Budgeting on a Teacher’s Salary: How to make every dollar count

Whether you’re a teacher in Alberta, Ontario, or any other province in Canada, it can be tough to make ends meet on a teacher’s salary. For example, Alberta teachers have a starting salary of just under $60,000 per year – and if you’re the sole provider for your household, you might definitely feel the squeeze, especially if you don’t have a set budget or a strategic plan to start paying down your debts right away. Plus, if you’re an educator who gets their full pay during the school year and nothing during the summer months, you’ll need to be extra careful in budgeting for potentially leaner times.

Teaching can be a very rewarding profession, and even more so with careful budgeting is the to ensure that you’re living comfortably and saving for your future. Here’s what you should be focusing on:

Dealing with your debt

Once you’ve gone through the entire process of studying to become a teacher, you’ll most likely be deep into student loans. It can be difficult to dig yourself out if you don’t get a full time position right away; a piece at 4Pillars details how a young Canadian man graduated university and became a teacher, albeit with $40,000 in student debt (higher than the Canadian average of $25,000 to $30,000). As the years went on, although he managed to get a salaried position at a private high school, he still had to start slow – and those years of contract teaching didn’t allow him to catch up on his loans. Sure enough, interest accrued on his student debt, making it even harder to gain a foothold on paying off what he owed.

This is why it’s so important to make a hard-and-fast plan for paying off your student loans as soon as you’re done with your schooling. You may think you’ve got plenty of time to pay them off – and a lot of banks do have a grace period when it comes to loan payments for post-grad students – but the interest that creeps up can become a major issue, preventing you from moving forward. Avoid this pitfall by determining how much you’ll be able to put aside every month to pay off your loans and stick to it.

Determining your monthly expenses

Figuring out your monthly expenses is another necessary step to budgeting on a teacher’s salary. Along with that all-important student debt payment, you might have regular payments to your utility companies, your landlord, your phone and TV provider, and possibly more on top of that. You might be spending all your weekdays in the classroom, but you’ve still got bills to pay for your living space! Factor in transportation costs to and from school (whether it’s gas and parking costs for your car or public transportation fees) as well as groceries to make yourself a healthy lunch every day (eating at the cafeteria every day generally isn’t recommended, from a nutritional or a budgeting standpoint) and you may be spending more money than you intend to.

Couple Money recommends the “planning and a system” approach when it comes to determining how much money you’ll need every month for these necessary expenses. That means breaking down how much your paycheque will be after deductions, then creating a basic framework to lay out how much each of your individual monthly expenses will cost you. Once you have a total for those expenses, you can compare it to your post-deduction monthly pay and see how much wiggle room you will (or won’t) have for those little extras.

Seeing where you can cut back

Speaking of extras, it’s vital to be really honest with yourself about how much you spend on extra purchases throughout the month. Sure, there are necessities such as rent (or mortgage payments), phone bills, utilities, and student debt payment we mentioned, but where else is your money going every month? Are you ordering in delivery after a long day in the classroom, or getting yourself an Uber to and from the school more often than not?

You don’t need to live like a pauper, but it’s smart to take a few weeks to track your spending and observe where you tend to drop money. In some cases, it may just take a little more planning ahead, such as ensuring that you’ve got enough groceries to make dinner or budgeting enough money to keep your car running. In others, you may need to be honest about whether or not you need that fancy new sweater or an expensive night out on the town with your friends. Your money to help pay down your student debt needs to come from somewhere; the good news is, it’s very likely you can find it without having to cut back on your daily (and monthly) necessities.

Getting the right insurance coverage

This goes for all kinds of insurance: medical, dental, life insurance, and home and auto as well (of course). You won’t want to skimp out on these, especially in case of emergency, but do make sure you take a look at what insurance coverage your teaching job provides as part of your employment (or contract). If you need to purchase supplementary insurance, do your research to make sure you’re not paying more than you need to – after all, this will be part of your necessary monthly expenses, so choose your coverage wisely!

For teachers of all levels, in Alberta or BC or elsewhere, the need to strategically budget your paycheque is important when it comes to having enough to both spend and save. Whether you’ve got a family to provide for or a future to plan for, getting your budget in order is the right first step.



Sonnet is not affiliated with 4Pillars and Couple Money.
Alberta teachers save on home and auto insurance with Sonnet.