By Justin Ashley, author of The Balanced Teacher Path: How to Teach, Live, and Be Happy
Teaching is among the lowest-paying positions with college degrees in the country. The pay starts low and increases at a slower rate than in other professions. It shouldn’t be this way, but this is our reality, our inconvenient truth. Until things get better for teachers, we need to take control and make the best of what we’ve got. So, if your dough flow is low as another school year comes to an end, here are three ways you can start stacking paper this summer and live a little more comfortably next school year.
1. Set up a “step below” budget.
Do you use a budget each month? If your answer is no, why not?
Our funds are limited as teachers, so we need a plan for where our money is going. A budget takes only a few minutes at the beginning and end of each month when using a simple paper tool like Dave Ramsey’s Cash Flow Plan or a digital one (see Mint.com).
It’s liberating to be in control of the money you earn, and there’s a little trick I use to make the money stretch: Since I get paid based on a step salary (a small raise every year), I set up my budget with last year’s pay rather than my current one. The leftover cash gives me more cushion to save, pay off debt, invest, or spend on a family field trip.
2. Sell your lessons and materials on Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT).
Deanna Jump, a kindergarten teacher in Georgia, has made over $1 million selling her lesson plans and materials at teacherspayteachers.com.
You don’t have to be on the best-seller list to get a paycheck. Just start with one or two of your most fun and creative lessons or class projects from the past year. Sell them for a few bucks on TPT, and see what happens.
Think about it: You make between 60 and 85 percent of the sale price. Let’s say 100 teachers across the country buy your product for five bucks each. That’s more than 250 extra dollars in your bank account, simply for an hour or two of your time.
3. Set up a side hustle.
You’ll find more on this in the financial happiness section of The Balanced Teacher Path, but it’s a good idea to start lining up a side gig now—no more than one shift a week or a few hours on the weekends.
I have a teacher friend who’s a bartender in Charlotte. With just a few nights’ worth of tips, she’s pulling in just as much cash as she does in a month’s worth of teaching. She makes a little money working her calling in the classroom, and she makes a lot with her side gig.
I’ve been fortunate enough to increase my own take-home pay by nearly 25 percent through writing, speaking, and running professional development sessions on the side. It’s a little stressful to balance it all out at times, especially when you first start, but eventually you find your flow, and it’s worth the investment.
Justin Ashley is an award-winning teacher, motivational speaker, author, and public education advocate from Charlotte, North Carolina, where he began teaching in 2007. He is also a highly sought-after speaker for professional development. He has been an inspirational keynote presenter for thousands of current and future teachers, creating an atmosphere that bounces back and forth between rapt silence and raucous laughter. In 2013, he became the only teacher ever to win both North Carolina History Teacher of the Year and North Carolina Social Studies Teacher of the Year in the same year.
Justin Ashley is the author of The Balanced Teacher Path: How to Teach, Live, and Be Happy.
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Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America’s Teachers by Daniel Moulthrop, Nínive Clements Calegari, and Dave Eggers, (The New Press, 2006).