On a Budget? 18 Ways to Homeschool On the Cheap

Are you on a tight budget like our family?

Just like a personal family budget, staying on a homeschool budget can be a real challenge.

There's just so many great curriculums! So many cool field trips and experiences!

And before we know it, we find ourselves spending WAAAAYY more than we said we would.

I'm far from perfect in this area (my weakness is new curriculums!) but I've learned a lot over the years, and there are some key concepts that keep our spending down (without sacrificing our homeschool experience).

It is possible to homeschool well… even when money is tight!

Are you a homeschool family on a tight budget (like my family is)? It’s still possible to homeschool well, even when money is tight! Here are 18 secrets that can save you money big time! #18 and #6 are my favorite…

Top 18 Ways to Save Money While Homeschooling

18) Come up with a list of supplies and track your spending.

Before you begin purchasing, make a list of all the supplies you'll need for the next year. Have a plan before you begin spending. 

While we do spend most of our homeschooling budget in the summer when we are purchasing new curriculum, “homeschooling” is a line item in our family's monthly budget.

We consider it a “cyclical expense”— one that doesn't occur every month but still needs to be allocated for in the budget. We put money away for homeschooling (and other “cyclical expenses”) in a savings account and pay ourselves back out of this account whenever we spend money on homeschooling.

This helps us see how much we've really spent, and how much money is still available. This simple strategy alone has helped me to say “yes” or “no” to homeschool spending.

17) Get as many books at the library as you can.

The library is an amazing resource for free materials that will keep you on budget!

If you do plan to use library resources in our homeschool, I recommend requesting the materials 2-3 weeks before you need them.

That's why the only tradeoff with using the library in your homeschool is that it requires a little more planning and organizing. But you can't beat free books!

16) Frequent used book stores and keep an eye out for upcoming needed materials.

Right outside our local library, there's a wonderful used book store that the homeschool moms in my area drool over!

I can't tell you how many treasures I've found in there for a dollar or even a quarter!

15) Use what you already have.

What may not have worked for one child may work for another. Or perhaps you may chose to use a something that you just ran out of time for in previous years.

Dust off some older curriculums you may have hanging around to see if they're a good fit.

14) Borrow curriculum from another homeschooling family.

Do you have a trusted homeschool friend that you can borrow books from? This is a great way to try-before-you buy or to perhaps trade resources with another family.

13) Consider certain books that may be equivalent but may cost less money.

Is there another book or curriculum that can teach the same material, but at a cheaper price? Or maybe you can just focus on one aspect of a topic this year instead of a entire learning concept?

12) Discover free resources available on the internet.

Some of my favorite freebie sites can be found here.

11) Make copies of curriculum to share (only when legal of course!).

Look at the fine print here, but in many cases, publishers allow for you to make copies of a resource as long as its within your own family.

10) Substitute something else for your first choice curriculum.

If you find that a curriculum pushes you over your homeschool budget, ask yourself: Is there something fairly equivalent that's cheaper; or can I put together my own version from multiple free sources?

9) Purchase used curriculum from other moms via homeschooling re-sell groups.

If you must buy a certain curriculum, see if someone else has the item for sale on a homeschool curriculum re-sale group or from within a local co-op or charter.

8) Get the used or “scratch and dent” version.

Consider purchasing a used copy of a book from Amazon or eBay (when available). Sometimes publishers also have “scratch and dent” type deals on some of their curriculum if you're willing to live with a slightly imperfect product.

7) Go in as a group.

Often curriculum publishers, book sellers, or field trip destinations are willing to lower their prices if there is a large number of purchasers. Homeschool co-ops or charter organizations often can coordinate these types of purchases.

6) Take advantage of teacher discounts.

Did you know that Michaels, Barnes & Noble and the Apple Store give teacher discounts?

This post lists 90-plus places where you can potentially get a educator discount! And there may be additional local places in your area with this type of program. Hey, it's definitely worth looking into.

Plus, nearly every large museum or amusement park offers free or highly discounted “educational days” where they offer some sort of educational experience as part of the visit (and also greatly lower the price).

5) If necessary, make concessions in some areas.

Determine which subjects are a higher priority than others (and thus may require specific curriculums), and be willing to invest in those areas (and to come up with lower cost solutions for other subjects).

4) Pray over your choices.

This seems like such a simple thing, but really, I have been amazed over and over as the Lord has shown me a cheaper (and better!) curriculum option when I've just taken the time to ask Him.

3) Think on it before you buy it.

Homeschool conventions are wonderful for seeing nearly all the curriculum out there. But oh my goodness… I have for sure made some in-the-moment curriculum choices that (in the long run) did not turn out to be the best ones because I felt pressured (or was caught up in the excitement of the convention).

Personally, I have pledged to not purchase any curriculum at a convention unless I've taken the time to research beforehand.

2) Be willing to think outside the box.

Can a new book become a birthday present?  Obviously this won't work in every situation (“Honey… aren't you happy that we got you a new math workbook for your birthday?”).

But in some cases a really nice set of classic literature (like this box set of The Chronicles of Narnia ) or a learning game could also be a nice present from Grandma. Or how about if a fun field trip doubles as a family vacation or birthday event?

Our family has different categories in our budget for “gifts,” “birthdays,” and “vacations,” and I've used these funds to pay for homeschooling items before if they doubled as both.

And my final tip?

1) Stick to your plan and seek wise accountability.

Self control, right? It's so easy to get caught up in the “we must have it” game, especially when it comes to something as important as providing a quality educational experience for our kids.

Sometimes we need someone else to help us just say no. That can be a spouse or even a fellow homeschool mom.

However, it's also true that we need be realistic. If a child desperately needs a curriculum option, it may be worth going over budget (or using money from another area in the budget) to find a new option (obviously that's up to you and your husband). We've had to do this a number of times over the years.

Seek accountability from someone who can help you make these decisions well (and of course, if you are confused, pray for God's help in making the best choice for both your child and your budget)!

Your Turn:

How about you? What are your homeschool budgeting secrets? 

Share them in the comments below!

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