Financial Planning for the Occasional Worker

by Sharon Wood

Making the leap into supply teaching comes as a blind leap of faith for some.  One of the biggest worries is financial uncertainty.  One very real problem faced by supply teachers is financial instability – great peaks and troughs in the amount of money earned month on month.

Budgeting for occasional workers

You may have to wait a long time for your first pay packet.  When it comes, the urge to spend it all could be strong.  For some, it money represents a chance to pay off a bit of the credit card, a bit of the overdraft, and a bit of the loan.  For others, buying those long-awaited ‘must-haves’ that we all deserve to spoil ourselves with, making our first wages more memorable and exciting!


Lack of certainty over future pay packets, meant I would never use a credit card.  We do have one in the family, as there are some strong arguments for using them, but we didn't have one for a very long time as I always said: ‘If we haven’t got it to spend today, we shouldn't gamble on having it to spend tomorrow.’ Or in a month, as is the case with credit cards! I always saved for something I needed, never taken credit other than the mortgage, and made sure there was always money in the bank for unexpected, necessary spending.

For me, the answer to financial instability was always POTS! Easy to set up, difficult to commit to initially, but the rewards are evident quite quickly.


A third away for a rainy day.

Resist the temptation to spend it all.  Almost half the days of the year are not wage-earning days as a supply teacher.  Out of the 365 days in the year, 190 are working days, leaving a whopping 175 days of weekends, holidays and training days.  Factor into this that you may not be able to work every day, and it soon becomes apparent that you need to do some squirrelling!

Make a complete list of your annual outgoings.


From rent to haircuts to Christmas wrapping paper.

Work out how much is needed for annual payments (i.e. MOT, insurances, road tax).  Divide this by 12 or 52, and put that much away each month / week in one account / ISA / envelope.  After the first couple of months, you should be able to go straight to that pot and take out the money needed for your annual payment.

Work out how much is needed for monthly payments (i.e. mortgage, power, mobile phone) and squirrel that much away somewhere else. 

What you're left with is what you have to spend on food, fuel, social activities.  But put a third away for those non-earning days! It may be very little that you're left with, and it will be hard, but when the car insurance, MOT and road tax are all due next September, after a lean summer, it will all be worth it!

I have gone further with my potting shed than is detailed here, though not as far as a friend of mine:


Doesn't have a current account.
Is paid monthly.
Uses envelopes in a box.

Her son’s school uniform costs (for example) £200 each year, so into the envelope marked Uniform goes £16.67 monthly. 

Christmas costs the family around £500 a year, so the Christmas envelope is fed £41.67 a month.

Her prepaid prescription card costs £104, so into that envelope goes £8.67.  And when it is time to buy a new one, the money is there – no nasty surprises.

Her envelopes are indexed in order of her financial priorities.  The envelopes that must be filled no matter what, i.e.  prescription card and home insurance, are at the front of the box and filled first, with less important envelopes and those that could be squeezed if necessary, Christmas and birthdays for example, at the back of the box.  These may go without if wages are low that month. 

Whatever is left once the envelopes are filled is what she has to spend on food and luxuries.

Every few months, she updates her budget spreadsheet with rising costs such as car insurance, and amends the amount that she puts away. 

Once a year, she will take out any spare.  And treat herself to a little something from a famous department store!

It takes willpower, and maybe a little sacrifice if money is sparse.  But I do believe this way of budgeting is the way forward for occasional teachers.   

Have lots of debt with different creditors? Try debt snowballing, good for the soul, as well as the pocket! 

A word from Vision for Education about how they can help their supply teachers overcome the uncertainly: 

Supply Teachers certainly don't have the easiest job in the world.   At Vision for Education we understand how difficult it can be to want to progress your career and at the same time ensure you have enough money coming into your home.   With our Guaranteed Pay Scheme you will get the peace of mind that will allow you to budget for bills, holidays, home improvements and a lot more.   The scheme we provide is extremely popular and successful.   

GPS is built to work around our teachers and we are able to offer contracts from 1 to 5 days per week, depending on how much work the teacher would like.   This means that as long as the teachers are available exclusively to Vision for the amount of days on their GPS contract, then they are guaranteed to get paid for those days whether we find them work or not.   There are terms and conditions in relation to the contract and GPS is not available to everyone.   It works best for those people who can travel and are happy to give any school a try at least once!  With 9 branches nationwide, Vision are already providing a solution to financial planning/budgeting for a lot of supply teachers out there.  

Vision for Education - GPS

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