1) Big box office supply stores start with their back to school savings in July! I discovered this by accident a couple of years ago when I was looking up on one of their websites and happened to glance at the weekly ad and saw things for a penny, a nickle and a quarter. I was like a penny? No, that can't be right...but it was! This week alone I was able to get:
* packs of 3 glue sticks for a penny each
* 70 page notebooks for a penny each
* packs of 3 pink erasers for a penny each
* handheld 2 hole sharpeners for you guessed it, a penny each.
Now of course these stores have limits - usually three each but you can go back multiple times, take a friend and some even extend the limits for teachers - just ask. Some also have a minimum purchase (usually $5) but that can easily be met by the things that are on sale for a dollar apiece that you would be buying anyway (for me this often colored paper or dry erase markers). I already have next week outlined because they have 2-pocket folders and packs of 100 index cards for $0.01 apiece and colored pencils for $0.50 starting tomorrow! :)
2) Jameson from Lessons with Coffee suggests going to thrift stores! "There is so much stuff there from rugs, binders, storage options and even fabric for bulletin boards at fractions of the dollar of what you would pay at the bigger stores." I agree completely! I have no blinds or any other window covering in my classroom so the sun is always beating in and heating up the room. I went to a local thrift store and picked up fabric that I fashion curtains out of! Not only does it cool
the room, but it looks amazing too! In addition to thrift stores, you can also check out garage/yard sales especially for storage bins and other containers for holding books and supplies.
3) Use teacher discounts and rewards programs. Multiple stores not only have special discounts for teachers but they also have rewards programs. Barnes and Noble Bookstores has a teacher discount program as do official teacher stores like Lakeshore Learning. The major office supply stores like Office Max, Office Depot and Staples have a special teacher rewards program where you earn money back, coupons and other deals on purchases. Often these discounts can also be combined with coupons so double savings!
4) Prioritize your shopping list and buy in bulk when possible. The reality is that as much as we want everything we don't need everything. When sitting down to figure out what you are going to buy for your classroom, your upcoming school year or for your child(ren)'s up coming school year that sometimes you have to realize that everything is just not possible. Money is limited and some supplies are more necessary than others. Figure out what is the most important, most crucial and what is going to have the greatest impact and purchase those things first. Once you have figured out the most necessary things see if you can buy them in bulk. While the bigger package is going to be more expensive it will more often than not work out to be cheaper per individual piece than if bought smaller amounts. Also, don't be afraid to use the store/off-brand for supplies that are "consumable". A glue stick is a glue stick regardless of what label is on it. Construction paper is the same paper if it is a store brand or a name brand!
5) Jamie from Miss Math Dork takes it a step further and encourages you to "Make a budget! Or else it's too easy to keep buying "one more thing". Shop in stores that have a sale going on, and check out thrift shops and yard sales for nice storage options. I try to buy a little bit at a time all year, and keep it stored until BTS time." Knowing what you have to spend and setting a limit will not only make you a frugal shopper but will also help you to stick to your list (and you should always make a list)!
6) Figure out what you already have. I cannot count the number of times that I have shopped for my classroom, bought something and then when I set-up my room in the fall I find out that not only did I already have it, but in some cases I have it it in abundance. For example, I found a great deal on index cards, then realized that I had 20 packs stuck in a cupboard in my closet - whoops! I recommend taking the time to make a list of what you already have. Making a list of what you already have not only keeps you from spending money that you don't need to but it also encourages you to examine what is really essential. What you do you use a lot of (glue sticks, paper, etc.) and running out of and are there things that you thought would be so great but you never used ... or forgot about?
7) Invest in quality versions of the reusable supplies. While spending a little more on quality will not save you money immediately, it will in the long run. If you know that you are going to be splitting students up into groups often, invest in some high quality totes so that you have supply boxes ready and able to go. Since scissors are used constantly, invest in higher quality brands so that they hold up to the constant wear and tear of 100+ students using them in one
day. Of course, still look for these to be on sale (I just got very high quality 7 - inch scissors on sale for $1 apiece that were regularly $7 each) but be willing to pay a little more for the things that are non-consumable.
I would love to hear your money saving tips! Please share them below!