It is that time of year when teachers go nuts (myself included) buying stuff for their class next year. My daughter drags me away from the school supply aisle of Target and WalMart because she doesn’t want to think about the next school year! LOL!
If you buy all the things you think you’ll need, you could find yourself in debt (a little or a lot) and with an uphappy spouse! So here are some ideas on how to spend less money on your classroom, especially if you are a newer teacher, paying off student loans, trying to buy your first home, or expanding your family, etc.
First of all, remember Rome wasn’t built in a day! Part of the fun is gathering stuff over time. If you can’t afford that Instagram worthy classroom all at once, pick up a few things that will last past the latest fad, and then post pics from ideas you see without purchasing and put on Pinterest. I find that sometimes, if I’m honest, I like collecting things and ideas more than actually using them. So pinning to Pinterest and then going back to look at your collection might help you from spending extra money. In addition, be on the lookout for awesome bulletin boards or cool set ups in other classrooms. Put those ideas on Pinterest or send the teacher a shout out on Instagram. Everyone loves the recognition.
Second, find out if there is a local university which has a teacher lending library. In my area there is a Teacher Resource Library at CSU, Fresno. I was able to get a free teacher library card (for teachers who are not current students) and check out tons of stuff for science, reading, etc. They have curriculum, games, picture books, and more, but I loved checking out realia… the really fantastic expensive stuff! For example, my students were awestruck by the big Tricerotops skull and T-Rex teeth I brought into class during a dinosaur unit (items I could never ever afford!) Those students will never forget the difference between herbivores and carnivores with those fine specimens!
At the lending library, I also checked out phonics games and activities from Lakeshore and other companies. I was able to see how durable they were and how they actually worked with my students. In one case I found that a kit had thin cardboard pieces instead of the sturdy plastic pieces I had expected. Another time I tried an activity with my class and found it wasn’t the best for my student population. Being able to try out these items in my class before purchasing saved me a lot of money, because it ended up that I didn’t buy them. Other times, I did end up purchasing something I tried out from the library, because I knew it was great for my class.
My third idea for saving money is to find a buddy to share stuff that doesn’t get used every day. So, yes, get your adorable neon-colored organization bins and tasks boxes which will make your life easier every day, all year long. But think again on seasonal items such as science kits you only use once a year. Instead, find a teacher friend/relative who you can share/trade stuff with. For example, if one of you buys an awesome solar system model and one buys a bunch of books on space/planets, you can share all of it, just as long as you are not doing the same unit/lesson the same day or week. Do the same with seasonal picture books, etc.
Here is another example: My mom was still teaching when I was a new teacher. We were both teaching high school special ed science (at rival high schools). So we bought or made some science stuff we could share. We still have the fabric “My Body” felt body parts for our human body unit. We also made a big volcano out of dirt and wallpaper paste which really erupted and exploded up into the air. (TIP: Get your hands on some ammonium dichromate from a science supply website. We put that in the volcano – but only erupt it outside- and boy was that awesome to see it spark, send ashes up into the air, and more! Click here for more info on the ammonium dichromate.) Anyway, my point was that was a lot of work and time and money to make our own stuff, but it was worth it when we shared the cost and time. And we still have fun memories of doing things together. And we used that volcano for about 8 years! The only thing is that you need to make sure you don’t both need the same materials in the same week.
Okay, sorry for rambling on the last volcano part, but hopefully you have gotten some ideas on how to save some money and have some great fun collaborating with others, too! My final idea is to think before buying additional things after the school year starts. It is easy to want to buy all the things for an upcoming holiday activity but try to buy items that will last or be reused (and only if you have enough storage room space) instead of things that are only used once. For example, instead of getting cute holiday tablecloths, could you get butcher paper from the supply room and let kids decorate it? Or cut the butcher paper up into individual placemats that the kids also decorate, then take home.
I hope these ideas help you save some money! Please add any other ideas you have in the comments! Have a great school year!