Frugal might be a popular buzzword right now, but for our single-income homeschooling household it’s a necessity. Frugal has been a lifestyle for us since I quit my day job in the last trimester of my pregnancy with Big Sis thirteen years ago. I haven’t regretted a single moment of being a stay-at-home mom, but it has definitely had an affect on our budget. When we first began homeschooling, the high prices I saw in the curriculum catalogs scared me. There were so many great resources I wanted to get for Big Sis, but we just didn’t have the funds. Over the years I’ve learned how to get the resources we need for free or low cost.
Here are a few budget-friendly tricks I’ve learned:
Plan ahead as much as possible.
If you can help it, don’t wait till you absolutely need something right now. That way you can watch the sales and have time to compare prices and get the best deal when it’s available. I know that’s the ideal way to do it and it doesn’t always happen that way, but just keeping that in mind as you watch for sales (like end of the year or back to school sales) will help.
Shop the sales.
I’ve found that homeschool curriculum companies tend to offer 2-3 big sales per year. There are also the big back to school sales at places like Wal-mart and Target every year. I stock up on pens, pencils, paper, and other school supplies then. One of my favorite things are the three-prong pocket folders that I get for 10 cents. We use these for lapbooks, notebooking, making our own activity books for holidays, making our own coloring books, book reports, and other projects. They’re so versatile and so inexpensive when I stock up ahead of time at the sale! Personally, I like to make a trip to the Dollar Tree a few times a year to find low cost items and supplies we can use for homeschooling, too.
Make it yourself.
There are many great homeschool manipulatives for math or for Montessori that I just can’t afford. After making a wishlist of what would really help our girls learn, especially Lil Sis on the autism spectrum, I decided to make whatever I could myself. Things like homemade playdough and paint are not only cheaper, but they are generally more healthy because I use all natural ingredients instead of chemicals and dyes. One of my favorite homemade manipulatives are sensory bins. Here is an example of a very inexpensive yet fun sensory bin I made for Lil Sis: ocean-themed sensory bin.
I’ve had great luck with buying and selling used curriculum. I’ve used eBay and Half.com, as well as some online groups. Search “used homeschool curriculum” on Facebook and you’ll see there are several groups dedicated to the topic. Not only have I found curriculum we’ve needed for half the cost, I’ve been able to make a little money by re-selling things that haven’t worked for us or that we no longer need.
Borrow or trade.
Are you in a local homeschool group? Organize a “barter day” where you all bring in and trade curriculum. Right now we’re borrowing a science text from a homeschooling friend. All I had to do was buy the supplies to do the experiments and the notebooking journal to go along with it. That saved me a lot of money!
Utilize the Internet.
Currclick offers lots of low-cost and free resources online, available for instant download. Lapbooking companies like Hands of a Child and A Journey through Learning are excellent, low-cost sources for supplemental and stand-alone curriculum. I also use the free lapbooks from Homeschool Share. Ambleside Online offers free Charlotte Mason lesson plans. There are many free educational websites and printables to use as well. If you’re willing to be flexible and invest some time in finding the resources, you can homeschool for free by using the Internet and your local library. I’ve made a Pinterest board for free educational websites and another one for other free homeschool resources.
By being resourceful and adjusting some of my expectations without sacrificing a quality educational experience, I’ve learned how to reduce the sticker shock of homeschooling and do it all frugally!