Homeschooling can get expensive fast! How do you buy pricey curriculum for your children on a budget?
Budget is a high priority for me when buying homeschool curriculum, but at the same time I don’t want to make curriculum choices based solely on cost. I want to choose the curriculum that best fits my child regardless of the price tag. That often leaves me with finding creative ways to stretch my homeschool budget.
Today I’m sharing my favorite frugal tips for buying the homeschool curriculum you really want on a budget.
Choose curriculum early
The earlier you finalize your curriculum wish list the more time you can spend looking for the best price!
I’m a paper person, so I make a list in my planner for each child’s homeschool curriculum wish list. Beside each item I list the full retail price so I can quickly recognize a good deal.
As I buy each item I put a check mark on the kist. Then, highlight the items I have in my possession as they arrive.
More than once, I’ve bought several pieces of curriculum online, checked it off my list, only to realize weeks later that one item never arrived. That’s why I only highlight curriculum in my possession. This helps keep track of any shipping or fraudulent seller issues.
Speaking of shipping and fraudulent seller issues… When buying online always, always use PayPal. Never send payment ‘friends and family’, even if it means adding a little extra money to cover the seller’s fees. This way you are protected if an item never arrives, or arrives in a different condition than expected.
If you are a smart phone/electronic person make your lists in your favorite note app. Change the font color for anything you’ve ordered but not received, and highlight the items as they arrive.
Prioritize the wishlist
If you’d rather have a certain, expensive math curriculum, and possibly settle for something less expensive for another subject make a note of it. Until I find and buy the items on my ‘high priority’ list, I try not to buy the lower priority items. That way if several weeks go by without finding a good price on the curriculum I really want, I can settle for something cheaper on other lower priority subjects to make room in my budget.
If there is any subject that I have a second (or third) choice curriculum that I would be happy with, I list all the options under the subject heading with their full prices. Sometimes I don’t care which curriculum I get- any of the choices will work equally well, so I’m just on the hunt for the best deal. Other times I want an expensive product as my first choice but I’m unwilling to pay full price for it, so a cheaper alternative is listed in case I never find a good price.
Sell old curriculum
One of the easiest ways to afford homeschool curriculum is to sell any homeschool item you are no longer using! Don’t sell anything you are almost absolutely sure you will use again for a younger sibling. Otherwise, if you are done with it, or you didn’t love it… sell it! Reusing curriculum for younger siblings definitely saves money, IF you actually use the curriculum again. If it sits on your shelf never to be used again the resale value is likely diminishing as newer curriculum and editions become available.
Borrow or trade
If you have homeschooling friends, especially ones with children older than yours see what you can borrow!
This is the place to save the most money when buying homeschool curriculum, but you have to be willing to spend time looking. I usually browse the following places at least twice a week during spring buying and selling season. There are so many places to find used curriculum! I find that diligence usually pays off and I rarely need to buy full price new curriculum!
- look for local used homeschool sales each spring
- check your local Craigslist
- if you have a local homeschool group- especially if it has a forum, email list, or private Facebook group, post an ISO (in search of) there.
- Homeschool Classifieds
- Forums (such as The Well-Trained Mind, plus many curriculum vendors have their own forums or Facebook groups with re-sale boards)
- Facebook- there are several used homeschool curriculum sale pages, just type ‘used homeschool’ in the search bar to find groups to join.
Buy less than perfect
Rainbow Resource has a great ‘bargain book‘ section. Once a week I check the bargain section for the curriculum on my wish list. Rainbow Resource sells less than perfect copies in the bargain section, but I’ve never received anything with more than several wrinkled pages. I’ve found this my best resource for buying consumable workbooks at less than retail price.
Use the Library
Do you really need to own every novel assigned in the literature curriculum?
Never buy ‘required’ books for any curriculum until AFTER reading the teacher’s manuals. Often required reference materials and/or novels are needed for only a few weeks and can easily be borrowed from the library.
Can anything be bought later in the year?
Some curriculum uses in two or more books for the school year. Decide if you can get a better deal (or stretch your money farther) buying just the first book before the year starts and the rest later when you actually need it.
Watch for sales
Get on the mailing lists of the curriculum providers on your wish list. Many run frequent sales. If you know when their big yearly sale runs make a note of it on your master list. If you don’t find the product cheaper before the sale, decide if it’s worth buying new on sale.
Check into older editions
Often the changes to new editions are minimal, yet as soon as a new edition is released the price of old editions (new or used) drops dramatically! Decide if the changes are worth the difference in price.
I hope these tips help you buy the homeschool curriculum you really want for your children this year! Where are you on your homeschool shopping for the coming year? I’m over halfway through, and have all of my top priorities on the shelf already… and I’ve not bought anything full price yet!