According to an annual report by the National School Supply Equipment Association which educators spent roughly $3.2 billion to stock their classrooms, of that $1.6 billion came directly out of teachers’ pockets.
Funding for classroom supplies on a teacher’s salary can be scarce. Nearly 80 percent of the 400 elementary, middle and high school teachers surveyed for the report shared they used their personal funds to make up for shortfalls and more than 30 percent have asked parents for donations to stock their classrooms.
Because teachers shouldn't have to spend their own money on school supplies, below are 6 money-saving ways teachers can save on out-of-pocket classroom expenses.
1. Seek out grants and supply-donation programs
Time equals money, so take the time to apply for school-supply donation programs, as well as state and local union grants. Here are a few organizations to consider: NEA Foundation grants, DonorsChoose.org and Kids in Need Foundation.
2. Ask BEFORE You Buy
Before you buy, always ask your colleagues and teacher friends if they have items you can have or borrow.
If you can, involve your parents in supporting and supplementing you with classroom supplies before you spend money. A great time to ask is at the beginning of the year when parents visit the classroom for open house, school family and back-to-school nights. Let them know which items you can use. And throughout the year, send home voluntary wish lists for items you may need in the classroom. You may be amazed by the level of parent participation and support you receive when you make specific requests.
Let’s not forgot local businesses and restaurants in your community that can donate supplies for your classroom while earning a tax write-off. Remember your power is in asking.
3. Claim your educator tax deduction
When you file your taxes, don’t miss those educator tax deductions! The $250 deduction is particularly advantageous because it is an above-the-line deduction on Schedule A, which means you don’t have itemize to take it.
As for continuing education, if you take courses that you pay for yourself, whether or not they are required for certification, there are a couple of possibilities for deducting that expense. Click here to learn more.
4. Use those teacher discounts
Are you part of a union or organization for teachers? Looking for great deals and price reductions for educators? Make sure you pay attention to the discounts and rewards you can get from being a member.
For example, NEA members can save every time you need books, magazines, classroom supplies, dining, gifts, events tickets, travel and more! You’ll be surprised by great selection of educator deals from retailers, service providers being offered to educators.
5. Don’t Buy What’s Free
Recycling. The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,301 groups with 9,123,309 members around the world, and next door to you. It's an entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and neighborhoods. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers. Membership is free.
Join online group. Social media is a great way to connect with other educators and resources to fill your classroom gap. Join online educational Facebook groups and post a simple request for the supplies your classroom needs.
6. Put Your Classroom Up for Adoption
All students deserve to have the tools they need to learn. Adopt-A-Classroom offers a free, safe online account to educators who need financial support from the community.
Any K-12 teachers across the country can register and share their stories and supply needs online. Donors search the site for classrooms. Donors can give to a specific teacher they know, search for a teacher in their community, or give to a Spotlight Fund.
Teachers can use the money to purchase supplies their classroom needs most such as books, games, and other educational supplies through the online vendors associated with the site.