Summer used to be about one thing–vacation. Beaches, umbrellas, sand, and fun. Now, it’s all about Back to School shopping.

According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent $82.8 billion on Back to School last year. The average family spends almost $700. But you’re not average. You’re a teacher. This means you’ll spend more. Hundreds more–maybe even thousands. And if you’re a teacher-parent, this season can put you in the poorhouse.

But you’ll survive, because you’re a teacher, and that’s what teachers do. We make do. We make more than “do.” We make miracles, every day. I’ve seen teachers fix their own mufflers with two packs of gum confiscated in class, and a leftover twist-tie. Teachers everywhere in the land, right now, are preparing to hit the back to school fliers and stock up on everything–class sets of markers, colored pencils, pre-packaged snacks, erasers, and all the pens and pencils money can buy.

When I say “teachers,” I mean….you.

You’ll do this without batting an eye–no “limit five” will stop you from buying a thousand pens. It never stopped me. The only thing that did was a debt so large I had to make a decision… stop school spending, or else.

It was the best decision I ever made.

This year, I challenge you: BUY NOTHING FOR YOUR CLASS.

It won’t be easy. For some of us, finding a good deal borders on a drug high. Raise your hand if you have heart palpitations when you see loose leaf doorbusters. If you Instagram that haul… if you text that sale to all your teacher friends. If that’s you, give the No-Spend Summer Challenge a try.

Here’s what you have to do…

When the Back to School sales start, you… buy nothing for your job. Nothing!

You are permitted to buy these things:

  • Supplies for your home office. This includes your favorite pens, pencils, markers, bullet journals, paper, cards, etc. You may buy what you, yourself  love and will use. You may not buy cases that you bring to school and replenish. Anything that brings you joy, buy that. And buy the best quality you can–if it’s on sale, then all the better.
  • Supplies for your family. If you have kids, buy all their supplies while they’re on sale. Buy an extra round to gift at the holiday season or when they run out mid year.
  • Back to School clothes for you.
  • Personal daily flow items you’ll also happen to use in school. Things like a nice Yeti mug, for example. You’ll need a ton of caffeine in a couple months, and you can use it for wine or beer now.

Here’s the reward:

You’ll be keeping track of the savings. You must put some of the money toward something immediate for you–an end of summer celebration that you wouldn’t have had money for if you spent it on crayons.

The rest of the money goes to one of the following pre-determined places:

  • debt reduction
  • long-term savings and emergency fund
  • long-term financial goal (saving for house, paying down house, really cool vacation with tons of adventure, retirement, investment)

What about the students?

I promise you, it’ll all be okay. Read the instructions on the logsheet to help you walk through workarounds for when you run into your first “But I need to buy that,” brick wall. Don’t cave! Imagine this, “What if I wasn’t allowed to spend my paycheck on my job? How would I accomplish this goal?”

When I first started my no-spend challenge, it was difficult. I discovered this: kids didn’t like me less. In fact, many respected me more. I’ll be talking a lot about this in the future.

And don’t worry–I’m not saying you need to be selfish, greedy, or mean. Done right, you won’t be. You’ll still be the same amazing teacher.


Make a list of things you’ve been meaning to get or do for yourself. Write the price next to each item. At the end of the summer, you’ll tally up the money you didn’t spend and buy yourself one of those items.  Post that list somewhere you won’t lose it.

This No-Spend Summer Challenge isn’t about being cheap or frugal. It’s about resetting financial priorities and taking care of you first.

Forty percent of American families can’t find an extra $400 for an emergency. Even more are a paycheck away from debt.

Let’s take care of this together. If you’d like to try, click here to get the No-Spending Challenge Logsheet and instructions, then check back for the next post.

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  1. If there’s a particularly challenging area for you, email me and I’ll include it in a challenge:
  2. If this “No” spending is too much for you, if you can’t possibly survive, do this: Modify the challenge. Give yourself a budget. Take that money out of the bank in cash. Spend only that. And no cheating by giving yourself a Rockefeller budget (unless you are a Rockefeller or Gates). Make it small. Like, $100.