Teaching on a Budget

If you are a new teacher or are getting ready to student teach, you are probably wondering how you will ever get all that you need to set up a classroom.  Most experienced teachers remember that feeling very well.

My first year of teaching was in a private school making $26,259.71 - using an inflation calculator to convert to today's money so you can have an idea of my salary.  My student loans were more than my salary, a car that was on its last mile, a newlywed, and I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth.  I was born with a rusty spoon!  So, there was very little to spend on setting up my classroom.

When you have very little to spend, it takes some creativity and work on your part to get the most out of what you do have to spend.  In case you can relate to my first year of teaching, I thought I'd share a few of the things I found that stretched my money.

Drawer liner is an easy way to add color to your classroom and make it look cohesive.  I bought the roll in the picture at the Target Dollar Spot for $3.  You can use it to cover a wide range of things that you use in the classroom.  A tomato sauce can is the perfect size to hold crayons at your reading table.  Be sure to fold the drawer liner over the top so it will cover the sharp edges.

There is something magical about the power of a can of spray paint.  It can turn something headed for the trash dump into a sparkly "new found" treasure.  Best of all, you can use the paint color to pull your room together.  Use the color to enhance your theme and set the tone of your room.  I have a Pinterest board that has more ideas about this topic.  Follow the board because I plan to add more ideas to it before school begins.

It is very easy to see all of the Back to School sale flyers and feel like you need to stock up on everything under the sun.  Remember a few things:
  • Ask your administrator, secretary, or teacher on your team if your students will bring school supplies.  If so, ask for a copy of the supply list.  Not all of your students will bring 100% of the supplies, but this will give you a place to start.
  • Ask your administrator, secretary, or teacher on your team if the school will provide any type of budget and/or supplies.  If so, find out the details.  
    • Are you responsible for ordering the supplies?
    • Do you get the supplies from a central supply closet?
    • Is there a procedure for doing this?
  • Ask your administrator, secretary, or teacher on your team if the P.T.A. / P.T.O. (parent-teacher association / organization) provides funds for classroom teachers.  If so, ask for the details.
    • When do teachers get the funds?
    • Are the funds given to the team or individual teachers?
    • Are teachers given a lump sum amount of money?
    • Are teachers expected to purchase the supplies first and wait to be reimbursed?
  • Are you interested in writing a proposal for Donor's Choose? Ask your administrator before you begin.
  • Does your school have a community (company) partner that provides needed supplies?  
  • Are there funds for new teachers?  Some principals set aside funds to help new teachers.
  • School counselors will often have extra supplies for students who do not have resources to purchase them.
One of my favorite places to find supplies is thrift stores.  I find bags of goodies like the ones in picture above.  I assume a retired teacher donated them.  I find many staplers, tape dispensers, 3 hole paper punch there, too. 

My former school's P.T.A. made a giant wishing well out of butcher paper and hung it near the office.  The P.T.A. asked teachers and staff members to put post-its notes with our name and items we "wished" we had.  One item per post-it so parents who wanted to be our fairy godparents could take the post-it off the well and purchase the needed resource.  This prevented duplicates.  We were asked to vary the price range of what we "wished" for - something that parents could supply for free or very little (toilet paper rolls or egg cartons) to something a little pricey like an electric pencil sharpener.  
I made a sign you can hang or put on your table at Back to School Night.  There is also a list of items that you can use or you could try the post-it system like my P.T.A.  Sometimes I wait to do this at Parent-Teacher Conferences because parents are a little overwhelmed at the beginning of the year.  

Click here to download the Wishing Well sign.

Do you have any tips for teaching on a budget? 

Sources to make my blog post graphics can be found HERE. 
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1 comment

Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas said...

These are all such amazing tips. I had a classroom completely destroyed in a break-in at our school. I posted on my personal Facebook asking about old books and board games for my class. I was moved to tears with the amount of items my friends, their parents, their neighbors and even friends across the country sent me. Books, paper, supplies, pens, pencils, board games, gift cards.... Most everyone in a teacher's circle of friends understands that all most everything in a classroom is provided by a teacher, not a school district and they were happy to help. Same with a new teacher gaining his/her first classroom.
Fern :)