Homeschoolers, as a rule, are a thrifty lot. We educate children on a homeschool budget that is about 1% of a public school’s budget. Of course,
- Our teacher and principal don’t get paid, but we don’t get subsidized curricula.
- Many of us teach class at the dining room table, but 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 land mines).
- 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 ten years, I have used all of the above, and have settled into an approach to corraling my 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. I shy away from these publishers, for obvious reasons. While some homeschoolers may find it unreasonable to follow copyright laws due to their own budgetary concerns, I feel convicted to set an honest examply for my children. If I can’t afford a curriculum or can’t reuse it, I find something else to use. Thankfully, there are lots to choose from these days.
2. I buy used.
- Half Price Books: I went to just about every Half Price Books in our area looking for my ninth grader’s Biology book this summer. I didn’t find it, but I found a good chunk of other books we needed. I easily saved close to $100 by buying used this year.
- Used Book Fairs: In the past, I have also attended 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: I also have used online auctions and homeschool chat boards, but not so much anymore. Unless I know exactly what I need, like the next level of MathUSee, I stopped buying these used online. I have gotten stuck several times with something I didn’t need, usually because I didn’t 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, and I’ll have to replace it. If I’m going to buy it, I’d rather buy it for me…not someone else.
4. I buy new. When all other avenues have been exhausted, I suck it up and buy new. I probably buy about half our curriculum new, as a matter of fact. Some items are only available from the publisher, and I’m fine with that. I want to support companies that I like. I’ve got a good 13 years left of homeschooling, and the last thing I want is to have to change horse midstream because my favorite publisher went out of business. 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, which is why I chose some different books this year. It streamlined my orders and saved quite a bit in shipping costs.
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. Overall, my children are getting a quality education and learning all the major things. The details of the Roman Empire don’t change much among different history books. 2 + 2 still equals 4, no matter what math you use. No curriculum is worth taking a second mortgage out. Take a deep breath and keep swimming.
What are your homeschool budget saver techniques? Come on, everyone has a favorite frugal tip.