Homeschooling can get expensive, quick. Getting boxed curriculum is a known and planned cost, but it doesn’t come cheap. Choosing to select your own curriculum quickly can turn into a shopping spree. How can we contain the costs while still providing a quality eduction?
1. Plan Ahead
Make sure to make a plan of what you want to buy, before you buy it. This seems obvious enough, but it is very easy to pass by some curriculum on a website and think, “That’s so cool! I’m sure I can fit this in somewhere.” Maybe you’re a savant at fitting in whatever random item you buy, but until you’ve proven your skills, don’t buy it, and especially not at full price.
Planning ahead also allows you to buy multiple years at once, typically saving money in shipping at the very least. It isn’t often I buy many years at once, but if you are doing a program like foreign language that really is best to keep with the same publisher or developer, spend a little more up front and save money in the long run by buying multiple years at once.
2. Use Your Library
You can find people who homeschool with a Math book, a Qur’an (or Bible), and a library card. I look up to these people. We definitely use our library quite a bit, and using the library isn’t limited to just checking out books! The library book sale is a gold mine for collecting a hoard of books at garage sale prices, and most libraries have fun programs for people of all ages! Care Bear just went to a free full-day Hunger Games Tribute Training! She learned archery, knot making, and other fun things… and it was absolutely FREE! Take a look at the books the library is doing activities for over the next couple months, and join in with them. There are so many possibilities beyond just checking out books and movies, though that is pretty awesome too.
3. Get on Mailing Lists
Get on the publisher’s email list, along with local homeschool Yahoo/Google groups, and local teacher’s supply store lists. When you are on the publisher’s and teacher supply store’s mailing lists, you are one of the first to know of their clearance sales. For instance, I got an email from IEW just yesterday of their Cyber Monday sale starting already, and got Care Bear’s Literature pack for $11 instead of the typical $29!!
The local homeschool lists, whether it is for a co-op or just a general support and social group, are a gold mine for people clearing out their closets of old curriculum, and this is where you find the absolute best prices.
4. Buy Used
Is there any reason why you can’t use a preowned Math textbook? Let’s be real, there isn’t. We buy almost all of our books used from Craigslist, Half Price Books, Amazon, half.com, ebay.com, local used curriculum sales, etc. I’ve gotten a few of our literature books from Amazon for $.01 plus shipping… not bad! When buying online, look for a detailed description, like if some pages are missing or written on. Most places want to keep a continuing customer base, so you are going to get something well worth the money you spent, but do your due diligence.
Software is you can sometimes buy used, but check with the software developer if the technical support can be transferred, or if there are license issues. Of course, workbooks can only be used once if they are written in directly. Care Bear is old enough that if a book has space for writing, she just uses a separate notebook so we can sell the book when she is done.
5. Sell Your Used Items
Try your best to keep your curriculum in good shape, and you can typically get a pretty good return on your money, especially if you bought it used in the first place! I’ve been able to sell almost all of my Saxon math books for the same price I bought them for… talk about staying frugal! The older your kids get, the easier it is to have books that they don’t write in, and they are able to keep their items is good shape. Still, even with young children you have the parent books you can sell and the manipulative items. Finding a used curriculum sale in your area is the easiest way to clear off your shelves, but you’re charging garage sale prices. Ebay is usually pretty good at getting a nice final price, but some people don’t like the hassle of posting things online. Craigslist and your local homeschool Yahoo group are easy ways to get the word out if you don’t want to sell online and there isn’t a used curriculum sale nearby.
6. Be Part of a Learning Co-op
Admittedly, we spend a lot of money on just a few homeschool co-op classes for Care Bear. One reason this is so expensive is the group hires teachers from outside, but when you have a group of parents who are willing to teach, you can save a lot of money. I can teach math, and since you are teaching science, we don’t need to exchange money. If the class is large enough, you may be able to get a group discount on the books also.
7. Setup Groups for Trips
Want to see the latest play at the Children’s Theatre? Does the Science Museum have a very cool exhibit? If you can get a group of 10 or more, many places will give you a discount! Again, if you’re on the mailing lists I talked about, it can be pretty easy to get a group together. One tip I have for setting up these groups is to start with a limit in mind; something you think you can fill up, and not leave too many people out. This makes it easier to work with the location you are visiting if you just give them a number of people from the beginning. Paypal is your best friend for getting payment fast, and paying the venue right away. You don’t want to get in a bind where people have decided they aren’t going to go, and are not getting back to your emails. To many, if they haven’t paid you, they haven’t committed and may not understand the hassle of trying to figure out if they’re going or not.
8. Get Season Passes at Your Favorite Locations
Our Science Museum is a really fun place to visit, and has the best Omni Theatre movies! It is great to already have a pass paid for, so you don’t have to think about whether you can afford to take the family that day or not. Many places will sell passes at a discount if you are a homeschooler, and also if you are within certain income brackets. Just call and check on their policy to find out exactly what discounts they have available. Most of us have some time during the year we have a little extra fluid cash, so think about whether this would be a good buy for your family when that times comes!
One thing to note, and I’m not sure how it works in other states, is a season pass to a museum, theatre, etc. is not tax deductible, but a daily pass can be listed as a tax break. If you are only going to use the season pass as many times as it would take to pay for itself, then it might be a better option to just buy the daily pass and list it on your taxes. Again, check with your state to find out how all this works for you.
9. Sell Your Services
Many of us homeschool moms had jobs and outside skills before we bunkered down into homeschooling. My Bachelor’s degree is in Information Technology, so while I’m a little out of the loop lately, I can still fix some basic problems people experience, and do upgrades. I also enjoy knitting, so I try to sell some items online for a little extra cash. Have you been homeschooling for quite some time? Many people are looking for a consultant to get them started in their homeschooling journey! There are many ways to try to make some extra money through your local community.
10. Truly Assess What is Needed
This goes along with Plan Ahead, but it deserves more attention at another angle. Do you need to do Latin, Spanish, and Arabic? Do you need to do Art, Art History, and History all in one year? It is easy for us to over burden our kids with subjects because we don’t want them facing any barriers to opportunities. Are we doing them a favor though by keeping them in the house and putting up a barrier to free play by over burdening them with work? Yes, it cuts your budget to remove subjects, but it also has benefits in your family life. Make sure you are giving them opportunities on ALL fronts… not just with the academics.
How have you saved money in your homeschool? Do you see ways you can trim down your costs?