Summer break is the time of year when teachers take a well deserved break from lesson planning, and grading to spend time with family and friends, while soaking up the sunshine! We also use this time to plan for the upcoming school year. Whether you’re a first year teacher, or a seasoned teacher, chances are you’re thinking about things you’ll have to purchase for your classroom. Now just to be clear, do I think should teachers have to spend their own money on their classrooms? Absolutely not. However, I’ve also lived the reality of moving into a classroom with nothing but tables / chairs, and I know how stressful that can be! Thankfully I’ve accumulated quite a bit of resources on my own over the years. Of course there are items I’ve paid full price for, but I’ve also been able to get a lot of things second-hand or on a small budget. Today, I’m sharing 10 ways that teachers can build their classrooms on a BUDGET!
Garage sales are an excellent choice to build up classroom materials. You’re likely to find furniture that could be repurposed for your classroom like bookshelves, and tables. Sometimes having a little “vision” turns something old into something new. I was fortunate enough get two free bookshelves from a colleague’s mom (she was downsizing and wanted them out). The shelves were great quality but I didn’t love the color. I decided to paint them and now they’re some of my favorite classroom items!
Garage sales are also a great place to pick up kids toys, games, and puzzles for your classroom!
Teacher Garage Sales
I recently posted a picture on my Instagram page of an easel I got a teacher garage sale and I couldn’t believe the number of teachers who had never heard of a teacher garage sale. A teacher garage sale is basically a teacher selling their teaching stuff, and summer is the BEST time to find them! Remember all of the those teachers that just retired in May or June?! Well most of them don’t have anywhere to store an entire classroom, and they have a teacher garage sale to get rid of it. The summer before my first teaching job, I checked Craigslist multiple times a week for listings of teacher garage sales or teaching supplies. In fact, this is how I built up the first books of my classroom library. Teacher garage sales usually have an assortment of bins, math manipulatives, pocket charts, dry erase boards, puzzles/games, and of course books for amazing prices!
I was stoked to find this bag of buttons from a teacher garage sale for just $2.00! If you’ve ever bought buttons, you understand!
Facebook Marketplace / Facebook Groups
Back when I first started teaching, Facebook Marketplace didn’t exist. Now, it’s an amazing resource to help you find what you need. Remember that easel I was telling you about, well I learned about that teacher garage sale from a local FB group I’m in. Central Ohio elementary teachers, the Columbus Elementary Teachers Support & Resources is a great place to look!
There are tons of teacher support / resource groups by city (yours may have one, ask around!) where teachers can ask questions, and sell things they’ve purchased that they’re no longer using. I’m also a member of a FB group called Teachers Bargain Basement, another place teachers can sell or give away items they’re ready to part with.
Half Price Books
If you’re looking to build up your classroom library, Half Price Books is a great option. They sell previously loved books at a fraction of the cost! Not only does Half Price Books already have low prices, but they also offer a 10% discount to teachers ALL YEAR LONG!
You can apply for a discount card by taking in a pay stub or showing your educator ID. You can learn more about it here! Half Price Books also donates books through their Million Book Donation Project! In fact, they donated over one million books in 2018. Isn’t that incredible?! To learn more about receiving donated books and completing a donation request, you can click here.
Of course your school library is a great place to start in finding books to use in the classroom, but they don’t always have what you need. I am so grateful that my city has an amazing library system and makes checking out books as a teacher, super easy! My local library is the Columbus Metropolitan Library and with the Educator’s Card, they allow you to check out up to 50 books at a time!!!
The best part is that I’m able to go online, request my books, and pick them up when they’re ready. Seriously, I am so grateful that they’ve made this process so easy! For more info on obtaining an Educator’s Card through the Columbus Metropolitan Library click here, and if you are not from my area, check with your local library to see if they have anything set up for teachers!
Goodwill / Salvation Army / Local Thrift Shops
Second hand shops are a great way to build up your classroom library, find puzzles and games, or even furniture! Of course, these can be a little hit or miss but summer is the time to keep any eye out! Why? Because everyone is starting to “Marie Kondo” their spaces or they’ve already finished up their spring cleaning, and need to get rid of all the things. You can often find games and puzzles for under a dollar and books around 50 cents.
To be completely honest, I’ve never actually used Donors Choose but I know several teachers who’ve had wonderful success with it. Donors Choose is a non-profit that allows anyone to donate to classrooms in need.
Sometimes large companies will match donations or fund entire projects. It’s quite amazing! Be sure to check your district policy before going through the process!
Scholastic Book Clubs
If you’re a teacher then you’ve probably heard of Scholastic Book Clubs, but you may not be utilizing it to its fullest potential.
When families purchase books for their children through your class page, you earn points for free books. Simply send home those flyers each month, and let families know when you’re placing an order. Make it easy for families by sending them the direct link in an email or posting it on a class page, so that they always have access. They also have $1.00 books every month, so I try to stock up on those as well.
Buy a Little Each Year
Remember that when you see a teacher’s classroom filled with every resource imaginable, it wasn’t built overnight. That teacher accumulated those resources over years. If you prioritize what you *need, and buy a little at a time, it becomes more manageable. The Dollar Tree is a great place to pick up classroom items for a fraction of the price compared to other teacher stores. I spent a small fortune on the book bins in my classroom and then a couple of years later, Dollar Tree came out with these.
Are they going to last a lifetime? Probably not, but at only a dollar a piece, I wouldn’t be as sad to have to replace them!
I feel like this is the most underutilized strategy for teachers. More than likely, there is someone in your building that has the book you need for read aloud, or that has some extra green paint for the art project. We probably get at least an email a week from another teacher in the building looking for something, and they almost always get it! Most teachers are happy to help when they can! So don’t be afraid to send that email and start the trend in your building! Be sure that you’re always willing to share and help when you can too, that’s what builds the community!
I hope you were able to find a few ideas to build your classroom! Share your ideas in the comments and help a teacher out! 🙂