If you’ve been around Six Figures Under for any length of time, you know that I love saving money on just about everything. For me, saving money is not deprivation or drudgery, it’s about the challenge and adventure! I enjoy the “art” of saving money. I also like not being wasteful and that includes with money!
When I started homeschooling our four school-age children in the fall of 2020, I received lots of requests to share my ideas for how to save money on homeschooling. I’ve been so busy homeschooling that I had to set blogging aside for a bit, but today I’m finally getting around to sharing my money-saving tips with you.
Even though I just finished my second year of full-time homeschooling, I have taught Kindergarten, 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. All I need is 2nd and 3rd and I’ll have the whole K-8 range covered! Pretty good for just two years!
If you homeschool I would love to hear what has helped you save money and what tips you would add to this list.
Get state funding where you can
My first tip will vary greatly depending on where you live, so you might need to do some research on your specific state or country.
I’ll start by saying that we are spoiled here in California. In California we have the option to homeschool through a public homeschool charter school. The charter school provides some oversight and assistance from certified teachers and administration, and also some per-student funding for the homeschool parent to manage. Those funds can be used to purchase supplies, items for school curriculum, or even pay for music lessons, sports and other activities. Purchases are reviewed by the charter school to ensure they meet the state’s school purchasing guidelines.
Because of the pandemic, the waiting list was long for the local homeschool charters. We were on the waiting list the entire summer of 2020 and weren’t sure we would get in, so I prepared to homeschool on our own without any state funds.
So even though we get homeschool funds now, I started my homeschooling journey frugally, on my own.
It’s probably a given, but I’ll say it anyway. Back-to-school sales are where you will want to stock up on all your school supplies. You should never be paying full price for pencils, crayons, markers, folders, paper, glue, pens, etc. I have a bin in the garage where I store our stash of extra school supplies. Every year I restock anything that is running low and I make sure that I have enough that I will never have to pay regular price for these items.
As a homeschool teacher, pay attention to the “teacher” and “classroom” items in back-to-school sales too. Before homeschooling I never paid much attention to the teacher-type items, but they have come in handy now that I know about them. I have even found some great discounts after back-to-school season is over.
eBay is a great place to find gently used books and curricula. You can find pretty much anything you’re looking for. When I am looking for something that our school funding doesn’t cover I always look on eBay first. I have found most of my children’s math books on eBay for a tiny fraction of the cost of a new book.
I actually prefer buying used Saxon Math hardback textbooks than the softback textbooks that come in the homeschool kits. The softback textbooks easily get thrashed, whereas the hardback textbooks are much more durable and actually cheaper when you buy them used. I just buy the homeschool workbook and solutions manual to go with it.
Reuse what you can
Reusing textbooks and other non-consumable books for younger siblings is a no-brainer. We’ve also found ways to reuse workbooks too. For example, in the younger grades I will have the kids use a plastic pouch and dry erase marker with some workbooks so they are not consumed and can be easily reused.
With some curriculum you have the option to buy and ship a printed copy OR purchase the PDF version and print the book/workbook myself. Where copyright allows, I usually opt for the PDF version so that I can print multiple copies for our family.
Even with students in different grades, there are some areas of overlap where we can do subjects together as a family. Maybe you only need one copy of a book, recording, or modeling tool for everyone to use. Are there subjects you can do together as a family?
Sell what you won’t reuse
If you don’t plan to use the curriculum again for a sibling, sell it now (rather than letting it collect dust for a decade then trying to sell it). Whether it’s in a homeschool buy/sell/trade group or on eBay, you will get the best sale prices for curriculum that is the current edition.
I’ve started keeping the proceeds from selling homeschool books in our homeschool budget category, so those fund go directly toward purchasing future curricula.
Take advantage of the public library
With a library card you could probably almost homeschool for free if you needed too! There are books to teach you and your children just about anything you want to learn. Our library checks books out for three weeks at a time. You can renew two or three more times for three weeks at a time.
We have really enjoyed learning history through literature with the Beautiful Feet Books guides. The guides walk the students through history using grade level appropriate literature. Of course you can buy a complete package with the Guide and all of the books for several hundred dollars, or you can just buy the guide and visit your local library. I like to reserve the books online, then just pick them up at the library so I don’t have do spend time hunting for the specific books myself.
Use Scribd for audiobooks
Whether you’re homeschooling or not, if you are a fan of audiobooks, then you are going to love Scribd! Scribd is an app that give you access to millions of audiobooks and ebooks from every genre.
I first discovered Scribd when I was trying to find a way for my kids to finish listening to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. there was a waitlist for the audiobook from the library on the Libby app. As I browsed what was available on Scribd, I was thrilled to see they really do have so much!
For US History, we used the History of US series by Joy Hakim. I bought the ten book series individually (used on ebay or Amazon), but I was thrilled to find the audio recording of each of the ten books on Scribd. It’s super convenient to be able to listen to history in the car.
We are always listening to audiobooks around here. I love that with Scribd there is no waitlist, you don’t have to pay individually for each book, and there is no limit to how many books you can listen to. You probably won’t find the current bestsellers or newest releases, but we have found so many wonderful classics. Lately we’ve been listening to the Little Britches series by Ralph Moody.
We love the “Your Story Hour” stories. They’re theatrical tellings of inspiring stories from history for kids. We have several of the CD sets and have listened to them over and over. I was excited to find that all of the story sets are available to listen to on Scribd.
You can get a 60-day free Scribd trial with my referral link (without the referral link it’s just a 30-day trial) so you can see if the $12 monthly subscription is worth it for you like it is for us.
Don’t discount free curriculum
Your first instinct might be that free curricula is inferior to paid products, but I have been a little surprised to find that isn’t necessarily the case. Here are a couple of examples.
The Good and the Beautiful is a thorough, well-developed, easy-to-use curriculum that offers their Kindergarten through 5th grade Language Arts and Math curriculum for free. You can, of course, pay to have it printed, bound, and sent to you, too (and higher grade levels are only available through a purchase), but if you are trying to cut costs and have the ability to print at home, then it’s an easy choice.
They have other subjects too, and it is all very affordable and good quality. You cannot purchase curricula from The Good and the Beautiful with state funds because it is based on a Christian worldview rather than a secular one.
Another great, free resource is Khan Academy. Have you heard of Khan Academy? It’s a non-profit whose mission is to “provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere.” They have tons of math and science courses, but also have language arts, humanities, and test prep as well. My kids have enjoyed learning coding and other technology classes they have taken. It’s nice that they have a real person with a personality teaching the class and not just a scripted computer voice.
Get an economical printer
When I mentioned printing curriculum at home, some of you probably thought that would cost a fortune. And with most color printers it would. We never even had a color printer until I learned about the Epson Ecotank because ink cartridges for color printers are so expensive. The Ecotank uses liquid ink that you refill instead of cartridges. And you can go years of regular use without needing to refill. There are several different sizes/models available. We got this version, an office version, because it prints a little faster and holds more paper, etc. I let Mike make all the calls on technology purchases since that’s his thing. I would have been thrilled with the basic model!
Join (or start) a group or co-op
Learning with friends is fun, of course, and a nice change from being at home, but how can it save money? Parents can offer to each teach from their expertise, giving students in the group access to instruction they would otherwise have to pay for. It also gives kids a variety of teachers in addition to just their parents.
What do YOU do?
You can save money by getting creative and thinking outside the box or just by learning what great options are available. As with most anything, there are ways to save money if you look for them!
I would love to hear how you save money in your homeschool! Some of our kids are doing different things next year, but we’ll still be homeschooling most of them, so I am interested in hearing your tips!
If you have homeschool cost related questions, or any other homeschooling questions, I am happy to answer them! Drop a note in the comments below.