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10 Money-Saving Hacks for Teachers

Keep your classroom stocked with supplies while sticking to your budget using these money-saving tips from a veteran teacher.

saving money

We all know teachers don’t make the biggest salaries. However, I don’t know a single teacher who doesn’t spend his or her own money on classroom supplies.

My first few years in the classroom, I spent thousands of dollars on easels, pocket charts, organizers, and books for my classroom library. Luckily, at that time I still lived at home with my parents and didn’t have many other bills.

Now, after 12 years of teaching and two kids of my own, I’ve found lots of ways to save money on items for my classroom. I still like to purchase new supplies for school, but I don’t have the extra money to invest thousands of dollars. That’s why I’ve come up with money-saving hacks that save me hundreds of dollars each year. Hopefully, they will save you some hard-earned money, too!

#1. Ask parents for donations.

My first few years of teaching, I bought all the school supplies for my classroom—notebooks, pencil boxes, and crayons. I also purchased hand sanitizer, tissues, and Clorox wipes for my students to use.

Now, I ask my students’ parents to donate these items. They are always happy to help, and I end up with more than enough supplies for my whole class. Plus, I save hundreds of dollars.

One of the best times to ask for supplies is at "Meet the Teacher" Night. Some teachers put a list of items they need on the board, and each parent takes one. Other teachers just make a list of classroom supplies, and parents choose what to donate. Then, when you’re running low, put a note in your weekly newsletter asking for what you need.

#2. Go to yard sales and discount stores, like Goodwill.

You can get some great classroom items without spending a ton of money by frequenting yard sales and discount stores—I’ve been especially successful with purchasing books there. Parents sell or donate books after their children read them one time, so the books are often in great shape and you’ll only pay about 25 cents per book.

When you’re at yard sales, make sure you mention you’re a teacher. A lot of families will give you an extra discount. One family even gave me a whole bag of books for free when I told them I was using them in my classroom!

Check out this post for some other ways to get cheap or free books!

#3. Use teacher discounts.

Some stores offer special teacher discounts. Staples, AC Moore, and Barnes & Noble are just a few places where teachers can save some extra money.

If you don’t have a teacher card yet, just take your school ID to the store with you. After that, just fill out the paperwork at checkout and use your new card each time you shop at that store!

#4. Stock up on items that are one dollar.

If there are certain supplies you really need, like classroom decorations, always check the dollar store first. The Dollar Tree always has a great selection of teacher resources. At the beginning of the school year, the Dollar Spot at Target is stocked with student rewards, cute classroom signs, and lots of other useful items.

#5. Don’t buy anything at full price.

If you see something you want in a teacher supply catalog or online, don’t buy it right away. Do some research to see if you can find it cheaper somewhere else.

If the original price seems like the best one, wait for it to go on sale. Search the internet for coupon codes, or wait for a percentage discount to be advertised.

Additionally, I always sign up for a store’s mailing list if there’s something I really want. That way, I’m the first to know when there’s a sale!

#6. Buy things a year ahead of time.

If you shop the end-of-season sales, you can get some great deals! The only problem: you have to store the items for a year. For example, last year I purchased a pack of Valentines and some cute heart pencils and erasers for $1.00. (The original cost would have been at least $5.00!) I just put them in the closet in my classroom and made a note on my calendar. That way, I’ll remember I have them when Valentine’s Day rolls around this year.

#7. Take advantage of free programs.

With more classrooms going 1:1 with technology, you might feel the urge to purchase online programs for your students to use. Almost every website has a paid version that is better and offers more bells and whistles.

I know it’s very tempting to sign up and pay for your class to use that technology. However, there are plenty of great resources that are completely free! Find out about some of the websites my students love at their guided math technology center.

#8. Buy good quality items, so they last a long time.

When you decide to invest in something new for your classroom, make sure it’s going to last several years. You’ll end up spending more money in the long run if you purchase something that breaks every year and needs to be replaced.

My first few years of reading workshop, I purchased cardboard book boxes for my students. They lasted one year, and I had to keep buying new ones. I finally decided to invest in more expensive plastic book boxes, and I’ve had them the past 5 years. They are still in great condition, and I haven’t spent another penny on them.

#9. Use school resources instead of spending your own money.

Make sure you take advantage of the supplies your school provides! I've seen a lot of teachers posting in Facebook groups lately about purchasing their own printers, laminators, and Cricut machines.

If your school has a printer, laminator, and die cut machine, use them for free. I know there’s sometimes a line at school, but I’d rather wait an hour than spend hundreds of dollars of my own money. Plus, you have to keep purchasing paper and lamination to keep those machines running at home.

#10. Ask yourself, “Is this really something I need?”

"That awesome rug or amazing bulletin board set isn’t
going to make a difference in the lives of your students.
You are!"

As teachers, we want to do what is best for our students. We want them to have the most beautiful classroom, the nicest supplies, and the best learning resources. However, the most important thing you can give your students is a teacher who cares about them and gives them the best education possible.

That awesome rug or amazing bulletin board set isn’t going to make a difference in the lives of your students. You are! So every time you’re tempted to make a purchase for your classroom, ask yourself, “Is this really something I need?” and “Is this going to help my students learn more?” If you can answer yes to both of those questions, then go for it. If not, save your money and spend your time being a wonderful teacher.

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Want more from this author? Check out Tara's tips on managing a chatty class.
Author Bio:

Tara Dusko is a 3rd-grade teacher and mom of two. She blogs about ways to have a fun, low-stress year as a teacher at Teach Without Tears and about time and money-saving tips for moms at Flavors, Fashion, and Fun.

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