A Week In Olympia, WA, On A $42,927 Salary

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Ahead of World Teachers' Day on October 5, Refinery29 is publishing a special theme week of Money Diaries, featuring teachers from across America. Today, we have a secondary teacher who makes $42,927 per year and spent some of her back-to-school money on pencils. We asked the OP some questions regarding her back-to-school spending, and here's what she had to say:
"This year was actually a light spending year. My school district has made it a priority to provide school supplies for students in the last two years, which has saved me a lot of money! I don't have an exact number, but I probably spent around $30-$40 this back-to-school season. I did spend money on pens and pencils, some classroom decorations, and organizational items — crates, bins etc. as well as some prizes for my positive reinforcement classroom management system. I typically hit up Scholastic book sales several times a year to supplement my classroom library, but there hasn't been one yet. I also use the start of the school year as an excuse to update my wardrobe.
"My favorite part of teaching is the fact it is NEVER boring! Every day and even every period is always different because every child is unique. I love teaching middle school because they still have big dreams and mostly like their teachers, but they are also pretty darn smart — you can have wonderful in-depth conversations about literature and writing and, occasionally, life. My days are exhausting, but they go by so quickly. I feel like teaching is such a huge part of who I am; I truly can't imagine doing anything else."
Occupation: Secondary Teacher
Industry: Education
Age: 28
Location: Olympia, WA
Salary: $42,927 base, plus stipends for coaching and advising clubs and yearly $3,000 bonus for National Board Certification
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): ~$3,100 (varies sometimes)
Monthly Expenses
Mortgage: $1,283.59 (split with husband)
Loan Payment: $350 on an interest-free travel card
Student Loan Payment: $0 (I finished paying them off recently. Most of my undergrad was covered by scholarships and grants. My husband has graduate loans that we haven't decided how to pay yet.)
Internet: $54 (Household bills are split evenly between my husband and myself.)
Cable: $80
Netflix: $11
Hulu: $9
Electricity: $55-$120 depending on season
Garbage & Recycling: $15
Gym: $68
Ipsy: $10
Car Payment: $217, but I pay at least $250
Cell Phone: $45
Savings: $100 in our joint savings and $300 in my individual savings
Annual Expenses
Amazon Prime: $99
Car Insurance: $586 (for two cars)

Day One

6:20 a.m. — Try (and fail) to resist the urge to hit snooze. It's back-to-school week and I need to get back in the habit of getting up early! I brew coffee and get the animals settled for the day. The dogs are NOT ready to get up early again either. My commute is about 45 minutes, but my husband teaches in the same district, so we carpool most days. He snoozes while I drive and listen to NPR.
8 a.m. — Hubby drops me off at my school and heads to his. Today is a teacher training today. Breakfast is provided, so I grab a yogurt, fruit, and half a Costco muffin, and settle in for a morning of training.
11:45 a.m. — Lunch is provided by the district, which is a yearly tradition. I'm pleasantly surprised to find it's catered by the local Mexican restaurant. My husband comes over from his school, and we enjoy chicken and beef tacos plus rice and beans while chatting with our coworkers. We go back to work at 1 p.m. for an afternoon of department meetings.
5 p.m. — The official workday ended at 3 p.m., but I work in my classroom revising a syllabus for my advanced literature class, cleaning out my desk, rearranging student desks, hunting down supplies, and completing other back to school tasks. I decide to take a break and go for a run after drinking a pre-workout mix.
5:30 p.m. — Slogged through three slow miles. I blame Aunt Flo and the second plate of Mexican food. After sit-ups and pushups, I call it a day. I snack on tomato slices and get back to work. Tonight is my husband's open house, so I'm stuck in town until it's over. I hit a kick of productive energy and make progress on plans for the first day and introduction activities.
7:30 p.m. — My husband, C., picks me up later than I expected. Fortunately he filled the car up with gas. We alternate who pays from our individual accounts. It was his turn ($41.58).
8:15 p.m. — Time for Bachelor in Paradise! I settle in with a glass (or three) of wine. Finally getting around to eating the dinner I packed: pulled pork and roasted veggies. At around 10, I shower and get ready for bed. I wash my face with glycolic acid, tone with witch hazel, and end with a vitamin E and tea tree oil moisturizer. Then I meditate for five minutes (I'm trying to get into meditation in hopes it will help with my anxiety and insomnia) and read until I fall asleep. My current read is Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb.
12:30 a.m. — Correction: I try to read until I fall asleep. I get up and make a mug of Natural Calm, have a few puffs of a joint (legal in WA!), and get a back rub from C. until I feel like I can actually sleep. Return to bed and finally pass out around 1:30 a.m.
Daily Total: $0

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — Must get up. I snoozed through my alarm at 7:30. Today is not a required day (or a paid one), but I need some hours in my classroom. Make coffee and eat grapefruit and a hard-boiled egg. Our chickens keep us well-stocked with eggs!
9 a.m. — I am driving solo today, and I listen to Larry Wilmore's Black on the Air podcast while I drive. Arrive at school around 9:45. I log into my computer and get busy while listening to Amazon Music playlists (50 Great '90s Songs!).
12:15 p.m. — Take a quick break to heat up my lunch (more pulled pork and veggies) and make green tea.
3 p.m. — Seating charts are done, handouts are printed, and the classroom is clean and organized, so I think I'm ready for the first day! I pack up and head home. I stop by the grocery store on my way and get berries, apples, bananas, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, cilantro, olives, and seltzer water. $19.56
4 p.m. — Since this is my last afternoon of summer, I head outside with a book and a snack of berries, crackers, and cheese. At 5 p.m. I leave the house again to run errands.
5:30 p.m. — Starting the school year with fresh nails. I get a gel manicure in our school colors. I pay $20 and tip $4. $24
6 p.m. — At Trader Joe's I buy spinach, olives, artichokes, roasted red peppers, several types of crackers/chips, parmesan cheese, cheese sticks, two packages of hummus, candy, coffee, tea, more flavored seltzer, limes, lemons, grapefruit, avocados, and Persian cucumbers ($71.37). I also buy three bottles of wine, a six pack of beer, and a box of wine ($33.53). The groceries come out of our joint account, but we consider alcohol part of our individual discretionary spending, so I use my account to pay. I try to budget $50 to $75 a week for groceries. I'm over budget this week, but I only spent $20 last week, so it evens out. $104.90
6:30 p.m. — Next stop is Target. I have a list, but Target doesn't have several of the things on my list! I manage to find a few other things…and end up with two new shirts: a yoga shirt for under $4 and a pretty flowered work blouse for $10. I also purchased a mini Pixi Glow tonic I've been wanting to try, plus the items from my list: new colored pens, ice cube tray, nail polish remover, and cotton balls. $38.50
7:30 p.m. — Tonight I have a soccer game. This year I started playing adult recreational soccer. It's a great workout and a return to one of my favorite sports. This is my first game with a new team, which luckily includes a friend. I Venmo the captain my portion of the team fees. After the game, I head home, tired and sweaty. $46.50
9:45 p.m. — Once I arrive home, I shower, apply a hair mask, and shave my legs. Gotta look my best for the first day! I also take the time to blow dry my hair and apply a Watermelon Glow sleeping mask. Once I'm clean and pretty, I assemble burritos bowls for lunch tomorrow and a late dinner tonight. Hubby chopped garden tomatoes, jalapeños, and cilantro to add to the top of brown rice and leftover pulled pork. I add a half an avocado to each lunch, and we're ready. C. took care of the chickens and watered the horses, so no chores for me! I fall asleep (quickly for me) around 11.
Daily Total: $233.46

Day Three

6 a.m. — Time to rise and shine! I brew coffee and then take a little extra time to straighten my hair and carefully apply makeup. I take two breakfast sandwiches (prepped last week) out of the freezer and heat them up. Leave for work about 6:55 after a first-day-of-school selfie.
7:45 a.m. — Arrive at school. I greet our office staff, drop my lunch off in the staff room, and head to my classroom. Everything is ready to go, so I monitor the hallway and catch up with my students from last year until it's time for my first period class.
11:20 a.m. — First three classes are a success, and now it's lunchtime. I heat up my burrito bowl and enjoy berries while eating in the staff room. I make tea and walk to my classroom for my next class at 11:50 a.m. At 12:50 p.m. I have my planning period, so I make more tea and get a grapefruit seltzer water. Last year I taught an extra class during my planning time, so I am very grateful to have this time to sort through the first assignment my seventh graders turned in, and plan for my advanced literature students until my last class starts at 1:50 p.m.
2:50 p.m. — School is out and the first day is officially over. I think I have a good group of seventh graders this year — they are all so small and earnest! My advanced class is only six kids, but I've taught them all before. I snack on an apple and string cheese while I tidy up the room, file paperwork, and get ready for tomorrow. I pick C. up at about 4:10, and we spend our commute home swapping first day stories.
5 p.m. — Back home, I read outside for a bit. I've been listening to the Binge Mode: Harry Potter podcast, which has inspired me to take a closer look at the books, so I'm rereading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It gets windy, so I do chores before cooking dinner around.
7:30 p.m. — I make a one-pot pasta with zucchini and mushrooms and steam green beans to serve alongside. We are lucky enough to have a garden full of veggies AND a mother-in-law who shares her bounty as well. Most of the vegetables we're eating (tomatoes, squash, zucchini, green beans) are from one of the two gardens. I eat while watching the episode of Bachelor in Paradise I missed last night.
9:30 p.m. — After I assemble leftovers into lunches, I clean up the kitchen and head to bed. The first day wiped me out.
Daily Total: $0

Day Four

6 a.m. — Get ready, get animals fed and outside, grab lunches plus green smoothies for breakfast, and get in the car by 6:55 a.m. Today NPR's main story involves teacher strikes in my state. This year the legislature approved a large increase in funds to allocate toward teacher salaries. But each district is negotiating independently for a new salary schedule and increase. My district is still amicably negotiating while we teach on last year's contract, but I am hopeful for at least a 15% raise. Comparable districts have received increases as high as 25%.
11:20 a.m. — I heat up leftover pasta, eat half a grapefruit, and visit with my coworkers, but run out of time, so no tea for me before class resumes. During my break I finally get my tea — Trader Joe's Chai Spice. I drink it while grading an assignment and planning. I also spend some time writing a model for tomorrow's assignment.
2:50 p.m. — Last class goes smoothly, though I think it will be my toughest group — sixth period is always hard for seventh graders. I finish my lunch and spend time making book recommendations for the seventh graders. Then I revise a presentation for my advanced students, make copies, and enter the first few graded assignments. C. picks me up around 4:45 and we head home.
5:30 p.m. — Get home and see the horses need food. I buy hay every few months and usually buy large round bales that last about a week. C. and I roll the 500 pound bale in and spend time petting them. Then we check the chickens, gather eggs, and refill their feeders. It takes two of us to move a hen off the eggs; she's broody and wants chicks. The poor thing doesn't realize we steal her eggs every day. Hubby votes to let her hatch chicks, but I'm not prepared for the hassle. Maybe next spring!
6:15 p.m. — Change into gym clothes and head to the gym. I do 20 minutes of running, squats, and then an abs/auxiliary leg circuit. I've now hit my minimum goal of three workouts this week!
7:30 p.m. — I make a chickpea salad over romaine with an oil/vinegar/dijon dressing. I pack it in mason jars for lunch tomorrow. I menu plan every Saturday for the week and although we're not vegetarians and have no plans to be, I try to plan at least one vegetarian meal and one vegan meal a week (the last two nights).
8 p.m. — Shower. Decide to let my hair air dry while I watch an episode of Sharp Objects. Around 10, I complete my skincare routine, drink Natural Calm, and head to bed.
Daily Total: $0

Day Five

6:15 a.m. — Good morning Friday and payday! I am relieved to see my check still includes a portion of my coaching stipend and planning period buyout. Hopefully our union can settle our contract before my paycheck shrinks next month. Grab a green smoothie and head out the door.
7 a.m. — C. drives today, and I check my bank account. My National Board bonus seems to be floating around in my account still, so I make a $1,000 payment towards the credit card with our vacation expenses and transfer $1,000 to my savings account.
11:20 a.m. — The morning flies by with a trip to the library during each period. At lunchtime, I eat my packed salad and make tea before heading back to my class.
2:50 p.m. — I have survived my first week! But I have quite a bit to do for next week, so I work until C. picks me up at 5:30.
6:15 p.m. — At home the horses need water, so I spend some time with them while watering and let the dogs run around the pasture. Then C. and I have beer and a few handfuls of snack mix. We can't decide on anywhere to go for dinner (typical), so I defrost some leftover beef stew I made and froze about a month ago while I boil some whole wheat pasta and steam green beans. We live in a somewhat rural area (hence the ability to have horses!), so other than fast food, restaurants are all at least 10 to 15 minutes away.
11:30 p.m. — The rest of the evening is spent cuddling on the couch with at least two of our three cats on us and one of the two dogs in our faces. We drink wine and watch a cheesy Netflix rom-com until bedtime.
Daily Total: $0

Day Six

9 a.m. — Saturdays are for sleeping in! I get up and leave my husband still snoozing. Then I brew coffee and have plain Greek yogurt with raspberries and a small crumble of Trader Joe's granola. I catch up on social media and cooking blogs until I'm ready to head to the gym around 11. I keep cardio to 10 minutes on the elliptical and then deadlift and complete a triceps/back/abs circuit.
12:30 p.m. — After I shower, C. and I head out for a day date. We head to a sports bar, so we can both watch our favorite college teams. We went to the same college, but he grew up cheering for our in-state rival, so occasionally we are a house divided! Even though football season is the reason we resumed our Dish service, both teams play at the same time. Compromise = sports bar.
12:35 p.m. — We stop for gas. My turn to fill up. $34.01
12:50 p.m. — It's football time. We each order beers and then lunch. Hubby goes for a burger; I have a wrap and a salad. I eat half and save half (but later forget it on the table — doh). We order more beers. When it's time to pay, our total is $64.03 including tip. We split the bill. My team wins, but C.'s loses to a ranked opponent. $32
5 p.m. — This sports bar is conveniently (dangerously?) located in the mall, so we head to Old Navy. I can't resist the siren call of the clearance section, so I end up with a cute tank for $3 and a green t-shirt for my new soccer team. C. finds new pants for work. $7.59
5:30 p.m. — Decide to stop by Total Wine & More — not a good idea after beers! I buy two bottles of my favorite cheap wine, Fourteen Hands, two large hard seltzers, a large summer ale, and a single beer ($28.63). C. buys a 12-pack of IPA and a six-pack of singles. Later realize I was charged for a pack of seltzer rather than a single. So frustrating, because I am always that person to watch carefully and request a price check. It's only $4, but it still bothers me. $28.63
6 p.m. — Have to stop by Walmart for dog food and sandwich bags. $51.87
6:10 p.m. — While I get dog food, C. gets a pizza from Papa Murphy's using a coupon from a school fundraiser. $10.89
6:45 p.m. — We cook the pizza, open a bottle of wine, and settle in to watch Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. C. is late to the Harry Potter world, so this is his first time. I served us carrots and cucumbers too, but I don't think that cancels out the fact that there is no leftover pizza... We go to bed around 11:30 p.m.
Daily Total: $164.99

Day Seven

9 a.m. — Coffee, yogurt, and I spend some time menu planning for the week based on what we have on hand, including garden produce that needs to be eaten up!
11 a.m. — It is beautiful out, so I go for a run around my neighborhood.
11:30 a.m. — Chore time. Chicken waterers need to be emptied, cleaned, and refilled. I also pick squash, tomatoes, and apples and gather eggs.
1:30 p.m. — After soaking up sunshine while reading, I go inside to prepare food. I have a party today and a family picnic tomorrow, so I make fresh salsa and two batches of pasta salad to take. I shower once the food is done.
4:30 p.m. — I drive to my friend's house for an end-of-summer party. I pack salsa, pasta salad, hummus, chips, and wine from my Trader Joe's run. We drink, eat, and end up playing Cards Against Humanity.
12 a.m. — Drive home and immediately get into bed.
Daily Total: $0
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