America's teachers are known not just for their passion and drive but for their distinct frugality too. While the average public school teacher salary in the United States is just under $59,000, teachers who are just starting out typically earn much less—around $39,000 per year on average.
If you're entering the teaching profession, you'll likely need to take advantage of any cost-saving measures you can find. Here are several discounts and benefits that teachers (or anyone living on a tight budget) can enjoy.
A common financial rule of thumb is that you shouldn't spend more than 30% of your income on housing costs. But this may be easier said than done depending on where you live.
The median rental price for a one-bedroom apartment in 2018 was around $1,025. If you're living in some of the nation's largest cities, you may have a hard time finding even a studio apartment at that rate.
Even for new teachers living in cities with more favorable housing prices, the cost may be a burden. You can always choose to pick up a roommate or two to reduce costs, or you may be able to get a housing discount from an official rental company.
Apartment management companies may offer you a teacher discount as an incentive to live there, as teachers are generally considered reliable tenants. You should also check out Zero Vacancy, which helps teachers find rental discounts nationwide.
Car insurance discounts
Some areas of the country (such as Florida) are in desperate need of teachers. Although these places can be a great starting point to look for a job, the cost of living could deter recent graduates from taking advantage of these shortages. That goes for housing but also smaller costs such as owning a car, which could be more burdensome than you might expect. Florida residents in some cities pay upwards of $1,700 annually for car insurance alone!
However, many car insurance companies offer discounts for things like paperless billing and safe driving, but some also offer discounts based on employment. Military members, firefighters, police officers, and teachers can typically expect discounts ranging from 2%–8% on car insurance premiums, so ask about these before signing up for a new policy. You may be able to stack multiple discounts from the same insurance provider to maximize your savings.
School supplies discounts
Out-of-pocket spending on teaching supplies is almost a rite of passage for new teachers. Some schools provide teachers with a stipend for supplies, but they may be limited, and you'll likely need far more resources than what your school or your stipend provides. However, there are a few good ways to reduce that spending or recoup some of your costs.
First, consider purchasing as many supplies as possible from discount stores. Family Dollar and Dollar Tree are good places to save money on groceries, but you can also head to these chains for art supplies, pens, pencils, glue, tape, scissors, and paper.
Next, consider becoming a regular at secondhand stores like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. These stores take in donated items and sell them at a low price. If you need a reading nook in your classroom, for example, you can probably get everything you need from a thrift store, including books, shelving, and furniture.
Finally, make your taxes work for you. The federal government offers an educator expense deduction, which allows teachers to write off as much as $250 each year. Most teachers spend more than that out of pocket, but you can take advantage of this benefit each year come tax time.
Talk to your fellow teachers
The best way to stretch your teacher salary is to talk to the veteran teachers at your school. As a new teacher, you'll find many of your colleagues have learned numerous cost-saving tricks. You may even be able to offer some of your own money-saving savvy by the end of your first year.