How to Budget on a Teacher’s Salary

With the school year done in our area and others, I’ve been able to spend more and more time with my mom on the phone catching up. While she sometimes goes on trips during her break, this year she wants to be flexible as she’s awaiting the arrival of our baby next month, her first grandchild. We’re happy she’s able to offer her help as we get adjusted to our new roles.

It’s wonderful having teachers in my family. Many of my relatives have entered into the profession because they want to make a difference. My mom has been an example for them and others due to her genuine desire to help others and creative approach to teaching.

While teaching is her calling, she’s never forgotten the responsibility she had with her family’s finances. She raised a family of four on her income: it took a lot of sacrifice and work to do that though. She’ s been a teacher for decades and so she’s developed a system that works for her.

I thought it would be interesting to see how a teacher can not only survive, but thrive on their salary. For Couple Money readers who are teachers, your thoughts and feedback would make this exercise more practical for everyone.

Let’s see how we can use an average teacher’s salary to create a doable budget. I’m using the local county’s pay scale for a teacher with a Bachelor’s Degree, certification, and 5 years of experience. That gives us an annual salary of $41,404.20. Payscale has a list of the average teacher’s salary by state if you’re curious for the full list.

I’m made the following assumptions for the net paycheck calculator:

  • Pay Frequency: Twice a Month
  • Federal Filing Status: Married, Filing Jointly
  • # of Federal Allowances: 1

Here’s how the calculator broke down the gross and net pay:

  • Semi-monthly Gross Pay: $1,725.18
  • Federal Withholding: $150.86
  • Social Security: $72.46
  • Medicare: $25.02
  • North Carolina: $108.00

Monthly Net Income: $2,737.68

Monthly Expenses

My goal was trying to get a zero based budget. I’m also trying to keep the imaginary couple expenses within the teacher’s budget as I believe that learning to live on one income can be a big advantage. This would include two income couples. The second income can be a huge boost for your saving, debt reduction, or investing goals.

My basic tool of choice to get a budget framework? Dave Ramsey’s Gazelle Lite calculator. You can easily tweak it to fit your needs.

  • Housing: $820
  • Utilities: $250
  • Savings: $100 (General Savings)
  • Retirement: $200
  • Food: $300
  • Transportation: $300(Car payments, gasoline, insurance, etc)
  • Giving: $180
  • Medical/Health Premiums: $100
  • Personal: $150
  • Recreation: $100 (Eating Out/Movies)
  • Debt Reduction: $200

Total Monthly Expenses: $2,700

Note: While I try to make the realistic, please don’t get hung up on the exact numbers and instead consider the general breakdown of income and expenses. I understand that paycheck can vary great even if there is a pay grade style system. If you’re looking for ways to tweak your own budget, you may want to check out The Saved Quarter’s Cut Your Budget series.

Ways to Keep the Budget

In addition to watching your spending, there are a few thing you need to keep in mind,

  • Depending on where you live, keep an eye on housing. If you live in an expensive area, buying a house within your budget may be almost impossible. If you really want to own, focus on building a big down payment by keeping your expenses low.
  • Avoid credit card debt like the plague. when your income is limited, it becomes even more important to avoid high interest debt.
  • Smooth out your income and expenses as much as possible. If you are paid only during the school year, see if you can either sign up through Human Resources or a local credit union to have your pay distributed more evenly.
  • Don’t get sucked into a bad car loan. If you noticed the amount budgeted for transportation, you’d probably picked up that the average car loan payment ( $464) wouldn’t be feasible. If possible, try to buy your cars with cash.
  • Utilize the second budget wisely. As mentioned before, if your family has dual income, learning to keep the essentials under the budget of one income gives you some financial freedom. Build upon that by making sure you two are socking away enough money for retirement, paying off all your high interest debt sooner, or build savings for a possible entrepreneurship opportunity like starting a business.

Thoughts on Living on a Teacher’s Salary

I enjoyed playing around the numbers with this example, but the real feedback is from you. How do you keep an eye on your budget? What suggestions do you have for those living on a tighter budget?

Photo Credit: D Sharon Pruitt

This article by Elle Martinez first appeared on Couple Money and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.