Teaching is a noble profession. Besides my mom, I have several relatives working education, ready and willing to help their student succeed.

As necessary and crucial as they are, sometimes teacher salaries are limited. It took some sacrifices but my mom was able to raise three kids with her income.

Living on a Teacher’s Salary

If you are a teacher, you’re familiar with many of the financial challenges that can pop up. With some planning and a system, it’s possible to not survive but thrive.

Creating a Doable Budget

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 ExpensesWant to not just survive, but thrive on a teacher's budget? Here are key tips to make sure you're making the most of your money!

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.

The second income can be used to knock out your debt, boost your savings, and contribute more towards retirement.

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

5 Ways to Stay on 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.

If you’re looking for more guidelines to help you stay on top of finances, please check out 7 Millennial Money Mistakes.

Thoughts on Living on a Teacher’s Salary

I’d love to get feedback from you. How do you keep an eye on your budget? What tips have helped you?

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About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

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11 comments comments closed

  1. Teachers definitely have it hard. I say try to take as many extra positions as possible: summer school, tutoring, college classes, etc.

  2. Great tips for the teachers out there! I’ll have to give this to my girlfriend to give to some of her teacher friends. Teachers should be paid more … like nurses they really are underpaid.

  3. Depending on where teachers live, their salaries may not be enough to survive on, much less thrive. I’m hoping teachers take the time to keep their finances in check as they pursue their passion and help the community.

  4. My husband and I are both teachers. Unfortunately, the pay in AZ has gone from bad to worse in recent years. (I have a master’s degree, National Board certification, and 10 years of experience and make less than your example person. We’ve taken a pay cut, three pay freezes, reduced health benefits, and increased retirement contributions in the last four years. It’s ugly.)

    We do a few things.

    First, if we opt for “year round” pay, really what happens is they give you all of your summer paychecks in one lump sum at the end of the school year. Because of how the fiscal calendar falls, they can’t actually pay us year round. But that’s just a big loan to the state, so we opt for regular pay and have a bunch auto-deducted from each of my husband’s checks into a specific for-the-summer account. (We have completely joint finances — easier to do deductions from just one check.)

    We had categorized budgets for a while, but they weren’t working for us. We sat down, looked at our monthly income, looked at our recurring bills (mortgage, student loan, utilities), looked at what was left over and decided we were spending too much. So we instituted a mostly-cash system. We take a set amount of money out on Sundays, go grocery shopping for the week, fill up/top off the cars, and whatever is left is what we have to spend for the week for entertainment, eating out, dog food, little purchases, etc.

    Things like clothes fall into the cash budget, so for example, when I wanted a new pair of jeans, I waited until the end of one week when we had money left over to go buy jeans. It meant not wearing jeans for dress down at work for a while — they were really too ratty — but that doesn’t make new jeans a need.

    We keep the money in an envelope in the house so we both have access to it. Because we’re on the same page, we rarely have issues with the other spending.

    Things like car or home repairs, insurance payments, etc. do not get paid out of the cash stash. Occasional special events — tickets to a show — do not get paid out of the cash stash.

    By making this change to how we budgeted, we paid off my hubby’s car early at the beginning of last summer. Every now and then we feel a little pinched in day-to-day activities, but it’s been worth it.

    Also, we look for ways to cut down the recurring bills. In the last year, we’ve gotten $11 off of our monthly (fixed) electricity bill, $23 off our phone bill, $200 off our homeowners, $75 off our car insurance. None of them are huge on their own, but taken together, we’ve saved a fair amount of cash.

    We both pick up random extra cash here and there — extra hours through work, holiday gigs (we both play trombone), etc.

    I could ramble on about this for a long time (and perhaps have rambled too long already!), but that’s the gist of what we do.

  5. Great lesson on budgeting. Also teacher salaries don’t fairly reflect the important job they do!

  6. This is praba. I am working as a teacher under govt. service and my wife is a housewife. I dont have any immovable asset so far since my age is 34. I have a take home salary of rupees twenty two thousand and I have some thirty soverigns of gold. My monthly expenditure requires nearly 10,000. I need to own a home. Can it be possible to be with what I have said?

  7. Get over yourselves. How much do you think other people make? I know most teachers in my district make $40k+, which is more than I make and I’m doing just fine with housing, utilities, car AND credit cards. Oh, and I have to work 52 Weeks a year to make that. Why do teachers feel like their salaries are more deserving of attention than anyone elses’?

    • I’m curious, what is the ball park figure for people in the area. I’d like to do a budget series and base it on real people.

    • Because teachers are, in fact, deserving of getting compensated for their work more so than a majority of the private work force. I’m willing to bet you have (at most) a GED and your sub 40k a year job adds significantly less value to our society than any teacher position. The truth is, if we want to attract intelligent dedicated people to teach our children so that they don’t end up like you, then we need to compensate better.

  8. I am a widowed single mom and a teacher. I net about $36,000 a year. My budget is very close to yours, and I am one of the highest paid teachers in my school with my master’s degree, national board certification, and 23 years of experience. Teachers with less than 3 years of experience often only net $1700 a month. Most of them work second jobs as waitresses (waiting on our students). So sad that teachers don’t earn as much with a four-year degree as many people who barely graduated from high school. I teach in NC.