I'm not sure why people continue to believe that teachers make a lot of money for what they do. I've been officially losing money every month all summer, and the only reason I didn't lose money all year was the after school testprep job during the winter. I am feeling the crunch, and I do not like it.
When I paid my credit card bills in August, I was unhappy to find out that I could not pay them all off (I only have two, plus a couple of department store cards that I use once or so a year). I paid half, even though it was a stretch, and then I did something I've never done before: I took the cards out of my wallet altogether.
My first summer and fall in New York, I racked up about $1000 on each card: moving expenses, buying furnishings, buying professional clothes, buying tons of classroom supplies and books. I paid at least $200 of each card each month, and as soon as I was almost caught up, it would be time to buy a round of grad school textbooks. This was even more frustrating because as a subject teacher taking elementary courses, most of the classes and books were completely useless to me.
That was the first time I had ever carried a balance on credit cards, and it stressed me out. Right now I have no choice but to carry a balance again, and I suppose it will take a couple months to get caught up. But it should be easier this time around, with the cards put away completely.
Some of you longer readers may be rolling your eyes at my stress, thinking I put in on myself. Travel is indeed my weakness and it certainly does cost a significant amount of money. However, those after-school jobs the last couple winters, plus my salary bump, plus my AmeriCorps sum a couple years ago (?), plus the small workshop stipends all padded my savings account, which is where all that travel money came from. Going places can be rough on the old checkbook, but it's priceless experience for me. Especially since I only buy plane tickets when they are on sale and as cheap as possible. In fact, I just got a ticket home for Christmas, but I used my voucher from February, so it only cost me $85 out of pocket. You can't really argue with that one.
Oh, and this spring I bought the new camera and got my brakes done, both of which were quite expensive yet necessary. (You've seen my flickr account! Taking pictures is too much of a love, and I had a 3 year old LAME camera. I've taken over 5500 pictures since the end of May, so the new 'toy' has definitely been worth it. Mm, I love my camera. And I alreay can't wait to upgrade to a DSLR in a few years, once I get the gist of the manual settings on this one.)
This weekend I went shopping and spent possibly too much at Target and Costco and JCPenney. However, I will say that at times like these I revert back to the college days of telling myself, "No, I don't really need this" and put more things back than I actually purchase. Like brownie mix and new shoes.
There's nothing I can really cut back on when I start feeling frugal. I don't drink coffee, I don't smoke, I rarely go out to eat. We rarely go to the movies, I don't belong to a gym (I work out at home with FitTV shows). I do put at least $325 per month into savings and retirement accounts. About the only extraneous things on my list of expenses are Netflix, less than $20 a month, and a $9 eyebrow wax every three weeks, so it's not like I'm throwing away tons of money on frivolous things.
What I have to force myself to do every once in awhile is transfer money from my savings account. I've transferred $1200 just in the last three months--holy shit! However, in the five months before that, I transferred $800 into that account, so I'm not totally irresponsible. :)
Things I want to do once I catch up on money:
--Get 8x10 matte prints of London and Australia photos ($60! eek!)
--Buy a DVD burner drive so I can back up all my photos and documents ($60)
--Contribute to my favorite causes: Trailblazers, New York Cares, CityHarvest ($75)
--Figure out if I can take/afford a photography class ($200 or more--yikes)
--Figure out when my next trip will be!