7 Simple Ways Teachers Can Save Money on Classroom Supplies

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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.

Sites like Coupon Sherpa and RetailMeNot have the latest coupon codes for stores like Target, Staples, and Office Depot.

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.

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  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student Loan RefinanceFixed rates from 3.999% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.480% APR to 7.524% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.480% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.07% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score
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  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

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  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.17% (2.72%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.50%-8.69% (3.50% – 8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
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  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Average savings based on 18,113 actual customers who refinanced their federal and private student loans through our Education Refinance Loan between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. The calculation is derived by averaging the monthly savings of Education Refinance Loan customers whose payments decreased after refinancing, which is calculated by taking the monthly student loan payments prior to refinancing minus the monthly student loan payments after refinancing. The borrower’s savings might vary based on the interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of the loans they are seeking to refinance. The borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if their monthly payments are lower.
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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.