Saving money – teacher edition (updated)

Being a teacher can be an expensive job if you are not careful! Many people don’t realize how much money teachers spend of their own money to make their classrooms look beautiful and to have plenty of resources for planning, activities for their students, books for their classroom libraries, and more.

The $250 educator tax refund barely covers the real cost of a teacher’s expenses each year!

I am fortunate that I work in early childhood now and most of my classroom supplies and materials are reimbursed by the school. My rule of thumb is that if I would take it with me if I were to change schools, I pay for it. If I would leave it or it will be consumed, I submit my receipts.

I am aware that this does not work for everyone, though. When I taught elementary school, I did not get reimbursed for anything and had to even buy art supplies if the school art closet did not have it!

Here are some tips I have gleaned over the years to save money as a teacher:

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∞ Buy supplies from NAEIR. This organization takes resources donated by corporations and distributes them for a fraction of the costs to teachers, services for the elderly, and other related nonprofits. I check their website out periodically and have gotten some great deals! Your school can sign up or you can get a teacher membership. I love this site!

∞ Buy ink on Amazon. After comparing prices between Walmart, Office Depot, and Amazon, I have found that Amazon is much cheaper for buying printer ink. I also get rewards back from Office Depot by turning in my used up cartridges. See Office Depot Rewards for Recycling.

∞ Always shop at the Dollar Store first! I can always find great things at the Dollar Store for my classroom – notepads, stickers, pointers, playdoh, prizes, center supplies, plastic containers, and so much more!  KindergartenWorks has two great posts on things to buy at the Dollar Store – 21 Classroom Thing Worth Purchasing from the Dollar Tree and 17 More Things Worth Purchasing at the Dollar Tree.

∞ Use Pinterest for ideas. Once upon a time, Pinterest was only for serious crafters. Now I cannot live without it! I used to sit down with a multitude of teacher books to make my lesson plans. Now Pinterest is my go-to for each theme. I love the variety and the specificity that I can find with only a simple search. I also like that I can find many resources for whatever I am looking for, so  I do not always have to pay for a new resource or teacher book.

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∞ Mount everything you make. I spend a lot of time making games, pocket chart tools, center supplies, and other items for my pre-K themes. I want to make sure they will be durable and that I can use them from year to year. To do this, I mount everything I make on scrapbook cardstock. I buy the multi-pads from Walmart. These come in a variety of colors schemes (primary, brights, pastel). I like the solid palettes best. It does require a bit of extra work to cut each item, mount it, cut it again, laminate it, and then cut it out again — but it is well worth it!

∞ Shop at a teacher recycle center in your area. We now have an expanded teacher resource center here in St. Louis called Leftovers, Etc. For $10 a bag, you can fill your bag with tons of craft supplies, recycled materials, office products and more. I recently got a ton of supplies for my learning provocations and for setting up centers!

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∞ Keep your materials organized. After several years of accumulating materials for my various early childhood themes, I now have a binder for each theme (with lesson ideas, master pages, theme unit). I also keep each activity or material I have made in its own freezer bag. Each theme’s materials are separated by a piece of labeled scrapbooking cardboard. I have so many materials now that I have two containers like this! This helps me keep costs down by having all my materials easily accessible and organized. I also have a cardboard file box at school for each theme. This is where I keep any materials for each theme that I bought with school money.

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∞ Buy books cheaply. I have several favorite ways to get books at a low cost.

  • Paperbackswap.com – This is one of my favorite websites. I have saved tons of money by swapping books on this site. See my post on this great resource: My favorite find – swapping books
  • Facebook teacher groups – I have bought boxes full of books from teachers looking to divest or savvy consumers who pick up books and resell to others. I have even built up our school’s early childhood library this way!
  • Half Price Books – This store sells various books pretty cheaply. I usually check out the clearance section or wait for their once-a-year closeout sales that are often at another location.

∞ Use teacher discounts. My favorite places to show my teacher ID and save are Michaels,  Office Depot and Half Price Books. Check out each of their rewards programs. You can also check out The big list of teacher and homeschool educator discounts.

How do you save money as a teacher? Please share your tips!

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