Stretch Your Supply Budget: 6 Tips from Classroom Educators

Get through the rest of the year with these top tips from resourceful educators.

Elementary teacher putting away classroom materials

by NEA Member Benefits


Getting your supplies to last through the entire school year can be tough. If your supply closet is looking bare or if you are starting to plan for next year, try out some of these tips submitted by your fellow educators.

Hit the sales: “I hit after-holiday sales throughout the year for crafts for the following year. You can usually find things for 75% off after the holidays. I pick up items for the classroom and even supplies that I include in holiday presents,” says Kristen Jardine, a second grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary Center in Pennsylvania. “Another great time to pick up supplies is when stores start to offer their Back-to-School sales.”

Order as a group: Several educators suggested combining orders with peers to get special discounts and free shipping from discount catalogs like Oriental Trading Co., Current and Really Good Stuff. Often, the limits for these perks are set at a high dollar amount, more than you want to spend yourself, but if you combine your order with two or three of your peers, it’s an easy target to hit.

Go green: Heather Eig, school counselor at Richard Montgomery High School in Maryland says “We [the high school staff] are simply doing things like trying not to print items that can be referenced online and making sure to copy front-to-back, when needed. Our ‘go green’ efforts are synonymous with stretching the budget.”

Use those coupons: Second grade teacher Danielle Alu from Moscow Elementary Center says “A.C. Moore and Michaels always have great coupons, while stores like Staples offer teacher discounts and/or rewards cards for teachers.”  Ms. Alu’s peer at MEC, first grade teacher Lynn Wilmarth says, “Many stores, such as Barnes and Noble and Michaels, offer teacher discounts. I also buy a lot of items from Scholastic because they are cheaper than buying them in a traditional bookstore and whenever parents order online [from the Scholastic catalog] I receive a free book for my classroom.” Ms. Wilmarth also suggests signing up for offers online so coupons are sent directly to your e-mail address.

Make a list—and share it: Just about every teacher we talked to says they make a list of classroom needs (tissues, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, plastic zipper bags, glue sticks, etc.) and share it with parents on Back-to-School night, and throughout the year. One teacher creates a Giving Tree on a bulletin board in the classroom with needed items written on apple tags taped to the tree. At Meet-the-Teacher night she asks parents to take an apple and send in the item. Other teachers use their class website or weekly newsletter to remind parents of what they need.

Ask and you shall receive: Sometimes parents just need to be asked. Ms. Wilmarth says “My previous school would include a Teacher Wish List in the parent newsletter. The first year I started teaching I was shocked that I only had a handful of books in my classroom. I put books on my Wish List and I was amazed at how many books I received from parents whose children just didn’t read those titles anymore.”

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