Welcome to our October “31 Days” series at NextGen Homeschool: 31 Days of Homeschool How-To Tips! As NextGen Homeschoolers, we remember what it was like to be homeschooled ourselves, and our experiences as students have helped shape many of our best systems and strategies today. In the next 31 days, we’ll be sharing with you what’s working for us, answering the most common questions we get from today’s first-generation homeschooling moms.
How to Save Money on Homeschool Expenses
A couple of years ago, I experimented with “extreme” couponing, and even though I didn’t stick with it, I made a point of utilizing some of the couponing skills and bargain shopping strategies I learned to save money on our homeschooling expenses.
One thing I learned from my couponing experience was to shop more strategically: Rather than making one trip to stock up on school supplies at the same time everyone else is and only finding minimal discounts, I keep an eye out for sales on items I know we’ll need on an ongoing basis. Then I stock up when those items are on extreme discount.
For example, some retailers offer “penny” and FREE items in anticipation of back-to-school shopping during the summer, with limits to how many you can purchase at one time. These super deals will vary over a period of several weeks, but they always cover all the basics, such as pens, pencils, paper, folders, glue, crayons, etc. So I limit my shopping each week to the super deals (and utilize cash rebate programs whenever possible) and trust that by the end of the back-to-school cycle, including the clearance time that follows, I will have all the bases covered for the current school year and beyond.
Last year I discovered that Target’s clearances seemed to be the best, with lots of necessities still in stock for 80-90% off before they move in the fall seasonal items. Walgreens also had a pretty decent selection of school supplies left come clearance time.
Sign up for Sale Alerts
I use helpful Web sites such as the Krazy Coupon Lady, Passion for Savings and Coupon Connections, because they do all the research for you. This makes it quick and easy to identify where I will go each week and what to buy there. You can even print out a shopping list of just the deals you plan to shop for right from their deals lists!
For example, one week I made a shopping trip to Staples using a suggested shopping list from one of these Web sites, and I spent only a net of $4.12 purchasing about $50 worth of items! My trip filled two plastic shoe box sized tubs with enough glue, crayons, pens, pencils, mechanical pencils, markers, new scissors, erasable markers, and more for all three of my girls.
You can also subscribe to receive alerts from homeschool-specific bargain Web sites such as Frugal Homeschool Family, Free Homeschool Deals, Today’s Frugal Mom, and the discount retailer Educents. These sites round up discounts and limited-time offers from a variety of homeschooling vendors, saving you from spending lots of time scouring the Internet for savings on your own. Keep a short list of what you’re on the lookout for now and in the future, so that when these extreme deals hit your inbox, you’re not shopping impulsively but strategically.
Be Conservative About Curriculum
When it comes to curriculum, I have found that being able to download PDFs of lesson plans, student notebook pages, lapbooks, and other curriculum resources that are for sale online can save a lot of money. I look for curriculum that offers free sample lessons online, so that we can put it to the test before making an investment. If you’re willing to try something other than a boxed, year-long option, you can put together a great year of study using individual lessons and unit studies that you can purchase from sites such as CurrClick.com (Curriculum & Classes in a Click) and UnitStudy.com (Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett).
You can also look for any recommended reading books at your local public library first before purchasing anything new, and purchase what you can’t find from discount book sources online, rather than buying a bulk “library” from a curriculum company for use during the school year. I’ve taken this approach and it has saved us a lot of money compared to our first year when we purchased a big out-of-the-box curriculum package.
How do you save money on school expenses, such as curriculum, supplies and tools? Do you stock up, wait for sales, or shop throughout the year? We’d love to hear your strategies and tips, as well as your favorite sources for homeschooling bargains.