How much do you spend every year?
Your classroom is your home away from home for a good chunk of the year. When you have late nights, open house or conferences it may seem like you live there. So, you want it to be great, but no one wants to spend a fortune making that happen. How much money do you spend on classroom supplies? Probably more than you want to admit. A few years ago, my husband added up all my “back to school” expenses and I was shocked (and a little disgusted) at the number. So, I began to get really frugal with my school supply shopping. I found that there really are great ways to get things you need for your classroom at cheap (or even free) prices. I actually have so many ideas that it will be split into 2 blog posts. In a couple weeks, I’ll write about cheap ways to decorate your classroom, so be on the lookout for that post.
I will never forget the time I walked into a garage sale to find that the home owner was a retiring science teacher! I thought I hit the goldmine. When I told her that I was a new teacher, she walked me through her stuff, picking out all of the things that I just had to have. It was awesome. But even if you are not lucky enough to find a retiring teacher, there is still plenty of awesome classroom supplies to be had. One of my favorite garage sale finds was a $3.00 expanding metal file rack that I found while shopping with my mom. I use it to organize all my copies, notebooks, etc. I love it! My favorite way to do garage sales is to look for community wide garage sales so that you can hit a lot of sales in one afternoon. Take a partner to help you look and help you haul your great finds to the car!
Charity Resale shops
I am a regular at my local Goodwill and Savers locations. I have found so many great items over the years. Everything from measuring cups to baskets and bins to pencils cups. And it is so cheap! Seriously! Do you realize that a pencil cup at an office supply store can cost 6-10 dollars??? At Goodwill you can pick one up for .50¢. That kind of cost savings really adds up. Invest in a couple cans of spray paint to spruce up your Goodwill finds!
Try flea markets too. You can find some great containers, old school equipment and furniture. One time, my dad (↑ isn’t he cute?) found some great vintage meiosis and mitosis visual aids at a flea market that I love! So, if you have a friend or relative that frequents flea markets, garage sales or resale shops, let them know what you are looking for so that they can be watching for those items too!
A quick search on e-bay reveals tons of items for teachers to purchase. Calendar sets, bulletin board borders, art supplies, bulk pencils and glue sticks, vintage science models and much, much more!
This one is news to me. I didn’t realize there were so many groups on Facebook dedicated to getting teachers supplies for their classrooms. Some focus on allowing teachers to sell what they have like this one. Others get large quantities of new materials that they sell at very little cost like this one. So if you are familiar with Facebook and have some time to look up some great groups, it may just be worth your while.
Sometimes you need things that you just can’t find anywhere else. I needed some clear plastic library pockets and couldn’t find them anywhere! I used them on boxes to store lab supplies. (Stay tuned for that post) I found them pretty cheap on Amazon. Whatever you are looking for you can generally find it cheaper at Amazon than you can in stores and if you are an Amazon Prime member, then shipping is free.
What items should you look for?
This is by no means an exhaustive list of classroom supplies! This is just a good example of items I have seen and bought for my classroom along the years.
General Classroom Supplies
- staplers – mine get broken every dang year!
- scissors – these get lost, broken and gunky! I am constantly replacing them.
- pencils – I have yet to stock up enough so as to not run out by the end of the year!
- old pencil sharpeners – because they don’t make them like they used to
- binders – these things are mega expensive in stores!
- books – even if you teach secondary it’s nice to have some books on hand in case student has some down time. Look for science related titles. This website has a great list of fiction books that have a science theme.
- bags of misc. crafting supplies – for model building, posters, etc.
- clipboards – when the weather is nice I like to sneak out and take advantage of it but kids need something to write on. So, having a couple bins of clipboards come in handy. Plus I find students like to use them when we are doing labs. I think it makes them feel like scientists.
- tools – I can’t tell you how many times teachers came into my room to borrow tools because I’ve lost count! Screwdrivers and a hammer at the very least. Desks and chairs loosen up over time and it’s so much easier to just tighten them yourself than call a custodian. The hammer is great for it’s obvious uses but we also use it for breaking up ice for labs, and crushing reactants for labs
- lamps – you can spray paint them and put them on your desk to get a little break from the harsh overhead lighting that you find in most schools.
- baskets, bins, containers – you can NEVER have too many
- curtains or fabric – to cover open shelving or windows in your classroom
- desk organizers
- over the door shoe organizer – store supplies or turn into a cell phone caddy
- film canisters – sometimes you can still find big bags of these and they are so useful! I use them on the first day of school in my favorite Icebreaker Activity
- blender – for extracting DNA Labs
- electric tea kettle – great for heating up water for labs
- spoons – for scooping reactants out of bottles
- hot plates
- stop watches
- heat resistant gloves or oven mitts
- dish racks – for washing glassware
- bottle brushes
- bookcases – for books or supplies
- comfy chair – as a reward zone for students
- file cabinets – especially the kind that lock because it’s nice to be able to lock up expensive equipment like balances.
- small tables and shelves – to create your very own standing desk
A special note to new teachers about classroom supplies
If you are preparing for your first year of teaching do not buy everything! Find out from your school or department chair what resources are available to you. My school had a catalog of supplies that we could order from our warehouse. Have a look at that to see what you can order instead of purchasing yourself.
Many schools also have a junk room or as I called it the “room of orphaned furniture.” Get to know your custodian and they can take you there to “shop” for your classroom. By the way, getting to know your custodian should be your number one priority. They will be the single most important person in helping you set up your classroom.
Get into school early, introduce yourself to your colleagues and ASK! ASK! ASK! They may have things collecting dust that they would be more than happy to part with.
I hope you save loads of money this school year! If you score some awesome classroom finds, I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below.