A teacher’s salary is never enough, and the pay increase scales are predictable. But one way we can give ourselves a “raise” is to adopt smart spending tactics. We spoke with Steve and Annette Economides of Money Smart Family, who shared achievable financial resolutions to adopt this school year.
1. Meal plan and grocery shop just once a week.
The simple act of planning your dinner menus before the hitting the grocery store, and using your meal plan as your grocery shopping guide, will save you $50-$150 each grocery store trip. Annette Economides says, “Grocery stores count on you to fill 60 percent of your cart with impulse buys, and they price those impulse buys high. If you arm yourself with a detailed list and only enter the store’s doors once a week, you are shopping smartly.”
Better yet, don’t even walk in the doors! Instead, shop wisely right from your desktop or mobile device using Walmart Online Grocery Pickup. You pick the time to pick your groceries up curbside.
2. Track your spending (really).
Often we think “being on a budget” means living frugally, but to truly have more money you need to track each dollar that comes in and goes out. To do this, use a written or online budget system. There you can see your true spending in each category, and predetermine how much you will spend of your paycheck in each category. Mvelopes, Mint and Goodbudget are personal budget systems the Economides recommend.
3. Don’t get in over your head on housing.
Spending over half your salary on housing is a financial no-no. Try not to spend more than 30 percent of your pre-tax monthly income on rent or mortgage. If your number is higher than this, explore more affordable options such as roommates or even moving to take your biggest money worry off of your shoulders.
4. Whittle down debt, starting with the smallest balances.
One of the main goals of personal finance should always be on getting out of debt. The Economides believe that teachers should tackle their smallest debt first, disregarding interest rates. They say that eliminating an area of debt is empowering, and when one debt is gone we are inspired to spend less and knock off more.
5. Liquidate assets you are not using.
Take a good hard look at your possessions, and turn the items you are not using into cash. Teachers tend to hold onto to textbooks, sheet music, tech items and other assets that are not in daily use. They can be sold online via Amazon Sellers, eBay, and Half.com, and good old Craigslist in your local area.
6. Pack your lunch every day.
The Economides attest that we teachers can save five thousand dollars a year if we resist the temptation of ordering lunch out. Hey, this couple did not achieve the title “America’s Cheapest Family” for nothing.
7. Ditch cable.
Dropping your cable TV is one of the easiest ways to have access to more cash each month. Instead you can swap your cable provider for Netflix and Hulu, which together are only $18 per month. And if you are already an Amazon Prime subscriber, you will have access to loads of streaming movies and shows, some of them cutting edge and original. If there is one cable show that you cannot live without, you can subscribe to that series a la carte.
9. Use your slow cooker and cook in bulk on weekends.
Save yourself those “too tired to cook” takeout and restaurant orders at the end of the day by putting that Crock Pot to use. You can also use the time delay feature on high tech ovens, or program your rice cooker to turn on before you arrive home. Cooking ahead the week’s dinners on weekends is another smart strategy.
10. Use days off to DIY services you formerly paid for.
It takes discipline, but if you schedule your time wisely on the weekends you can eliminate paying for lawn, cleaning and other not-too-tough services. Thanks to YouTube, we can all learn to change our own oil, paint our own walls and make minor home repairs.
11. Start holiday shopping early.
Make your gift recipient list now and set a limit for everyone on it. If you begin seeking out good deals and shopping for creative, frugal presents now, you can spread out the spending over several paychecks rather than simply December’s…or wracking up credit card debt.