School Supplies: Getting the Best Bang for Your Buck

School supply hunting season is upon us. The first week in July reveals empty cardboard displays in bright, school bus yellow-gold, ready to be filled with pens, notebooks, sticky notes and day planners to be bought and sold.

And buy we do, a report from the National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA) found that on average, teachers spent $485 per year out of pocket, and 10% of all teachers report spending $1000 or more. The NSSEA also revealed that fewer and fewer districts were asking parents to make any purchases.

But there's a reason we spend so much; we know that having the right supplies for the classroom is essential for a productive, active year. Not only does having the right supplies make project-based learning easier, but they help students know they are valued by their instructor, creating an atmosphere of encouragement and support.

Here are a few tips that will help you save as many of your hard-earned pennies as possible, while still ensuring that your classroom is bright and welcoming, with all of the tools you and your students need to have a great year!

Sources for Inexpensive School Supplies

Savvy shopping means knowing where to go for inexpensive school shopping treasures. Put these on your to-do list!

Talk to retiring teachers

Chances are, they've got huge stacks of stuff they're just dying to get rid of, and if you can haul it, you can have it.

Arrange a freebies box at the end of the year

In some schools, on locker cleanout day, they set out huge garbage cans, and ask students to put school materials into them that they did not want. This allows schools to create a repository of gently-used school materials for needy students for the next school year. If you did not do this, there's the possibility that someone else did.

Buy in Bulk Online

Sites like Geddes School Supplies offer tons of awesome school supplies at lower prices. We can offer such low prices per item because we sell of products in bulk. It's the definition of more bang for your buck.

Visit pharmacy chains and dollar stores

When most people think of shopping for school and office supplies, they don't picture a pharmacy. This means that sometimes, Rite Aid or CVS will realize they're not moving product fast enough and offer up a super-sale. Keep your ear to the ground.

Dollar stores may not have everything you'll need, but they are a great place to get creative stickers and some of the simpler school supplies for very little cash.

The Goodwill, Salvation Army, church, library, and yard sales

Many communities also do a huge book sale once or twice a year, and it pays to ask your local librarian when these are and mark them on your calendar; you may also find a book giveaway bin. Yard sales, Goodwill, and Salvation Army are a much-overlooked way to find storage, shelving, books and toys for the classroom for pennies on the dollar.

Freecycle, Craigslist, and eBay

You'd be shocked at how little you can pay for school supplies from a local—sometimes all they want is a few bucks, and sometimes they just want you to take it away because they hate the idea of throwing it out. On eBay, if no one wants an office supply in bulk (500 folders, anyone? No?) you can sometimes get them for shockingly cheap.

Some Useful Tricks and Tips

Plan on what you'll need, and purchase accordingly

If you've gotten a few years' work under your belt, you have an idea of how many of your most important school supplies your students tend to go through. Stock up what you'll need for one full year when you find a worthy sale, rather than making multiple purchases. Your supply closet may get a little full, but your students will always have what they need without you needing to run out during your plan period at the last possible moment.

Use Coupon-Finder Websites

Searching Google for a particular brand plus the word 'coupons' will often turn up a coupon for the store of your choice for online shopping!

'Limit 10' Does Not Apply to You!

As a teacher, there are many stores where the number of sale items you can purchase = infinity. If you are unsure if the rule applies to you, ask to speak to a manager and show them proof that you are a teacher; you'd be surprised how many stores will agree to let you take 100 folders at a penny instead of 10.

Pinterest, Pinterest all the time

You may know Pinterest as the place where you drool over kitchen hacks you never plan to implement. It also has numerous pins on money-saving classroom hacks, however, some of which are incredibly clever. Pro tip: rather than finding a cool project and searching for the components, play that game in reverse; start with what components are present in your house or classroom and find projects that use them impressively and effectively.

Now, get out there and make an awesome, inviting classroom for the upcoming school year!