13 Tricks to Save Money as a Teacher Without Getting a Summer Job

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It’s the last week of school before summer, and when asked how she’s feeling, Rebecca Stanley, a first grade teacher in Austin, Texas, responds simply.


Stanley is finishing up report cards, packing up her classroom and contending with the excited buzz that’s taken over her students.

For most teachers, summer break is a welcome breather from the classroom. But it’s also a time when many are forced to supplement their income with another job.

“We get the whole ‘You get summers off’ thing, but we don’t get paid to have all that time off,” she says. “We are paid less per month in order to have our 12 monthly paychecks instead of 10 ‘full’ paychecks.”

Stanley says this is a common misconception she has to always explain.

So if you’re looking to stretch your paycheck, we get it. We’ve put together some of the most creative ways teachers can make the most of a tight budget.

13 Ways Teachers Can Stretch Their Budget

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to write this article, because teachers would make more than enough money. However, that’s just not reality right now, and unfortunately we can’t move mountains over here at The Penny Hoarder.

We can, however, offer some some tips and tricks to help you stretch your budget — so you won’t have to get another full-time summer gig.

1. Get Paid While Finally Binging ‘This is Us’

woman watching tv at home
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Surveys aren’t our favorite way to make money, but we know you’re going to want to kick off summer with a day — or two or three — on the couch. You deserve it.

While you catch up on ‘This is Us’ (Stanley told us it’s a teacher favorite at her school), why not get paid to take some surveys?

We’ve tried a lot of paid survey sites, but two of the best we’ve found are PointClub and Swagbucks, which is run by a company rated A by the Better Business Bureau.

2. Let This Negotiator Cut the Cost of Your Internet

Derek Mateo sorts money while paying bills in Orlando Florida
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Stanley has already cut the cord on cable. It’s a simple way she saves. Her sources of entertainment instead are Hulu and Netflix. Rather than forking over $100-plus, her internet bill is something like $60 a month.

Still, it could be less.

One easy way to see if you can cut back on the cost of internet is to sign up for Trim, a negotiation bot. It works with Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and other major providers.

You can sign up simply with Facebook or your email address. Then, connect your bank account and upload a PDF of your most recent bill. Trim’s AI-powered system gets to work. If at first it doesn’t succeed, it’ll keep negotiating until it can save you some money.

Trim takes 25% of the savings tab, and you get the rest.

3. Give Yourself a Run for Your Money

Vinoy Park in downtown St. Pete, FL.
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Confession: When students gift you cupcakes instead of the cliché apple, it’s easy to put on a few pounds.

Why not take some time to recommit to yourself and your health?

Place a bet on your weight-loss goals through HealthyWage — anywhere from $20 to $500 a month. If you hit your goal within the timeframe you set, you could win up to $10,000.

We talked to Teresa Suarez, who lost 68 pounds and made over $2,400 through HealthyWage.

4. Keep a Personalized Money Tutor in Your Back Pocket

A tip is placed in David Hensley's back pocket in Tampa, Fla
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Stanley admits she has trouble sticking to a budget, and don’t we all?

There are plenty of apps on the market that will try to help you, but they might leave you feeling frustrated and hopeless at the end of the month. It’s tough giving up every bit of happiness to stick to the budget a robot created for you.

That’s where Joy can help. It’s a free iPhone app that’ll help you save and spend money in a way that doesn’t compromise your happiness.

It will help you figure out the art of giving and taking. For example, if cutting out that morning latte is going to cause you to pull your hair out by noon, don’t do it. Joy’s personalized money coach will help you find ways to save elsewhere.

Hey, no judgements here. Without coffee, we’d lose our minds by 10 a.m.

5. Let Money Motivate You to Finally Declutter

A messy young women's closet is fill with many outfits of colorful clothing, shirts, and dresses.
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It’s not uncommon for teachers to work 60-hour weeks. That leaves uh… how much time for you to deep clean the house? Yeah, so things get cluttered.

Here are a few simple ways you could make money from your clutter:

  • It’s time to give your closet some attention. If you haven’t worn something in two years, why not try to sell it? Use an app like Letgo to upload your item to its marketplace in just a few minutes.
  • If you have shelves of CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and video games, see how much Decluttr will pay you for them. Download the app, scan the barcodes, then ship ’em all in for free. Enter code PENNY5 at checkout for an extra $5 boost when you check out.
  • Books… so. many. books. Listen, if you haven’t picked them up in, say, two years, why not sell them? Tap into Amazon Trade-In to get an estimate for your books’ values. Send them off, and Amazon will give you a gift card.

6. Get Paid to Be a Teacher — Without Signing up for Summer School

Shot of a teacher working with a young students while sitting in a classroom
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We’ve got two side-gig ideas for teachers.

First, consider tutoring — online. There are several online-learning platforms focused on teaching English as a second language to students in other countries.

Angela Brumbaugh is a QKids teacher. She teaches 36 half-hour sessions a week and makes up to $20 an hour.

“The curriculum is set for you before class, and your job is to simply guide the children through the lesson, offering guidance, smiles and tons of encouragement,” she says. That’s a big perk for many: No lesson planning.

“The students are hard-working, curious and light up the classroom with their smiles,” she says. “Class time actually goes by fast, and the only con I can see is sometimes I wish I had more time to spend with them!”

Here’s a second option: Sell your lesson plans. You’ve probably heard of this platform by now, but we’ll include it as a friendly reminder… Teachers Pay Teachers is a great, passive way to make money from your lesson plans. For as long as other teachers are buying your plans, you’ll get paid.

7. Watch Your Classroom Disappear in the Rearview

Lisa Gilmore exemplifies uber driving near downtown st Petersburg
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Need a fun, flexible way to earn money while also meeting lots of new people?

Try driving with Lyft.

Demand for ride-sharing has been growing like crazy, and it shows no signs of slowing down. To be eligible, you’ll need to be at least 21 years old with a year of driving experience, pass a background check and own a car made in 2007 or later.

We talked to Paul Pruce, who’s been driving full-time with Lyft for over a year. He earns $750 a week as a driver.

Best of all, he does it on his own time. You can work days, nights or weekends — it’s up to you!

Because it’s simple to switch between apps, many Lyft drivers also sign up as a driver partner with Uber.

As a partner driver with Uber, you’re an independent contractor. You set your own schedule and drive as much or as little as you want.

If you want to give it a try, here are a few things to keep in mind: You must be at least 21 years old, have at least one year of licensed driving experience in the U.S. (three years if you’re under 23 years old), have a valid U.S. driver’s license and pass a background check.

Finally, your car must be a four-door, seat at least four passengers (excluding the driver), be registered in-state and be covered by in-state insurance.

8. Earn Cash Back on School Supplies

close up of receipt from trader joe's
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We hate more than anything that teachers have to go out and spend their hard-earned dollars on classroom materials.

In one year, Stanley spent about $500 on books, organizational bins, bulletin board paper and borders, curtains and curriculum materials.

It sucks you have to do it, but you can at least soften the blow by taking full advantage of cash-back opportunities.

Headed to a Joann Fabric and Craft Store? (Yeah, Stanley told us about those fancy teacher-only ones…)

First, sign up for the store’s teacher rewards. You’ll get 15% off your entire purchase every time. Then, download the store’s app. It always has some awesome coupons.

To get an even better deal, download Ibotta. At the time we wrote this, Ibotta offered 15% cash back on all Joann in-store purchases. All you have to do is take a picture of your receipt.

Stack these deals, and you should expect to see some solid savings.

Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.

9. Play the Slots — and Earn More Interest Than at Your Bank

Shallow focus shot of slot machines at a casino.
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Are you more of the “sit at home and play video games” type of person but you’re making yourself read this because you’re determined to get this adulting thing down?

The folks who created Long Game have you covered with a game that’s fun and helps you achieve your financial goals.  

As you save and accomplish missions you’ll earn coins to play mini games for cash prizes! We’re talking the classics, like slot machines, scratch-offs and spin-to-win wheels.

Penny Hoarder Carson Kohler uses Long Game to save money. Every two weeks, it sneaks $5 out of her bank account and rewards her with coins.

In two months, she’s saved $35.70, just by playing games on her phone. Plus, her winnings amount to a gain of about 2% — way higher than interest on any other savings account she has.

Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 points, so you can start playing while you wait for payday.

10. Hang out in Other People’s Houses

Young woman with two Bengal cats in the kitchen
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Sometimes — most times — teachers need retreats. But sometimes — most times — retreats are expensive. But here’s a simple way to get paid to escape: House-sit.

While everyone’s hitting the road in the summer, take advantage and offer up your house-sitting services. Bonus if it involves cat-sitting, too.

There are tons of websites out there that’ll help you find the perfect gig. Check out a few of these online house-sitting marketplaces.

11. Don’t Feel Guilty Unwinding With Friends

Patrick Grieve and Lauren Little meet through the service of rent a friend at Map Room in Chicago
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A tight budget doesn’t mean you have to become a hermit. Sometimes you need to kick back and share your outrageous classroom stories with friends.

So enjoy a few beers — on Secret Hopper’s tab.

Secret Hopper is a mystery-shopping company that’ll pay you to check out bars and breweries in your area.

The company is looking for detail-oriented beer-drinkers to hop around to different breweries and objectively rate and review their experiences. Penny Hoarder Tyler Omoth gave the gig a try. He paid $16 on his visit to a local brewery. Secret Hopper paid him $20 via PayPal within a few days.

So, no, you’re not going to get rich, but you will get free beer, and that makes us hoppy (we know, we know). All you have to do is sign up, then it’ll contact you when you’re needed.

12. Crack Open a New Book and Earn Extra Money

woman reading book in chair
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Bookworms: Did you know there are several ways you can monetize your love of books?

One of our favorite ways is to write book reviews. You’ll get to read a book and get paid to voice your opinion.

We rounded up several websites that’ll pay for your online reviews. Rates vary, but some pay up to $100 per review. Not bad for a hobby!

13. Find Buried Treasure — Kind of

money organized on banking counter
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OK, the chances of finding thousands of dollars in unclaimed money might be slim, but we like including this tip just for good measure.

Penny Hoarder reader Kelli Howell heeded our advice, performed a quick search and found unclaimed money in her husband’s name — about $56 from a “matured insurance policy.”

Sure, it’s $56, but that’s pretty good for an unexpected check, right? Here’s how she did it:

State treasuries throughout the U.S. have more than $43 billion in unclaimed funds, according to The New York Times.

You can check with the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. It’ll tell you if you’re missing out on a big payout. (Beware: There are several look-a-like sites out there. Be sure you’re searching legitimate ones.)

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.