A Comprehensive Guide to Buying Classroom Supplies on a Budget
As a teacher, you’re passionate about providing the best educational experience for your students. Unfortunately, this often means spending money out of your own pocket for classroom essentials.
According to a survey from the organization Adopt A Classroom, teachers spend an average of $860 of their own money each year. This number is likely higher for first-year teachers’ classroom needs as they face the challenge of setting up a classroom from scratch.
The average annual classroom budget for teachers across the country is $212. And those in underserved communities are often faced with the challenge of finding ways to buy necessities without adequate funding from their school district.
Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to help teachers who are buying classroom supplies on a budget. We’ve compiled a list of tips below for saving money on your must have classroom supplies.
Where to Find Free or Budget-Friendly Classroom Supplies
Ask any teacher and they’ll tell you that basic school supplies are essential for a successful year—and it’s a challenge to keep them in stock! Over 95% of teachers purchase school supplies for their students throughout the year. There are many local and national organizations that can help stock your classroom supplies.
- The Kids in Need Foundation and Reusable Resources Association have resource centers throughout the US that provide everything from basic classroom necessities to nontraditional items.
- NAEIR’s Teacher Program offers materials such as arts and crafts and office supplies at a discounted cost for teachers.
- Resource centers can be found across the country, providing classroom materials at little to no cost.
- Pencils.com has a Tools for Schools program that can provide a pack of pencils for every student at your school.
- For Teachers Only provides discount classroom supplies for teachers.
The list of what teachers need in the classroom can change each year. Shop back-to-school sales wisely. Stock up on your must-have supplies during sales so that you won’t need to shop in the middle of the year when prices have increased significantly.
Don’t forget to check in with your teacher friends! Many classroom teachers who are retiring, leaving the district, or changing grade levels would rather give their supplies to a fellow teacher than throw them away.
Retailer Discounts on Supplies
Many stores provide discounts with proof of teacher identification. When in doubt, you can always ask if the store offers a discount!
- Amazon Business offers wholesale classroom supplies to teachers and enables eligible customers to sign up for Amazon’s Tax Exemption Program.
- Dollar Tree locations offer tax-exempt purchases once you create an online account and upload the appropriate forms.
- Joann Fabrics has a Teacher Reward program that saves you 15% on purchases both in store and online.
- Lakeshore Learning offers a Loyalty Program where educators can save 15% on their purchases.
- Michael’s offers an educator discount of 15% in store and online.
- Party City provides tiered discounts for schools based on your purchase. Register to save anywhere from 10-20% on all purchases.
- Staples’ Classroom Rewards program allows educators to enroll and receive 20% of parents’ purchases in a rewards account. You’ll also get a $5 Staples gift card when you sign up.
Getting Classroom Materials By Donation
More than ever, teachers are utilizing organizations that use donors to fund their classroom projects. From basic classroom supplies to flexible seating options, the following list will help you connect with donors to fund your project without breaking the bank.
- Adopt A Classroom allows educators to create a fundraising page or apply for a grant for their classroom. Donors can give to a specific classroom, school, or fund.
- Donors Choose offers teachers an opportunity to submit a request and receive their items directly once it’s fully funded. Donors Choose will also match donations from every donor you refer to your first project.
- Amazon’s Wish List feature allows you to easily create a list of what you need for your classroom. Once created, you can share your list directly by email or through your social media. You can even change the shipping address so that items are sent directly to your school!
- Apps like Nextdoor, Freecycle, and even your local Facebook group can provide opportunities for you to find your classroom necessities.
- Local grants are sometimes available through PTA groups or businesses. Try asking your principal or fellow teachers for ideas.
Building Your Classroom Library on a Budget
Whether you’re a first-year teacher building your classroom library or a veteran teacher looking to replace your well-loved books, the places below will help you create a print-rich classroom.
- Scholastic Book Clubs are a popular teacher staple for a reason. Get free books for your classroom when your students order through Scholastic.
- Half Price Books offers an educator discount of 10% year-round. You can also submit a donation request through their site and receive books for free!
- Barnes & Noble’s Educator program provides a 20% discount for all classroom purchases.
- Incorporate technology with eBooks in your classroom for a more sustainable library- eliminate the need for repairs and replacements throughout the year!
- Libraries will often have used book sales, but don’t forget to look for local church and community book sales as well.
- Yard sales and rummage sales are great places to find cheap books for your classroom.
Tips For Creating Your Own Supplies
If you’re crafty, you can enjoy creating your own classroom supplies for a fraction of the cost of shopping at the store.
- Create your own dry-erase board by buying a large shower board at your local hardware store. Home Depot allows you to make tax-exempt purchases with a school card or check. You can even have them cut it to size for individual student boards!
- Instead of paying for lamination, use plastic sleeve protectors. Students can write on them with dry-erase markers and wipe them clean for reusable practice materials.
- Buy cookie sheets from your local dollar store and you’ll have magnetic boards that can be used in a variety of centers.
- Recycle and reuse materials from around your home. Use bottle caps, container lids, and more to create your own math manipulatives. Don’t be shy about asking friends and family for materials that they’d toss!
Affordable Technology Resources
Buying classroom supplies on a budget for teachers can be especially difficult when it comes to technology. Use the links below for discounted or free technology resources.
Technology and Electronics Discounts
Technology in the classroom has become increasingly important as you prepare your students for a technology-driven world.
- Adobe offers a discount of over 60% on Adobe Creative Cloud programs to teachers and students.
- Apple has a back-to-school portal with discounts for teachers and students.
- Dell has discounts for teachers on laptops, tablets, and more.
- HP gives a discount of 10% off refurbished computers and printers for teachers and students.
- Microsoft offers educators Office 365 Education and Microsoft Teams for Education for free, plus 10% off Windows devices.
- Samsung offers discounts for teachers on devices through their Education Discount program.
- Sennheiser provides a discount of up to 30% off eligible headphones and other accessories.
Free Online Resources
Countless organizations have developed free resources for teachers due to the increase in remote learning over the past few years. Take advantage of free field trips and other resources with these sites.
- The Kennedy Center offers digital resources for teachers to incorporate the arts across the curriculum for students of all ages.
- NASA provides a variety of STEM ideas spanning grade levels K through 12.
- The National Gallery of Art offers a free loan program so that teachers can access ideas to integrate art into the classroom.
- The National Women’s History Museum offers virtual field trips in addition to other free resources.
- Storyline Online features popular actors reading children’s books on this award-winning literacy website.
Whether you’re a first-year teacher or a seasoned veteran, finding classroom supplies on a budget can be a challenge. Using these tips can help you stock up and refresh your classroom with affordable materials all year long!
Covering a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction topics written at a range of reading levels, this collection is an economical way to begin or expand your classroom library.View Product →
This blog was originally published on May 22, 2022. It was updated on June 21, 2023.