooms are one of the worthiest causes there is! Book stores, craft stores, restaurants and more could all have something that you could put to good use in your classroom. If you have an idea for how a business could sponsor your classroom with a donation, either ask locally or contact the corporate office for guidance on how they manage their donation process.
This is a great way to get parents more involved and invested in the success of the classroom since many of them will know local business owners who they can approach to ask for donations for your school!
7. Don’t Overlook Teacher Grants
Many national grants are available to help classrooms get the supplies they need. You just have to look for them. Again, this is an excellent opportunity to bring in parents, especially if any of them are professional grant writers who could be willing to donate their time to enrich their child’s school.
8. Share with Other Educators
Never underestimate the power of the teaching community! From lesson plans to mentoring opportunities to classroom supplies and furniture, teachers helping teachers have been keeping schools running since the schools first opened their doors. Most teachers are happy to lend a hand to their fellow educators. Establishing a culture of collaboration, sharing and teamwork can improve your school and district as a whole.
Make use of resources and lesson plans you can find online. Teachers Pay Teachers is an excellent website that allows you to buy lesson plans and resources from other teachers, as well as sell your own lesson plans and resources, too! Studentreasures’s very own Teacher’s Lounge contains worksheets, lesson plans and graphic organizers that you can download for free, and you can check out our blogs for more classroom activities and writing prompts!
9. Ask Parents for Help
Before supplementing your classroom budget from your own wallet, it’s worth involving your students’ parents. Also, make sure that parents understand which things in the classroom are supplied by the school (desks, overhead projector, tv) and which things are provided by the teachers (usually everything else).
While some schools have a yearly budget for teachers to spend on things like classroom libraries and school supplies, many don’t have a budget that covers everything students truly need to thrive.
This knowledge gap among parents can lead them to think you’re asking them to help you get “extras” for your classroom when what you’re actually trying to find is the bare minimum. Most people are more than willing to help once they understand the situation, as long as it’s presented to them with kindness and a foundation of wanting what’s best for all of your students.
10. Shop at Retailers That Offer Teacher Discounts
Many stores have teacher discounts available, including the places where teachers do the bulk of the shopping for their classrooms, like book stores and craft stores. The discounts are typically a percentage and fall into two main types.
The first is the more common discount on any supplies purchased for use in the classroom as an incentive to do more of your classroom shopping at that store. The second is a more generous discount on any items purchased by teachers as a more general thank you for being a teacher and an acknowledgment of the work you do.
Ask at different stores whether they offer teacher discounts and what the terms are. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find! You can also check out this list of retailers that offer discounts for educators.
11. Apply for Student Loan Reductions
If you’re still paying back your student loans, find out whether you may qualify for partial student loan reduction or forgiveness. Since teachers are considered members of the public service field, you could be eligible for different types of student loan assistance available for your industry.
Typically, this assistance is available to teachers who have been teaching full-time for a specific amount of time in particular types of schools, with a focus on marginalized and underserved communities. If you qualify, you could get part of your subsidized or non-subsidized loans forgiven or discharged.
12. Earn in a National Board Certification
For teachers who are planning to stick to the profession long-term, National Board Certification can supplement your salary for each month the certification is active. Investing in this certification can work out to a nice pay bump at no cost to you since many states have programs that will reimburse the charges upon completion of the certificate.
13. Utilize Studentreasures’s Resources for Teachers!
The Studentreasures website contains lots of resources to make your life easier! From blogs like this that contain tips, tricks, classroom activities and writing prompts to free lesson plans and graphic organizers, we invite you to use whatever you like!
We also offer free classbook publishing kits, an excellent resource to help teach your students important foundational writing and editing skills at no cost to you. Classbook projects are a great way to familiarize your young learners with the writing process and encourage collaboration amongst your students. Sign up today to receive your kit!