How to Survive on a Teacher’s Salary: 25 Tips for Thriving

You’re looking to see how to survive on a teacher’s salary. Yes…you can survive on a teacher’s salary…it’s all about strategy and perspective.

We’ve all heard the stats.

Given equal educational levels, K-12 public school teachers don’t get the same payouts as other professionals.

It’s a pill that we swallow every day (or at least every time the news reminds us of this fact), and being resentful or frustrated about this reality serves no one well.

So you’ve got to take action if you want to know how to survive on a teacher’s salary.

This article explains how to survive on a teacher’s salary (even thrive if you so dare!).

How to Survive on a Teacher’s Salary

1. Cut Back on Unnecessary Expenses.

Review your monthly budget to determine where you can cut back.

Maybe you don’t need the latest iPhone or all those premium channels. Could you be paying for services that you’re no longer using?

Check into those automatic renewal bill options (infamous for getting you to sign up, opt-in to automatic withdrawals, and then hoping you forget about it.).  

Knowing how to survive on a teacher’s salary means letting go of money-sucking services.

2. Cook at Home.

Eating out frequently quickly eats into your budget. Plan home-cooked meals for an entire week or month.  

3. Ask About Teacher Discounts.

Take advantage of educator discounts. Check locally-owned businesses in your community, too.

4. Buy a Good Car, and Keep It for Years.

Own a car for as long as possible.

And paying if off, the amount that you were putting towards the car bill every month can now be put towards investing or saving.

5. Consider Home Loans for Teachers.

Research resources that help educators enjoy home ownership.

6. Work in a School District with Higher Pay.

Knowing how to survive on a teacher’s salary sometimes means following the money.

If you live in a big city or an area with more than a handful of school districts, apply to work in a district with the more attractive salary schedule.

Also consider signing up for extracurricular activities such as leading sports that pay teacher stipends.

7. Start a Side Business.

Consider starting a side hustle to earn extra money. Ideas include teaching English online, freelancing, or tutoring.

8. Participate in Your District’s Cafeteria Plan.

If your school offers a cafeteria plan as part of its fringe benefits package, consider participating.

These plans save you money on taxes.

9. Be Grateful for Your Pension.

One of the best ways for how to survive on a teacher’s salary is to think about the financial benefits of your teacher pension.

Such plans are rare today.

So school teachers are fortunate to be one of the few professions still offering these types of retirement accounts.

Though you don’t have access to that money during your working years, it’s nice to know that you’ll have a nice stash of cash waiting for you once you retire.

10. Use Gift Cards to Control Spending.

If you like to spend frivolously, a gift card helps to manage hard-to-control money habits.

For example…

If you have a Starbucks habit (or another significant frivolous spending habit), put $25 or so on a gift card for yourself monthly.

Once that amount is spent, no more until next month.

11. Stop Impulse Buying.

For high-priced purchases, wait 24 to 48 hours before making a decision. Doing so gives you time to reflect on whether you really need the item.

12. Say Goodbye to Keeping Up with the Joneses.

There’s a social obsession of trying to impress people (people who we probably don’t know or even like!).

There’s no need to go broke trying to impress anyone.

And guess what? Usually, the Joneses are broke or living no better than anyone else.

13. Just Say No!

Your time is valuable.

Unless you’re compensated for your time or efforts, learn to say “no” more often in the workplace when it comes to participating in non-mandatory school-related activities.

14. Spend Less on Classroom Stuff.

Try not to get caught up in spending so much money in order to have a “Pinterest” classroom.

That becomes expensive and not what’s really important for kids’ learning.

Basic supplies (think plain butcher paper, simple border, and a few containers for collecting papers) suffices.

15. Invest in Financial Literacy. 

Purchase a few books about money management, investing, saving, and earning passive income.

These books will help you to understand how money works and flows on a deeper level, more than just earning and spending dollars.

Also read about the best financial advice for teachers.

16. Bring Your Own Lunch to School.

School lunches for teachers often cost money.

That $3 or $4 adds up. So bring your own lunch to work.

17. Stick to a Budget, and Pay Yourself First.

Every pay day, take a look at your budget and pay yourself first, even if it’s $20 or $50.

Tuck that money away somewhere (like a bank account or money market fund).

Then assign the rest of your money to your obligations. Tell each dollar where it goes before it tells you where it’s going.

This is one of the best-kept secrets for how to survive on a teacher’s salary.

18. Travel at a Discount.

Consider taking trips or vacations during the off-season. Doing so usually means more affordable prices.

19. Take Care of Yourself.

Knowing how to survive on a teacher’s salary includes taking care of your health.

Prevent the cumulative consequence of big medical problems which equals more money out of your pocket.

Annual visits to the doctor and dentist prove wise.

Additionally, eat clean, exercise regularly, and surround yourself with positive people.


Got a friend who lives close by and works at the same school as you? If so, carpool.

Knowing how to survive on a teacher’s salary means being resourceful.

21. Prepare Homemade Gifts for Special Events.

Make gifts for others in honor of special events.

The receiver of the gift will see your efforts and most likely feel more appreciative of the personal touch.

22. Check Out Library Books Instead of Buying.

Your local library probably has the book you want. If not, check to see if it’s in your local library’s Hoopla database.

23. Shop for Better Car Insurance Premiums.

Shop around to see which car insurance agency offers you the best coverage at the most affordable price.

24. Potluck with Friends and Family.

Every once and a while, potluck with friends and family instead of spending money at a restaurant.

25. Read About Others Living Well On Less.

Knowing how to survive on a teacher’s salary means getting inspiration from others.

With a quick search online, find individuals and families thriving on a budget.

Wrapping Up: How to Survive on a Teacher’s Salary

Yes…you can learn how to survive on a teacher’s salary, even thrive!

These 25 tips get you there.