Online teaching is awesome, but let’s face it, it’s doesn’t exactly pay a six-figure income. At best, online teaching platforms pay up to $30 an hour, but the average pay rate is closer to $20. Don’t get me wrong, that’s great— but it’s not going to make you a millionaire overnight.
That’s why today, we’re going to be talking about frugal living as an online teacher. Frugal living is super important if you’re trying to make bank and put away some serious savings for your future.
In this in-depth guide to frugal living as an online teacher, we’re going to be covering everything you need to know about keeping your living costs low and making your income go further. Just stick to the frugal living tips below and you’ll be all set.
Tip 1: Use Transferwise to Receive Your Pay
Frugal living is all about cutting out any unnecessary costs, and one of the biggest unnecessary costs online teachers have to deal with is exchange rate fees. Many of the most popular ESL companies, like DaDa, pay their teachers in RMB via direct transfer to your bank.
Unless you’re living in China, your bank has to convert that RMB to your home currency, whether that’s USD, GBP, EUR, or whatever else. But here’s the rub: they do so at an incredibly hiked up exchange rate.
That means your bank is likely taking a huge cut of your salary by giving you an unfairly weighted exchange rate and pocketing the difference. Fortunately, there is a way around this, and that is to use Transferwise.
You can set up a borderless account with Transferwise to get a fair, accurate exchange rate (like the one you get on Google) on all money received. All you have to do is set up an account, grab your Transferwise bank details (account number, sort code, and all that), and ask your teaching company to send your wages there instead. We’ve written a more detailed guide on it here:
Update – DaDa now sends online teaching pay through Payoneer. Check out the guide below:
Tip 2: Sell Your Reward Gift Card Codes
Remember when DaDa released the Amazon Gift Cards as an exchange for reward points? Sorry to remind any DaDa teachers of that monumental failure! But it reminded me of a frugal living tip…
Even if you don’t particularly want anything from Amazon, these gift cards still have value. You can sell them on sites like Cardpool and Raise for real cash to people that do want to use them. It’s a great way to bump up your monthly pay cheque and squeeze a little more cash out of your job— and that’s what frugal living is all about, right? Making the most of every penny.
So even if you didn't get one from DaDa before they ran out, you may have one laying around from Christmas or something…cash it in!
Tip 3: Spend Less On Classroom Materials
If you’re teaching English online, the chances are you use props, puppets, whiteboards, and all that other stuff. To live more frugally, stop buying them and start using what you already have.
A lot of teachers think you need to invest in a puppet, but really, a teddybear/plushie is probably just as good. After all, you’re only using it to keep your younger students attentive in class. Ask your younger family members if you can borrow theirs. If you’ve been using paper, switch to reusable whiteboards instead.
Most importantly, don’t pay for classroom decorations. Instead of paying for posters to put up on your wall, just set up your classroom digitally instead. Software like ManyCam allows you to make your own digital classroom background, so there's really no need for paper posters.
While we’re on the topic of ManyCam…
Tip 4: Share A ManyCam Subscription With Other Teachers
One of the cool things about ManyCam is that they allow you to share your subscription with up to 10 other people if you buy the ‘enterprise subscription’.
The standard individual subscription costs $20 – $30 per year, but you can potentially cut that cost substantially by opting for the enterprise option instead and then splitting the cost 10 ways.
That’s why I’d recommend that if you do plan on using ManyCam, speak to other online ESL teachers first about splitting the cost. If you don’t know 10 other online teachers, you can probably find them on Facebook. There are a ton of Facebook groups with hundreds of active online teacher members that would probably jump at the chance.
Or you could always just settle with the free version for now:
Download ManyCam Free!
But things like ManyCam or teaching props – it's ok to spend a little bit of money on…as it is a business expense for online teachers! Read more below…
Tip 6: Start Tracking Your Expenses
Most online ESL teachers are classed as independent contractors, which basically means you’re self-employed. As that means you’ll be submitting your own tax returns, you should get into the habit of monitoring your expenses so that you can offset them against your taxable income.
Costs like classroom materials, props, ManyCam, and internet subscriptions are all necessary for you to do your job, so you can probably claim these as business expenses to save money. You may even be able to claim part of your rental costs as expenses if you’re using it as a home office.
Here are two tax guides for online teachers in the US and the UK:
Tip 5: Cut the Coffee Addiction
If you’re like me, you probably can’t face the thought of going into class without your morning coffee. My routine used to go like this: wake up, drive to Starbucks, spend $5 on a latte, come home, start teaching.
That was dumb. I taught for 5 days a week – that’s $25 down the drain (or more accurately, my oesophagus) every week. To live more frugally, I’d recommend switching over to tea. Teabags are a lot cheaper! At the very least, learn to like instant coffee instead to save money.
And if you don't like instant coffee, I combine it with my protein shake – breakfast and morning coffee all-in-one!
Bonus Frugal Living Tips and tricks
All of the above frugal living tips were specifically for online teachers, but there are a lot more ways you can reduce costs and live more frugally. Here are 7 more basic frugal living principles that you should try to follow:
- Buy groceries in bulk from wholesalers and freeze them to save money
- Save your grocery receipts and use a receipt-scanning app like Ibotta to get money back on your purchases
- Comparison shop for everything. Use comparison tools to find the cheapest broadband, mobile, and energy suppliers and switch over if you can get a better deal.
- Prioritize clearing your debts before making savings so that you pay less on interest
- Before spending anything, try to find a coupon code online to save money.
- Eat out as little as possible
- Always turn off your lights and appliances before leaving home to save money on electricity.
There’s a lot more I could talk about, but we’ll leave it there for today!
Final Thoughts On Living Frugally
Before we end this article, I just wanted to leave you with some food for thought.
By living as frugally as possible and splitting your rent with a partner or roommate, you should easily be able to spend less than $1,000 per month.
Assuming you earn $2,000 or more from your online teaching job, that’s $1,000 per month in the bank. Over the course of a year, you’ll have put away over $12,000— that’s enough for a deposit on a house!
Hopefully, that’s some motivation for you to start living frugally. Good luck teachers! Here's some more posts about Online Teaching Pay: