How to Budget For Months Without Pay

As a teacher, I get paid biweekly during the school year and get a big check the last day of school to cover the summer. Figuring out how to budget for the summer can be a tricky thing, but there are a few things that you can do to make it easier.

How teachers can budget for summer break. | budgeting for lean times | months without pay

Option 1 or Option 2

Out west, we received biweekly paychecks 12 months out of the year.  In New York, many districts give teachers two options for how to get paid.

Option 1: Receive biweekly paychecks from September to June.  The amount in each paycheck is your total annual salary divided by 21.

Option 2: Receive biweekly paychecks from September to June.  The amount in each paycheck is your total annual salary divided by 26, but the last check in June is equal to six paychecks.

There are pros and cons to each option, but most teachers I know (ourselves included) opt for Option 2.  If you are getting higher paychecks throughout the ten months you’re working, it’s easier to get used to that level of spending.  Unless you are a disciplined saver, people who choose Option 1 do not have enough money to live on throughout the summer.

How We Budget For the Summer

It is so thrilling to wake up on the last day of school and check your bank account and see a $10k deposit in there, but I don’t get lulled into a false sense of wealth.

My husband and I make all of our transfers on payday to all of our checking, savings, and investment accounts, and this summer paycheck is no exception.  I referred to my financial goals table, and figured out how much I need to transfer to each of my accounts to cover my expenses and contributions until mid-September.

We made the equivalent of three months of contributions to our Roth IRAs, transferred money to our joint checking to cover rent, groceries, and utilities for the summer, made three months of car payments (including additional toward the principle) on my car, transferred money to our personal escrow accounts to cover gas, EZ pass, car and life insurance, put some money into our vacation fund AND added a whopping $5,371 to our house fund!

Side Hustling

Since we made all of our transfers and have money set aside to live on for the summer, any extra money that we make from summer jobs will go towards the house and fun stuff.

I just completed a house/petsitting gig, and was able to another $400 in the the house fund.  I also topped off my savings for my new bike, and went to the bike shop to purchase it.  This summer, I also have a couple weeks of work lined up at a camp, as well as the potential to do some demo on a house renovation.

Mr. Farmhouse Finance is a certified fireworks shooter and did a few shows around the 4th.  He also will be doing some contracting work this summer.

We’ve decided that half of everything we make this summer will go toward the house, and the rest is ours to spend however we’d like.

How You Can Budget For Lean Times

Whether you are a teacher who needs to budget for the summer or a contractor who needs to budget for lean winter months, it’s important to stay disciplined with your spending.

Having different savings accounts to allocate money for different goals really helps us to prepare for the months we don’t receive any school paychecks.

Follow these tips to help plan for months that you do not get paid:

  1. Figure out what your fixed spending and average discretionary spending is for each month.  This is your goal amount to set aside for each month that you will not be working.
  2. Set up savings accounts to keep your living expenses separate from other money, and keep your hands off of it!
  3. Prepay any loan payments or bills that you can, set aside the amount that you cannot prepay to make those payments as they come up.
  4. Make sure you have an emergency fund or some sort of buffer if you have to go longer without a paycheck than originally anticipated.

How do you budget for months that you do not get paid?


How teachers can budget for summer break. | budgeting for lean times | months without pay

Illusion of Scarcity Worksheet (PDF)


Download this free worksheet and start paying yourself first.

  • Budget for financial obligations and recurring expenses
  • Prioritize your financial goals
  • Make all your transfers on payday
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