How to Ensure You Can Afford to Quit Your Teaching Job

Working from home or pursuing a career outside of the classroom is a dream for many current teachers, but the fear of not making enough money keeps them stuck in their current position.

Maybe you want the flexibility and freedom a different job would present, but you’re worried you can’t afford to quit your teaching job because accepting another job might mean a tremendous pay cut.

Do you desperately want to leave the classroom, but you’re afraid of walking away from the security of your paycheck?

I get it!!

The idea of leaving your job to start your own teacher business or begin another career can feel utterly terrifying. And because fear is such a strong emotion, it overrides rational thoughts and we allow it to dictate our choices.

But that stops today! Because in this podcast episode, we’re going to discuss how budgeting, expenses, and quitting are linked and how quitting can actually provide you with more money!

How to Ensure you can Afford to Quit your Teaching job

Create a budget

You’ve probably heard the phrase “making a budget” for years…but have you ever put that knowledge into practice? Have you taken the time to consistently write down your monthly and yearly expenses in order to get control of your money?

If not, this needs to be the first step in your classroom exit strategy action plan. You need to write down every expense you have and every bill you get in order to see where your money goes every month. Seeing the numbers in black and white will be a real wake up call.

My husband and I were diligent about this when my boys were little and I was a stay at home mom. We cut out a LOT of expenses because we knew how much our monthly bills were going to be and it took all of my husband’s paycheck to make ends meet.

It required us to do without some luxuries, but we were willing to let those things go in order for me to be able to stay at home. It was a trade off we were willing to make.

But we never would have known this was an option if we hadn’t taken the time to create a budget. 

I’ll be completely honest; this isn’t a “family fun time” type of activity, but it’s absolutely essential if you ever plan to leave the classroom.

Yes, you will…

  • mess up
  • get frustrated
  • want to quit regularly

But don’t quit! If you’ll just keep your eye on the prize, which in this case is the ability to afford to quit your teaching job, the effort will be rewarded. 

Be Consistent

Consistency in your budget is imperative because every month your finances can fluctuate. While you can expect certain bills to be consistent month after month, there are many unknowns that tend to show up during different months. 

Consider the months of November and December. With Christmas comes a plethora of extra spending and while this is something you expect year after year, it isn’t reflected in your monthly budget.

So consistently tracking your expenses for at least a year will give you the most realistic picture of your overall financial plan.

Then there will be months where everyone has a birthday or your kids need new sports equipment. These unexpected expenses are just part of life, but they’re important to account for in your budgeting plan.

Now, I will tell you, I’m almost always a glass half full kind of person. I like to think the best of others and I try to find the positive in every situation; but this tendency can produce budgeting challenges if I’m not careful.

You see, I’ve been known to be confident that we could make due with $25.00 for groceries.

“Why,” you might ask?

Well, there have been months where we had some unforeseen expenses which put us at the top of our budget and left us with more month than money. (Sound familiar?)  Well, in my “glass half full” mentality, I was certain we could live on $25.00.

But no matter how many times I balanced my budget adding in my $25.00 for groceries, I was still going to be short money. I could have shouted it until I was blue in the face, but the reality was my grocery bill and my budget weren’t going to match.

I say all of that to say this, as you are taking the time to HONESTLY assess your budget, make sure you are writing down everything…even the things you don’t want to admit. If you are NOT being truthful about where the money is going, you will NEVER be able to leave the classroom.

Understanding that certain seasons are going to be more prosperous and others are going to require more from you financially is only going to be obvious by looking at the numbers on your budget. And those numbers are going to provide you with the information you need to make a wise financial decision.

So, if you’re willing to take the time to objectively look at your finances and budget, you may discover that you have a little more wiggle room than you might think. You also may discover that you could leave the classroom and pursue other career options by simply cutting out a few luxuries you wouldn’t even miss!

But let me throw out a word of caution.

As you are doing this trimming of your budget, make sure your spouse is on board. If you are willing to cut specific things, but your spouse isn’t, you’re setting yourself up for arguments and disagreements that you aren’t going to want to fight.

You might want to run preliminary numbers and then present the findings to your spouse so that you are prepared for any pushback, but just approach this openly with your spouse in order to stay in fellowship with each other.

You also may determine that leaving the classroom is actually an option, but you might have to work two more years to make this dream a reality. Although you want to quit now, at least you know the option is feasible…and who knows? You might be able to start a side hustle and stockpile some extra money to make your exit even quicker!

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Assess Your Expenses

While we’ve talked about the importance of creating a budget, tracking consistently, and being honest with expenditures, I want to talk about four specific expenses that will no longer be part of your budget if you leave the classroom and begin working from home.

These are things you should add to your projected budget and discuss with your spouse when determining if you can actually afford to quit your teaching job.

1| Eating Out

As a teacher, you may not have the opportunity to eat out a lot at lunch because your 30 minute lunch break isn’t enough time to get to a restaurant, get back, and also eat.

But how much money do you spend each week going to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts for your coffee? Do you get lunch in the cafeteria at school? How often do you grab fast food for dinner, or a snack for your kids, because it is easier than trying to get dinner going once you get home?

When I was in the classroom, we FREQUENTLY grabbed fast food on the way home because it was already dinner time and we were just leaving the school.

Once I became a work at home mom, I discovered it took more effort to leave the house and go grab fast food than it did to just make something quick and easy at home. So our “eating out” bill decreased a lot when we were no longer out and about around meal times.

Extra tip: With the advent of DoorDash and Uber Eats, it is really easy to make a quick order and have it waiting for you. But the point of eating at home is to give you the opportunity and financial means to be a work at home mom.

So, take time to meal plan and meal prep weekly. The planning is an integral part, but without the prepping, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Because I don’t like to cook very much, meal planning and prepping is the only way for me to stick to eating at home. It reduces my decision fatigue and allows me to stay on track financially.

2| Child care

One of the largest expenses many families incur each week or each month is childcare. Most quality childcare facilities are as expensive as college tuition, and many teachers find themselves working to pay for their kids’ childcare. 

However, if you’re working from home, you will no longer be required to send your kids to daycare while you teach. Now, I want to take a moment and mention something here.

If you have young children, you can work during nap time. But don’t consider this your mandatory work time because your kids’ schedules will change and many days they won’t take naps…resulting in you being REALLY frustrated.

You may discover that you need to send them to a child care facility (or have someone come to your home and care for them) for a few hours each week to get your work done, but don’t feel guilty for this!

Even if you send your kids to daycare for 10 hours each week, you are still saving money. The cost should be significantly lower than the cost of sending them to a quality childcare facility 5 days a week for 40+ hours.

When I left the classroom for the final time and became a homeschooling + work at home mom, my boys were in upper elementary and therefore old enough to be more independent. So, I didn’t need to send them to child care or have someone come into my home to provide me with uninterrupted work time.

I was able to teach my VIPKid classes before they woke up, homeschool them, and then work on my business in the afternoons while they played outside, watched tv, or rolled around on the grass like animals because…boys.

The important thing to remember here is that if you want to leave the classroom but you’re worried about the financial toll this will take on your family, remember that childcare costs will decrease dramatically or be eliminated entirely.

Extra tip:  If you want to save even more on childcare expenses, consider bartering with a fellow work at home mom; you take her kids for a few hours each week and she can take your kids for a few hours each week. This will provide you with the needed quiet time to focus on your business without ever having to dip into the family finances.

3| Transportation Costs

No matter where you teach, there are transportation costs. Whether you take public transportation or you drive to and from school in your own vehicle, there are expenses. And if you find yourself in the car for an hour or more each way, that’s a tremendous amount of wear and tear on a vehicle.

So if you take that daily drive out of your financial equation, you’re not only saving on gas, you’re saving on the number of required oil changes and tire replacements. You are also putting fewer miles on your vehicle as well. And for many, vehicle costs eat up a large chunk of their monthly and yearly income.

There is also an added bonus when you remove the commute from your day. If your daily commute takes an hour each way, you can add two hours of work time back into your day. And just like that you’ve given yourself the gift of time!

Extra tip:  Take time to actually work out the numbers based on current gas prices and frequency of oil changes and tire replacement. This will give you an even more accurate picture of what you’re saving.

4| Classroom/School Expenses

As teachers, we spend a large percentage of our paycheck investing in things for our classroom. Whether it’s TpT resources, classroom decor, books, supplies, the list goes on and on. Then there are the gifts and treats for our students and assistants, birthdays and retirements for co-workers, and union dues.

The out-of-pocket costs incurred by classroom teachers is endless. And even if you enjoy giving in this way, these expenses still need to be included in your budget because they are coming out of the money you’re making and will impact if you can afford to quit your teaching job.

No, you’re NOT being reimbursed for these things, so they’re a part of your whole financial picture.

Extra tip:  Track how much you spend on your classroom (including the costs I already mentioned) each month for a few months. Then take the average expenditures as proof of what it is costing you to remain in the classroom.

One thing many teachers neglect to consider when weighing the pros and cons of whether or not they can afford to quit teaching is how much money they will actually be saving by not being in the classroom.

  • Yes, you will probably need to find another career path.
  • Yes, you will need to account for a decrease in income for a period of time if you are building your own business.
  • Yes, you need to be realistic in how much your family needs to live the lifestyle you choose.

But, once these 4 expenses are removed (or at the very least diminished greatly), you will be able to get a more accurate picture of what your income would need to be to pay all of the essential bills every month.

Spending time working within the boundaries of a budget and noticing trends will allow you to make informed decisions about where you can scale back.

Take the necessary time to do the work and assess your budget and your lifestyle. You can absolutely afford to quit your teaching job, but you just have to figure out which luxuries you can do without and what type of career path you need to embrace in order to meet your family’s financial needs.