Money management tips to get a grad degree on a teacher's salary

When deciding to enroll in a master’s degree program, educators have to consider factors such as location and coursework flexibility. Yet, the most important element for most teachers is the cost associated with earning an advanced education.

The National Center for Education Statistics estimated that the national average salary for teachers in public elementary and secondary schools for the 2012-2013 school year was $56,383. The average annual compensation for educators varied by state. Although this advanced education may result in increased opportunities and more money in the future, teachers need to be aware of their earnings and how they will be affected by signing up for a graduate degree in their field.

The feat is not impossible on a teacher’s salary, however. Here are some money management and budgeting tips educators can use to get the most bang for their buck:

Take advantage of tax deductions

It’s common for teachers to use their own funds to pay for necessary items for their classrooms. In fact, a 2013 study from the National School Supply and Equipment Association found that 99.5 percent of educators spent their own money on school-related materials, adding up to $1.6 billion over the course of the 2012-2013 school year.

To repay these costs, the federal government has implemented the Educator Expense Tax Deduction. This write-off enables teachers to deduct expenses for books, school supplies and computer equipment and software. Physical education professionals can also include athletic equipment they purchase with their own money. Educators have the option to take the standardized $250 deduction or itemize to possibly gain even more money back in unreimbursed employee expenses, according to TurboTax. The key is to keep track of all out-of-pocket expenses and decide the best course of action from there.

Teachers continuing their education are also entitled to a tax break for work-related education expenses. According to the IRS, deductible costs must be either for education that:

  1. Maintains and improves job skills, or
  2. That employers or laws require for teachers to keep their salary, status or job.

Items that are eligible include tuition, books, lab fees, certain transportation and travel costs, as well as expenses related to research and typing. Taking advantage of these tax deductions will enable students in a master’s program to put more money toward their advanced education.

Ask for assistance

One of the best parts of being a teacher is the community of helpful colleagues at one’s disposal. Educators should inquire whether veteran or fellow professionals have items they’re willing to loan out or to give away before purchasing certain supplies. These donations enable school teachers to put their money toward the expenses related to their master’s degree, while also creating a system of giving among educators.

Students’ parents and local businesses are also a strong source of assistance, according to We Are Teachers. Educators may be surprised by the level of participation they receive from these groups, especially when the opportunity for a tax write-off is mentioned.

Go paperless

Teachers use paper for classroom assignments, communications with parents, fun activities and much more. But in today’s day and age, however, is it truly necessary? Instead of copying an in-class lesson for each student, educators could ask their learners to share. As opposed to sending home weekly updates to parents via letters, teachers could limit those communications to monthly or even quarterly outreach.

Although reducing their use of paper is a good place to start in order to reduce expenses, teachers could save even more money by moving their communications online. Email is an easy and free way to interact with parents and deliver the updates they desire. To take it a step further, teachers could create a blog or website, according to Teacher Vision. These platforms could act as a one-stop shop for classroom news, student highlights, information regarding assignments and projects, supply needs and more. By implementing a messaging element to this tool, parents and teachers could not only correspond within the website, but would have access to previous conversations for future reference.

Professionals studying for their master’s degree can also check the University of Cincinnati’s library for electronic copies of required textbooks and other materials. These resources can often be accessed by students online for free.
Track spending habits

Any working professional understands that expenses can add up quickly if they’re not careful. To gain a real grasp on finances and spending patterns, teachers should consider auditing their expenditures for a certain period of time. Starting with a week-long timeframe, educators would gather their receipts and write down regular items they spend money on. This will yield good information, but professionals who lengthen that tracking period to a month may see even more places where they can cut costs. Whether it’s spending less on lunches out or relying more heavily on borrowed supplies, teachers can identify problem areas and take the steps to reduce overspending there.

Tracking these habits in a spreadsheet on a regular basis will aid educators in managing their current funds as well as complete budgeting for the future. With this added insight, teachers studying for a master’s degree can better understand how to afford a higher education on their salary.

Earn your degree online

While graduate education is a significant financial investment, these money management tips may help educators better budget for their own graduate degrees. And for teachers who spent so much time helping others achieve their educational goals, it could be worth it for a little self-investment.

By selecting an online program, like the master’s in education offered by the University of Cincinnati, working professionals can continue their careers without skipping a beat. With coursework designed for busy and engaged teachers, this degree program provides students with a valuable support system and flexible classes. Contact us today to learn more.


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