Homeschoolers, as a rule, are a thrifty lot. We educate children on a homeschool budget that is about .01% of a public school’s budget. Of course,
- Our teacher and principal don’t get paid, and we don’t get subsidized curricula.
- Many of us teach class at the dining room table, and we buy ALL our own supplies, including computers and lab equipment.
- We don’t have to guarantee safety for hundreds of students, but no one is likely to break in (besides the Legos and Polly Pocket dolls strewn down the front hall are effective burglar deterrents).
- We don’t have to transport students from their homes to schools and back again; but we play taxi to each and every activity our children are in, although some are lucky enough to carpool.
- We generally don’t have anyone giving us direction or choosing what we teach, AND we like it that way.
Yep, us homeschoolers are always looking for a deal. Used bookstores, garage sales, swap meets, online auctions. You name it, we’re all over it. In fifteen years, I have used all of the above.
Here are my top four tips to budget for homeschool books.
1. I reuse lots of stuff. Obviously, with five kids, I have a large collection of books, particularly teacher’s manuals. However, I am careful to follow copyright laws, which vary from publisher to publisher. Some are very lenient, letting you copy pages to use for multiple students. Others are very strict, only allowing the use of the material by one member of the family, ever. We use a mixture of textbooks, which generally can be shared, and workbooks, which are usually consumable. It’s also easy to incorporate various extra materials, such as bonus reading.
2. I buy used. Homeschoolers trade curriculum like little boys trade baseball cards, or whatever they trade these days. Publishers may update their products every few years, but generally textbooks and reference materials will be usable for many years. The options for buying used include:
- Half Price Books: I went to just about every Half Price Books in our area looking for my ninth grader’s Biology book one summer. I didn’t find it, but I found a good chunk of other books we needed. I easily save close to $100 by buying used each year.
- Used Book Fairs: I often attend local used book fairs hosted by homeschooling groups. These tend to be hit or miss, but I usually find enough to justify the time spent. Plus, it’s fun to run into people I only see a few times a year.
- Online auctions: When you’re purchasing something sight unseen, you have to put a lot of faith into the accuracy of the description and quality of the product. In other words, you never know. So, always carefully check the product. Some of my friends have been cheated by dishonest dealers. Not often, but it happens.
- Email friends: Start a needs/wish list and send it to all your homeschool friends, and have them forward it to their friends. Someone might have what you need sitting on a bookshelf but didn’t even think about selling it.
3. I borrow from friends. I don’t do this a lot because I’m always afraid something will happen to the item I’ve borrowed. However, I have several friends whose book collections rival the Beast’s library from Beauty and the Beast. So, when I just need one book for reference, you know who I call.
4. I buy new. When all other avenues have been exhausted, I buy new. I probably buy about a third of our curriculum new, as a matter of fact. We use workbooks for subjects like spelling and handwriting, so they can’t be reused. Some items are only available from the publisher, and I’m fine with that. I want to support companies that I like. Other items are available from different vendors, and I shop them for best prices and shipping. Always check the shipping fees because they can add up pretty quickly.
Of course, my homeschool budget
might not (never does) accommodate all that I think I have to have. When that happens, I just make sure my basics are covered, and pray for the extras. The details of the Roman Empire won’t change much among different history books, and 2 + 2 still equals 4 in all math books. Frankly, no curriculum is worth taking a second mortgage.
Overall, my children are getting a quality education and learning all the major things. Don’t fret about what you don’t have. Start with what you have available.
What are your homeschool budget saver techniques? Come on, everyone has a favorite frugal tip.