Nancy Kraus has been teaching for 28 years. She loves sharing her passion for music with the elementary school students in her class, but over the years, keeping up with classroom demands has become more and more difficult.
“I spend an average of $800 to $1,000 per year as a music teacher,” Kraus said. “I used to have a larger budget for music [from the school], but that has pretty much dissipated over the years.”
Kraus isn’t alone. In fact, a 2015 study found that teachers spend approximately $500 per year on classroom supplies, on average.
For teachers with low salaries or a hefty student loan balance, buying classroom supplies can be a real burden. Buying items for students can mean putting their own needs and financial goals on the back burner.
So if the teacher supplies students with everyday classroom items, what can they do to save money? Here are seven tips that can help you stretch your budget further while keeping up with classroom demands.
1. Ask for help with teacher supplies
“[At my school] we do ask our parents for donations,” Kraus said. “Our musical theater students must pay for their script, CD, and T-shirt each year. That costs them $30.”
In some cases, parents, kids’ relatives, and the local community are willing to help out — they just don’t know that there’s a need. One way to offset your costs is to set up an online registry on sites like Amazon or WalMart.
Not just for weddings or baby showers, a registry is more effective than sending a wish list to parents. With a registry, you can detail exactly what you need and in what quantity, so you avoid getting duplicates or items the classroom doesn’t really need.
Most schools or towns have their own Facebook page, where you can share your registry with parents and generous neighbors. If you have parents’ email addresses, you can also send them the link so they can make the purchases.
2. Split costs with another teacher
Buying in bulk can be a great way to save money, but you might end up having way more than you can use.
If there’s another teacher in your school with similar needs, shop together and split up bulk purchases at places like Sam’s Club, Costco, or BJ’s. There will be less waste, and you can divide your bill in half.
3. Shop after the first day of school
You probably already take advantage of sales on holiday items after Christmas or Halloween, and that same rule of thumb holds true for classroom items. There can be significant markdowns on teacher supplies right after the school year starts.
If you purchase just the essentials for the first day of school, you could buy the other supplies on your list at a significant discount later.
4. Use discounted gift cards
Shopping with discounted gift cards can save you hundreds. Many people receive store cards as gifts or as credit for a return, but those cards often go unused. If a consumer doesn’t have any use for it, they can resell it for a portion of its original value.
Resale sites like Gift Card Granny and Raise sell those unused cards at a discount. Depending on the store and the card’s value, the savings can be significant. For example, right now you can get a $100 Walgreen’s gift card for just $88. Discounted gift cards can help you stretch your budget and get more for your money.
5. Search for coupon codes
Before going shopping, make sure you’re armed with coupon codes. You can often find more coupons online than in the newspaper, and you can search right from your smartphone when you’re in a store.
6. Sign up for rebate apps
Another way to save money is to shop using a rebate site. Sites like Ebates are free to use and give you cash back on every purchase you make through the site. You can still shop at your favorite retailers like Amazon or Best Buy, but by going through the site you can get free cash.
Right now, for example, you can get 2 percent cash back on your purchases from Staples. If you spend $100, that means you get $2 as a rebate. That might not sound like much, but over time those rewards can add up, helping you recoup some of your expenses.
7. Look for grants and contests
The burden on teachers to purchase their own classroom supplies is increasingly common, and many organizations have taken note. There are now many grants and contests that you can enter to get money for your classroom, for everything from markers to new computers.
“We do apply for grants at least once a year, which helps defer costs,” said Kraus.
Here are three opportunities available right now:
- Teacher Supply Boxes: Offered by the Kids in Need Foundation, the Teacher Supply Boxes program provides essential school supplies to high-need schools.
- Classroom Grant: The Association of American Educators offers grants up to $500. All full-time teachers are eligible.
- Donors Choose: The DonorsChoose.org platform allows you to post your classroom needs; benefactors can choose to issue a grant to your request. You can submit a request at any time throughout the year.
Finding cheap school supplies
As a teacher, supplies for your class can be a significant hardship. But by using these tips, you can stretch your budget further and save money while still ensuring your classroom has everything it needs.
If you’re a teacher struggling to makes ends meet because of your student loans, check out this article on repayment and forgiveness programs for educators.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
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2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit SoFi|
|2.47% – 5.87%1||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
|2.47% – 8.03%4||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Lendkey|
|2.95% – 6.37%2||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.48% – 6.25%5||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit CommonBond|
|2.72% – 8.32%6||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|