As school starts back, one of the largest tasks for teachers is to stock up on all of the things they will need for the school year. Whether it be notebooks, pencils, stickers or anything else, school supply shopping can really put a dent in the already limited budgets of teachers. Schools may or may not be of much help in terms of purchasing school supplies. If you are a teacher unlucky enough to be at a school with no help, here are some things you can do to ease the stress on your pocketbook.
Check the thrift stores Thrift stores are a great source for resources like used books. If you are trying to stock up on materials for your library check your local Goodwill. For increased chances of finding good stuff, go early in the summer. Late May and early June is typically when teachers donate all of the stuff they no longer need.
Use the educator tax deduction There is a tax deduction meant to offset the amount teachers spend on school supplies. It’s only $250 but it is certainly better than nothing. So, make sure you claim the deduction on line 23 of form 1040 or line 16 form 1040A. Read the specifics here.
Buy in bulk If you or someone in your family has a Costco or Sam’s Club membership, then you may want to utilize it. It’s significantly cheaper to buy in mass quantities. For example, you know you will probably need a lot of pencils. In the long run, it is much cheaper to buy 1,000 of them at once from a wholesaler than it is to buy them 30 at a time from Target.
Make use of AmazonAmazon isn’t putting brick and mortar stores out of business for no reason. Amazon is typically cheaper and more convenient than their competitors. Utilize Amazon shipping to order school supplies and materials straight to your school.
Create a Donors Choose project If you are trying to finance something cool for your classroom you might want to look into Donors Choose. Donors Choose is a website where teachers can crowdfund their classroom projects or supplies through donations. People usually donate to projects they are interested in so it works best if your project is specific and can be clearly categorized by the system. It’s probably not where you would turn to ask for pencils or paper towels, but it’s the perfect place to reach out for art supplies for your Women’s History Month project.
Teaching is already a thankless job. There is no sense in going broke while doing it. The vast majority of teachers usually end up spending at least a little money on their class, but if they can avoid it by shopping at the right places, at the right times and getting a little outside help, then they should.
Andrew Pillow is a fifth grade social studies teacher at KIPP Indianapolis, a charter school where he has taught since 2011. He is also a former Teach Plus Policy Fellow and he has taught technology and social issues.