Don’t let the economic downturn rain on your back to school parade! Yes, the current economic situation is a reality, but the goal here is not to ignore it, but rather get past it, and gather the teacher supplies you'll need in spite of it. C'mon! We all know just how resourceful teachers can be! So, let’s put our creativity to good use and get to work!
Strategy # 1 - Make a List
If you hit the stores with no list, you’ll most likely buy teacher supplies you don’t need, and thus spend more than you should. Before you make your shopping list, however, set a realistic budget for yourself. Don’t think about how much you’d like to spend on teaching supplies, but how much you honestly think you could afford to spend on them. Next, make a shopping list with everything you think you’ll need and include as many things as you’d like.
Next, draw three columns on a sheet of paper, and name each:
- absolute essentials;
- things you'd like to buy;
- things you could do without.
Place each of the educational supplies on your list in one of the three columns. Now, you'll clearly see what your priorities are, and you should be able to purchase your essential teaching items for sure and at least some of those you’d like to have, if not all. Be flexible enough to revise your budget, and remember that there will most likely be some last minute or unexpected expenses you did not factor into your list.
Strategy # 2 – Reuse Existing Teacher Supplies
Seriously and objectively consider your current inventory of teacher supplies. Which school supplies can be reused, recycled, or which need not be replaced just now? We all love to start school with a shiny new set of fresh color markers, but if last year's set is still in working order, maybe you can wait till mid-year to buy a fresh pack.
Don't throw away anything that can be reused for other purposes:
- Last year's folders or notebooks could be used for art this year. Remember that the cardboard back of notepads can also be used.
- Broken crayons may have multiple uses: sharpen them and use the shavings for art or as a replacement for glitter; invest in a crayon maker and make patchwork crayons; melt them and cut them into shapes with cookie cutters for great gifts.
- Sharpen scissors; never throw them away!
You may even get lucky enough to cross off some of the supplies from your shopping list.
Strategy # 3 – Buy Teacher Supplies in Bulk
Most school supplies can be bought in bulk from office or special ‘discount teaching supplies’ stores, as well as on the Internet. To obtain the best bulk discounts, get together with several of the other teachers from your school and try to put together a group shopping list and get cheap teacher supplies. Look for back to school deals while they still last!
- DollarDays offers hundreds of products at wholesale prices.
- Besides the basic school supplies, DollarTree also offers great supplies for teachers like flashcards, activity books, and teaching aids. Buy a case with an assortment of Fisher Price Flash Cards for $ 27 and pay just $1 for each!
Strategy # 4 – Use Free Internet Resources
The Internet is just packed with free resources for teachers; all you have to do is find them.
- Download printable stickers and print them on Avery label paper.
Here are some great book labels, plus locker stuffers and pencil toppers you can use as back to school or motivational gifts.
- Don’t invest in classroom management software, organizers, etc...if you can download some free of charge. Teacher’s Desk offers several.
- Why buy activity books, workbooks, templates, worksheets, and even posters when you can download them from BusyTeacher.org?
Strategy # 5 - Do Your Research and Compare Prices on Educational Supplies
At Pricewatch.com you’ll find hundreds on teacher supplies on sale, and the site tells you exactly where to buy them. Pricegrabber.com also has a great Back-to-School Shopping Guide that allows you to compare prices from different sellers, thus guaranteeing you’ll get the lowest price and find back to school deals. NexTag.com allows you to create alerts for specific teacher classroom supplies, and it's a very useful site if you're on the lookout for more expensive things like laptops, overhead projectors, or other electronic devices.
Strategy # 6 – Shop at discount or specialty stores
Your local supermarket or shops may be just around the corner, but if you have to make a longer trip to reach one of the shops listed below, it’ll definitely be worth your effort:
- Staples has the widest selection and most of the educational supplies needed by teachers.
- In addition to their great bargains in school supplies, Office Depot offers a Go Back Smarter program; sign up to become a Star Teacher and get more discounts on already cheap teacher supplies!
- Walmart has by far the best deals and lowest prices, but you may not find some of the things you need.
Don't feel compelled to buy everything in one single store. You could go to Walmart for basic back to school supplies and then head on down to Staples for more teacher supplies. Don’t forget that several stores, like Walmart, offer price matching. When the store with the lowest price is out of stock, take the ad for this store to another one that will match this price.
You could also wait till the clearance sales hit the shops some time after back to school sales; you’ll have to wait a bit, but the savings on back to school stuff are huge at that time.
Apply any of these strategies, or several combined for greater savings. But whatever you do, don’t just blindly shop at any round the corner store. Not when you can buy more with your hard-earned cash. Yes, it does take time and planning, but the savings will definitely be worth it.
Do you have any strategies for buying teacher supplies you’d like to share? Post them in the comments below!