10 Practical Ways to Stretch Your School Budget

Teacher-tested tips for saving on school supplies, your teacher wardrobe, and classroom essentials.

Sponsored By NEA Member Benefits

The new school year is here, along with the gloomy truth that you’ve probably already spent way too much of your own money on getting your classroom cute and ready for your kiddos. So how on earth are you supposed to stretch your school budget? It’s a fact: for the 2014–2015 school year, educators spent an average of $490 out-of-pocket on supplies, materials, and other work-related purchases, according to Marci Hansen, CMO for SheerID, a company that verifies teacher and faculty credentials.

Stop the madness! We chatted with NEA Member Benefits and our fabulous teacher audience to find out what their best tips are for saving money during the school year, and keeping a little extra cash in your wallet (yes, it’s possible). Here are the best tips:

1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

“Set up a request on donorschoose.org to help get the things you need for your classroom. Once the project is funded, everything just shows up at your school. It doesn’t cost you anything but a little time!” —Julia B., via Facebook

2. Scout out the best deals.

“Sign up for emails from your favorite stores, or follow them on social media, to hear about sales as soon as they’re happening,” says Jon Lal, founder and CEO of BeFrugal.com. There are also free tools to manage all those emails! Read about them here.
Stretch your school budget with school supply savings

3. Offer to “clean out” another teacher’s room.

“Ask veteran teachers whose rooms might be a bit too full if you can go through their old stuff to see if you can find anything worthwhile!” —Cynthia R., via Facebook

4. Compare prices.

Did you know there are comparison tools to make sure you’re getting the very best deal? It’s true! This website finds the best deals, free shipping, coupon codes and more, saving you on average 15% to 20%.

5. Get creative with supplies.

“Gather unwanted rolls of wrapping paper from your friends and family. I cut it into bulletin board trim and laminate it. I also gather buttons, pebbles, milk caps and other small items for manipulatives.” —Kathleen S., via Facebook
Stretch your school budget by using wrapping paper in the classrom

6. Work with what you have.

“Try rearranging desks into pods, which makes collaborative learning easier and updates your classroom style!” —Donna R., via Facebook

7. Become BFFs with the dollar store.

“Dollar Tree is amazzzzing!” —Morgan V., via Facebook

We totally agree, Morgan. Check out these 50 Dollar Store Hacks for the Classroom and you’ll fall even more in love.

8. Don’t break the bank on clothes.

We all like to look nice at work, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend tons of money on a new wardrobe (as if we even have the money to spend!). These tips from an expert stylist will help you spruce up what you already own and save money.

Want more tips on revamping your teacher style? Find out how to save money with a capsule wardrobe and more tips here.
Create a teacher capsule wardrobe to stretch your school budget

9. Get notified of discounts.

If you register on neamb.com (it’s free!), you’ll be notified of awesome teacher discounts, just like that! You can save on rental cars and at the movies, enter sweepstakes, and more.

10. Save even after you buy.

Ok–so you’ve already done your back-to-school shopping, and plan on spending as little as possible throughout the year (if all goes according to plan, which we know it likely won’t). Put those completed purchases to work! There’s an awesome tool that monitors price drops and tracks your receipts so you’re able to save even after you’ve handed over your cash. Read all about it here.

So tell us: How do you stretch your school budget and save money throughout the year? We’ll share all the tips we can get, because teachers need all the money-saving advice there is.