Are you a broke teacher? This one thing will change everything…

Stop spending your paycheck on your job.  Teachers spend thousands of their paycheck on their jobs every year. If you don’t want to be a broke teacher, you’ve got to get your house in order.

That’s not easy–especially at the beginning of the school year. Or Christmas. Or in the spring. Or when summer comes around he corner… There are supplies to get, requisitions denied, decorations, fiestas, and students in need.

Take care of you first!

Putting your credit card back in your wallet and stapling it shut until the school year is over. I make a lot of jokes about extreme ways to stop spending, including stealing pens from banks and post offices, but I don’t really mean all that. What I mean is this–say no to classroom spending.

Back to School sale time is the worst.

According to the National Retail Federation, America spends over $7 billion dollars. Teachers spend several hundred to a thousand, and individuals anywhere from five to seven hundred. I’ve got a friend who admits to spending about five thousand dollars a year on school. That’s insane!

This year, I spent $15. I bought exactly two things: Sharpies for myself because I really like them, and donuts for the seniors in my advisory on their first day back.

Turns out the seniors went on health food diets because they discovered they’re going to be adults soon and adults can’t live on donuts and Doritos alone. And actually, my Mom bought the Sharpies because she thought something was wrong since I refused to buy supplies for my classroom–I’m a few years into my No-Spend challenge, and I’m watching my debt melt away. Mom saw every other teacher in Walmart with stacks of notebooks, pens, loose leaf paper and pretty decorations and she felt bad for me.

“Nope,” I said to every potential classroom purchase.

That teacher with the full cart used to be me. No more!

I take the money I used to spend on my job and I spend it on things I value–things like getting out of debt, funding one or two luxuries that make a difference to me, and saving for my future.

And that’s why I spent next to nothing on school supplies this year. I hope you’ll agree to do the same.

Trust me, I had all the same objections you do–“But they need… I need… school doesn’t buy…” but I was flat broke and the choice was groceries or saving the world.  So, I said this, “I will no longer spend my paycheck on my class.”

My students didn’t love me less. I still had amazing classes.

In my first book I told a story about being able to spot a student teacher a mile a way. They come in with armfuls of stuff from the store–candy, high-priced supplies some professor who hasn’t taught a class in 20 years made them buy. The people with the least money have to spend their student loan money on classes that aren’t even theirs! That’s criminal.

We’re training teachers into bad habits from the start.

If you’ve ever had your lesson plan destroyed because the copier jammed, someone took the art cart, the tech didn’t work, or there was a surprise event or assembly, you know what I’m talking about. Teachers adapt and overcome. You’re superhuman. You make that lesson shine on the fly.

That got me thinking…

If I can adapt and overcome for these things–why was I sticking my heels in the sand harming my finances to buy supplies school didn’t fund.

So, I stopped.  What started as my financial crisis ended up being my biggest epiphany, and eventually, the thing that saved me.

It didn’t happen overnight. First, I overcompensated. I became desperately frugal. After time, I mellowed out, started working a second job with a friend who insisted, “You need to spend more,” (gasp!) and developed a healthy relationship with money. Only then could I make progress toward my goals (I tell this story in my second book).

I had to do these three things…

  1. Spend less than I earn. That’s the only way to end up with a surplus.
  2. Cut out the spending clutter and spend on things I value and love.
  3. Stop spending my paycheck on my job.


Even though I love my classroom, spending my money on my job was not on my list of financial goals. I bet it’s not on yours either.

Start good spending habits today. Stop spending on work, so you can afford and do the things you love.

Teach with a smile and ingenuity but put that credit card away! Take care of yourself first! You’ll be glad you did. And next time you see a student teacher armed to the hilt with things he or she bought with their student loan money, give them this message…

You are enough. You are amazing. Smiles are free.


This was one of the first articles I wrote on this blog. It was the driving force behind making this blog in 2016.  I’ve updated the article a bit. And, I retooled the site. The driving factor behind this is you should not be broke.

Take The No Spend Challenge. 

Download that guide–it’s signs you up to the occasional newsletter which gives continued resources. It’s a “pay what you wish.” If you’re saving thousands and want to gift me a percent or two, feel free. If you’re not there yet, put “0” in the window and take it for free.

Since starting my own no-spend challenge, I’ve paid off my debt. It hasn’t been easy–we’ve had other family crises, too. But, it works. It works not just because I’m doing without… over time, I learned to grow my bottom line, too. But, before I could do that, I had to stop the bleeding, and for me, it was that I was spending money I didn’t have (on a charged-up card) on my job.

Here’s the link to the guide. I hope it helps.




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