How do you afford to homeschool? When juggling work, kids, child care and all the expenses of raising a family, adding in one more expense can seem impossible. But homeschooling doesn’t have to cost as much as you think. There are ways to help you homeschool on a budget.
Consider the costs of school in general.
When I first put my oldest daughter in public school, I came down with a BAD case of sticker shock. Everything was SO expensive!! There were school fees, special equipment, extra clothes, and a ton of little things we had to get just to be able to send her. When it all added up, it was almost $500 in extra costs. I was quite thankful that I could homeschool, because I couldn’t afford to send my kids to public school.
A lot of these school costs can be directly traded over to homeschool costs. School fees become co-op fees. Special supplies and extra clothes turn into curriculum. And there’s no more single-packaged lunch supplies or snacks, because now you can get home made or bulk versions.
But even counting those trade-offs, homeschooling can still seem unaffordable.
Here are 7 tips to help you homeschool on a budget.
You don’t need new, expensive, homeschool curriculum, furniture, or decor to homeschool. Many of the things you may find useful in homeschooling can be found used — including curriculum.
There are tons of buy-sell groups on Facebook, Craigslist or Kijiji. And that means getting the readers, teachers’ manuals and math manipulatives can be had at a fraction of the cost of new. So all you may need to purchase new will be the “consumable” workbooks, science and art supplies — and many times, you can get those used as well, in decent, or at least useable, shape.
Buy in bulk.
One of the best ways to save money for homeschooling is to buy in bulk and on clearance! I love shopping the back-to-school sales — after the schools in my area have already started. Everything gets marked down even more than it already was, and that can add up big for me.
I don’t buy single-use packs of anything. Glue, scissors, erasers, markers — everything comes in bulk packages too. I don’t get just a pack of printer paper, I buy the whole box. If possible, I will talk to the manager of the store and see if I can get a case of an item for a discount off buying just one or two.
If you don’t think you’ll use everything in bulk — or the upfront cost is an issue, wait till tip # 6!
Ebooks and digital printables are huge for homeschooling curriculum. And they’re often cheaper than buying the paperback. Plus there’s no shipping, and immediate delivery.
We love buying digital curriculum. Not only do we get the lower costs upfront, but I get to scale up my costs by using my digital curriculum across multiple kids. For example, our math curriculum is a digital printable pack. And by the time I’m done using the curriculum, even counting the costs of printing every year, it will have cost me approximately $6 per kid per grade. That’s a HUGE savings, when math curriculum can easily run in the $80-100 per grade range.
Most of our history, science, math, and geography curriculum is digital printable. I keep it sorted by grade in a Dropbox folder, so it’s easily accessible no matter where we are. And as my kids get older, there are more and more things that I can keep digital printable (without printing) and shoot over to their tablets or computers for reading & answering instead.
Look in some unexpected places.
When it comes to craft and school supplies, you might think you have to stick to a craft or dollar store. But you don’t!
Did you know that people often donate leftover craft supplies and school supplies to thrift stores? Those stores then package them up into bulk bundles and sell them. You might find NEW brand-name pencil crayon boxes, packaged up with notebooks, coloring books and stickers for less than the cost of the pencil crayons alone at a different store. Grab yarn, construction paper, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, paint and brushes, and tons of other supplies too.
Yard sales can also be an unexpected place to find the things you need. Retired teachers having yard sales can be gold mines for homeschoolers! I’ve reached out to many retiring teachers and offered to just clean them out so they don’t even have to sort their boxes or put them out for pickup. We’ve gotten maps, books, activities, science tools, and so much else.
Check out your local hobby & game store or toy store as well for things you can use. Get play money for a math manipulative, or use board games to help teach history or geography concepts. Learning about one of the World Wars? There are some amazing card games that can help illustrate military strategy. Get animal figurines while learning about biomes or food chains. And teach healthy eating with a play restaurant!
Repurpose what you have!
While you don’t necessarily have to have a dedicated homeschool classroom to homeschool, you do need a place to keep the supplies organized, and space to work. But you don’t need to invest a lot of money into new furniture or teaching supplies. Take a look around and repurpose what you have.
An old dresser can store the extra craft and school supplies. Use old backpacks to store curriculum or books, and tuck them away in a closet or cupboard. And repurpose trays into lap desks or shoeboxes to corral math manipulatives.
Want a whiteboard? Grab an old glass picture frame, slip a colorful piece of paper inside, and some magic markers, and voila! Wipe off white board! You can even use it to create reusable activity pages too.
Chalkboard sticker or paint on the inside of a lower kitchen cupboard door can make for a fun practice spot, which is easily hidden when you want to tidy up. And it’s a lot cheaper than buying a blackboard.
Cookie sheets make great magnet trays. Egg cartons can help sort and store small craft supplies. And ice cube trays make awesome reusable paint trays!
Need more ideas? Check out some of my friends:
Buying in bulk or getting expensive equipment may have an unaffordable upfront cost. So split it with some friends!
Maybe you’ll share the cost of homeschool curriculum. Try buying consecutive grades and swapping as you need them, or one family buys one subject and the other buys a different one. Or maybe you split the cost of buying a consumable worktext, photocopy and resell, then split the price, turning your cost of use into a more affordable expense.
You could also buy season passes to educational venues — museums, zoos, etc — and then you trade with other families to use (where allowed), or do reciprocal trips with guest passes.
Libraries are wonderful places. And you would be amazed at what they carry. Looking for a specific topic? Call your local librarian and ask them to put a few books aside for you about that topic and in your child’s age range. Want to read a particular homeschool help? Ask for it at your local library. If it’s not available locally, you might be able to get it on interlibrary loan.
But libraries often have more than just books. You might be able to borrow equipment too. Maybe you want to try a particular instrument? Your library might loan it to you. Looking for a game? Check with your librarian. Electronic equipment? Library.
Sometimes libraries carry educational kits too. You might find a kit from public health on nutrition or hand hygiene. Or maybe a mock-election set.
And many libraries carry passes to local attractions free to members. You may have to reserve this in advance, so you’ll need to call well in advance of your planned trip, but that’s better than paying the cost of admission!
BONUS: Sign up for teacher discounts!!
Many office supply stores, book stores, and educational supply stores offer the same teacher discounts to homeschoolers. Sometimes you need to provide proof of homeschooling, which could be as simple as your membership letter from your local homeschool group. But it doesn’t hurt to reach out and ask! Every little bit counts.
Homeschooling doesn’t need to cost a fortune. You don’t need high-end curriculum, a custom homeschool classroom, fancy equipment or supplies. All you really need is a few basic school supplies, access to books, and a willing adult eager to answer kids’ questions. Everything else is extra! You can homeschool on a budget, with a little creativity.