How I Spend Virtually Nothing on My Classroom


Oh the joys of teaching! Our humble salary can’t handle the hits of spending hundreds of dollars on supplies for lessons, classroom incentives or (if you’re like me) necessities for students who can’t afford them. During my first year of teaching, I probably spent close to $1,000 that I know of (probably more though), and while you can claim a portion of it on your taxes, the discomfort of scraping by each month is just not the bizz. We work so hard during the year to enjoy our summers off but can’t afford to travel anywhere after spending so much on our kids. I refused to accept this  as a reality! We deserve a nice dinner on Friday night, and that trip to Cabo is basically a necessity at this point. A happy teacher means a happy classroom culture for students. My husband and I have saved for vacations to Jamaica, Ireland, Canada, Maui, and plan to do more traveling this summer by saving our pennies. This means spending less on our classrooms (preferably nothing at all). Here are some ways I did it.


Teachers Pay Teachers– There are lots of great resources on this site for free! My role is to never spend more than $1.00 on this site. I also visit for SO MANY GREAT RESOURCES.

Online programs/licenses: subscriptions to Super Teacher Worksheets, Brainpop, Reflex Math, Typing Club and other programs online can add up. My schools have been willing to purchase a subscription for the entire school when I’ve asked so you don’t have to spend your own $$$

Local banks– I called the Educational Educator’s Credit Union and explained to them my need for school supplies. They had a box of 500 pens and sticky notes waiting for me at a branch closest to me. I’ve also seen Rab-O-Bank donate school supplies with their logos. Marketing for them, free supplies for us… Score!

Colleges/Universities– I sent an email to all of our local colleges and universities asking for any extra apparel or supplies they had to give to my students… I scored pencils, stickers, shirts, paper pads, and more! This was a great way to promote different colleges among our student population too! Another thing to do here is partner with a club/org on a university campus to host a charity drive for your students. Local college students collected backpacks filled with school supplies at the beginning of the year for our needy students. Community involvement… love it!

Teaching Tolerance– if you visit their website at, follow the link for “classroom resources” for a lot of lessons and materials, and you can order several film kits (including posters) for free using this order form.

Donors Choose– I have requested many projects on from an iPad to whiteboards to a trip to Washington DC! Smaller projects typically get funded within a couple months, larger ones take longer and may not be funded entirely.

Wal-Mart: I was able to write a letter (with school’s letterhead) to several local stores describing what I needed and was given $50 gift cards at each location within a week.

Boomers: Again, I wrote a letter to the manager with the school’s letterhead describing a need for incentives and was given a stack of free Mini Golf and Go Kart passes, as well as 3 family 4-packs.

 Zoo: I wrote another letter to the sales manager at our local zoo and was given 1 family 4-pack.

Bakery: A local bakery will oftentimes give me extra pastries, bagels and donuts at close… think “breakfast party” incentive or before a big test!

District Funds: Most schools give teachers a budget for school supplies at the beginning of the year. Some school’s give more than others, but I typically purchase necessities: paper, pencils, whiteboard markers, staples, tape, and so on.

District Grants: For large scale projects or field trips, I’ve seen several grant opportunities that I’ve applied for. Teach for America Corps Members can use to post and raise funds for projects. I raised about $500 using that platform for our Washington DC Trip.

Free Field Trips: When I taught in Oakland I looked up places that would take my students for FREE. The Exploratorium in SF and the Oakland Ice Center both offer free field trips for students. We didn’t have a budget for buses, so we hopped the city bus ($1 per student).

Veteran Teachers– before you go out and buy anything, ask a veteran teacher at your school. Chances are, they have collected 20+ years of goodies and would LOVE to let you borrow or have them.

Discounts (that I’ve used, there are many more): 

Micheal’s– 15% off, need teacher ID

Joann’s– 15% off, need teacher ID although I was asked to give my CTA card once

Barnes & Noble’s– 20% with educator membership (it’s a free membership, just prove that you are employed by district)

Some Other Ideas: 

Thrift Stores– I’ve found children’s chapter books at my local thrift stores for as low as $0.50 per book.

Craigslist– Sometimes retiring teachers will post their belongings on craigslist for a low price, I scored some brand new boxes of school supplies this way.

Garage Sales– I’ll always brake for garage sales, I have stocked my entire classroom library from garage sales and thrift stores! I’ve also found educational games, puzzles, and school supplies.


One thought on “How I Spend Virtually Nothing on My Classroom

  1. This is my goal for the coming year. I have not even attempted to keep up with what I spend for supplies, materials, “gifts” (read students needs), etc in the classroom. Not to mention the constant requests to purchase from fundraisers. How many boxes of cookies will fit in my freezer??? How many t-shirts will the bar in my closet hold before collapsing?? Of the money spent for work, only $250 is tax deductible. What a joke.
    New School Year resolution!! Thanks for the inspiration!!

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