When I envisioned my first classroom I saw amazing bulletin boards, neatly organized bookshelves, and a colorful theme throughout. Of course, as a new teacher I spent my summer shopping on decor that would make my classroom amazing and would impress my students and their families at Meet the Teacher night. Looking back, I realized that I spent too much of my summer on shopping and I overspent. One thing that made me realize that I had spent too much money was when I was desperately waiting for my first paycheck to pay for my classroom!
I probably would have continued to overspend during my career as a teacher, but a life event changed everything. During my first year of teaching the recession began and the business my husband worked at closed. My hobby job became our only source of income! It really brought me to reality of how much money I was spending for my classroom.
The following year, I had to really think what was important for my classroom. I tried to reuse as many things that I possibly could. The only thing I bought for my classroom that second year was classroom name tags. My budget truly was zero dollars. It was so hard because in our profession you are judged and rated by your classroom. I was embarrassed that my coworkers would think I didn’t care about my job, just because my class wasn’t decorated like a showroom! As the years went by, money did not improve but my resourcefulness on classroom spending did.
Take Inventory and Make a List
At the end of the school year take an inventory of your classroom. I know you want to run out of your room in elation, but take some time to look around because it will save you time and money.
Library – Remove damaged books and ones that you never see anyone reading. Dispose of the ones that are damaged and donate the books to other classrooms or a donation center. Ideas to replenish books:
- Advertise in your weekly class newsletter that you take used books for your library
- Go to thrift stores and buy inexpensive books- The most used books in my class are picture books that have a lot of subjects and are non-fiction.
- Go to second hand book stores on their discount day.
- Review Craigslist and OfferUp at the end of the school year when everyone is cleaning out their school supplies.
- Order them through the school supply warehouse if you can.
- Write your dream list of supplies. That way on the first week back to school you can notify parents of what you need for your classroom. Many times, I get my class list a week before school starts and I send a Welcome Email with a wish list of items that are needed for the classroom. Parents are more giving at the beginning of the year because most have planned a budget for those items.
- I also send a wish list around the holidays with items such as tissues and pencils.
- Decorations- Look at the poster paper, borders, and classroom décor. If they are in good condition keep them.
- If you want to update them go to the discount store or Amazon and buy them right after school the school year ends because prices are cheaper.
- If you need posters visit retiring teachers and online sites such as Craigslist and Offer Up for teachers who are selling their items.
- If in a pinch and you need to cover those walls on the cheap, there is always the Dollar Tree Teacher section. Although, I have found that these items may be cheap, they do not stand the test of time.
Now that you have a list of what you need it is time to shop. Before I buy anything for my classroom I ask myself these questions:
- Can I use it for many years and varied grade levels?
- Is it useful for the students and will maximize learning?
- Will it save me or my students time?
- Will it reduce my workload?
If I can answer yes to any of these items and it is the best price I can find, then I make the purchase. My goal is to be ready when I close my classroom. It saves me a lot of time and energy that first week back from running to the teacher store and impulse buying when prices are at their highest. I hope this helps you to save money and remember to always keep your receipts for reimbursement by PTO, if your school offers it, and for tax deduction.
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