Are you looking for some insider tips from teachers to save money during back to school? This post will give you several ideas.

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The research is in. Teachers spend wa-a-a-ay too much money during back to school season. I used to spend around $1,000 per school year of my own money. Around $600 of that was during back to school. How much do you spend?

A piggy bank with a graduation cap and piles of money around it. Best ways to save money during back to school.

According to an NEA study done in 2022, a full 90% of educators spend their own money on school supplies. Do you end up buying pencils, crayons, and that most valuable asset, dry erase markers? 

Heads up to any parents reading this…if you want to give a teacher the best gift ever, make it a big pack of Expo markers!

In the 2019 pre-pandemic back to school season, teachers spent an average of $500. 

According to the study, this is a key driver of teachers leaving the profession. I can believe it!

I’m certain you want your students to have everything they need to have a stellar year, I’m going to give you several ideas for how to obtain books at no or low cost, how to have a steady supply of dry erase markers and paper towels, and tissues.

Also, I’m going to give you some ideas to save money on all those extra resources you purchase throughout the year to complement your textbooks.

Are you ready? Here we go!

Money Saving Tip #1 – Books for a Classroom Library

Have you tried visiting the Friends of the Library sales? Many times you can fill a bag of books for $5. This is still a great way to find lots of books that are classics and favorites for your students to read independently.

Used book stores are another places where you can find used books. Children outgrow books and parents donate them to these places. You can’t set up a classroom library for less.

To make the most popular paperback books last longer, buy some contact paper and stick it on the book cover. Any spills or grimy fingerprints wipe right off. The covers are sturdy and won’t tear.

But what if you want more of the newer books and the current favorites? Teachers all love that when students order from Scholastic Books, they’re rewarded with free books for the class. That’s great! 

The other way Scholastic helps teachers is with their Warehouse Sales. Did you know that if you volunteer to work at a Scholastic Warehouse Sale, they pay you with a voucher for books for your classroom or library? Yes!

That was my main source of getting new books for my students. You can volunteer a few hours in the winter and in the spring, and get plenty of new and popular books. The next time you see a notification of one of these sales, click on the volunteer button and you’ll be guided in how to sign up. 

Money Saving Tip #2 – Dry Erase Boards

Some schools provide these and some don’t. Dry erase boards can be spendy if you’re having to pay for them on your own. I’m looking at a catalog right now, and they run on average, $34.99 for ten boards. If you have a class of 32 students, you’ll need to buy four packs for a whopping $139.96.

Average price for a class set of dry erase boards is $139.96 plus tax and shipping.
Save money on dry erase boards with this tip.

Ouch!

Did you know that you can purchase a 32 foot rectangle of shower board at a home improvement store for around $15? Then, if you tell them you’re a teacher, they’ll usually cut that board into 32 one-foot squares for you. Now you have a class set of whiteboards. Yes, please!

Money Saving Tip #3 – Dry Erase Markers

This is a biggie because it’s an ongoing expense, all year long. I tried so many things to cut the cost. Here’s what worked best, and it’s a combination approach. 

  1. Buy enough brand name dry erase markers for yourself in all the colors you want. It will cost you, but it’s worth it. Nothing is worse than dry erase markers that fade out in a couple of weeks.
  2. Next, buy the students four colors of off-brand or store-brand markers. They usually come in blue, green, red, and black. The colors are helpful during group work. If you buy the store-brand, you’ll save lots of money on your class set. I suggest buying enough for double your class size. 
  3. Then, when you have Meet the Parents Night or Back to School Night, have a sign-up list on the back table. On the sign-up list, make a table that shows the 12 months. Ask for 24 dry-erase markers each month.

Parents will sign their names next to the month that works best for them. All you have to do is record who volunteered to donate markers in which month, and then you can send them a friendly reminder a couple of weeks before.

You can save this pin to your Pinterest board and come back to these ideas anytime.

Money Saving Tip #4 – Paper Towels and Tissues

Use the same sign-up sheet as before, but add columns for four rolls of paper towels and four boxes of tissues. You could also add antibacterial wipes if you use those, too.

Truly, I don’t think parents realize how much teachers are spending on these daily essentials. They normally don’t dive in to help because they don’t know. This is just a nice way of asking them to participate.

Money Saving Tip #5 – Make a Public Wish List

This is your chance to let your friends, family, and parents of your students know what you need and want to set up your classroom. Create a wish list on Amazon or wherever you shop, and make it public. You can send the wish list home with new students and you can send it to supportive friends and family. If you keep it updated all the time, you’ll be able to get supplies for your room on a regular basis.

If you don’t feel comfortable sharing a store wish list, here’s an old-school paper option. Print each item on a bright card, such as a neon-colored index card.  Lay them out in a pretty display on a table in your classroom. You can also stick them to a decorated door. On Back-to-School Night, parents can pick a card and head to their favorite store to buy the item for you.

Save this pin to your Pinterest board so you can come back and revisit this post again.

Money Saving Tip #6 – Bulletin Boards

We’ve all seen the adorable and well-designed rooms of certain teachers. But it can be very expensive to keep those trendy and colorful rooms looking like they do. Here’s a hack that not only saves you money, but saves you time.

First, stop putting up paper bulletin boards that tear and fade and need to be replaced every couple of months.

Instead, buy fabrics in the color palette of your choice. I used to use the primary colors plus purple for an extra pop. Use the fabric in place of bulletin board paper. It will stay fresh and bright all year, and perhaps for two or three years.

Get coordinating bulletin board trim that can be mixed or matched. If you get double sided border trim, you can swap out the look quickly throughout the year.

Money Saving Tip #7 – Snacks

Use a sign-up sheet for a schedule of parents to send in snacks. 

Have parents sign up for one week on the school year calendar. Send a reminder home to them a couple of weeks before their time is approaching.

You’ll get a variety of snacks, and it will really help cut down on your out-of-pocket costs.

This one isn’t foolproof, but many parents are happy to send a snack to school.


Money Saving Tip #8 – Extra Resources and Lessons

This one is a huge one. Teachers love to spend money on cute activities, crafts, and lessons on different teaching sites, such as Teachers Pay Teachers. But it can add up quickly.

First, decide what items you may need in each of these categories, before you begin shopping.

Before you begin shopping on Teachers Pay Teachers, or another site, go back through your past purchases to see what you already have. I know I’ve discovered some hidden gems I forgot that I bought.

Then, leave a review on those items you’ve already used. If you shop on Teachers Pay Teachers, you get a small credit for each of your reviews. The credits add up and can make a dent in your spending.

 

I hope you can use many of these tips.

If you’re interested in reading the NEA report  I mentioned at the beginning of the post, you can access it here.

Do you have other money-saving hacks for the beginning of the school year? You can share them in the comments and help out other teachers.

 

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