Teaching is not a lucrative profession; however, earning a decent income as a little consolation in career fulfillment somehow helps teachers come to grips with financial struggles. To further improve economic status, most of us employ smart spending strategies and even venture into passive income-generating sidelines.
For a few who still depend their living on that single source of income and stretch the monthly budget until the next paycheck, serious frugal practices and strategies to economize resources are important.
As the cliché goes, big results start from smaller ones. For instance, a simple conscious habit of keeping a pen on its holder after use prevents one from borrowing or buying another impulsively should the next important document require an ink.
In an attempt to provide a series of helpful Personal Finance Tips for Teachers, a personal project this summer, I have prepared below an initial list of 15 tips on frugal practices with resources.
Yes, I know that you’ve been probably accustomed to most, if not all, of these, but as always, it’s better that we come to realize the meaning and purpose of our frugal practices, might as well, be reminded of. After all, it’s good knowing that we agree on most terms, and that you’re not alone.
Part One: On Frugal Practices
1. Regulate Printouts and Student Handouts.
Years back, most teachers would regularly provide students with printouts for instruction and for paper-and-pen assessments. Although, these have been gradually replaced by more authentic tools, and the advantage of e-learning has been progressively tapped, teachers are neither even slightly disenthralled from inking piles of paper.
Even worse at times, teachers fail to manage well the production of printouts and thus, results in an inefficient consumption of paper resources. To address this with few frugal practices, we may ascertain the number of copies needed ahead of printing and photocopying, maximize content per page without compromising readability, learn the print-on-both-sides printer command, experiment on font styles and sizes, recycle printouts, and schedule regular productions.
2. Go Paperless.
If you’re a teacher or a student, going paperless sounds impossible, but this can still be doable in some less serious transactions and processes.
In classroom instructions, for instance, we may occasionally opt for short dictated formative quizzes, instruct students to do notetaking or better upload handouts on electronic learning management systems, prefer presentations over printouts, require students to submit written outputs by email, and other frugal practices and hacks.
In the office, frugal practices like initiating internal communication through email or phone messages, keeping lesson plans in soft files, saving documents and student records through centralized ftps, and even investing in data management systems for long-term benefits can be feasible.
3. Give Technology a Try.
Technology in education promises a considerable array of benefits like effortless teaching, efficient tracking of students’ progress, enjoyable learning, access to a vast resource of information, effective collaboration, and conservation of resources.
Behind the curtain of these benefits are the worries of most teachers about the possible drawbacks, but these should not prevent us from giving technology a try and a little trust.
4. Track Your Consumption with a Regular Inventory.
Our frugal practices remain incomplete without a regular inventory of school and office supplies. Tracking consumption of resources like paper supplies, writing and coloring tools, clips, and other stuff helps prevent possible wastage and unplanned costly purchases.
If possible, keep a record of purchased supplies, daily, weekly or monthly consumption rates, and schedule of going to the bookstore. Aside from saving a little amount of money, time, and effort from impulse and emergency purchases, it’s also a good practice of discipline and informed decisions.
5. Prepare a Shopping List.
As fashionistas visit boutiques more often, teachers are regular weekend customers of local bookstores. Shopping can be best and hassle-free when a list of needed items and allotted budget is prepared ahead of it.
Not only that it saves a lot of time recalling items, somehow it also compels us to stick to the budget as we feel the guilt of overspending on extra purchases. As soon as we familiarize ourselves with aisles and shelves at the bookstore, shopping with a list on hand takes just a few minutes. We can have then more time doing our lesson plans or enjoying the weekends.
6. Invest in High Quality Tools.
“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort,” said John Ruskin. Making quality a priority over expense is proven advantageous as we become self-assured that a high-quality tool, not to mention the satisfaction and comfort, lasts longer.
7. Use Scratch Paper for a Writing Draft.
On every teacher’s table, there is always a scratch paper, half-used, that can save another clean sheet. It’s a small thing, but as a habit, shows a conscious and responsible use of resources.
In writing classes, one-side printed sheets may be distributed and used by the students in drafting their compositions. Quite practical, it also demonstrates a practice worth emulating.
8. Declutter Workspace.
When schedules are tight and terms are about to end, teachers’ workstations are cluttered with books, pile of test papers, and other personal stuff. Sometimes, it’s just how they prefer to be. As a result, headaches strike with missing and misplaced documents, unbearable mess, and coworkers’ bitter complaints.
Decluttering workspace poses several benefits like clearing the mind, increasing productivity, building the trust of people around, boosting creativity, and of course, saving resources.
9. Keep Instructional Materials for Future Reuse and Recycle.
Teachers are also collectors of learning artifacts. At the end of each term, we make difficult decisions about keeping and disposing students’ creative projects. Yes, it’s difficult, but if our workspace seems unaccommodating, we don’t have any other choice.
Although it is largely dependent on logical factors such as availability of storage areas, still we cannot deny the advantage of keeping them, much more if the thought of benchmarking comes to mind. Likewise, self-made instructional materials, even few copies of quality test papers, are worth compiling.
10. Sell Off Unwanted Items.
After decluttering workstations and personal sanctuaries at home, disposal of unwanted items usually follows. We can actually throw a weekend garage sale and earn few pesos from these preloved items.
In the Philippines, scrap traders or ‘junkshop’ managers even pay for piles of used paper and cardboards, not just scrap metal and empty bottles. So, if shredding sheets of paper is not part of quality management system, perhaps we can sell them off.
11. Market Self-Made Instructional Materials Online.
We can start a blog and upload self-made instructional materials in e-book formats. With the expansion of web as a vast resource of information, no doubt there are people out there who are willing to pay for helpful learning materials.
12. Search Google for E-Books.
Gone are the days when teachers would travel miles just to shop for supplementary academic books or request local bookstore managers for an international purchase. These days, we enjoy the benefits of e-books, light-weight book publications in digital forms. We can have a virtual library of e-books right in our electronic devices.
Google Books, for example, provides full texts or overviews of books as supplied by publishers and authors. These e-books can be downloaded and shared electronically; hence, we can save resources.
13. Swap Books with Colleagues.
If we spend our leisure in reading novels, then it’s good that we swap books with our colleagues who happen to be book lovers as well. Not only an inexpensive opportunity to have an access to different books, it also provides a chance to build healthy relationships among our coworkers.
14. Cut Off Costly Subscriptions.
Magazine and journal subscriptions keep us abreast of trends and developments in the field, but when they become burdensome and costs begin to matter, it’s better that we cut them off along with the remorse of unwise spending. After all, there are free-access online journals that offer quality academic research articles.
15. Inspire Others to Be Frugal.
Frugal practices are best taught by example. We can share our firsthand experiences with these frugal practices with our colleagues, and in return, learn additional practices that work for them.
Frugal practices help teachers cultivate the values of discipline, simplicity, self-sufficiency, and minimalism, might as well inspire others to free themselves from enslaving pointless materialism and wasteful consumption of resources. Inarguably, these frugal practices find their place on the foundation of personal finance.