Whether you are just beginning your homeschool journey or are somewhere down the road, the cost of homeschooling is not a small concern. On this twenty year journey, I have found ways to save. Discover new ways to eliminate costs in one or more of these ten ways to save money on homeschooling.
Most homeschool moms need to find ways to save money. While we pay for public education with our tax dollars, our choice to homeschool means we pay again for our children’s education. Between curriculum, furniture, field trips, homeschool group costs and a myriad of other expenses ... saving money is a necessity. While ideas to spend money are everywhere, here is a list of 10 ways to save money on homeschool costs.
- Make a list of all items you need before buying anything.
- Shop used books, Amazon, Ebay, local used book sales, FB resale groups, homeschool used books online.
- Buy collapsible tables and chairs - multi purpose, change configuration
- Save money on home cooked meals versus eating out.
- Trade teaching or skills.
- Use the library versus buying new.
- Don’t buy the whole kit.
- Back to school sales.
- Barter and trade.
- Keep it simple.
So, let's flesh out some of these ideas. Saving money is easy.
1. Make a list of all items you need before buying anything.
It is really dangerous to go shopping without a list. Without direction shoppers usually come home with more than they need. Most of us have experienced this risk in other situations such as dropping by the grocery store without a list when you are hungry. Shopping for curriculum is much the same and equally as dangerous. List all of your needed books and supplies. Aimlessness will cost you extra money.
2. Shop used books, Amazon, Ebay, local used book sales, FB resale groups, and homeschool used books online.
Once your list for the school year is complete, start by identifying the new price for each item. Watch for the edition for each of the books you need. If your student is taking a tutorial class or you are teaching a group, be sure that the editions of your books match. This avoids unnecessary frustration. If you are schooling multiple kids, you might want to keep the answer key from an older child and just buy the workbook. Be sure you purchase the answer key whenever it is available. Saving time with an answer key is always a smart plan.
Currently, the local used book sale is my first stop for books. Deals are everywhere. Knowing what I need and the original price allows me to negotiate or select the best price. Nearly new or new books sell for 50-75% of their original price. More used books or resources often sell for a fraction of their original price.
My second place to hunt would be Amazon used or Ebay. With Amazon Prime, shopping for books has never been so easy. Do keep an eye on the location of the seller, the shipping time and the postage price. Often there is a hidden cost in the shipping that eliminates the “value” of one item over another. Ebay offers another location for books, but the sorting process on Amazon greatly speeds up the process for me.
Another new, but reliable source for those items on your list would be Facebook resale groups. One advantage of these is that they offer large items such as bookshelves, chairs and tables locally. The search box gives a quick collection of all items in a needed category. If you fail to locate what you need, simply place an “ISO” or “in search of” post which identifies your need.
Lastly, online homeschool sites are best located by referrals. Don't forget that the sites that offer great deals for purchases are also excellent for selling your used resources. Cleaning out at the end of every school year is as important as planning ahead for the next year. Decide what source is best for your needs. Buying used always saves money.
3. Buy collapsible tables and chairs which serve multi purposes.
Selecting flexible furniture for your home school space allows you to rearrange it each semester or year. This brightens the mood. Chairs and tables can be folded up for breaks. Our school space doubles as a pingpong and sleepover space for large groups.
These folding furniture pieces often come in handy when doing a garage sale, selling at a craft fair or just doing some expanded entertaining. When hosting parties, these tables hold the drinks, food or displays. Our parties vary in location from outside on the patio to inside in the house. Adaptable pieces provide wonderful options.
My favorite pieces include the four foot tables, six foot tables and comfortable folding chairs. Changing the arrangement of these tables allows variety without a new cost. The kids love to come into a new month, a new semester or new year with a fresh grouping.
4. Save money by packing a cooler instead of eating out.
While this habit is difficult to implement, the savings of eating out of a cooler versus picking up food motivates even a reluctant parent. For many years, we counted how many sandwiches we needed for the week. Sandwiches assembled on Sunday afternoon were packaged into individual bags. Chips, cookies, fruit, trail mixes, and applesauces loaded into the snack drawers ready for the night ahead. Some years we packed individual lunch boxes. Other years we compiled a family cooler for the week.
Meals were eaten on road trips, at soccer games, at tournaments, at field trips and whenever we were planning to be out for a mealtime. Occasionally we would decide to pick up food at a fast food. While this worked if we located a Chick-fil-A, disappointment would set in on almost any other option. The boys developed the attitude that eating out of the cooler would provide more food. This was true. Another advantage was that we could eat whenever we were hungry instead of hunting food. Ultimately, we saved more than half of our food cost by eating out of a cooler. So, when combining convenience, more food and savings the cooler option is winning plan.
5. Trade teaching or skills.
Exchange of goods and services is traditional business. Why not apply practical business ideas to homeschooling? Teach to your strengths and trade out for what you need. Trade skills instead of money.
What do I mean by this? Let’s say that your gifts lie in the areas of English. Perhaps you are weak in math. Ideally, locate someone with math aptitude whose child needs tutoring in English. Offer an exchange of services that seems equable. Always aim to create an swap where the other person feels they received more in the exchange.
If you cannot find an easy swap similar to the one above, trade a service such as house cleaning, gardening, yard work, painting, babysitting, mulching and weeding beds, sewing, music lessons, repairs or a variety of other abilities. Pray about your child’s needs. Ask God for creative thoughts.
Sometimes a direct trade does not work, but you can do some extra work to pay for the tutoring or class that your child needs to be successful. Remember it is only a season. Your perseverance and hard work will bring a hefty reward.
6. Use the library versus buying your own.
Once again, a carefully assembled list of books needed will offer time to call ahead for needed books. We love to read from Veritas Press and Sonlight lists. Granted, we purchase most of our books used or new, sometimes the library offers an additional place to gather reading materials. Summer and breaks allow us to read intentionally too.
Our library system cheerfully allows calls requesting any books. Calling ahead allows the librarian to pull the books or order them from another branch. Once all desired books are waiting for us at the librarian’s desk, we drop by and check them out. This saves immense time. Instead of searching for every book in the library or traveling to a library that is not ours, we just “order” the books from our list. Seriously, this is good stuff.
7. Don’t buy everything unless you need it.
One easy mistake when ordering curriculum involves ordering too much. Many companies that we use for core subjects sell to private and public schools as well. Consider that they provide sources geared toward classroom environments. While these lesson plans and game ideas work well in a group setting, they are almost useless for homeschooling. For many subjects, simply order the workbook, answer key, test and test key. Only order what you need for an individual student not an entire school room.
8. Back to school sales
Since you likely know what school supplies you need yearly, stock up on basics at the return to school frenzy. Basic items sell at ridiculously low rates. Some of the items we buy often include lined paper, pencils, 1” & 2” notebooks, calculators, erasers, lined cards and more. You know what you need for your family. Don't miss the opportunity to stock up on savings!!
9. Barter and trade.
Why pay cash when you can barter and trade? This is usually a win-win for everyone. When doing life together with your homeschool community, stay aware of what others are using. Trade books with others for the school year they are needing it. Commonly, I trade science, math and history resources with my girlfriends. This saves tremendous money. This keeps costs down for everyone. Be sure to take extreme care of any materials borrowed. If damage occurs, replace the borrowed book with a new one.
10. Keep it simple.
Over complicating the process of homeschooling can ensure failure. I speak from experience. Once a plan for the school year is formulated, a review with an idea to keep it simple may encourage a few things to drop off this list.
Create a proposal from evaluating the WHOLE CHILD . Then compile a schedule which includes each child and the family. Strategize how your time will be distributed with the children’s school and your house keeping responsibilities. Aim for empty spots in the day and week. You will need them for every day surprises and for catching up. Planning saves money and ultimately time.
When aiming for savings as you launch into this school year, consider first making a careful list of all needed. Shop locally, Amazon, FB, Ebay or anywhere else you can save. Select dual purpose tables and chairs. Pack coolers. Trade skills. Limit orders. Use the library. You already pay for it with your tax dollars. Shop back to school sales. Barter and trade. Lastly, don’t forget to keep it simple.
Life is expensive. Surprise expenses are everywhere. Use these 10 ways to save on your homeschooling needs.