We all know that teachers often spend a lot of their money buying school supplies during the year. A lot of times teachers purchase supplies because they do not receive much support from their schools to purchase classroom supplies. The longer you teach, the more supply purchases add up over the years, and keeping up with classroom demands gets more difficult. I know teachers who spend an average $800 to $1,000 per year. That is a little over $100 a month during the months school is in session. Teachers do not get paid enough and many teachers have massive student loan balances, so buying classroom supplies can take a significant hit to their finances. Many teachers buy these items because they are needed to get the academic outcomes that students deserve.
So, for those teachers out there purchasing classroom supplies for their students, here are five tips for saving money on those classroom supplies.
Tip 1: There is my list, and there is your list
We know parents have their supply list and often the supply list is filled with the basic school supplies: backpack, folders, crayons, pencils, pens, and notebooks. What about the other supplies needed that isn’t on the list? This is why having a classroom specific supply list can come in handy. Think about what you will end up buying throughout the school year that’s not on the generic list. Compile that list and then split the list into a. What I am going to buy as a teacher and b. What I am going to ask the parents to buy.
Tip 2: Closed mouths don’t get fed
At my school, we have no problem asking parents for donations. Like the old saying, “Closed mouths don’t get fed.” So, we ask because you can never underestimate a parent’s resourcefulness to ensure their children have what they need to be successful. I do work in a low-income school, but we still ask for our parents’ support. We all have to sacrifice and give a little to ensure these students have what they need. Teachers should not bear the entire burden. There are many cases where our parents’ relatives, and even those in the local community, are willing to help out. The worse that can happen is that you do not get support, but you won’t ever know if you do not ask. Just like you would do for a wedding or a baby shower, you can set up a registry. Places like Walmart, Target, and Amazon allows you to do that and that way you can detail exactly what you need and in what quantity.
Tip 3: Let’s go half
Do you remember in college when you and your roommate would split the cost for items that you both would use? Do you remember when you first moved out your parents’ house and you would buy in bulk? The same idea can apply to buying school supplies. That teacher friend of yours in your building can go in with you on supplies. You buy enough that you can share the supplies between your two classrooms. The two of you can shop together and split up bulk purchases. This can ensure that you do not waste or overspend, and you can divide the bill in half, and both save money.
Tip 4: Shop smarter not harder
When is the best time to shop throughout the year? That is right after the holidays, the day after Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas. The same rule that applies to shopping after the holiday also applies for shopping for classroom items. You can find significant markdowns on teacher supplies right after the school year starts. Before the school year, shop for the essentials items you will need on day 1 and maybe the first week. After the first week of school has started, go shopping and clean up on the items left that are now at a discounted price.
Tip 5: There is help out there if you just look
There is a heavy burden on teachers to purchase supplies for their classrooms, but there is help if teachers know where to look. The first-place teachers should look is within their school. Many schools have budgets available to help with purchasing school supplies. Many schools receive Title 1 money for classroom-specific supplies. Second, look around in your local community; there are tons of business that are looking to sponsor classrooms. Professional sports teams love to help as well. Another pretty commonplace is to look for grants and contests that you can enter to receive money for your classroom. One of the best out there is DonorsChoose.org platform. Donor Choose allows you to post your classroom needs on their website. Then, there are benefactors who can choose to issue a grant to your request. These requests can be made at any time throughout the year.
We buy it because our students need it. We know that we don’t have the money for it, but we do it anyway because it is required. I understand purchasing school supplies can be a burden and cause significant hardship, but it must get done. Be smart and use these tips, so do not stretch yourself too thin and are able to pay next month’s rent.