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“Have fun this summer… by the way, there’s no paycheck!”

Does your office say that on the last day of school?

Some teachers don’t get paid during the summer months. If you’re a new teacher or switching districts, you might not think about pay structure, you’re just happy to be working in a great school.

The no-summer paycheck system is dangerous. That’s where schools pay a higher amount during the year and do not send paychecks over the summer. Teachers in districts like this must be masters of budgeting. It’s tempting to say, “I need to fix the car now, but I’ll catch up.”
“I’ll catch up,” is nearly impossible. You don’t want to be eating ramen noodles when vacation rolls around.
If you got caught off guard this y ear, don’t worry. You can live well now while you start planning for next year.
One year, our school had a pay situation. There was a cosmic disturbance in the force where all the leap days added up into one extra Friday pay period for the state, leaving us with 27 pay periods instead of the usual 26. It happened twice during my time teaching. The first time I had just started and didn’t understand all the fuss.  I’m told no one could figure out the old computer system downtown, which may or may not be true, but we got paid–essentially an extra paycheck.
They weren’t going to make that mistake again. It’s expensive to overpay people.
“Can’t they just code the system to reflect 27 pay periods instead of 26?” I asked. It sounded like simple spreadsheet math to me. No such luck.
They issued 26 paychecks that year, leaving a gap of fourteen days until the start of the new fiscal year.
This wasn’t a problem for me–I saved money each paycheck to cover that period. I knew my checks were a little higher as a result of the 26 versus 27 pay period math. I scraped some cash off the top to prepare. Not everyone had that same ability to save, and some people were brand new and didn’t have a chance at all.
Peggy Noonan of NEA’s Member Benefits wrote a great article about this serious budgeting concern. I am interviewed in her article. Peggy tells how to enjoy the summer if the no paycheck season catches you off guard. Here are a few of my tips, too:

Skip Shopping

I call this a pantry raid. I have tons food in my pantry but often go to the store anyway because I’m in the mood for something else. I can save big bucks by eating out of the pantry instead of shopping. I can recover an entire paycheck over time just by doing this and I eat really well.

First, I take inventory of what’s there, then I make a menu featuring those things. Beans, grains, flours, canned foods, freezer items, nuts… It truly is a feast.

  • Examples from my most recent pantry cooking: Pasta puttanesca, polenta with sundried tomatoes, date nut bites, slaws, huevos rancheros with frozen sauce, soups, about a million rice dishes, chili, hummus, granola, hot cereals, several salads, miso soup, smoothies, muffins, frozen cheesecake from my birthday… I could go on! Recipes to follow, of course. Keep checking the “food” section or the @broketeacher Instagram where I photograph many of my food creations.

Put things on autopay and overpay

I autopay bills and send an extra thirty or forty bucks each month to the electric company. This way, I have a credit in the summer when my family blasts the A/C. This is a great strategy to save for no-paycheck season.

If you can possibly overpay student loans, car payments, or make an extra mortgage payment during the year, you can be on top of things when no paycheck summer rolls around.

Be careful to note you are paying toward an additional payment so that the amount is credited properly or your payment could be applied to interest overall instead of getting you ahead the intended extra payment. If you think this won’t be applied correctly, save it aside in a separate savings account and pay on time.

Staycation

Look locally for activities and adventures. There’s a laundry list of things I keep meaning to do and see right in my backyard but I’m always rushing around. Make a list of those things–get to them this summer.

Recharge your batteries without overspending by staying local. For family fun, we’ve got the beach, lakes, ponds, hiking, and a ton of outdoor stuff. During times where I have to stretch the budget, there’s still fun around–if I can only remember the list of things I wanted to do.

Keep a list

I always forget the adventures I wanted to have when it comes time to do them so I keep a list. The list has several categories, ranging from “things I want to do,” to “to learn” and “to read.” If I’m bored, I consult the list. I pick out a project, book, activity… and refocus my brain on something good that doesn’t cost a dime.

This summer, I plan to spend a lot of time writing, homesteading, and improving my photography. Those hobbies are inexpensive ways for me to have fun.

Make some cash

I recently wrote about a teacher who scans the side of the road for garbage, then repairs it and sells it on Craigslist. He’s saving the environment and making some cash. Many other teachers correct AP exams or freelance over the summer to make ends meet.  You can use your free time to make a little cash for that emergency fund–in a fun way.

Whether you work a shift here or there, do some freelance work, or sell something on an Etsy shop, use your talents to help you get through no-paycheck summer.

What’s the point of this?

The point is this: it’s not just about the no paycheck summer, it’s about being in a better position all around so as not to have to scrimp and save every year.  To do that, build over time. If no-paycheck summer took you off guard, don’t despair. Plan ahead and think about the ways you’re going to get over this hurdle so in the upcoming years it’s barely a bump in the road.

…That’s exactly what my upcoming book, “A Broke Teacher’s Guide to Success” is all about. How do you build and live the life of your dreams–on a teacher’s salary? Could you earn more? Yes!

If you’d like to be notified first of the release date, please sign up for the (rare but fun!) newsletter here.