The Low Income Classroom: How Teachers Can Save Money On Basic Supplies

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As a teacher, you know that plenty of the supplies you need for your students to succeed will come out of your own pocket, as school budgets simply aren't enough to cover all of the office supplies like pens, paper and staples that your student will need during the year. In fact, 86% of of teachers in America report purchasing basic office supplies for their classrooms. But you obviously don't have much expendable income to shell out when outfitting the classroom for lessons. Here are a few ways that you can save money when buying office supplies for your classroom this year.

1. Loan supplies to students who do not have any.

Giving out one pencil doesn't seem like a huge cost, but because young students often lose pencils and pens, or come to class unprepared, you need to make sure your pencils and pens don't keep walking out the door with your students. When students need a pencil, scissors, or a ruler, have them leave something behind that they will not forget as "collateral." A shoe is often a good idea, as most students will not walk out the door with one shoe off. You'll need replenish your supplies a lot less often if students aren't accidentally leaving class with the supplies you purchased for their use.

2. Ask for help.

You shouldn't have to share the burden of the supplies yourself. It's wishful thinking, of course, to assume that all students will come with the supplies they need or with the supplies you put on on the back-to-school list. If you live in a area with a wide disparity of wealthy and low-income families, you could set up a donation page for parents who are willing to give more to the classroom. You can also join websites where people donate anonymously to specific classrooms and causes. 

3. Buy from businesses that offer discounts.

Experts encourage business owners to offer discounts and rebates to teachers, as teachers are more likely to be loyal to brands that show support for educators. Therefore, many businesses solicit your patronage because you are a teacher, and you should take full advantage during back-to-school sales and at other key times during the year. Discounts may deepen during teacher appreciation weeks or during graduations. Stay on top of teacher appreciation in your area, and buy supplies in bulk with your discount when they go on sale. 

4. Apply for grants.

Tax time is nobody's favorite, but it can be big help to you when you need to purchase office supplies for the classroom. It takes longer, but there are government and private grants and funds in place for teachers who need new supplies for the classroom. The Department of Education has a page of grants that are available, and all teachers are welcome to apply. The paperwork may seem daunting at times, but for the amount of money you could save, it is definitely worth the effort.

5. Use supplies in common with other classrooms, or take other teachers' leftovers.

If you teach in a school that has multiple classes, consider pooling funds to buy supplies like scissors and glue sticks, as these may not be used every day. They could be held in a storage closet and "checked out" when teachers need to reserve them. This way, every teacher in the department does not need to buy several sets of scissors for student use. Also, don't be afraid to ask teachers who are moving or retiring if you can't have some of their old or leftover supplies.

In a lot of ways, education budget cuts force you to be creative and do more with less. But you don't always have to be scraping the bottom of the barrel for office supplies. Look into these ways to save when shopping for your classroom this year.