Guest post by Karin at More Than the ABC’s 
Teaching can mean lots of supplies. Whether it’s home school or a classroom at a school, if you find yourself responsible for teaching something and organizing it all, but don’t want to break (or touch the bank) here are a few tips:
Keep it Simple
Space, storage, and too many options can be overwhelming. Plan ahead so you aren’t making more work for yourself in the future. Look for multi-purpose equipment. I have a good number of the exact same sized box so they’ll stack, fit, and work well together.
Don’t start buying specialized learning tools if you can achieve the same results with something much simpler. Check out teacher supply catalogs with a frugal eye. Look for what you can make yourself, modify or re-purpose to get the same effect.
Think Outside the Box (or in it…)
Re-purposing ordinary materials for classroom use can be a huge money-saver. Use paint sticks as pointers and unmatched socks as white board erasers. Enlist family members or classroom parents to keep an eye out for everyday items that can be useful in the classroom.
A teacher I work with had the great idea of making salt dough geography maps — in pizza boxes. A local pizza company was happy to donate the boxes, and with a box for each student to create, store, stack and dry the maps the lesson was a huge success!
Think about the goals for your lesson. Evaluate if available technology or online resources might satisfy a need and save you a purchase.
Frugal Meets Practical
Decide what your real needs are, and how to meet them without going shopping. Pie pans and large yogurt tubs turned out to be the perfect solution to pass out supplies. Empty tissue boxes trimmed, stapled, and taped become universal storage systems. After 25 students use something, it’s bound to show wear and tear quickly. I don’t blink an eye when a tissue box shows wear, but sure would be frustrated if pricey containers cracked and broke!
Check Out Yard Sales
I love a good yard sale, and have made a list of things (at the right price) to look for. Ask if they’d reconsider the price for a school purchase, negotiate if appropriate, and keep your eyes open.
At a yard sale or thrift store I keep my eyes peeled for:
- zippered fabric pencil pouches
- high quality rulers or scissors
- items to use as counters (decorator flat marbles etc.)
- giant bags of fun writing tools
- fancy notepads, decorative paper
- craft supplies (pipe cleaners, tissue paper, yarn, stickers, beads)
- hard back picture books
Be picky. Keep in mind how you will use it, store it, and if it is a high quality product. Spending ten cents on scissors that don’t cut isn’t worth it!
Frugal but Fashionable
A hodgepodge of supplies doesn’t mean it can’t look good! Come up with some unifying themes and keep it simple. Donated paint, simple colors, contact paper and a little work can do wonders transforming your learning space!
Karin is a 4th grade classroom teacher interested in classroom blogging, technology, and continuing to be a life long learner. She hopes to instill a love of learning in her students, and encourages them to pursue their interests whole-heartedly! Visit her blog, More Than the ABC’s .
Note: If you are teaching somewhere besides your house, check with the powers at be to make sure your great ideas don’t go against any policies or codes.