“It became somewhat of a challenge to live on 4 euros per day”

Published on: 4 June 2021

How do you deal with work and money for now and in the future? Do you live from day to day or are you deliberately planning your financial future? And do you arrange ‘later’ yourself or are you participating in a pension fund?

Teacher Sharon earns a good wage, but she has taught herself to live on little money.


Sharon Engers (31)

Profession: Teacher in Dutch and (economic) citizenship, and editor-in-chief

Weekly works: 40 hours on paper “but actually always more”

Income: 3,000 net including supplements

Savings: Enough

Pension is arranged? Yes, through work


What kind of work do you do?

“I am a Dutch teacher and also teach the subject citizenship, a type of social studies, at the ROC in Amsterdam. I teach beauticians at MBO level 4 (secondary vocational education). The girls I teach are a bit older, between the ages of 16 and 24. I have been in this job for seven years now and it truly is my passion.”


What do you love so much about your job?

“The interaction with students. I learn as much from them as they, hopefully, learn from me; they hold up a mirror. I believe you are much better equipped to convey the teaching material if you feel a connection with your students. Since the beginning of December I use my laptop to teach from home and this week a few of my mentor students arrived on my doorstep carrying a bag filled with presents as my birthday was coming up and they missed me. That truly moved me. I appreciate the fact that, being a teacher, I am able to contribute to the way they approach their everyday life. The subject citizenship is more suitable in that respect than Dutch. That's also why I enjoy the combination of both. One section of citizenship addresses the subject economics which allows me to teach students, among other things, how to handle money.”


How much do you earn teaching?

“A little over 2,700 euros net per month, excluding supplements. My wage including those supplements is 3,000 euros net on average.”


Are you satisfied with that income?

“Absolutely, I am very satisfied and don't have any trouble making ends meet. Although the latter can also be attributed to my lifestyle.”


Are you that frugal?

“I taught myself to live on little money. First by necessity when the Education Executive Agency made a clerical error and seized my salary one time which meant I temporarily had barely anything to spend. And after that to save money to travel. Last year, my boyfriend at the time and I had planned to travel through Australia for at least one year. I calculated in advantage that I would need 17,000 euros if I also wanted to get my driving license. I earned a lot less back then compared to what I earn now, so a rigorous approach was required. I tried to live on 4 to 5 euros per day and I actually managed very well. I eventually succeeded in saving 7,000 euros more than my target amount in a period of one year and a half.”


How did you do that?

“It awakens your creative self. It was my goal to spend as little money possible without having the feeling I had to cut back on things. For example, I baked banana bread quite regularly which I was able to enjoy for an entire week. I cooked large servings of food and froze everything. I didn't go out for dinner with others anymore, but I did enjoy having picnics outdoors. And if I really wanted to visit a concert, I bought my tickets through Ticketswap. I paid a lot of attention to discounts, and the whole thing actually became somewhat of a challenge. I really enjoyed adopting that lifestyle. It also made me realize that I used to live quite a luxurious life which wasn't something I grew accustomed to growing up. I had quite a large sum of money to spend on my own. Before I started saving, I used to go out for dinner a few times per week and bought a fresh smoothie at the train station at least four times a week. As it turned out, I was spending 70 euros per month just buying smoothies! A bit of a waste really. And there was other non-essential stuff I used to spend my money on.”


So, you had reached your target by far. And what happened next: did you go to Australia?

“Well, no. On my last day of teaching prior to my leave of absence, my boyfriend all of a sudden broke off the relationship. He apparently got cold feet once the moment arrived.”


So there you were, with a broken heart and all that money saved. What did you do?

“I travelled through Europe on my own for a couple of weeks to process our break-up. And I furthermore decided to also get my motorcycle license once I got my regular driving license. And I bought a musical instrument. I used a total of approximately 6,000 euros from my savings account but that amount has meanwhile been complemented. I was lucky enough to get my job back after the summer. I started living a bit more generous when the trip to Australia fell through, but I am still spending hardly any money due to Corona. It has become my new normal to only spend little money. It makes me just as happy and I am able to make ends meet on a lot less money than I thought. Every month, I deposit between 1,250 and 1,500 euros into my savings account.”


Have you made plans on what to do with your savings?

“I may want to start investing and I am trying to find out more about the subject. Furthermore, I am definitely planning to travel. In the future, when everything surrounding Corona has hopefully calmed down a bit, I would like to earn my money taking on writing jobs from abroad. For a while that is, because my heart still lies in education.”


How much do you pay on fixed costs?

“I rent a studio for the amount of 550 euros per month, including utilities. I live in a village and share the bathroom and toilet with eight other people. That is a conscious choice. I have contemplated buying a house, but as a starter and single woman that's nearly impossible given the excessive prices on the housing market. I also don't feel the need to rent a bigger space. Everything is fine the way it is. I don't need that luxury. Apart from my rent, I spend money on the standard insurances, subscriptions and my car on a monthly basis. My subscription to the gym is frozen for now due to Corona, but I took on boxing four times per week outdoors. Oh, and I donate money to several charities every month.”


I do get mail about my pension sometimes but I throw the letters out, unopened

What else do you spend much money on?

On books, mainly e-books about personal development. Between 30 and 40 euros per month on average. I also started a training course at the LOI to become a web editor, which has cost me 600 euros.”


Do you think about your old age sometimes?

“Not very consciously. When I took a leave of absence for a year to make that trip, I temporarily stopped my pension contributions. Now I pay for my pension again every month. I participate in pension fund ABP through work. It is my understanding that pension is well arranged for teachers but, to be honest, I have not really looked into it.”


Do you know how much money you will be paid in the future, the way things are right now?

“No. I never pay attention to it. I do get mail about it sometimes but I throw the letters out, unopened. That's bad, right? I should really look into it more closely.”


How much would you like to receive per month as pension pay?

“The same as my salary right now, 3,000 net per month.”


How do you envisage your life in the future?

“I would still be quite busy, I think. I would like to do plenty of volunteer work and maybe still be active on an educational level. I never sit still, so the word ‘pension’ is not at all something that pops up in my head. I always want to be doing something and continue doing something.”