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Low-Cost Resources and Discounts for Teachers and Educators

The median wage for teachers in the U.S., as of 2019, is $61,660. While this may seem like an adequate wage, a closer look will actually show that is relatively low compared to non-teaching occupations. In fact, in 2018, teachers’ weekly wages were 21.4% lower than wages in non-teaching professions.

Low salary, among several other factors, is creating a teacher shortage. Those continuing to teach will often take on a side gig to compensate for low pay. Those who love teaching know that educating the young is too important and is not outweighed by the amount of money they receive for it. But anyone would tell you that they would like to be reasonably compensated for the work they do.

Additionally, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many teachers were asking if they would even keep their job — as classroom environments weren’t conducive to social distancing.

Educators often have to pay out-of-pocket for educational materials and other job-related expenses — putting further strain on their financial situation. That said, it helps to know there are ways teachers can get discounts and financial assistance for not only educational and school supplies, but for general living expenses as well.

Peruse the many resources you can use to help with expenses as you deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, focus on remote and hybrid learning, and tackle various other costs a teacher might be burdened with.

How Much Do Teachers Spend Out-of-Pocket on Educational Materials?

Due to a lack of government funding for education, many teachers pay out-of-pocket to pick up the slack and create a classroom environment that facilitates the best student learning conditions possible. To complicate things, some states fund their schools more than others.

States that had the lowest funding for the 2016-2017 school year were Arizona, Utah, Idaho, North Carolina, and Nevada. So, depending on the state they live in, a teacher may need to pay even more out of their pocket to make up for this deficit.

Some teachers have been known to pay thousands of dollars on their classrooms without being reimbursed. Teachers may have to use their own money to pay for:

  • Pencils;
  • Erasers;
  • Whiteboard markers;
  • Crayons;
  • Scissors;
  • Glue;
  • Paper;
  • Books;
  • Games;
  • Teaching materials;
  • Cleaning and sanitation materials;
  • Snacks.

It is often the case that teachers take it upon themselves to buy backpacks, coats, shoes, instruments, and other items that students and their parents can’t pay for.

How Has COVID-19 Affected Out-of-Pocket Expenses for Teachers?

The coronavirus pandemic significantly impacted the workplace landscape. Due to quarantining and social distancing, many industries shifted their offices to a work-from-home environment — and this included education.

During the pandemic, many teachers had to instruct their pupils remotely; others were able to use a hybrid teaching method, in which they taught classes both virtually and in person. Whatever the case, educators had to have a home office where they could perform their job successfully.

Virtual learning requires teachers to have a computer and other technology to share information with their students, but it also requires home office supplies. While teachers may still choose to provide supplies for their students, they now also must buy supplies from themselves. Other expenses may include increased internet and electricity usage, additional technology such as a second monitor, and even the cost of purchasing a desk for their home office.

COVID-19 created uncertainty for lots of professionals, and being a teacher during the pandemic was no different. Wage stagnation and budget cuts made it increasingly difficult for educators to pay out-of-pocket for school supplies.

Technology Discounts for Remote and Hybrid Teaching

Teachers are increasingly relying on technology for daily operations. But computers and software can quickly become expensive. To find some relief for your bank account, consider the following discounts on technology.

  • Adobe: This photo and video editing software company is knocking down its price from $52.99 a month to $19.99 a month. Students and teachers can save over 60% on 20 apps, including Illustrator, Photoshop, and Acrobat Pro. Although eligibility is required, this is a great discount on many apps that can help you edit, organize, and share images and videos for presentations.
  • Apple Store: The Apple Education Store is offering college students, parents, faculty, and homeschooling teachers of any grade level discounts on refurbished and new Macs, iPad Pros, and 20% off of AppleCare+, among other special financings.
  • Microsoft: For those who prefer Microsoft Windows, Microsoft offers free access to Microsoft Office 365 to enhance student-centered learning — allowing for the easy preparation, teaching, and tracking of students and educators through various applications. Additionally, students and teachers can get 10% off of Windows devices, including various versions of the Microsoft Surface.
  • HP: HP Education Solutions is offering discounts on educational technology, such as Windows laptops, Chromebooks, Desktops, and more. Some of these devices and software you may be able to enhance your home office with are discounted at up to 20% off.
  • Lenovo: LenovoPRO provides student and teacher discounts on a wide choice of PCs and technologies. Teachers, speech pathologists, principals, and other education administration professionals can receive $5 off Lenovo technologies, provided they sign up or verify with an ID.me account.

Professional Organizations and Unions That Offer Discounts for Members

There are many organizations that will work with teachers to help them out with a variety of necessities. Take a look at the following agencies for discounts on supplies, car rentals, and more.

  • National Education Association (NEA): The NEA offers personal guidance and support, providing educators with resources for finances, health, travel, and more. If you haven’t already, sign up for the NEA Member Benefits for discounts on books, magazines, classroom supplies and resources, technology, gym memberships, insurance plans, travel accommodations, clothing, and more.
  • American Federation of Teachers (AFT): The AFT is similar to the NEA in that they provide resources and financial help for students and educators. Members of the AFT can receive help with student loans, 10% off of Dell products, 40% off of home dinners, pet insurance, help with car rentals, and much more.
  • Association of American Educators (AAE): The AAE has an exclusive members discount program, through which you receive discounts from clothing stores, restaurants, hotels, gyms, movie theaters, and even theme parks. Teachers should take advantage of reduced prices at stores such as Costco, Jiffy Lube, Target, Bally Total Fitness, DirecTV, and Sea World.
  • ID.me: Students and teachers can sign up with ID.me to receive deductions on anything from mattresses to sunglasses to hotels. Partners with ID.me include Casper, Under Armour, Ray-Ban, Hotels.com, Reebok, and Verizon. Peruse the discounts for teachers’ pages frequently for new and updated deals.
  • International Teacher Identity Card (ITIC): Sign up for an International Teacher Identity Card to receive markdowns on flights, car rentals, hotels, restaurants, apparel shops, and books. The ITIC provides thousands of services to benefit teachers.

Books, Newspapers, and Magazine Discounts

Education resources are essential for teachers. Check the following companies for discounts on everything from books to activity sets.

  • Scholastic: Scholastic offers many discounts including collections of books for students grades pre-kindergarten through 12, books under $5, and fall specials up to 30% off. Teachers can get discounted books by grade, activity sets, curricular programs, and magazines.
  • Barnes and Noble: Become a B&N educator to receive 20% off of purchases for classroom use, 25% off of prices on books during Educator Appreciation Days, and first access to educational resources. Teachers can receive discounts on books for the classroom library, project-based learning, and more.
  • Half Price Books: Sign up for the Educator Discount Card to receive an annual 10% off of products through Half Price Books. Teachers, librarians, and a variety of other educators can buy children’s books and educational materials.
  • New York Times: Both teachers and students can subscribe to the New York Times and NYTimes.com to receive newspapers and magazines at 50% off.
  • The Reading Warehouse: Visit The Reading Warehouse to find books on clearance (up to 90% off), bargain books, reading book bundles, and teaching resources at very affordable prices.

Craft Supplies Discounts

Arts and crafts are not just for education — teachers may also need to decorate their home offices and classrooms. Consider the following businesses for discounts when buying craft supplies.

  • Blick Art Materials: Receive discounts on lesson plans, catalogs, art sets for at-home education, education news, and a variety of other services at Dick Blick Art Materials. Sign up for the free Dick Blick Preferred Customer Program to get 10% off of over 90,000 art supplies and resources, and receive more discounts on large orders.
  • JOANN: JOANN’s Teacher Rewards Program gives teachers a 15% discount on every purchase. Teachers receive a discount on arts and crafts supplies, as well as decorations for their classroom, at-home office, and presentations.
  • Michaels: Verify your educator ID through Michaels Rewards to receive 15% off of in-store and online purchases.
  • Party City: Verify your employment with a letter signed by an officer of your school or organization, and Party City will give you discounts on orders over $75. Note, you must use a check or credit card in the name of your school or organization to receive discounts from  Party City.
  • Staples: Although Staples is generally thought of as a home supply store, Staples’s Teacher Rewards Program will give you 5% back in rewards for in-store and online purchases, and 10% off of teaching and art supplies. Additionally, teachers receive free shipping on all orders.

Hardware Discounts

Sometimes teachers need to build and repair things. The following stores are willing to give teachers discounts and sales-tax exemptions for their hardware needs.

  • Home Depot: Public school teachers can apply for tax-exempt purchases at Home Depot, and receive a Home Depot Tax ID number. Use this number when you’re checking out in-store or online to receive a sales-tax exemption on eligible purchases. Note, state and local tax laws may vary.
  • Lowe’s: Similar to Home Depot, Lowe’s offers sales-tax exemptions on purchases for educational purposes and when you’re paying with school funds. Present your school’s tax ID number to be eligible for sales-tax-exempt purchases at Lowe’s. For further savings, browse current rebates on appliances, and apply for a Lowe’s Advantage Card for an extra 5% discount.

Travel and Transportation Discounts

The next time you need to travel, take advantage of the discounts the following companies offer to teachers.

  • Hilton: Many Hilton hotels provide discounts for teachers. Specifically, in Orlando, the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, and Waldorf Astoria will give you reduced nightly rates, and 10% off of dining. Teachers may also receive discounts at other Hilton brand hotels, such as DoubleTree and Hampton Inn. Check with your hotel before booking to see if they will give you a teacher appreciation rate.
  • Student Universe: Students, teachers, and faculty members can all receive discounted airfare rates for groups of 10 and up. Members can cancel seats with no penalty, hold space with a refundable deposit, and negotiate discounts with over 90 airlines globally.
  • Hertz Car Rental: If you are registered as a National Education Association member, you are eligible to receive a 25% discount off of your car rental rate. Other travel perks include skipping lines for a faster checkout, and rewards points.
  • Enterprise Rent a Car: Enterprise has a similar deal with the National Education Association. If you are a member of the NEA, you can receive 25% off rentals through Enterprise, expedited check-in, unlimited mileage, and 24/7 roadside assistance.

Retail and Apparel Discounts

The next time you are shopping for shoes, shirts, or any clothing, browse the websites of the following apparel stores.

  • Banana Republic: Teachers can receive a 15% discount off of full-priced purchases. Teachers must present a valid ID to receive this discount, and this cannot be combined with other offers or rewards.
  • Champion: Active and retired teachers can receive 10% off of Champion merchandise when they verify with ID.me on the Champion website.
  • Hanes: Similar to Champion, verify with Hanes via ID.me to receive 10% off of apparel. Underwear, socks, T-shirts, fleeces, and clothing of all kinds and for the whole family can be purchased at Hanes.

Home and Furniture Discounts

The next time you want to spruce up your house, see if the following stores have what you need to receive a discount.

  • Overstock: Teachers who verify with an ID.me account will get a free Club O membership. This membership includes 5% rewards on purchases, free returns, and various other rewards when shopping online at Overstock.com. Teachers can use these rewards and discounts for furniture, rugs, decor, apparel, and much more.
  • Purple: Teachers and students can get 10% off of full-priced mattresses from Purple. Just enter your school or employee number ID, and the verification process will quickly get you ready to receive a discount on a new mattress.
  • Lovesac: Teachers receive 5% off of select furniture as part of Lovesac’s Heroes program. While there are exemptions, there are quite a few accessories you can receive discounts on from this furniture retail store.

Legal Service Discounts

The following firms are providing teachers with discounts on legal counseling, appeals cases, and more.

  • Apex Legal Services: This legal services team will provide discounts to help teachers with employee rights and appeals cases or issues. They also will help with problems surrounding demotions and performance-based actions, provide mediation, and help to resolve disputes. Contact them via telephone or email.
  • AFT: The American Federation of Teachers will help you with finance and legal problems, including identity theft protection, legal consultations, hiring an attorney, and a variety of other legal matters.

Loan Resources for Teachers

For help with your car loan or purchasing/leasing a car, consider the General Motors educator discount.

  • General Motors Educator Discount: The GM Educator Discount allows current employees of public and private schools, as well as colleges and universities, to receive special pricing below MSRP on the purchase or lease of new Chevrolet, Buick, or GMC vehicles. To be eligible for the GM Educator Discount, you just need to be a current employee of one of the educational institutions mentioned previously, and you are also able to sponsor your spouse, and dependent children and stepchildren if they are over 21 years old, or full-time students under 25 years of age.

The GM Educator Discount is perhaps the most prominent car loan discount for teachers. However, when applying for a car loan, it’s best to check with the company if they offer any discounts for teachers, new graduates, and educational organizations to get a better deal on a car.

Grant Resources for Teachers

For extra financial assistance, there are plenty of grants for teachers to continue financing their education, to better the quality of their teaching, and even to continue their own education. These grants include:

  • NEA Foundation Learning and Leadership Grants: Public school teachers and faculty can receive $2,000 or $5,000 for the improvement of education. These grants help fund summer institutes, research, mentoring, and lesson study.
  • Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program: K-12 teachers with at least five years of experience in STEM can apply for a $6,000 monthly stipend, and a $1,000 monthly living expense grant to benefit students and enhance your educational methods.
  • Fund for Teachers: Teachers can apply for $5,000 to $10,000 for funding in the efforts to create their own educational objectives and motivations.
  • Elmer’s Teacher Tool Kit Grant: Awards teachers with $100 to $500 in the effort to provide free schooling supplies to students. Teachers K-12 may consider applying for this grant to ease paying out-of-pocket to supply students with classroom supplies.
  • McCarthey Dressman Teacher Development Grant: Provides up to $10,000 per year for three years for K-12 teachers and teams looking to innovate education strategies in the classroom.

As stated above, there are thousands of grants a teacher can apply for, including student loan forgiveness programs, and student loan repayment grants (if applicable). Any teacher should look at grants — both federal and private — to help ease the financial strain and better their classroom and learning environments.

Insurance Resources for Teachers

Insurance coverage should be considered by everyone, but it can quickly become expensive — especially for teachers who are using their own money to pay for school and classroom supplies. Car, homeowners, life, and health insurance are all coverages people need to feel safe in the event something disastrous happens. Teachers should contact local agents of the following companies for special discounts on various insurances:

  • Farmers Insurance: Farmers gives special discounts to teachers for renters insurance.
  • Liberty Mutual: Liberty Mutual Insurance provides exclusive savings on auto insurance, and customized car insurance for teachers including vandalism loss protection, personal property coverage, and collision coverage.
  • GEICO: GEICO offers insurance discounts to teachers who belong to various educational organizations. Discount coverage may vary depending on your educational organization.
  • Country Financial: K-12 teachers can get 10% off auto insurance with Country Financial. Physical damage, collision, comprehensive, uninsured, and underinsured motorist protection are available, among other coverages.

Tax Resources for Teachers

According to the IRS, eligible educators can deduct up to $250 for business expenses on their taxes. Acceptable expenses for deduction include personal development courses, books, supplies, computer equipment, and any supplementary materials that you use in the classroom.

You may deduct $500 if you are married and filing jointly and both spouses are eligible educators. There are various forms in which you can claim these deductions.

Best Credit Cards for Teachers

From everyday expenses to special purchases, it is common to apply for a credit card. It is no secret that some credit cards are better than others depending on your spending habits. For teachers, there are a variety of perks you can take advantage of to ease your financial situation when purchasing supplies for your classroom and students.

These perks may include rewards points, cash back, introductory offers, and low interest payments. Some great credit cards for teachers include:

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited: With this card, you can earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases excluding groceries. However, you will earn 5% cash back at grocery stores. Additionally, you will earn 5% on travel purchases and 3% on dining and restaurants. This card has no annual fee and 0% intro APR for 15 months.
  • Citi Double Cash Card: This card offers 2% cash back on every purchase and a $0 annual fee.
  • Discover it Secured Card: You will earn 2% cash back on $1,000 spent, and 1% for every other purchase. This credit card is best if you have bad to average credit.
  • American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card: Although it has a $95 annual fee, you will get up to 6% cash back, and a $300 welcoming offer. This card is good for purchases at the supermarket and is great for earning various other bonus rewards.
  • U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card: This card has no annual fee and a 0% intro APR.
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