I'm a teacher. Here's how I budget



Myles Ma

Myles Ma

Senior Reporter

Myles Ma is a senior reporter at Policygenius, where he covers personal finance and insurance and writes the Easy Money newsletter. His expertise has been featured in The Washington Post, PBS, CNBC, CBS News, USA Today, HuffPost, Salon, Inc. Magazine, MarketWatch, and elsewhere.

Published|4 min read

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our editorial standards and how we make money.

Jamie Griffin teaches middle school history in Minnesota. He also writes about personal finance at his blog mrjamiegriffin.com. We asked him how he budgets.

What makes budgeting as a teacher different?

Griffin, 32, and wife Jenna both work as teachers.

"We're extra intentional about tracking every dollar because we don't have a really high salary," he said.

One thing Griffin pays attention to is "money leaks," or unnecessary expenses.

"When I first had an apartment I was splitting cable with my roommate," Griffin said. "I had Netflix and Hulu and other things we were splitting and sharing. Once I got married and moved out of there, it was a no-brainer: I don't need cable. I can still share Netflix with my roommate from college and limit my costs. Little things like that."

Griffin and his wife shared a phone plan with only two gigabytes of data for years because it was the cheapest option. They also negotiate their home and car insurance down to the lowest price they can get.

What tools do you use to budget?

"We tried a few different things," Griffin said. "But what we find that really works is I just use a spreadsheet that's in Google Sheets.

Griffin tracks his monthly income and expenses using the spreadsheet.

"It automatically calculates everything for us and we tailored and adjusted it to the things that we actually spend money on," he said.

For example, Griffin has a line item for a regular date night with his wife.

Griffin used Mint for a while, but found himself spending too much time manually refining the categories.

"I just found it to be more hassle than I wanted it to be," he said. "That's when I started tinkering around with spreadsheets and then I started using Microsoft Excel and then over to Google."

How do you manage your debt?

"Right now we're actually debt-free minus our mortgage but when my wife and I started dating we had a combined $100,000 worth of debt," Griffin said. (Learn nine ways to pay off debt fast.)

Most of the debt was student loans, but they also had credit card debt and car payments.

"At the time we weren't even teachers yet," Griffin said. "We were paraprofessionals."

They worked in a school, but only made $19,000 each after taxes.

"We realized if we wanted to be debt free — and our goal was to be debt free in five years at that point — we really needed to make a few different changes," Griffin said. "So we started cutting out things that weren't moving us toward our goal of being debt-free. We stopped going out to eat cold turkey."

They also picked up extra jobs. They coached volleyball and soccer at school.

"My wife worked at Eddie Bauer for a year and a half," Griffin said. "We both worked at a hotel front desk and we eventually both ended up working at an Italian restaurant both serving and bartending."

Griffin and his wife had to balance their time carefully.

"A lot of the time it really sucked to be honest," Griffin said.

They made time each week for date night and they found ways to be efficient at their day jobs to avoid bringing work home.

What kind of insurance do you have?

"We have health insurance through my school district," Griffin said. "We have car insurance and we bundle our home insurance to save money there. And we started paying our car insurance as one lump sum. That saves a few bucks every six months. And then we also have life insurance."

Are you spender or a saver?

"I'm always hesitant to make purchases," Griffin said.

If he wants to buy something, he saves up to buy it.

"I think about how useful it's going to be on a day-to-day basis and how it fits into other goals I have," Griffin said.

His wife recently convinced him to buy Apple AirPods. They help him make calls for his online business and he enjoys them on a daily basis.

"I knew I would get a lot of use out of them," Griffin said.

What is a money goal of yours?

"Right now we want to save up $10,000 in an emergency savings fund," Griffin said. "We're finding that kind of difficult because of the added cost of daycare. Basically daycare is now replacing our student loan payments. When we were just paying off our student loans we had the ability to work a bunch because we didn't have a kid. But now we have a kid and we can't work as much."

Griffin lets his values and goals drive his budget.

"We knew that for us it's important to spend time with our friends, so we put a line item in our budget for spending money each month to hang out with friends," Griffin said.

The same goes for the line item for date night.

"I think it's one of the best ways that people can budget," Griffin said. "Figure out what you value and what your goals are and align your budget and how you spend your money with that."

Get more interviews in your inbox. Sign up for the Policygenius newsletter.

Image: Phillip Blackowl