Today, I bring up the foreboding subject of money. Wait! Don’t close your browser and run for the comforts of Solitaire. I want to talk about how to replenish your piggy bank, not break it.
Fall is quickly approaching and with the normal ‘back to school’ prep comes the expense of curricula. Hey, our decision to homeschool wasn’t on a whim. We understood that it takes more time, money, and patience to teach our own children than to send them off to the bus at 8:00. We knew this, and yet we chose it anyway. We have made our peace (mostly) with the fact that we don’t receive any tax breaks from paying public education taxes or getting any tax relief for the expenses we incur for the average $2000-$2500 spend textbooks and materials annually per homeschooling family. We would all say that having the ability to customize our children’s education is worth it. But if there’s an opportunity that we can recoup some of our costs and return those pennies to the piggy bank, we will take it! Here are some ‘opportunities’ to take advantage of:
Getting discounts on curriculum: There are ways to get discounts on many texts and curricula.
- Sonlight and Apologia offer discounts when you bundle.
- Rainbow Resource is an online discount store that offers thousands of materials at a discount price.
- Rainbow Resource also offers additional discounts when you order early.
- Homeschool conventions have many curriculum vendors that offer special convention discounts. Don’t forget to take into account the cost of attending the homeschool convention.
- ‘A Beka Books’ offers discounts on material displays and if you order through an online event.
Using coupons and discount codes: Some sites will give coupons if you sign up for their newsletter or make an account.
Free shipping: If you are ordering online, some stores will give you free shipping. Some offer free shipping as a promotion, some offer it when you make a minimum purchase, and some offer it all the time.
- Elemental Science and A Beka Book offer free shipping on all orders.
- Rainbow Resource offers free shipping on all orders over $50.
- Buying curricula at homeschool conventions eliminates shipping costs completely.
- Ebooks and other digital materials are downloaded immediately and incur no shipping costs.
Using Ebooks and digital resources: Digital texts and materials is another way to save money. They are normally a lot cheaper than printed textbooks, and you have access to them immediately (no shipping costs!). You can read them on the computer, iPad, or Kindle or print them out. Be aware that the cost-effectiveness of digital materials may decrease if you choose to print them out, especially on color printers. Know the cost per page of your printer. Black-and-white laser printers are extremely cost-effective, but ink printers tend not to be. Also digital books and audiobooks can be found for free, although the selection varies.
- Digital texts can be found at Elemental Science and TruthQuest.
- FarFaria has digital readers for a small fee.
- openculture offers a selection of free ebooks, audiobooks, documentaries, etc.
Utilizing your library: Your local library is a great resource, offering so much more than books.
- Use the stepped readers (for free!)
- Take out information books for content-area projects, etc. (for free!)
- Take out documentaries and other movies (for free!)
- Sign your student up for classes, usually reading/educational/craft-based for extended learning and socialization (for free!)
- Take advantage of the kids area (usually geared for elementary-aged students and younger) which normally has building blocks, crafts, letters, puzzles, games, etc. (for free!)
- Use the computers, which typically has education games/programs. Also a good resource if you don’t have internet or a computer in your home. (yes, for free!)
Buying supplies for whole year: School supplies are never cheaper than at the beginning of the year. Stock up!! Many retailers offer additional coupon for even further savings! You can also buy online in bulk.
- Big box stores offer huge discounts in the fall. Get what you need, but watch the shelves. When the back-to-school rush is over, the surplus is put on ‘clearance’ and offered at extremely low prices. You can even use coupons to make them even cheaper (or even free!)
- Discount School Supply offers discounts on bulk orders.
- Don’t forget your local dollar store!
Tax free school supplies: Some states offer a tax-free weekend for school supplies and clothing.
- Check your state here.
Memberships and Subscriptions: Adding a one-time membership fee or small monthly subscription to your schooling budget gives you access to resources all year-long. I always account for a few museum memberships, so that most of my field trips are ‘taken care of.’ I normally have a couple of subscriptions such as those listed below to help supplement materials throughout the year without incurring additional expense and wasted time scouring the internet for free lesson-specific worksheets and activities.
- FarFaria offers access to hundreds of digital readers and books.
- Reading Eggs offers a supplemental reading and math program.
- Education.com offers thousands of worksheets, activities and full workbooks.
- DLTK.com offers activities, printables, and crafts.
Free worksheets, apps, and games online: The internet is an endless resource. A lot of companies, products, venues, and bloggers offer free games, worksheets, activities, etc. — you just have to find them!
- YouTube can be a great source of free video clips (and sometimes full movies) on almost any topic.
- PBS Kids has a lot of great educational games
- Many Usborne books have a feature called ‘quick-links’ that provide links to free support material including games, videos, information sites, activities, etc. relevant to a specific topic.
- Of course, there are lots of free educational apps available for iPad and other tablets.
- Education.com has a selection of free worksheets.
Wholesale stores and used book stores: There are many stores that offer inexpensive and/or gently used materials. You probably won’t find your main texts here, but they are a great resource for supplemental materials, workbooks, books, readers, games, and supplies.
Educator discounts: Many stores offer educator discounts or reward programs. It never hurts to ask. Most will ask to see some sort of credentials. I suggest making a professional-looking ID card, possibly laminated to make it look more official.
- Barnes and Noble
- 2nd and Charles
- Jo-Ann Crafts
Clearance and Sale Items: Many curriculum and supply sites have a clearance or sale section. Browse through it. You probably won’t find your main curricula in there, but there’s usually great deals on supplemental and resource materials and supplies. Don’t forget to check your local retail stores for their clearance section.
- Rainbow Resource
- Discount School Supply
- Target (Clearance items are normally located on the end of the shelves and marked with red sticker.)
The examples above are by no means comprehensive. Do a little digging to find the savings for the items you need. You may not save huge amounts at once, but a little savings here and a little savings there adds up and can alleviate the expense of your upcoming vacation or the cost of your daughter’s braces.