Tuesday, July 15, 2014

11 Tips for Homeschooling Without Breaking the Budget

We're a family of 7 living on a tight budget - but homeschooling doesn't break that budget. Here's how:

Don't just shop educational stores or homeschool catalogs - keep your eyes open because educational items are everywhere. I found our favorite solar system magnets at Hobby Lobby on clearance. The Target dollar bins have supplied flashcards, posters, magnets, and more over the years. And don't forget to ask for discounts. Some bookstores and education stores will give you a teacher discount if you're a homeschool family (you may have to provide documentation). If you do your shopping at a homeschool convention, try to buy from a vendor that price matches. I save at least $50 every year by doing so.

Yard Sales and Thrift Stores - 'tis the season for yard sales (or garage sales or tag sales, depending on what they're called in your area). Things I've found at yard sales and thrift stores include white boards, chalk boards, bulletin boards, folders, unused curriculum, reference books, calendars (which make great art books), maps, flashcards, games, measuring cups and spoons, play money, Lincoln logs, Legos, Tinker Toys, shells, puzzles, educational toys and baskets to organize everything. Don't forget used curriculum sales, online or otherwise.

Back to School Sales - oh, how I love these. Watch the ads (and keep them, if you have a store that price matches) and you can pick up notebooks, filler paper, printer paper, notecards, folders, markers, crayons, rulers, highlighters and more for pennies. Keep a stash of these items and dole them out as needed through the year. If you want to be truly frugal, do NOT let your children have unfettered access. My kids can go through a ream of paper faster than you can say "that was for printing maps for geography."

Gifts from family and friends - things that make good gifts include art supplies, craft kits, science equipment (my parents gave my kids a very nice microscope), Legos, puzzles, movies, and games. When grandparents or Aunts & Uncles ask for suggestions, don't forget these things.

Hand Me Downs - we've had friends and family pass down books, math manipulatives, science equipment, and more. When people know you're homeschoolers, they might offer you educational things they don't want any more. Accept with a smile. If you can't use it, pass it on to someone else (or donate it). Don't forget about the Craiglist "free" listings. Most of it won't interest you but you never know when someone might want to get rid of something you can actually use.

The Library - this should be a homeschool family's best friend. Most libraries in the US have more than just books these days. There are movies, CDs, audio books, magazines (including technical journals), items available for downloading (ours has ebooks, free music downloads, magazines, and newspapers), and that's not to mention the programs they put on. (So far this year my girls have made marble mine shafts, attending a program on Water - more fun than it sounds!- Fun with Bubbles, and more.)

Don't forget to ask if there's a teacher card option. Homeschool Moms should be eligible (with some documentation) for this and it is so worth it. (Ours means the books are automatically renewed and there are no fees. It can only be used for our school items, not movies or the books for me, but still, that's a big savings for a family with hundreds of items checked out.)

Free downloads and printables - there are entire websites and blogs dedicated to these. Some of my favorites are:
Rotate memberships - you don't have to buy memberships to every museum, zoo, and aquarium near you. Pick one a year (this year the zoo, next year the science museum or something like that). Watch for free or discount days at your favorite spots, if you don't have a membership. Museum or zoo memberships also make great gifts.

Local parks - playgrounds, hiking trails, educational programs, concerts...you don't know what's available until you check. Take a walk on the same hiking trail once a week and have your children note the differences or keep a nature journal.

Barter - trade piano lessons for art class or babysit for Spanish lessons. Swap your 5th grade math for a friend's 6th grade Science. There are facebook groups, co-ops and more for this but you can also try just asking friends you know.

Prioritize - in our family we buy Children's Theatre season tickets and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra school concert tickets. Those experiences are important to us. But another family might find sports more important and pay fees for baseball in the summer and basketball in the winter. All of those are good things, but if you can't afford them all, know what your family wants and pursue that. There is no law that every five year old has to stand on a soccer field, especially if that five year old would rather be painting. It's not just a question of budgeting your money, but also your time. There are many great experiences and classes. But a family of more than one child cannot possibly do them all. Don't feel guilty about that.

A tight budget might be a challenge, but it's not an insurmountable one.

How do you stretch your homeschool budget?

Linking up with:
Living and Learning at Home
Picture credit: Pixabay


RachelT said...

Thanks for sharing lots of great ideas for saving money! I have been scouting out the back to school sales and making lists of what we need. I love saving money on our supplies for the year when there are good sales in July and August! I'm stopping by from the Trivium Tuesdays Link-Up.

Amy Maze said...

Love what you said about giving kid unlimited access to supplies. My daughter can go through a ream of paper (or package of glue sticks) in a day for sure! I like for her to be able to create, but at some point it really is wasting money ;) We love our library too, and totally agree about prioritizing! Thanks for sharing all your tips!

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