Saving Money on Homeschool Supplies

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Saving Money on Homeschool Supplies | Life as MOM

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This September marks our 12th year of homeschooling. Wow. I love this life we’ve chosen. It hasn’t been without its challenges, that’s for sure. But, it’s been good.

Back in the day, 2002, to be exact, we had three kids five and under and very little money. The idea of private school was preposterous, but we really wanted to make sure we gave our kids an exceptional education. I had been a public high school teacher and felt convicted of my responsibility to shepherd my child’s education.

Homeschool was the most economical option for our family to pursue the schooling of our choice. It still is — as far as I can tell. I was stunned years later to find out that my friends whose kids went to public school had to pay for things. Huge lists and 100s of dollars of things! When I was a kid, my mom paid five bucks to join the PTA and that was it. Obviously, times have changed.

Honestly, no education is free. There are money as well as time, resource, and opportunity costs. This post isn’t about why to homeschool — you can read my thoughts on that here — it is, instead, a look at how to pay for it.

For the curious, here are the calendar year costs of what we’ve paid for homeschooling over the years, including a breakdown as to how many kids I was teaching each year.

school books on shelf

What it costs to homeschool (at least in dollars and cents):

  • 2002 – 1 student – $376
  • 2003 – 1 student – $514
  • 2004 – 1 student – $870
  • 2005 – 2 students – $485
  • 2006 – 2 students – $560
  • 2007 – 3 students – $860
  • 2008 – 3 students – $560
  • 2009 – 4 students – $1155
  • 2010 – 4 students – $1200
  • 2011 – 5 students – $2700 (includes paying piano, Latin and science teachers)
  • 2012 – 5 students – $2900 (includes paying piano, Latin and science teachers)
  • 2013 – 6 students – $1920 to date (includes paying Latin and science teachers)

You can see that once I started outsourcing music, language, and science, our costs started to go up. That’s okay since I got more time in exchange that I could spend on the other kids.

This year’s expenses are lower since our piano teacher moved to Australia last winter/spring and we haven’t found a replacement. And obviously, the year’s not done yet, so this number will probably rise in the coming months. But, there you have it.

While I’m sure there have been areas where I was too extravagant and could have cut expenses, I think we’ve done okay. Here are some ways that we’ve saved money over the years:

How to save money on homeschool supplies

school in boxes

1. Save books to use with the next kid.

Just like I save hand-me-down clothes, I also save books that I know I will use for the next kid. They’re getting a bit tattered by the time they hit the end of the line, but that’s okay. We’re saving money for other things.

(Don’t worry my little caboose won’t have Last Child Syndrome. She gets more than her fair share of everything.)

2. Borrow from friends.

Thanks to the kindness of friends, I’ve been able to borrow more expensive texts for which I can’t find room in the budget. If I know a particular resource is going to have a new edition, I’ve learned NOT to buy the old one because it will be obsolete before I can use it on the next kid.

(This has happened with our science books. Since the kids go to an outside science class, they need the current edition so it’s easier to follow along in class.)

library books

3. Borrow from the library.

There is an amazing number of resources available through the library — both digital and paper. We regularly have 50 to 100 resources checked out from the library at a time. Yes, there are fines every so often when I fail to get it back soon enough, but over all, the library is worth its weight in gold.

4. Buy used.

I’ve had hit-or-miss luck with used curriculum I’ve purchased via eBay. Sometimes it’s worked out just fine; sometimes not. Again, with the science resources — it’s happened more than once that I bought an old edition that didn’t match current support that the publisher offered or didn’t match what the rest of the class was doing.

However, buying used can be a great way to cut homeshooling costs.

5. Use Swagbucks.

I love Amazon. We have Amazon Prime which makes it so easy for me to order a book that we need next week and actually have it arrive in time. (The library, while free, is not always quite so accommodating.)

A way to save on Amazon is to redeem Swagbucks. (That’s my referral link.) You can earn Swagbucks through internet searches, watching videos, taking surveys, and referring friends. Over the years we’ve saved up the Swagbucks and redeemed them for Amazon gift cards to use for Christmas gifts and school books. It certainly doesn’t pay for them all, but it helps alleviate some of the cost.

Homeschooling is not “free”. No education system is, not really. We pay through time, money, resources, and missed opportunities. But, there are ways to save when you homeschool.

How do YOU save on school supplies?

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  1. Jessica,

    I am just a teensy-weensy bit ahead of you in that this is my 13th year homeschooling. Yep! One whole year! My oldest is a senior. For what it’s worth, I think you are doing a fabulous job with your homeschooling expenses. This year cost us $7,000 for our 6. YIKES! And that does not include music lessons. Basically, my K is free and my 5th grader cost about $500. The rest is $$ in books for my 4 high schoolers and tutoring fees for them. We outsource math and science and that alone for 3 of my children is $3,000. ($500 class X 6). This doesn’t include the books themselves. My oldest is taking community college classes. Tuition for these classes is free but the books for her 3 classes were $500. Buying used wasn’t possible because I had to have a “key” for the online portion of the class. Buying the key was about 80% of the new book price that came with a key. My oldest is also taking 2 online classes ($400 each) bringing her schooling to $1500 alone. So, my high schoolers’ tuition for math science and the cost of their books is the bulk of that $7,000. My younger children are using mostly recycled materials. They take art at our co-op and I’m including that fee. I *wish* I could take on the math/science myself, but I really can’t. We’ve NEVER spent so much on school. In the early years it was always under $500. I try to be frugal too! However, I am so very thankful. I tutor grammar and writing and this will bring in about half of the expense for this year’s school. I sold old curriculum on ebay this summer and that brought in $2000! Thus, when I totaled our TOTAL money out, it was actually within our budget this very-expensive-4-in-highschool-at-once year. Yay God!

  2. I wrote a post on how we keep homeschool costs down earlier this month:

    I actually ended up buying several years’ worth of books this year, so the next few years should be much lower. There were some great sales going on some items that I know we will use for many children, so I bought a couple of grades ahead in three subjects. Some school supplies should carry over to next year as well.

    We have a lot of used books, bought from several different places.

    I never thought of piano as part of homeschool costs, but it certainly makes sense to think of it that way. My mom pays for two children to take piano lessons, and our teacher was willing to do a lesson every other week, which has helped us to cut expenses. The younger of the two children takes a half-lesson as well. I would love more lessons for some of them (voice lessons would be ideal for one particular child who loves to sing) but at this time this is where we’re at. I suppose in the same line of thinking, sports costs could be included as part of education as well.

    It’s still a lot less per child than the $9844 per child that the state pays each year for education (I recently read that number is the average per state student cost)!

      1. What’s also an interesting comparison (at least to me) in what I spend on homeschool supplies and what I spend in taxes on education. Our tax bill is broken down and there are a couple of different education parts of it. It’s around $700 a year where I live that I spend it taxes for education.

        I love that I don’t have to buy backpacks, lunchboxes, lunchbox packaging, special foods, gas, a second car to get the children back and forth to school, fundraisers, classroom supplies a couple of times a year, and more.

  3. When we first started considering homeschool, it was based in part on the fact that we really wanted our kids to do private, but just couldn’t handle the cost. So now, we view our hs expenses as our own “private school” fees. Quite a bargain when looked at that way!

  4. I posted just last week how our family saves money on homeschooling supplies . Our expenses have gone up every year as well but I figure when the first one graduates we will no longer have to buy a full years worth of the curriculum we use and instead just have to buy the consumable workbooks as we too hand the books down. Then I think we will see a decline in expenses, although it will also make me sad because it will mean my nest is emptying.

    1. Yep. Since I save things from year to year, costs could go down — except for more kids in science, and outside lessons. Eventually, it will go down. Ha!

  5. I spy Phonics Pathways!! I use it too with my kiddos, though my oldest is only 4. Love it. It works and it’s definitely a frugal way to teach your child to read.