Page protectors and other ways to stretch your budget

Homeschooling can be expensive.  I’d love my costs to educate my children to be tax deductible, but they’re not, so I have to look for other ways to save money.  Here’s some of my favorites…

Some of the books I use, like Building Thinking Skills, Mind Benders and Kumon early learning books are expensive, especially if you have to buy them four times (once per child).  Here’s what I do.  I take the staples out of the middle of the thin books, cut all the pages apart, hole punch and stick in a notebook.  The really big books I take to Staples and pay them $2 to cut off the binding.  It’s worth the money to save the time of me doing it for a two or three hundred page book.  Then I take enough page protectors for about two seeks worth of lessons and fill them with the pages I want my children to use, put them in the child’s notebook.  I used to use Vis a Vis markers, but then had to use water and lots of paper towels to clean them off and it got messy.  Now I put a thin dry erase marker into each child’s notebook so they can find one when they need it, and they can erase their own work after I’ve checked it. They think that’s great fun.

When I’m compiling my supply list for the year, I make a master list of all the books I want to use, then get online. I look them all up at the library, and mark which ones they have.  Then I email several of my friends to see if anyone has the ones left on the list that I may borrow.  I lend out my books in return to my friends.  Next I pull up several book selling websites, like Amazon, Rainbow Resource, and Christian Book Sellers and check prices. I enter the prices into my spreadsheet so I can make a decision later on where to order the books.  Then I go back to websites like Sonlight, Veritas Press, and Simply Charlotte Mason, the main sites where I find my books to look at books published for them and enter their prices.  My last step is to look on sites like eBay and Vegsource for used curriculum and enter those prices as well. I can then go through my list and highlight the best price for each item.  Don’t forget shipping charges my increase the price, especially if you’re only buying one item from a company or person on Ebay, as that can raise a great price to a so-so price. Sometimes buying lots of items from a company that offers free shipping for orders over a certain amount pays off. After I find the best price for items I have to buy, I can then make decisions on whether to buy that historical fiction set in the time of Nehemiah, or skip it.  It depends on my budget of the year.

In addition to books, don’t forget other supplies you may need for art, history, or science.  I do my best to make lists of all those supplies as well, and keep it with me during the summer as I’m shopping. This year I found my art supplies were cheaper to buy at Michael’s one at a time, with the weekly 40% off coupon.  It was a pain to go every week, but I didn’t have the extra money to buy the entire kit from Miller Pads and Paper like I usually do. Same with science supplies.  You can buy kits with most of the supplies you need for the year from different companies, but with a little extra planning, I put together most of the supplies myself, then purchased the supplies that I couldn’t find easily, like an owl pellet (don’t ask) from Rainbow Resource with my book order.

For history, I like to do occasional hands on activities, but sometimes the cost can add up.  Hands and Hearts sells really nice kits for history that include copywork, scripture memory, notebook pages, maps, and supplies and instructions for crafts related to a certain time period (Ancient Greece or Westward expansion) or geographical region (Far East).  I love them. Produced by a creative homeschooling family, I enjoy supporting them for that reason, but they’re also very good quality.  You can get kits for additional students to supplement the materials, like feathers or plaster of paris.  Instead of buying a kit and using the entire thing in one year, I buy one kit and one additional student kit and choose a few of the crafts to use, saving the rest of the crafts for our next cycle through history.  Except for the Roman coin to clean, many of the supplies I can replenish at Michael’s if I find the kids really enjoyed the activity and I want to include it next cycle.  Check them out, because they’re having a nice sale (25%off) on many products other than their history kits! You can also check out lots of books full of ideas for activities and crafts based on time periods or regions at the library, or buy them if you really enjoy them.

Don’t forget used bookstores, consignment sales, yard sales or used curriculum sales.  I volunteer to organize the book tables at my favorite consignment sale at Forest Hills Baptist Church just so I can pre-shop it for great books.  There’s even used curriculum! If I find a DK or Eyewitness book on a topic I know my kids will enjoy and we’re studying sometime in the future, I’ll go ahead and get it.  Sometimes it ends up as a birthday or Christmas gift, sometimes it goes right on the bookshelf and sometimes I save it until we get to the topic.


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Filed under Discounts, Homeschool, Planning

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