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Back to School Supplies: Prepare Your Class for Less

Janelle Cox

Teachers spend a lot of their own money on back to school supplies. A few years back, a nationwide survey concluded that 91 percent of teachers purchased their own supplies for the classroom — anything from snacks to hygiene items like hand soap.

This survey made one thing crystal clear: our teachers are not only educating our children, but providing hungry students with food. They’re also teaching basic life skills.

Some may argue that teachers are given the basics and they need to work with that. As a teacher, I say that isn’t enough. If you’re one of the 91 percent of teachers that buy the majority of your supplies, then I’m sure you’d agree that it is expensive. One survey concluded that teachers spent an average of $1000 a year on their classroom. Naturally, then, you’d want to put more of that money into your pocket without taking anything away from your teaching experience by investigating inexpensive school supplies.

Obtaining Free Materials

Don’t buy what you can get for free. Here are a few ways you can obtain cheaper back to school supplies:

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  • Adopt-a-Classroom offers teachers the opportunity to solicit financial support in order to purchase classroom items. All you have to do is register your classroom and write down the items that you need. Then anyone can “adopt” your classroom and donate money so you can purchase the items on your list.
  • Supply Our Schools offers donors the opportunity to fund a classroom in need. This website is known for helping underprivileged schools get basic classroom materials.
  • Digital Wish wants today’s youth to thrive in this ever-changing technology-rich economy.  Much like the organizations above, Digital Wish offers teachers the opportunity to make a “wish list” of the technology items their classroom needs. Teachers can then solicit donations and learn how to fundraise and receive grants.
  • Free Cycle is a nonprofit movement where anyone can post anything they need or want for free. Teachers can make a “wanted” post describing the essential items they need for the classroom.

Finding Cheap Back to School Supplies Materials

The summertime is the perfect time to begin your search for inexpensive classroom materials. Whether you’re looking for school supplies or materials to decorate your classroom, there are places that can save you money. Here are a few items and the places to find them:

  • Fabric: Craft stores like Joanne Fabrics have coupons almost every week in the summertime for up to 50 percent off an item. You can purchase inexpensive fabric to use on your bulletin boards. You can also use the fabric to spruce up your windows, or classroom door. This material also works well as chair pockets for students to place their books, folders, etc.
  • Books: Every classroom needs a library. The best place to look for cheap books is yard sales where you might find some great books for as little as 5 cents. If you’re looking to buy a bundle, don’t hesitate to negotiate—yard sales are the best places to get more for your money.
  • Crayons: Don’t throw away those Sunday ads! Right around mid-July, you will start seeing back-to-school supply sales and you can get crayons for as little as 10 cents for a 24 pack! Now that’s a bargain.
  • Magazines: Magazines can be a great resource for teaching. The can be used to teach text structure, or specific reading strategies. Look no further than your local doctor or dentist office for these. Their offices usually have subscriptions to magazines such as Highlights, Kids Discover, or National Geographic Kids. They are usually more than willing to give them away once they have expired.
  • Classroom Snacks: Not every child is lucky enough to have come to school with a belly full of food. Many teachers like to have classroom snacks available for students in need. The best place to purchase bulk food items is at your local wholesale store like Costco or BJ’s Wholesale Club. These stores offer snack items at cheaper rates than your local grocery store.

The recession has put a tremendous limit on the funding of our schools. We continually pay out of our own packets to make sure that our students are provided with a quality education as well as food in their stomachs. We will continue to do so because all we want is the best for our students, but there’s certainly no harm in saving a bit of money along the way.

Do you have any ways to save on back to school supplies and classroom essentials? Share with us in the comment section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators