Homeschooling on a Budget: Tips, Advice & More

By Brenda K.

Want your kids to have all the tools they need for success this school year but don’t have a lot to spend? Don’t despair! Strict budgets now have public schools requesting that students also provide things like classroom supplies, so by teaching your kids in your own home you’re already ahead of the game. Even if you are homeschooling on a budget, you should be able to stock your home learning center fairly inexpensively since you probably already have many of the needed supplies around the house. Whether you are shopping for one child or several, here are a few tips and some helpful advice.

Start With a Game Plan

If you go shopping without a game plan, you’re going to spend too much money. That’s a serious problem when you’re working with a limited budget. If you are homeschooling on a budget, a good way to instantly reduce your costs is to take inventory of what you already have. If you’re like most families, you probably already have more than enough pens and pencils lying around. So you can save yourself some cash by using what you already have. Once you take inventory, figure out what you need to buy and how much you can afford to spend. Set the money aside to keep yourself from going over.

Save on Curriculum

Start your homeschool planning for the next school year early enough to take advantage of the spring sales. For example, Alpha Omega orders placed during the month of April receive a 20% discount; orders placed in May receive a 15% discount. This is an excellent deal if you plan ahead for the next school year and place your orders early. You can also get some good deals at the summer homeschool conventions. Or look for used curriculum on eBay and Amazon. If you have assigned reading of classic novels, simply check the books out from the library. You can also find many free educational resources online.

Find Out What the Curriculum Requires and What Can Wait

Not all grade levels will need the same supplies. Early childhood curriculum uses a wide assortment of materials and math manipulatives, but by the time your kids reach high school they will mainly need things like paper, pencils and notebooks. Some curricula may require additional books or supplies, but you probably won’t need to buy them all at once. Check the schedule to find out what you will need now and what can wait until later in the school year. Try to spread the expenses out as much as you can when homeschooling on a budget. Also, keep in mind that even though a scientific calculator can be a big expense, it will last for years and can be used by multiple students, thus saving money in the long run.

Plan Shopping Trips on Sales Tax Holidays

Many states that charge tax on clothing and school supplies offer “sales tax holidays” to help parents save some money while getting their families ready for the new school year. There are several states that offer sales tax holidays on a wide variety of items. Finding out the dates and shopping on those days could save you 5-7 percent (or more) when shopping for certain back-to-school essentials.

Pay Attention to Weekly Ads

Office supply stores like Staples and Office Depot offer great sales at the end of the summer. You could score amazing deals like .01 for a ream of paper. Big box stores and many other retailers get in on the great deals, too, with door buster deals on things like pencils, notebooks and folders. Scope out the best deals at each store every week leading up to the new school year to score rock-bottom prices on essentials.

Pay attention to the sales at unexpected places, too. Grocery stores, dollar stores, and even drug stores often offer incredible deals on school supplies. It only takes a few minutes to browse a weekly ad from the Sunday newspaper or the retailer’s website, and doing so could help you save big.

Shop Clearance Sales for Clothing

Homeschool students can save big bucks on clothing by not feeling like they have to copy what’s trending among their peers in order to be popular. After all, they don’t really need for all of their school clothes to come from the latest fall line-up. Fashion styles seem to come and go as fast as the seasons change, but there are several looks that stay popular year after year. Embracing these enduring styles can help you build a wardrobe that will stay fashionable in the long term.

At this time of year, retailers are marking down summer clothing to make room for fall and winter apparel. Things like khakis and blank t shirts are going on clearance now, and they never go out of style. With several weeks of warm weather remaining before the colder days of fall and winter arrive, your kids will still have plenty of time to wear summer styles before needing to switch to hoodies and sweaters.

Check Out Your Local Thrift Store

If you haven’t been to the thrift store in a while, now is a great time to check it out. Thrift stores are a great place to find bookcases, desks, chairs, filing cabinets, and other furnishings at low prices. Think of how you might use a little paint or fabric to spruce up unique thrift store finds and decorate your homeschool room on a budget.

Many homeschooled teens love to create their own personal style by mixing and matching different colors and patterns for a unique look, and thrift stores are a good place to find such items. It’s common for clothes to get donated to thrift stores before they’ve been worn much (if at all). Spending a few minutes browsing the racks could save you a fortune on new or barely used clothing. Some thrift stores even have back-to-school sales to help cash-strapped parents save even more.

Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are also great for finding deals on gently used clothing. Parents and teens often offload the clothes they no longer want at ridiculously low prices to earn some cash for their own back to school shopping needs. Keeping an eye on these sites is a smart way to score designer duds at a fraction of the normal retail price.

Shop for Lunch Staples in Bulk

Preparing your child’s lunch at home is a lot more affordable than buying school lunches. And if you have a picky eater, it’s also a lot easier. By letting them make their own lunches, they can create the perfect meal based on their mood that day. Besides, knowing how to put together healthy meals, even if they are just sandwiches, is an important life skill.

When shopping for lunch ingredients and snacks, buying in bulk can save you a bundle. Rather than buying those snacks that are already packaged into individual servings, you can buy larger packages to divide into lunch portions yourself. When shopping, pay close attention to the price per ounce. You may be surprised to discover just how much the convenience of individual serving-sized packaging actually costs. When buying in bulk, just remember not to buy more than you will use before it goes stale or spoils.

Learn to Say No

We all want to give our kids everything they want, but when we’re homeschooling on a budget, sometimes we just have to say no. Going back to school shopping as a family is a fun bonding experience, but if you aren’t careful, you could find yourself spending hundreds of dollars that you can’t afford to spend.

Before you leave the house, make it clear that you will only be shopping for items that are on the list and that you will be sticking to a budget. They may not be happy, but letting them know that extras are out of the question could help you avoid the pouting and puppy-dog eyes while you’re at the store.

If saying no is a struggle, you might want to consider shopping for homeschool supplies on your own. It’s not quite as fun as a day out with the family, but it’s an easy way to save yourself a bundle – while getting exactly what you need – when homeschooling on a budget.

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