Google The Unplanned Homeschooler: Homeschool hints for huge savings on school supplies

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Homeschool hints for huge savings on school supplies

Some people think homeschooling has to be expensive, but one of the best parts about homeschooling is that you can save tons of money on back to school. I didn't even have a clue how much I could really save until I'd been homeschooling for a few years. Now I know!

Having grown up going to public school, I was really trapped in the mindset that I needed to buy all the supplies on the back to school list to have a successful year. It's just not true. Homeschoolers aren't likely to need new scissors, rulers, school boxes and backpacks each year. Markers and colored pencils can last longer than a year if they are cared for well.

Experienced homeschoolers know it is easy to whittle down that list, saving big time on the supplies we need - and only the supplies we need - while skipping the superfluous purchases that might otherwise drain our wallets. Here are a bunch of my favorite money-saving tips, along with a few splurges you might want to consider.

* This post includes affiliate links, through which you may purchase the mentioned products at no extra cost while helping to support the blog. Thanks!


Every year I wait for the 96 count pack of Ticonderoga pencils to go on sale on Amazon. As I wrote this post, this particular pack was on sale for just $9.96. At approximately 10 cents per pencil, that's an amazing deal, and the quality is so much better than cheap dollar store pencils.

When I purchase my pencils, I always look for a new box of White Pearl erasers. The 12 count box is usually on sale on Amazon as an add-on for around $6, which is typically less than you'd pay for six erasers in the store.

I like the White Pearl erasers because they don't leave pink smudges on the paper, and my kids say they are easier to use, but the best part is that they help our pencils last longer. My kids are more likely to keep using their pencils if the built-in erasers aren't all used up, so I get even more for my money by getting them a box of erasers they can use on the big jobs.

With what you save on pencils, you might want to consider splurging on a high quality pencil sharpener like this one from Classroom Friendly Supplies.

If you want to read more about just how much I love this sharpener, and how it has helped my daughter who has weak muscle tone, just click here.


You know it, I know it, everyone with kids kows it. No one wants to color with dull crayons. I think that's why we spend so much money on crayons, not because any of us have a shortage of them lying around the house, but because the kids all want sharp, new ones.

What you really need is a decent crayon sharpener! There are pricy electronic crayon sharpeners on the market, but you can get terrific results with a manual sharpener, too. You could go with the Crayola Ultimate Crayon Collection which has a much better sharpener than you'd find on the back of the 64 pack, or just get an inexpensive sharpener made to fit crayons.


Skip the cheapo set of water colors you'd find on the typical school supply list. They may be less expensive in the short term, but they don't last long. You are homeschoolers, and you are going to want hours and hours of painting fun instead of just a session or two and done, so go for something your kids are likely use again and again. You'll spend a bit more up front, but get a whole lot more for your money!

For little ones, there's nothing like tempera paints, which they can use with brushes or fingers. Paint on different kinds of paper, on wood, on plaster and more. You can find good quality, washable tempera paints that will last your kids for months or even years, depending on how much they love to paint.

For older kids, I really love oil pastels. I got my daughter this set of Sakura oil pastels by Cray-Pas  when she started middle school. She has truly enjoyed the depth of colors and the ease with which the oil pastels blend, so much so that I had to buy a new set as she used the first one up creating beautiful works of art. I even discovered that I could draw using this fun medium, after more than 40 years of thinking I sucked at art.


It only took me one year as a homeschooler to realize that the only real advantage to using glue sticks is that they're not quite as messy. In every other way, they are inferior to a good liquid glue. And they dry up so quickly, even if you buy a whole bunch of them on sale, you're still probably going to lose money due to wasted product.

Get a good quality liquid glue made for the task at hand, and teach your kids how to use it carefully. They'll be so much happier when the glue actually holds!


Over the past few years I saved literally hundreds of dollars using Easy Rebates at Staples to buy all my copy paper. Unfortunately, it appears that Staples has discontinued the Easy Rebate program, which many homeschoolers had used to get paper practically for free. But you can still save a bundle by watching for sales.

I never pay full price for paper, be it copy paper or spiral notebooks. Keep an eye on the office supply stores, the discount stores and even your local grocery for deals on paper, and make sure to sign up for coupons to potentially reduce your price even further.

Here's a bonus tip... print duplex style whenever you can. Double-sided printing is like getting your paper for half price!


I have three kids, and the oldest two are twins. I was color coding everything way before I started homeschooling! It just made sense to color code my kids' binders when we started doing school at home. But cute and colorful binders are expensive, especially as compared with plain old black or white ones.

Here's how to save a bundle, and still have the colorful binders you really want.

When your kids wrap up the school year, transfer their pages work to a big 3-inch binder. Big binders can be expensive, but I found the one above on Amazon for just over $5 at the time of this posting.

A single 3-inch binder will hold hundreds of pages, especially if it is just being used for storage and not for flipping through day to day. You might fit two or three years' worth of school work in just the one binder, leaving your nice, colorful, more expensive binders free to use again and again.

With the money you save on binders, you might want to splurge on a great three-hole punch. This Bostitch EZ Squeeze punch with a 40 sheet capacity is on my wish list for fall.

Sometimes using my old hole punch is hard, with my psoriatic arthritis, and I am looking for something that's easier on my wrists. The reviews on this model are stellar.


It wouldn't be back to school without clothes shopping, but as homeschoolers we stand to save loads of money if we shop these sales careully.

I suggest doing a closet purge before hitting any of the sales. Move clothes that are too small to a younger sibling's closet, or put them aside to donate or sell. Leave only what currently fits or will fit in the coming seasons. And don't just leave it up to your kids to take on this task, or you may end up with a trove of clothes hidden in the back of an older child's closet until the younger sibling has outgrown them. (Don't ask me how I know this.)

Once you are finished rearranging your children's closets, take inventory of the clothes they have. Use your phone and take pictures if you need help remembering the colors and styles of the clothes they have on hand, so you can find things that will coordinate well and avoid duplicates once you are in the store.

You can save so much money just by knowing what you need and shopping with purpose. Whether you are shopping for clothes, school supplies or even electronics, be extremely targeted when hitting the back to school sales. Impulse buys and mindless spending add up quickly. Don't fall into those back to school traps.

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