Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an unlimited budget to spend on school books???? You know, where all of that “nice-to-to have” curriculum actually becomes yours instead of just gazing wistfully at it at a homeschooling conference. Alas, many of us are on a strict budget (and it is a good thing because it keeps me from overindulging)! I love to buy books! For me, there is nothing like getting a whole box of books in the mail. Unfortunately, I only have so much money and space to store all of my treasures.
Here are my top 5 tips for staying within a homeschool budget!
1. Set a budget
I have found one of the best ways to save money in general is to set a budget. For instance, I set an amount each week at the grocery store, and I don’t exceed it. I carry around my calculator to keep track of my total. That way there are no surprises at the register when I go to check out. Many times this means I have to put items back. (Do we really need those extra bags of chips? Shouldn’t I opt for the bag of apples instead?)
I do the same thing with my school books. I also set an amount that I cannot exceed. This means that some of those “nice-to-haves” don’t make the cut. I create a spreadsheet of everything I plan to use for the year (Mary created a blog post on this very topic The Handy Dandy Homeschool Shopping List) and then price shop online between several different retailers. I go to the homeschool conference armed with this spreadsheet in hopes of finding a better deal from one of the vendors.
In addition to the major Catholic curriculum providers, here is a list of retailers that I check:
www.rainbowresource.com (Free shipping on orders over $50, great selection, great prices)
2. Buy Used
I think this is one of the best ways to save money! Many used books that I have bought are new or like new. I have even found some older versions of books that are pre-common core. There are so many different options for buying used books:
- Check out the used book selections at the various homeschooling conferences. Sometimes the vendors have a used book section. Sometimes the conference has a used book room. This helps out your fellow homeschoolers recoup some of the money they have spent over the years, and likely, you will find a deal.
- Subscribe to the various Yahoo groups where people post used books for sale. The ones I frequent are cathswap (Catholic used curriculum), MODGMaterialsSwap (Mother of Divine Grace), IEWFamilies (Institute for Excellence in Writing). You need a Yahoo! ID to subscribe to the various groups on www.yahoo.com.
- Buy from Amazon Marketplace or Better World Books (free shipping, no minimum order, GREAT sales if you sign up for their emails). I have purchased workbooks from Amazon Marketplace that are brand new but maybe have a torn cover or a little wear. Other great used vendors are www.abebooks.com and www.half.com.
- Look for used book sales or stores in your community. I live in a community where there is an annual homeschool used book sale. I have found phenomenal deals on used books there. If you don’t have this luxury, consider starting one of your own!
My homeschooling friends are so generous with what they loan out. We try to swap where we can. I have a group of “retired” homeschooling mom friends who aren’t willing to part with their stash but are willing to loan things out. Become friends with these women…they are a wealth of information!
The library is also a great resource especially for novels and the classics. Check there first before you buy!
4. School Supply Savings
In addition to my book buying addiction, I love to buy school supplies. New boxes of crayons, post-it notes in a variety of shapes and sizes, scissors, markers in every color imaginable, notebooks, binders….the fun never ends! The stores design their displays to suck people like me completely in! I think $0.10 notebooks….I should buy 20! BUT much of this can be reused year after year. Do we really need another new box of crayons when the “crayon bin” has 400 crayons in it?
Again, take stock of what you have, make a list, and stick to it. They run the same deals year after year, and many of us don’t need half of what we buy.
Here are some tips for saving on school supplies:
- Tear out the used pages in spiral notebooks and reuse the remaining ones for another subject.
- Use the backs of all printer paper. I have saved tons of money doing this. I keep a stack of all used paper next to the computer. I use it for grocery lists, scratch paper for math problems, and even some art projects. I also print on the backs of these pages, effectively using both sides.
- Set your printer to “DRAFT” quality for printing. We go through a lot of ink and toner is really pricey! By setting the printer to “draft”, I am able to save.
- Start a scrap box for art projects. If I had a quarter for every time one of the kids used an entire sheet of paper for one little tiny scrap, I would be a rich woman! We have a shoe box in our school room where we put any scrap that might make for an interesting art project: scrapbook paper, construction paper, old cards that have a neat picture on them, etc. Then when the kids need something small, this is the first place they turn.
- Ask for school supplies for birthday and Christmas presents. I love practical gifts, and this is a great way to replenish your supply!
5. Buy ONLY what you NEED!
I know how tempting it is to buy curriculum. The trouble is, oftentimes we buy something and then never get around to using it. Usually this is the really cool stuff that is going to make history come alive, or the science experiment book that we are definitely going to get to this year. Maybe it is the series on recommendation from a friend that your kids end up hating. Regardless, we all have too much stuff! I remember listening to a talk at a conference where a very wise priest said, “If you buy only what you need, you will have enough money for everything and then some.” Wise words to live buy (pun intended!).
Do you have a homeschool money saving tip to share?