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Teachers are some of the hardest working yet underpaid people out there. They are absolutely vital to our society and play a huge role in preparing our children for life, as well as encouraging them and supporting them throughout their school-age years. Teachers, however, may often have to spend their own money on supplies for their classrooms, either because the school budget won’t cover what they need or because they are striving to go above and beyond what the budget supports as they know the extras will help their students so much.
Here at TCI, we want nothing but the best for all teachers everywhere. We know how hard you work, and we know that you always want the best for your students. That being said, we’ve put together a master list of money-saving tips for teachers that all educators, young or old, elementary or high school, core classes or electives, can utilize and share with their colleagues.
Narrow Down Your Needs – That school supply shopping craze is exciting enough to make even the most frugal person a little frivolous in their spending. Plan out exactly what you NEED to have to start the school year, what would be really nice to have, and what would only be necessary in a perfect world with endless funds.
Ask Your School – This can be tricky depending on where you teach, but some schools give teachers a supply stipend, and some get extra funds from particular organizations or due to a school classification. The administration has probably already decided how any extra funds will be allocated, but if there are some things that you have determined are must-haves but funding is short, consider asking the school.
Ask the PTA – Especially at elementary schools, the PTA is very active when it comes to raising money for certain events or supplies. At the beginning or end of a school year, meet with the PTA and present your requests for funding for your supplies or event. They may be able to help you immediately, or they might put your requests on the docket for the following year.
Plan a Fundraiser – If you want to do a specific project or purchase something substantial for your classroom, get your students involved and plan a fundraiser. This is a great way to teach them the value of working hard and earning money, and then putting that money towards something important. You might have to get school permission to do your own fundraiser, but if they approve, ask your students for some ideas and get them excited to raise some money.
Apply for Grants – This is not so much a money-saving tip as it is a way to get some extra money for your school, but if it saves you on out-of-pocket expenses, then it counts! You can apply for grants online by simply searching “teacher grants” and whatever you’re looking for. Lots of businesses set aside funds for community grant requests, and several are more than happy to help you out with financial requests for your classroom and students.
Talk to Local Stores – Many stores throw out décor after they use it, such as seasonal displays. You can ask them to donate the displays when they’re finished with them and you can use them the following year in your classroom. You can also talk to print shops and ask for leftover paper, or ask craft stores about discount sales they may have. Some stores will even donate supplies to schools for an honorable mention or sponsorship designation at a school event.
Ask Parents – At open house or parents’ night, consider posting a “wants” list in your room of supplies that parents can donate. You can also send a letter home the first week of school requesting that parents send in supplies that you think you’ll need. If you have a big project or event later in the year, you can ask parents to save or donate certain supplies at a given time. You can also ask for gift cards to specific teacher supply stores.
Swap with Other Teachers – Particularly at the end of the school year, teachers tend to have extra supplies that they thought they would use but didn’t. If you have leftovers that you don’t plan to use the next year, ask around your school to see if anyone is interested in a trade. Especially if you have teachers who are retiring or who have been teaching for a while, they may have some supplies and other things that they want to get rid of, and they’re likely happy to pass it on to another enthusiastic teacher.
Check Out Garage Sales & Consignment Sales – Garage sales tend to be hit or miss, but you might just find some educational games or other useful things for your classroom. Consignment sales are typically more successful trips for teachers, as there are often many teacher-to-teacher consignment sales where only classroom supplies are exchanged. If you choose to sell some leftover supplies you may have in hopes of replacing them with different materials, you might even make a little money too!
Save Containers – Coffee containers, oatmeal cartons, cereal boxes, milk jugs… all of these containers can be reused for something in the classroom. Consider making a book slot or paper tray with a cereal box, using an old oatmeal carton to store rulers, or storing math manipulatives in a coffee container.
Use Coupons – Newspapers, magazines, mailers, and especially online all have coupons that you can use for supplies or other necessities. You just have to spend the time to look for them. Consider asking other teachers, parents, or neighbors for their unused coupons or newspapers so that you can find even more.
Scour Pinterest – Pinterest is a fantastic resource for saving money. Teachers everywhere post their own money-saving tips that they use in their classrooms, and many will also show organization techniques and decorating ideas, most of which are budget-friendly.
Do Things That Are Free or Inexpensive – This is also obvious, and we’re pretty sure you already do this. Consider doing inexpensive science experiments, utilizing TCI’s free lessons, and more. Search the internet for free activities for students and check out social media for more suggestions.