Money Talk for Teachers

An example of street markets accepting credit ...Image via WikipediaThere are times I don't know what to say to you. Not that you're that intimidating. In many ways, I think of you as my friends. People who I enjoy talking to over a warm cup of coffee with a floating remnant of the fat free Redi whip that I sip and chat with over breakfast.

But sometimes I'm working so hard or am so spent. To me, I write when I know I have something to say. When I read or think of something and think,
"Yes, that will improve a teacher's life" 
That is when I write.

So,  why am I writing today?

Well, I've really been wanting to write a blog post about something that I think every teacher should be working on this summer: creating a realistic spending plan for this next school year. Now is the time to do it, when you're fresh, less likely to be defensive, and more able to look at this past year from a distance.

A losing formula
The fact is that we all have to spend less than we make and the likelihood is that most of us are spending more than we make. This is a losing formula.
Protest March By Teachers and Students
Why do people not like to talk about money?
The reason that money is in the room with educators like the big old elephant no one talks about is because there is never enough. Never enough money.

That is because money can't make you happy and the more you make the more you spend.

Sure, teachers are underpaid, but this is more than that.

If you read about money for long, one pattern emerges: more money does not make you happier. (A recent psychology article says if you want to be happy look at how you spend your time NOT your money.)

After you have basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter met, you typically aren't going to be made happier by money.

Technology Can Separate Us From Our Money
This is the problem with technology. Technology tends to separate us from our money. Automatic everything, automatic balancing and we don't know where it goes.

I've gone back to index cards, a pen, and a calculator. (Should I share this?) But then again, I'm not sure if I want to write a full post on how Kip and I are working to balance things and prepare for the year ahead. Part of me thinks that all of you read this blog about technology and teaching and to invade the money space is too much.

The Journey of Progress is Useful
And yet, there are many blessings that have happened in my life that I've shared here. Five years a go, I set forward to improve my home organization skills. I read over 30 books and saw similar patterns and started applying what I learned. I know where everything is.My house isn't perfect but I can clean it up in a snap. I use those same productivity techniques in my classroom and to blog and Tweet. They might just be helpful to someone.

Then, two years a go, I began to get my physical house in order. I started running. Last year, I joined weight watchers. Now, 40 pounds later, I'm felling great and those habits are part of my life. I know for a fact some of you have gotten healthier because of it like Heidi Chavez and her family pictured below. If Heidi taught me one thing it is to never underestimate the power of telling your own story.

Heidi Chavez's Family 5K run from some inspiration from this blog see 8 Principles for Being Thank-full for their story.

With home organization and fitness habits now in place, the year 2011 for me I christened "the year of the habit."  Putting the habits in place to help me be more excellent in what I do in all areas of my life.

So, now, I've been turning to the area of money management.

I've talked about before how Kip and I pretty much lost all our life savings and went mega in the hole (as did some of our family) with a pecan grove that went under water in the flood of 1994. We lived on credit cards for nine months as we were both transitioning jobs. Well, we've applied many principles and savings to slash down debt over the past 10 years to a mere fraction of where it once was,but it is still there and more than it should be. Mary Hunt's Debt Proof Living has helped us a lot.

A New Journey
But, we've done and are doing some things that are helping us cut our expenses down some more. (Buy prepaid credit cards to use on those pesky Amazon and iTunes accounts that get out of control.)I'm not sure I'm going to share more about that, though.

A New Blog?
If you stray too far from the mission of your blog then you can lose readers. And, although I definitely write for teachers and to inspire teachers, is giving tips for how to handle this appropriate here? I've also wanted to write about some of the productivity/ organization things that have zipped my house from disaster to pleasure. But, I don't really want to start another blog. I want people to know what they are getting when they read here.

Intentionally, I've NOT done the guest blogger thing here. Everyone, I mean everyone, says that bloggers should have tons of guest posts on their blog. It builds traffic., Well, for me, I'd rather write really good blog posts that help my readers so that when I write it is helpful. Do I really want to dilute the message for the sake of traffic?

Say, Say, Say
So, sometimes I don't know what to say. I don't know what to say because I've got other things to say that are different from what I typically talk about on this blog. Do I put these on Tumblr? Do I make a different blog? But I don't really want to start a blog unless I'm going to do it well. These are the things that I think and consider as I turn to write this blog.

I think it is helpful to hear your thoughts.

The purpose of my blog is to inspire and encourage teachers, administrators and parents of an amazing generation of students.

The Lessons we Teach our Children
But part of me says that the lessons we are teaching with our lives are so loud that our kids are learning the wrong things.

  • If Mom and Dad are hiding from bill collectors and screening phone calls.(Been there.) 
  • If credit card companies are taking so much money that you have to run through the house finding quarters to buy milk (been there too) then what does that say to the children? 
  • If you work and work to get more money only to spend it by getting the new cable HD package or getting a new cell phone with a data plan - what have you done? 

You don't have to live this way.

What are Schools Teaching?
One of the most valuable lessons we can teach our children is how to handle their money well. And those money lessons begin at home. They also extend to schools.

  • Kids see that you bought twenty computers and hid them in the closet until they could be used just so you could spend that money. (True story.) 
  • They see when you throw away all those textbooks on being environmentally friendly.
  • When teachers take class time getting students to protest budget cuts because the teacher can't be happy with less money. 
 What are we saying?

The need to spend less than we make is a key challenge of today's society. It is OK to talk about it. It is time to talk about it.  

We spend more time teaching kids how to have sex safely and how to drive than how to manage their money. 

That is a shame.

Wasting money is a waste of a valuable lesson that we all need to learn.

We can have pretty much anything we want but it means to give up the vain notion that we can have everything. Spending less than we make is where it all begins.

OK, so I'm giving you a challenge anyway
So, my challenge to you today is to sit down and total by category your spending for the last four months. (I use index cards.) Do it by hand so you can feel and inhale every expense and know what you're doing. Then, total it and take a hard look with your family. Then, get ready.

Piggy Bank and Calculator
Used with permission from

I don't know what to write. I've written a lot for someone who wasn't sure. I guess I have a lot to write.

It is just that sometimes that the things I have to tell you aren't pleasant. They might be invasive. They probably make you uncomfortable and may even make some people unsubscribe. I hope that is not the case, but if it is, then, if this can nudge some of you to know that there is hope then that is a price I'm willing to pay. Some of you are great at managing money and the fact that we lost our life savings in a farming operation fills you with distaste. It must be because Vicki's an idiot, you say.

Lots of good people are in bad financial situations. It is OK. But it is time to make progress. (Come to think of it, lots of good countries are in bad financial situations.)

You CAN start moving ahead to managing your money. You don't have to live in fear. You can move ahead and get things straight but it takes time, work, and wisdom.

Here are some books that I've read that have helped me the most:
I find it funny that in sharing my reticence about talking about money that it also says that most of us are unwilling to talk about money. See the hypocrisy? We talk about sex. We talk about just about everything. But spending less than we make is not one of those.

It is time to talk money in schools and society in ways that are rational, planned, and realistic. It is definitely time for all of us teachers to take stock and make  money plan this summer. Start today.

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