I find that when it comes to money, I have major issues and that is because I have always struggled with contentment. The Lord commands us to be happy in every circumstances, in want as in abundance. By His grace I have come a long way, but there is still a long road ahead . . . So much out there . . .
Anyway . . . Our financial situation is not that of being in abundance, and I will guess to venture that it is the case for many homeschoolers, as most of us live on a single income (and in my case a pastor's salary). So when it comes to supplies and books for our homeschooling needs, what am I to do? Well you have to tighten the belt just like in everything else.
It is possible to homeschool for free. The internet abounds with resources and many homeschoolers do just that. I can't. It takes me way too much time to search for the stuff, plus the printing, and on top of that I find that when you homechool that way there is a lack of coherence, it tends to be bits and pieces. So what do I do?
I do not have a set budget for school because there is no money. I just buy what I need when the money is there or at least, I know where the money is coming from. To that end I need to know what it is I need, and make sure it does not require too much money. So far, by the grace of God I have been able to keep the "nonexistent budget" low, between under $500 a year for both kids.
Here are a few of my strategies:
- I try to get money from other places. We cut down on food, and get rid of extras (like cable, phones, eating out etc...).
- I thoroughly research my curriculum. When I end up buying a curriculum, I know this is the curriculum I will use. I have almost never bought something that I never used ( I think it happened 2-3 times in the six years I have been homeschooling). So do your research and keep a tally.
- I buy little and I think long term. For example I am using Tapestry of Grace as my history curriculum which is intended to be used for all 12 grades and for both kids. Same goes for my purchase of Math on the Level at the beginning of the elementary level (I think it was grade 2 when I purchased it) which was intended for both kids up to grade 8. I did use it as my main curriculum at least until my oldest was in grade 5. So try to maximize your curriculum.
- My kids are close in age (2 years apart) so I tend to teach them together. It helps that they both read very well and my youngest is good at Math, so he can keep up. Combine when and where you can.
- I limit my exposure to too much resources. Although I love to know what is out there, I try to not read too much of what others are using, or at least, when I do, tell myself I do not need it if I know I do not. I search the internet more for ways to be creative. Learn how to say no.
- I have very strict and set criteria of what I am looking for and I hold myself to it. Again, know how to say no.
- When it comes to books, the library is my resource. I do not need to buy every books I see. The house is always full of books for free. I am SO thankful to be able to get library books from two cities. Make the library your friend or ally.
- Once in a while I will buy an encyclopedia or a fiction book which I know the boys will read over and over again. Spend on only the necessary.
- I try to sell stuff at book fairs and online to get extra money. Declutter by re-seling.
- I buy very limited amount of school supplies or extra. The only major expense I have made for school supply in my 6 years of homeschooling was for our boards and our printers (we ave two printer - one laser for regular printing and one inkjet for color printing). We own about 3 boards and got used a lot over the years. Remember more is not always better!
- I reuse a lot of stuff, cardboard boxes turn into books and magazine holders, food containers turn into pencil holders. I've got tons of scrap paper that gets used for a lot of different purposes. Be thrifty and creative!
- I make my own extra resources like posters or print them off of the internet (hence the need for a color printer).
- I limit outside activities. Right now my oldest is taking violin, and my youngest is taking piano. He had to wait a couple of years before he started, precisely because money was tight.Music lessons require a budget, but I believe it is well worth the expense. We have had to pass on swimming lessons and other organized physical activities. We do participate in our homeschool group elective classes that run for 7 weeks in the fall and in the spring ($70/term for both children). Prioritize!
- I watch out for freebies on the net and sales at the stores (sign up for newsletter and alert so you get notified of them), especially from chapters, amazon and the like. Be on the look out!