Homeschooling on a Budget
The cost of homeschooling can quickly get out of hand and with multiple children, you may be wondering how to homeschool on a budget.
Take a deep breath and gather a pencil and paper.
It is possible to save money on homeschool curriculum and homeschool on a budget. Below are 30 ways tried and tested ways to save money while homeschooling. The best part is that you can save money on homeschool curriculum and resources without compromising the quality of the education your children receive.
Read through our list one time, then go back through and take notes so you can save as much money as possible on homeschool curriculum and resources.
30 Ways to Save Money Homeschooling
1. Use the Public Library
The library in your area is a resource for reference books or literature class reading requirements. In addition, you’ll find audiobooks for those car schooling days, vacations, or quiet time at home.
2. Use Project Guttenberg
Sharing good literature either through family read-aloud time or for a class assignment doesn’t have to be expensive. Check Project Gutenberg for the e-book version of classic literature for which the U.S. copyright has expired. These are now in the public domain via Project Gutenberg’s website.
3. Shop for The Best Value for the Money
Research and analyze the features and terms of what you are purchasing. Are you purchasing a curriculum that can be used for multiple children? Does “one year’s use” mean a school year or a full 12 months?
For example, CTCMath offers one low fee for a 12-month period, and your student can finish one course and move on to a second. If you have multiple children, you pay the family rate and can have as many students enrolled. Each of those students can complete more than one course in that 12-month period.
4. Team Up with Other Families
Microscopes, dissection supplies, and chemistry kits can get expensive. Consider teaming up with a few other families and sharing a microscope or doing dissection labs together. When my children were in high school, a nurse in our homeschool group offered all the biology dissections as a small class. We saved money pairing up the students and purchasing specimens in bulk. So, our teens didn’t have to give up the experience of dissections, but we saved money. We paid a flat fee for the specimens, and other families in the group lent out their dissection kits.
5. Start a Lending Library
Consider starting a lending library. Our small homeschool group had a lending “cabinet” in a storage room in our local recreation center. Our lending cabinet contained:
- Full sets of curricula that we could try before we purchased our own or use for the school year and return. It was mostly used to test out the curriculum because oftentimes notebooks or workbooks were partially used.
- Math manipulatives that could be used for specific sections of a math curriculum and then returned for someone else to use. We have a child with dyscalculia and manipulatives were a given in our homeschool, regardless of whether our curriculum used them. It was a money-saver not to purchase fraction rods, geoboards, fun plastic counters, etc. When our budget is tight.
6. Shop the Dollar Store
Dollar stores have expanded their school supply and craft sections in the past few years. In addition to basic school supplies, there are math manipulatives, phonics flashcards, and science manipulatives. Basic science experiment supplies like baking soda, vinegar, batteries, etc., make fun hands-on science activities affordable.
7. Shop Yard Sales
In-person and online yard sales are great places to find schoolroom furnishings, board games, and learning manipulatives.
8. Research Local Learning Opportunities
Learn beyond the books with free or low-cost field trips in your area. Local city and county-owned parks may have special family nights, a fish hatchery, or a wildlife center where your family can tap into free classes and presentations.
9. Partner with Other Moms
When we team up with another homeschooling family to do a class or mini-co-op, we can expand the learning opportunities for our children. Our family enjoyed a Junior Master Gardener co-op with two other families. The moms divvied up the work, we shared supplies, and our children earned their Junior Master Gardener certificate—something we probably would not have done on our own.
Talk with other homeschool moms about your strengths and interests and ask them about theirs. You never know where it will lead. Some possible ideas include a knitting class, kitchen chemistry (for a mom who loves to bake), car maintenance, etc.
Other homeschooling parents are a tremendous resource for money-saving ideas.
In addition, curriculum providers market inside of Facebook groups via sponsored posts and Facebook parties. During these promotions, you can find out about current special pricing.
CTCMath is very active in the homeschool community on Facebook!
11. Do Your Due Diligence
Research WELL before you buy. Take advantage of free trials. (Have you seen CTCMath’s free trial?) If the free trial is a subscription, with auto-start on Day 8 and you give a credit card to start the free trial, then set a calendar reminder to avoid getting charged for a subscription you do NOT want to start. Take advantage of the free trial to test out the resource and have your student test it too.
Read through FAQs on the company site, email or call with your questions not covered in the FAQ, browse any sample PDFs, videos, or audios, ask other moms about the curriculum. However, what may not have worked for one family, could very well be an ideal fit for your family.
Review the company’s return and refund policy before you buy.
12. Combine Grades – for example, teach the same period of history to all of your children at the same time. Find a curriculum that provides a family plan. For example, CTCMath provides one family price, and you can one or more of your children in their appropriate class/grade level.
13. Take Advantage of Educator Discounts
Several office supply stores, big box stores, and computer companies offer educator discounts.
14. Ask About Military and Missionary Discounts
Use any applicable military or missionary discounts a company may offer. Some companies extend a discount to active-duty or disabled U.S. veterans or active missionary discounts. You will need to provide documentation, and these discounts are not a service all curriculum providers can afford. Given the increased price of printing and shipping, it is getting increasingly difficult to contain price hikes and offer generous military and missionary discounts.
15. Shop Homeschool Conventions
Save on shipping by purchasing at a homeschool convention. Shipping has dramatically increased over the last few years. Often, you can buy at a homeschool convention and take it home the same day or take advantage of reduced or free shipping. Again, this will vary as shipping costs increase, and it may not be as widely available; but if these shipping deals are available at conferences, take advantage of them!
16. Take Advantage of Free Shipping
Watch for the free shipping deals online. Some companies may offer it with no minimum purchase amount or for a very limited time, so read the fine print on ads for free shipping. As shipping costs have risen, this offer is becoming increasingly difficult to offer at or for extended periods.
17. Utilize Student Discounts
Look for free or discounted student licensing for coding or CAD programs. Middle and high school students interested in coding or engineering post-graduation may want to take an elective or two in a specific language or software package. Many of these software companies offer free downloads or a significantly reduced student discount. One example is Solidworks for design and engineering.
18. Swap Curriculum with Other Homeschooling Families
Consider sharing some resources, like history resource books, foreign language dictionaries, or math manipulatives, with another family and vice versa. My children were the type of learners who used a lot of highlighters, especially in middle and high school, so we typically didn’t borrow textbooks, especially if they were on loan. Also, I kept careful track of manipulatives we borrowed, so we didn’t lose pieces.
19. Join Curriculum Company Snail-Mail Mailing Lists
Many curriculum companies send out catalogs and occasional snail-mail mailings. These publications may announce sales, free shipping, or reduced shipping.
20. Join Curriculum Company Email Lists
Be the first to know about a company’s online store promotions or shipping discounts by joining their email list.
Companies like CTCMath have email lists you can join to stay apprised of product news.
21. Organize the Homeschooling Resources You Already Own
Our homeschool books, resources, and supplies can accumulate quickly in just a year. Multiply that by 5, 8, 10, or 20 years of homeschooling, and we find ourselves with A LOT of resources we can reuse and recycle with our younger children. So, stay organized with boxes, shelves, bins, and a labeling system. This doesn’t have to be an expensive organizational project; some recycled shipping boxes and a marker work well for storing and marking boxes.
22. Make a Plan
When I used to work a publisher’s booth at homeschool conventions, many parents carried a clipboard or spiral notebook where they kept notes, brochures, and catalogs tucked inside the cover. I would always be upset when a clipboard or notebook was left behind on a table in our booth because it represented hours of planning, reading, writing, dreaming, budgeting, and agonizing! It’s so important to outline a plan to avoid buying unnecessary items. Oh, and it’s easy to buy more than is needed! I overspent for the first 4-5 years of our 21 years of homeschooling. It’s easy to go off track. So, make a plan and a budget. It won’t completely alleviate the splurge purchases, but it does serve as a record of the amount spent and items purchased.
23. Take a Trial Run
Have you read positive reviews about a resource but were afraid it might not be a good fit for your child? Borrow from a friend who has used the curriculum to test it out before purchasing for your child or family.
24. Pay a Visit
If considering a local co-op, visit and see how you like the classes, the books they use, the projects they work on, and how the co-op schedule flows.
25. Pay Attention to Return and Exchange Policies
Read the return and exchange policies carefully before purchasing. Some companies do not allow the return of downloadable products, DVDs, or Thumb Drives once the seal on their packaging is broken. For those with a no-return or strict return policy, ask for a way to test-drive the product before purchase.
26. Check for Hardware Compatibility Before Purchase
The number and variety of digital earning opportunities have grown tremendously! What a blessing it is to have online learning platforms that are engaging and help track lessons and progress for our students. It is crucial, though, to check the hardware requirements of these platforms before purchasing. Many companies have an FAQ section that covers technology requirements. If they don’t, send an email or call them before finalizing the purchase.
27. Check for Internet Speed Compatibility
Verifying internet speed requirements is also essential. If your child will be enrolled in a live online class that utilizes a platform such as Zoom, you’ll want to test your speed. Type “test my internet speed” into your browser, and one of the speed testing utilities on the internet should appear. Write down the download and upload speeds and check with the online learning company to see if those numbers are in an acceptable range.
28. Be a Test Family for A Curriculum Company
Sometimes curriculum companies will call families to test curriculum and provide feedback throughout the school year. Follow the company on social media and subscribe to their newsletter to avoid missing the call for test families.
29. Utilize High School Apprenticeship Programs for Your High School Student
High school apprenticeship programs are growing, especially in the United States. In 2020, many states received fresh funding for these programs. Do a web search for your area and the phrase high school apprenticeships. Many STEM-related companies offer these opportunities for high school juniors and seniors. Apprenticeship programs are a great way to turn a hands-on job opportunity into a high school elective, gain technical skills, and possibly earn a post-graduation job placement.
30. If Applicable, Research Hardship Grants
Check for curriculum grants given to homeschool families who have suffered devastating loss through natural disaster or hardship. Apply if you have experienced a total loss through fire, natural disaster, etc. Here is the link: https://hslda.org/post/compassion-curriculum-grants
With thorough research and careful planning, you can successfully and joyfully homeschool on a budget. Check out how our pricing plan at CTCMath will help you stay well within your homeschooling budget. Our pricing covers 12 full months and allows each of your students to work through as many grade levels as they want in those 12 months!
Michelle Moody is a veteran homeschool mom who worked full time and homeschooled for over 20 years. She has taught in the classroom both in the United States and on the mission field. She holds a master's degree in Early Childhood Development and Education. Michelle has authored over 40 homeschool science curriculum kits and is the owner of Thehomeschoolscientist.com