12/06/2010 04:11 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Financial Products, Perks and Programs for Teachers

Just because you chose a line of work that serves a higher purpose, doesn't mean you don't want to improve your bottom line. Teacher salaries can be tough to survive on, particularly for families with children. Throw in a few pets and an ailing grandparent or two, and things can get seriously tight in the finance department. Here are four products, perks and programs to consider if you make your living as a classroom teacher.

HUD Mortgages: You need to shop carefully, but if you're a teacher and are open to living in an area targeted for revitalization, you can score a home for 50 percent less than the list price through HUD's Good Neighbor Next Door program. A three-year sole residence occupancy agreement is required, which just means that you agree to live in the home (and nowhere else) for three full years.

Zero Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards: No foreign transaction fee credit cards are a huge help, not only to teachers who like to travel during long breaks, but for those teachers who choose to work and live internationally. When you live out of the country for most of the year, foreign transaction fees aren't something you want to be burdened with. Chase offers three different partner travel credit cards that are free of foreign transaction fees: The British Airways Signature Visa, the Hyatt Credit Card, and the Priority Club Select Visa. Capital One also doesn't charge foreign transaction fees on any of its credit cards.

International Teaching Jobs: While teaching salaries and benefit packages here in the States may sometimes feel like chump change, plying your trade overseas can bring numerous additional benefits that level the playing field. In addition to tax advantaged salaries, many schools -- particularly in the Middle East -- offer paid furnished housing and utilities along with stipends for paid drivers and private school tuition for your children. They also include life and health insurance in addition to paid round trip flights to your home country once per year. Add that to the hourly rate you can garner on the side through tutoring or language instruction gigs, and you've got yourself a decent employment package in a place where you can really put those zero foreign transaction fee credit cards to good use.

Professional Discounts: At first glance, you might think teacher discounts are simply small potatoes. But even some of the lower discounts start at 10 percent for places like bookstores, office supply retailers and fitness centers. If you were getting that same rate on your savings account, you'd be living large. So dig around, check with your school and remember to ask at every appropriate purchase point if a teacher discount applies. And always have your school ID at the ready. Here's an online listing of educator discounts available at stores such as the Gap, Dick's Sporting Goods, Barnes & Noble and Target. There are also numerous discount opportunities at online retailers such as Netflix, Overstock, 1-800-PETMEDS and

While K-12 classroom instruction isn't exactly a big-money profession, there are ways to maximize the salary you are provided so you can focus on that higher calling you signed up for in the first place. These could also help you take some of the financial pressure off, so you can focus on working with and working for the children.