Is it rude to talk about money?

Is it? I’m always chary about mentioning it.

There is quite a lot of talk about whether we get paid enough for what we do. Some schools pay more, some considerably less but the common factor for most of us is that we get our bed and board either at a reduced cost or for free. If you factor in how much you would pay in rent, bills, food and transport, the deal does not sound too bad. What is there not to love about that! No rent, no bills, no food shopping!

All that aside, there is one more delicate and somewhat obvious point I would like to make. Save your money and do not spend it all.

Although many do manage to save, there are people who flush out all their wages as soon as they get paid. This is especially true if you are in a large city, where there are plenty of trappings to relieve you of your hard earned cash.

From time to time you meet people who are doing summer school for nothing more than fun. I worked with an activity leader for a good few years who was a secondary school teacher during the year. He returned every summer because he really enjoyed it. By his own admission, he spent far more than he earnt with us, but that was always the intention. Good for him! I can well imagine he is back at that same summer centre this year but for the rest of us… it really is a different story.

You can and probably should save. If by the end of the summer you have nothing left in the bank, something has gone wrong. For me personally, it allows me to have a good holiday in September and gives me a financial buffer for essentials which crop up from time to time. In order to do this, I try to avoid the variety of expensive temptations which we all could easily fall foul of:

Your canteen food may not be exciting but you should eat it all the same. Eating out when ‘free’ food is available is a sure way to reduce your income. I have seen teachers who give up on the canteen and either eat out every day or buy food from the supermarket and cook for themselves.

Stock up on supplies. If you have a weakness for chocolate and fizzy pop, your school will have a vending machine and there is more than likely a local shop in the vicinity. But if you can, go to a supermarket, it will be cheaper. Even if you do not need these things, you will end buying them anyway. Buying a few packs of chocolate instead of a single bar will save you money.

The demon drink. Do not get too tempted to go to the pub every evening after work. In my centre, we have a lovely pub just off campus. Most evenings you will find good company sat outside drinking a frothy pint of something delicious. Except, it’s £5 a pint. On those long summer evenings you may want a few to quench your thirst. More if you get locked into buying a round. My advice, save it until your day off. Oh, and do not even think about mixing with students after you have been imbibing. If word gets back to your manager, you will be packing your bags the following morning.

If you are working somewhere in the middle of nowhere, you can make your own entertainment but if you have the bright lights of London on your doorstep… oh no… I can feel my wallet getting lighter as I speak. The fact is, doing stuff costs money and even cheap entertainment adds up. I try to avoid cards and pay with cash when going out. In this way I can keep an eye on how much I have spent. Also, remember that your school will run trips off-site. If you really want to go on the London Eye or visit Madame Tussauds, volunteer as an activity leader for the afternoon. You may have to work a bit but you will get to see and do things for free.

It never ceases to amaze me how I have been able to do nothing other than travel across London and end up being £20 worse off. Travel is surprisingly expensive in most of the country but very expensive in London, especially if you are travelling from some of the further zones. If you are in London, get an Oyster Card, this will save you money. Better still, beg a travel card from the summer school office. Summer schools in London rely on the Tube network and often have spare travel cards you can borrow.

Shopping therapy. We all need treats when we work hard but try and keep it in check. You may still want to buy those £150 pair of trainers but wait until after you have finished working, until the dust settles. There may be other priorities on the horizon.

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