Saving money

This is the new version of the Alaska Teacher Placement (ATP) forum for teachers, education majors, and school administrators to discuss working and living in the state of Alaska. Those considering an Alaskan job, or considering a new Alaskan education job ask questions, and those with information and/or opinions provide answers. Although many users are teacher or principal candidates from the Lower 48, a large number of current and former school district HR and school administrators subscribe.

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Saving money

Postby amanda12345 » Sat Nov 28, 2015 12:53 pm

I am a certified 5-12 English teacher. I also have a journalism degree and have worked as a journalist for 10 years. I recently received my teaching credentials in Montana and I'm interested in teaching in Alaska. I'm wondering how much money I could save working there for a year. I know if varies by district and location, and I'm open to teaching anywhere. Could someone give me an idea, a range?
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Re: Save money

Postby Johncn » Sun Nov 29, 2015 5:58 am

I am a certified 5-12 English teacher....I'm wondering how much money I could save working there for a year. I know if varies by district and location, and I'm open to teaching anywhere. Could someone give me an idea, a range?


English teachers are in demand, but there is no way to guess how much anyone can save working in Alaska for a year. There are way too many variables that are unknowns. There are input variables such as these:

How much will you make? - Varies widely throughout the state. Beginning teachers can start anywhere from $40,000 (Southeast Alaska) to $57,000 (North Slope). You can search for any Alaska district's "negotiated agreement" (teacher's union contract) online, as they are nearly all on the district or NEA website.

What are your benefits? - Again, varies widely. Covered in the "negotiated agreement" in force for that school year. Most include good medical benefits. Some include relocation or annual transportation to remote site, others don't provide any of that. Some provide medivac insurance in the case of medical needs that require a big hospital...others not so much. Some districts have medical savings plans that reduce your income for taxes to use for doctor's visits...some don't.

Are you on one income? - Are you single and willing to share housing with another teacher? Or, are you bringing kids and/or a significant other? If a SO is coming with you, is he or she working and able to contribute to household income?

And output variables - MANY of which will vary dramatically by location you end up in:

What do you eat now? - Everyone spends a large portion of their income on food and drink. Do you need fresh stuff (produce, meats, organic foods, etc.)? It's available, but at a cost, in remote locations. It's nearly the same price as Seattle in Anchorage. It's all going to be more than Montana. Do you or can you buy bulk, and plan your basics out weeks or months in advance? Not everyone wants to or can.

What are you moving with? - Are you bringing everything from your Lower 48 life? Better be prepared to pay out the nose for shipping. Or, can you be a minimalist the first year or two? Are you going to need a car / snow machine / four wheeler? Big upfront expenses if you have to buy these items your first year. Some jobs will require you to have transportation to get to work. Others will not, and you can walk to work.

How much is rent? - Varies widely from "not much including utilities" due to district "subsidies", to "OMG! plus utilities", and good are on your own finding a place.

What do you do for fun? - Are you going to need lots of outdoor gear, a boat, fishing gear, hunting gear, ski equipment...etc. Hobbies and passions may be why some people move to Alaska. But, they all come with a price tag. Can you self entertain in a remote location? Be happy in front of a television or book or computer? Or, are you going to make several trips a year into a regional hub and stay in a hotel, rent a car, go out to shows and/or restaurants to recharge your proverbial batteries? Are you going "home" to the Lower 48 for Christmas? Or hanging out?

Are you bringing a pet? - Moving dogs or cats or lizards in Alaska can be expensive. Vet bills, kennels, rental cars, etc...all needed to support your pet in transit each time you go back and forth.

Are you going to need "broadband" internet and/or satellite television? - Although Internet is now widely available in the remote parts of the state, none of it is "unlimited" or "broadband" in the sense you are likely used to in the Lower 48. Together, these expenses can be a $75 a month, or $$350 a month...depending on what you buy, whether you can share with others, and whether or not the equipment needs to be purchased

I think you can get the idea, and maybe others will provide some estimates from their own experiences. I just think there are way too many variables to guess an amount. I know that's not what you wanting to hear, however.

Welcome to the ATP Forum. You have come to the right place to ask these questions!


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Re: Saving money

Postby tallyho » Tue Dec 08, 2015 8:01 pm

My rent and utilities combined are $615. I spend about $300 per month on food - I am vegetarian and extremely frugal in my food selection - healthy but bare bones. So my entire paycheck is "savings." Obviously there are other expenses but no gasoline, no eating out, no coffee shops, no shopping, no nothing. I save my entire check. Just saying it's possible. My entire life is about teaching, prepping, grading, and quiet down time in my little house. There are a lot of ways to be up here. I am enjoying reading books, spending time on FB, talking on a Google phone (for free) to friends down south, and watching a lot of Netflix - wifi is included where I am. You can do this frugally - but realize that the flights in and out are really the big expense. If you don't buy your Christmas flight out at least 6 months in advance they more than double by October. The little flights from wherever into bigger cities are pricey - look up Wright Air for example - there are a bunch -they are not cheap. Luggage out of your town may be cheap but going in is $1 per pound. I spent over $600 shipping stuff (by USPS) in that I thought I had to have - it's sitting in boxes. I could have just come up with two large suitcases and been fine. So you can save if you don't want to travel much.
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Re: Saving money

Postby Adrianna » Tue Dec 08, 2015 8:50 pm

You do have to plan on everything from the skin out as the saying goes. It also depends on where you are going and as mentioned what it is you like to do? I have lived in the bush and am actually a born and raised Alaskan and I like some luxuries and can live without others. But it is all about what can you live with and without. Its a matter of planning ahead to make sure you get the foods you need to live on and the other items. If you live in a remote Village and everything you want and need does need to be flown in. That's everything ordered on the internet and flown in. Also keep in mind its about advanced planning as well. What if that plane cant make it to your remote location? If you live in a regional hub. I am randomly picking Unalakleet and that is a regional hub. So flights from Anchorage directly land their and if you teach in Unalakleet great that's awesome. But say if you live in Teller or one of the other places. The plane lands in Unalakleet then comes to your village and if their is bad weather, the plane may turn around and not make it. So you have to plan ahead and always keep extra supplies on hand. The more bush you live this is a factor and the costs are going to be expensive. You have to factor in the cost of the items and then shipping and check sites make sure they will ship to Alaska. But it all depends on which school district. Their is a difference between city vs rural vs bush when it comes to costs. But keep in mind that most things have to be shipped in to the State no matter you live either plane, barge or truck. Always plan ahead, if it takes typically 3-5 days to get an order, double that or even triple the time before it becomes an absolute need as in ergent no food or medicine will be a problem. Also its great/good to shop at the local village store after one recovers from price sticker shock. But keep in mind the village store while it keeps stocked up is also dependent on the plane coming in to keep bringing supplies in. Also the supplies will be basic. I always have shopped at the local village stores a few items, it creates good relations.

But planning ahead is the key too, the other poster is right, one can over pack and find they don't need some items. But also know for example to you like to sleep warm or cold. As in do you like a warm room and little blanket or other way around. Their are times in the bush even in a well insulated cabin that no matter how warm it is, its cold outside. I like to sleep with a heavy comforter and also grew up with a bear skin rug on my bed. That's the reality of the bush. Also become friends with Amazon Prime especially if your remote. They are a great way to order a lot of great things and also shipping presents to friends and family that you want to give them. Also Costco on Diamond in Anchorage has a bush department a great one btw. Mr Prime beef is fabu if your not a vegie. I am not a vegie and I don't mind splurging on a few luxuries when out in the bush. Also keep in mind you have to buy everything from dish soap to papertowls and everything in between like toilet paper. Buying in bulk oh hey Costco is my friend especially Costco in Anchorage. Anyway research and look at the different school districts. Some of the school districts post information right on their websites tips on costs and websites on shopping tips. Check the sites out and plug in random zipcodes when it comes to shipping. Then after you faint from the sticker shock pick yourself up and decide that's the reality. The teacher salary's that range between 40,000 and 60,000 starting reflect cost of living. Read some of the remote sites carefully, they charge a specific price to stay in their housing. This is done out of convience to you and them, but also some places have to do this. Because in some places the land is owned by natives and because its the only place to live. Also decide if you can withstand the realities of living in a entirely different culture where people speak other languages and have beliefs different then you do. Can you stand to see a whale hunted for food and then watch the villagers celebrate, prepare and honor the animal that is feeding them, clothing some of them, providing oil and other items. Anyway good luck happy searching and preparing. Living in Bush Alaska if that is part of the state you choose to teach in is like nothing else in this world. Good luck and enjoy my beautiful and wonderful state. We Alaskans are extremely friendly, generous and loving people over all. But no bias here...
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Re: Saving money

Postby Bushteachers » Mon Dec 14, 2015 9:51 pm

amanda12345 wrote:I am a certified 5-12 English teacher. I also have a journalism degree and have worked as a journalist for 10 years. I recently received my teaching credentials in Montana and I'm interested in teaching in Alaska. I'm wondering how much money I could save working there for a year. I know if varies by district and location, and I'm open to teaching anywhere. Could someone give me an idea, a range?

How much can you save?

Between -$10k to +$35k a year. Seriously your range is that wide.
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Re: Saving money

Postby marymatt718 » Sun Dec 20, 2015 12:24 pm

It may also take you a few years to get to the point of being able to save...I am a case in point.
I came from Houston, which pays its teachers decently. I made $43,000 by my second year of teaching in Texas. When I came to my district in Alaska, my salary only went up $5000, and my monthly rental remained the same, about $900...though I didn't have the year-round air conditioning bills anymore ;) . I was living singly in my apartment because my dogs are large enough that they are like living with two more people.

I maxed out most of my credit cards and took out a small personal loan to get to Alaska. (I had no savings left after paying for my certification program...but I had no student loans left either!) I went home my first summer, which cost me about $6000 round trip (I drive because my dogs are too big to go on Alaska Airlines), and spent another $2000 for shipping some items from Texas that I wanted my second year, and for bush shopping in there went the credit cards again... :(

I stayed in my village in Alaska this past summer, and my summer rent went to half the normal rate, which is a benefit from my district, and this year I will finish paying off the last credit card. It will be next year, my 4th year in Alaska, before I will begin to see any accumulated savings. That being said, once everything is paid off, I am looking at being able to save about $15,000 next year, barring any unforseen emergencies.

So, it can be done, but there is no guarantee. I will tell you that salaries tend to go up faster here; within 5 years of my arrival in Alaska, I will be in my 7th total year of teaching and will have a higher salary than my mentor teacher (from my first year of teaching in TX) received after 23 years of teaching in Texas.
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Re: Saving money

Postby kazachka » Sat Jan 23, 2016 11:06 pm

Boy, I really think it depends on just WHERE you are. {Moderator's note: OP is on the road system in Southcentral Alaska - Kenai Peninsula.} I am in the OMG+utilities category paying more than I ever have for housing in my life and near double of anything I ever paid when I lived in Wasilla and Fairbanks.

The rent is not bad, but the utilities are just insane! I have kicked around looking for cheaper housing, but I do not want to move to town (most rentals there are seasonal and you must bugger off May-Spetember) because my commute would be long in the winter. PLus, it's really not much cheaper even if my utilities were a little less. Snow removal and trash service are often not included when you live in town. You really have to do your research. AVOID PROPANE HEAT -it costs and arm,leg and kidney! My neighbor warned me so I THOUGHT I was being conservative in usage.....November was not very cold. We were mostly 20s, some 30s and maybe a week of single digits. The cost to heat a 1500sqft log home to 58-60 degrees......472$! After paying that much for the privelige of freezing in my living room, I did what the people who lived here before me did and switched entirely to electric heaters. I was tired of sleeping in 3 layers including a double layer wool fleece lined sweater! Idon't care how cold it is outside (I've done long runs down to -56 and raced regardless of temp for years in Fairbanks) but when I come inside, I like it warm. Propane is now down to nothing, and the cost to heat my house to mid 60s (warmer in my bedroom for sleeping)is about 450$-so I doubled my electric bill but am no longer dealing with the propane. Ideally, I'd like to get a place with a toyo stove(oil is less than half the cost of propane) in the same area, but pickings are slim to none. I like being further out of town because it's closer to school. I have a hunch I'll stay put.

Here's the breakdown-
Mile 10 out of Homer-halfway between school and town/ location is ideal to perfect
1500sq ft log home 2br 2bath
rent 950+50$for water
propane- minimum fees 30$
lights-452$ (might go slightly up/down)
gerbil speed internet 10mb (can go up to 20 sometimes but out this far they can only guarantee 10) 134$ :shock:

Car insurance-107$ (2003 Lexus RX300)I need a good reliable AWD ride with the best of studs to handle the road to and from school.All the teachers either drive SUVs, trucks, or the occasional Subaru.BTW, teachers in the neighboring village just a bit further up get hazard pay because they have to hike or ATV down a switchback to get to their school :) Some of the teachers at our school carpool too or park further up the road and walk down too at times if it's super icy and the road isn't sanded.
Note on the road- I live at mile 10-at mile 15 you enter the dead zone of no cell coverage,mile 20 is the end of the paved road system and school is 2 miles beyond that down a gnarly switchbacky steep road.

Food-300-400$ I shop Save-U More which is similar to Costco and pick up misc supplies in bulk when I go to Anchorage or Soldotna. I don't eat fancy, just the basics.
Gas-150$+- we all drive gas guzzlers out here :roll:

New fancy pants cats meow steel studded tires in September...700$ (an absolute MUST for that road to school)

OK, I did go back to Moscow for 3 weeks over winter break (our school gets Russian Christmas off and the Jan holidays to make this possible), but I flew on the cheap and just stayed in my place there so it wasn't an expensive splurge trip.I plan to go in the summer too. I did spend on books/materials for class and brought my snowboard/winter toys back (which fly free on both Aeroflot and Alaska Airlines).

I'm single and on one income. My saving grace is I didn't come in as a 21 yr old newbie on the bottom of the salary schedule or I'd not be able to handle the cost of living. I'm 41 and there are only 3 teachers younger than me on staff and they are 30smthgs also not on the bottom of the pay scale. The teachers all have many years of experience and it does make sense when you look at the cost of living in this area. I'd like to buy a house out here, but I'm really worried about falling oil prices and state budget cuts affecting education. I really like my job and the kids and would like to stay. Even if I were cut to .8 though, I'd be in BIG TROUBLE!

So, yes it all depends on where you are and what your housing includes. HEAT was always included in my other places I lived in Alaska, but out here it's not.
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Re: Saving money

Postby BermudaKristi » Mon Jan 25, 2016 6:41 am

Thanks for the warning on propane! Looking at various rentals on Craigslist it would vary of propane not included or heat- I wondered what this meant and how much it would be. Something to consider and clearly have to budget for when looking at rentals! Much appreciated info to both Mary and kazachka!
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Re: Saving money

Postby marymatt718 » Mon Jan 25, 2016 2:42 pm

Hey there BermudaKristi, et al.!
My location is a bush location (which I think you know, but I am putting that info in here for others who might read this post who don't know about Togiak). My district includes utilities in the rent, so I pay $900 for a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, nice apartment. This was the ideal situation for first coming here from Texas. I was in my third year of teaching and would never have been able to afford kazachka's situation. Besides the community of Togiak being so awesome (shameless plug alert!) the cost of living and the necessity of finding decent housing on the road system keeps me in the bush...maybe when I finish my Principal certification program, I'll consider a move to a road system school.
Some districts offer housing in their rural locations and don't pay utilities (I'm thinking of Kodiak here) but offer really cheap rent. Some, like North Slope, offer rent a bit less than I pay, but require you to pay a flat fee of something like $150 for utilities. So it works out to be about the same as what I pay here in Togiak, the best bush community in Alaska :lol: !
The best general advice ...besides "come to Togiak," to very carefully read the Negotiated Agreement of ANY district you might be considering. There you will find the salary levels, how much teacher housing costs, whether there is teacher housing, how much insurance will cost you each month, whether there is a travel stipend, things like that that are important to know. Ask questions. Some locations within a district are more remote than others. For example, Togiak, as sublimely awesome as it is, is Two plane rides and a good 6-8 hours of traveling time from Anchorage. There are other communities in my district that have direct flights to Anchorage, but they shall remain nameless...they can do their own shameless plugging!
All this will have a bearing on how much it will cost you to live in Alaska, and whether or not you will be able to save any money. So for all of you out there considering a move to Alaska, the first place to start in thinking about how much a desired location is going to cost you is the Negotiated Agreement. Please don't just look at the salary levels. Look at everything. There are reasons North Slope pays the level it does. Make sure you can handle those reasons...that they are worth it financially, physically, mentally, and emotionally. ( I still have problems with the way my villagers treat I rescue them when I can and say a prayer over them when I can't)
Oh, to find the general cost of food items in an area, go online and try to find a weekly flier from an AC store. Many communities in the bush have an AC store and their weekly sales flier will give you an idea of what you might pay for grocery items within a certain village.
Good luck to all you potential newbies! Happy hunting!
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