One of the many benefits of homeschooling is that you can tailor your child’s education to fit your family’s unique needs and budget. I homeschooled without any financial assistance for many years. Those fancy new supplies and homeschool curricula are tempting, but there are ways to save money and homeschool on a tighter budget. Here are a few of my favorite ways to find cheap supplies for your homeschool.
How Can I Homeschool Cheaply?
The first step in finding affordable homeschool supplies is to know what you truly need to purchase and what items you already have on hand. Make a list of any items you need and also note where you think you can find them. Setting out your budget and knowing exactly what you need will help you homeschool cheaply.
For example, if you’re looking for a Saxon math book you might be able to find this online, at a thrift store, or your local library. Once you’ve written down ideas of where you might be able to find this item, look at the cheapest place first. In this case, your local library.
I keep the list on my phone because my phone is always with me. However, I know some people who print out spreadsheets so they always know what they have already purchased and what they still need. This prevents buying the same book three times (no, I’ve never done this, why do you ask? ha!)
One caveat here, it is tempting to look for or splurge on the “best” homeschooling supplies. I speak from experience when I tell you that just because something is new and shiny does not mean your kids are going to love it. Those old books or supplies that are worn and tattered? They got that way because they were someone’s favorite. Make your budget and stick to it.
When I think of a new school year, I think of sharp yellow pencils, bright white lined paper, the smell of fresh books – everything just full of promise and potential. I’m always tempted to buy all the things all at once. However, one of the best ways to save money while homeschooling is to buy only what you need for that moment.
For example, the last few years, I’ve been buying homeschooling supplies 6 weeks at a time. This gives me more time to find the books or resources I need. It also prevents impulse buying because I know I still have a few weeks to look for better deals.
So here are my best tips and favorite vendors for finding cheap homeschool supplies:
Use the Library to Minimize Your Homeschool Budget
By far, the library will be one of your best resources. You already know you can get books through your library, but most libraries have immense resources that people don’t know about. For example, my library has backpacks with passes to the state parks you can check out. The backpacks have binoculars, markers, worksheets, field guides, etc. Hello, nature study!
Libraries also have digital resources for you to check out. Our library gives us access to Mango Languages for language study, PBS documentaries, music and art appreciation courses, and more. If you haven’t visited with your local librarian lately, now is a good time to see what homeschooling supplies are available.
Remember that some libraries such as the Denver Public Library or New York City Library have limited electronic items available to anyone in the United States. The world is your oyster, as they say.
Is there a Homeschool Library in Your Area?
If you’re really lucky, there might be a homeschool library in your town. These are generally volunteer-run. Books, curricula, and other homeschool supplies are donated by families who no longer need them. You leave what you don’t need anymore and take what you do. This free give and take system is great for homeschool supplies on a budget. It also gives you the opportunity to check out lots of different types of workbooks, curricula, or manipulatives.
In some areas, your public library might house the homeschool supplies, but I think these are generally in other locations.
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How to Find Cheap Homeschool Books
If you use a literature-based curriculum, like Torchlight or Build Your Library, I strongly recommend buying the spines to start with. You can pick up the other books at thrift stores, garage sales, or the library.
Tip: One way to get the best deal on homeschool books is to recognize the cycles in homeschooling just like other industries. By April, homeschool moms everywhere are ready to plan their next year so will start purchasing books. This means prices might go up while supply goes down. From the end of May through June there is a bit of a lull. By mid-July and into August, moms are in a book-buying frenzy trying to get ready for the year. This means there might be increased prices, decreased supply, AND increased shipping times. Plan accordingly.
Thriftbooks is by far my favorite site for sourcing affordable homeschool supplies. I’ve had very good luck there and the used books are generally $3-10. The customer service is excellent. I have gotten the wrong book once and had a book arrive in terrible condition. In both cases, I was refunded or replacements sent out immediately.
You can also earn points on Thriftbooks to redeem for free books.
Abebooks has a pretty good reputation among homeschoolers. I just haven’t had as good of luck there as I do with Thriftbooks. The supply seems to be more limited and the customer service was not as helpful when I had issues.
I’m still including them in this list, though, because other people have had great experiences.
Love them or hate them, remember when Amazon was just an online bookstore? Some of the best deals to be had on homeschool books are on Amazon. There are seasonal promotions on books and audiobooks. You can also buy used books. The customer service is top notch and the shipping is fast. Amazon Prime isn’t necessary, though, as most items ship free with a $25 or $35 order. Just add to your cart until it qualifies.
If you are looking for a specific textbook or edition, chances are high you’ll find it on Ebay. Just be careful that you aren’t paying more for it than necessary. Check the shipping rates carefully. Read the descriptions closely so you know if pages or manipulatives are missing or included or already written on.
Thrift Stores and Garage Sales
If you are carrying your spreadsheet o’ books or have notes saved on your phone for what books you need, then browse the book section at thrift stores or yard sales. In my town, the Habitat for Humanity Restore has the best deals on books. I’ve found more homeschool books there than at the local Goodwill, even though Goodwill has a bigger selection. Most thrift stores will have books for $1 or less on sale days. (I love good deals so if you score a haul be sure to tell me in the comments).
Social Media Groups
There are Facebook or other Social Media groups out there for buying and selling of specific homeschool curriculum. For example, here’s one specific to Build Your Library. Alternatively, search for groups that follow a specific philosophy. This one supports buying and selling Montessori supplies cheap, for example.
Use Free Homeschool Books
Another homeschooling necessity might be a Kindle or other device where you can access books electronically or audiobooks. While there is an upfront investment with a device, it will soon pay for itself if you are using it to find free resources or to avoid library fines when your books are overdue.
Where to Find Cheap Homeschool Art Supplies
There are two ways to approach art supplies in your homeschool. You definitely get what you pay for, and I hate crappy construction paper! Do you have the budget to buy what you need that doesn’t skimp on qualilty? (not saying it has to be the best of the best, but decent, at least). Or do you truly need to scrimp every last penny?
At our house, I opted for good quality art supplies, but we had only a few that were specific for art class. I’m not an artist. I know nothing about art supplies. So I bought what our curriculum (Artistic Pursuits) indicated.
Blick’s Art Supplies
I tried different art supply vendors for homeschool, but I always returned to Blick’s. You can buy in bulk if you need to. There are options for good, better, best quality as well as a vast range of choices.
If you have a favorite art supply vendor, drop it in the comments and I will add it to this list.
Cheap Math Supplies for Homeschool
Manipulatives are essential for early math learning. You can spend a fortune on them, or you can opt for thriftier versions. We used beans, sticks, stones, stuffed animals, whatever we had around the house. There’s even a whole system of using Legos to teach math. Before you buy fancy/shiny manipulatives, ask yourself if you already have something that would work just as well.
Homeschool Science Supplies on a Budget
I LOVE teaching science and have a good academic foundation. This means I felt comfortable substituting or changing our labs for items that I already had. If you aren’t as confident in your science skills though, you might want to purchase some basic homeschool science tools and supplies.
First, start with your curriculum choice. Are you using a program that realizes you are on a homeschool budget and encourages use of household items? If not, you might want to re-evaluate. I love Real Science Odyssey by Pandia Press. The program itself costs around $100, but the labs are generally easy to set up and use simple supplies.
When I needed specific science materials, I went through Homeschool Science Tools. They often have kits specific to the Pandia Press programs and you can customize them to only get the items you need. In my later years of homeschooling, I had a little more room in my budget so bought the exact science supplies the labs called for.
Homeschool Electives on a Budget
One of the very best things about homeschooling is giving your kids the freedom to pursue their own interests. It’s possible you will already have the skills and supplies to teach your kids elective subjects. If you don’t, a neighbor or a friend might.
There are tons of learning opportunities in life that you can use to teach your children for free. Some of these activities include gardening, cooking, animal husbandry, volunteering, reading, building, and exploring. Do you have an elderly neighbor you could teach your kid to knit, crochet, or do woodworking?
Perhaps another homeschool family could trade skillsets with you. Could you teach their kids how to garden while they teach your kids how to play the piano? Be creative and use the people and resources that are readily available in your community. The world is filled with opportunities if we know where to look.
Buy Homeschool Supplies in Bulk
One way to save money on homeschool supplies is to buy them in bulk. There are a few vendors that sell homeschool supplies at a discount, and it’s worth checking out their websites before making any purchases. One great resource is CurrClick, which offers a variety of discounts on items like curriculum, textbooks, manipulatives, and more.
Another good option is the Homeschool Buyers Co-op. This site offers a variety of membership levels, each with different benefits. Members can save up to 90% off retail prices on items like curriculum, software, science kits, and more.
Use Teacher Discounts
Many companies offer discounts for teachers and homeschooling families, so it’s a good idea to subscribe to their emails to take advantage of these offers. Here are some of the retailers that have previously extended teacher discounts to teachers. I’ve found that this does vary by location and management, so ask first.
- Jo-Ann Fabrics
- Barnes & Noble
- Hobby Lobby
If you know other retailers that have homeschool teacher discounts, please drop it in the comments and I will add it to this list.
Free Online Homeschooling Resources
Don’t forget the power of YouTube when you start homeschooling. Sometimes we suffer from information overload, but you can find very good math, science, history tutorials for FREE to use in your homeschool. When my kids struggled with math concepts, we always looked up a few topical Youtube videos to hear the information in a slightly different way.
TED-Ed, the school education arm of TED, is also a fantastic resource for free science lessons. TED-Ed has hundreds of science presentations, as well as an interactive periodic table with lessons for every element.
Khan Academy is another great resource for homeschooling on a budget. There are resources split up by grade level on a variety of subjects. Some people actually use Khan Academy as their main homeschooling resource and then just supplement with other materials where and when they see fit.
Can I Afford to Homeschool?
Like most things in life, it all comes down to priorities. If you are committed to trying homeschool with your family, these tips above will give you ideas of how to homeschool cheaply. Although the newest, fanciest curricula is bright and shiny and gorgeous, it’s entirely possible to find cheap homeschool supplies and make it work regardless of your budget.
Save your cash for the best homeschool supplies you can afford, but just remember the biggest benefits of homeschooling come from the time and personal attention you are giving to your kids. NO shiny new homeschool kit can replace the quality experience of spending time together and learning new concepts.
What’s your favorite way to save money while homeschooling? Do you have a favorite cheap homeschool program or vendor? Let me know in the comments!