Handling money difficulties as a supply teacher

Money difficulties are one of the most common problems that supply teachers face. Erratic work patterns, problems with getting paid, lack of sick pay and the long holidays all contribute to the financial insecurity supply teachers can suffer. Here is some advice to help you manage your money in advance of the long school holiday.  

Money-management is the single most common reason for callers contacting our helpline, with more calls received this year relating to this topic than any other. So we know better than many of the toll that money troubles have on many teachers’ lives across the UK. This is even more the case for supply teachers who may have unreliable source of income and no pay over the school holidays.

According to MIND, personal finances and mental health often have a strong impact on each other. If you are struggling to keep control of your money, you may find that your mental health is affected. Likewise, if you are struggling to cope with your feelings or behaviour due to mental health issues, you may find that you get into financial difficulties.

So in the run up to the summer break we wanted to take this opportunity to offer some help.

Much of the advice below is taken from the insights of our counsellors and advisors, as well as from the website of the independent charity Money Advice Service.

Start with a budget

If you want to get on top of your finances, a budget is a really good start. It is a great way to record money you have coming in (from things like your salary or wages, pensions or benefits) and payments that you make (such as your rent or mortgage, insurance and council tax as well as living expenses and regular and irregular spending).

Start by checking where your money goes and if you are spending more each month than you are getting as income, look more closely at where you can cut back. Even small amounts – for things such as magazines, sandwiches at lunchtime or takeaways – can add up. For example, if you bought a coffee a day at £2.50 you would be spending a huge £912.50 a year! Small changes to your day-to-day spending can definitely save you money in the long run.

Keep a spending diary

This is an extremely effective way of seeing exactly what you spend your money on. Try making a note of what you spend for at least a month (including even small purchases).

Once you have a clear picture of where your spending is going, try to reduce this using money-saving tips such as shopping around, watching out for special offers, using outlet stores, or getting vouchers and money (or points) back when you shop.

Check if you are eligible for any benefits

If you’re struggling financially it’s important to make sure you’re getting all the income you’re entitled to. You need to do this as soon as possible as it can a few weeks for your claim to be processed.

The extra benefits you might be able to claim could make a big difference to your situation and the debt solutions on offer you.

Here are some useful sites and tools you can use to find out what you are entitled to and how benefits could be affected if you start work:

  • EntitledTo - independent advice & information and a free online benefits checker
  • Turn2Us - benefits calculator and grants search tools can help you check what you might be able to claim or apply for
  • Education Support Partnership Grants - our confidential grants service is here to help you manage your financial and money worries to get you back on track when you are struggling.

Paying off loans/credit cards

If you have loans or owe money on credit cards, it usually makes sense to pay off the debt that charges the highest rate of interest first – it is the fastest way to clear your debts.

Knowing this is useful if you have different debts charging different interest rates such as store (which normally charge the highest rates of interest) and credit cards, or personal loans (which normally charge a lower rate of interest).

It is important to make sure that you don’t break the terms of any of your agreements. So even if you are focusing on paying down another debt, you must at least pay the minimum on any credit cards and your monthly required payments on any loan agreements.

Get debt advice

If you are struggling with debts, StepChange offer free and expert debt advice based on your personal circumstances.

You can also use their Debt Remedy online advice tool. It takes just 20 minutes to complete and will give you a debt solution tailored to your circumstances. It’s anonymous and free of charge.

Setting a savings goal

Some people find it hard to get motivated about saving, but it is often much easier if you set a goal. That way, rather than thinking about the money you are setting aside each month, you can focus on what you will be able to do once you have reached your goal.

Your first step is to have some emergency savings – money to fall back on if you have an emergency, such as a heating boiler breakdown or if you find yourself in a situation where you cannot work for a while. Try to get three months’ worth of expenses in an easy access account. Don’t worry if you can’t save this straight away, but keep it as a target to aim for.

Save regularly

The easiest way to save is to pay some money into a savings account every month. It is worth setting up a standing order if you can, so the money goes straight from your bank account without you having to do anything. It’s a good idea to:

  • Pay the money into your savings account as soon as you get paid, rather than at the end of the month
  • Increase the amount you save if you get a pay rise or any of your out-goings fall
  • Check that you are getting a competitive rate of return on your savings

A helping hand

We help thousands of teachers get back on track with their finances, either through advice we or our partner, debt charity Stepchange, provide.

We also offer a grants programme designed to help those eligible over short-term financial humps and we can check if other organisations, such as your union, or another benevolent fund, can help you too.

So if you are struggling financially and don’t know where to turn, please get in touch.