Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cutting Corners

Ive always been frugal. I love the rush I get from Couponing, or from finding a great deal. I am always amazed to learn how much some families spend on educational supplies - both HS & PS families. When my DH was laid off over a year ago I knew I'd have to cut corners even more. I had been spending about $500/year to HS my 2 boys. Most of that as for printer ink and paper. Since his layoff, and losing his unemployment a few weeks ago, I've had to find ways to make our education virtually free. Here are my most important money saving tips: 1) Printing: Ink- Store your printer ink properly. Believe it or not, ink dries out fairly quickly. I only put mine in my printer while it is in use. The rest of the time I store my ink in a ziplock Baggie. But there are other ways of saving on ink, using refillable inks. Or, if you are someone who prints a lot, I suggest looking into Continuous Ink Systems. They cost about $45 to set up but you can print thousands of pages as opposed to the hundred or so from regular ink cartridges. Also, be sure you are always printing on the Quick, or Economy settings. Honestly they are still clear and nice (except for pictures) but you will save tons. Paper- make sure you are purchasing recycled paper. In some areas it is cheaper to purchase paper in bulk. Keep in mind color paper and card stock will always cost way more $$. Save these for very small projects. I use card stock for very little. A small package can last me nearly a year. I very rarely use colored paper unless I get a fantastic deal. I have about 3 packages of colored card stock left. I had gotten them for $1.00 per package about 9 months ago, I had gotten 5 packages. And I have used them for several classes I have taught recently. Furthermore, whenever possible, print on both sides of the page. I actually will hold off on printing until I have an even number of pages to print, then I'll print on both sides of the page. I also save paper by keeping all printed mistakes - I've accidentally printed something twice, or once it printed I noticed an error that had to be corrected. Rather than throwing away the pages, I keep them and the kids can use them as their drawing papers. I don't know about you, but my kids LOVE to draw, but not use coloring books. So we use scrapped paper. Laminate- I think I paid less than $20 for my laminator. The sheets can be purchased relatively cheaply through websites like I can print a worksheet (both sides of course! Lol) then save it to reuse with my younger son. But, if you want to give it a try, without spending the $30 startup cost, try page protectors. You can slip the worksheet into it, then use dry erase marker. These don't last as long as the laminated pages, but if you are just starting out and want to see if the technique is effective, this is a cheaper way to go about it. 2) Curriculum: I save potentially thousands each year by designing my own curriculum. You can read how I go about it I use a combination of things for our curricula. One of the main parts of our schooling is from free websites { check out my Free Website Master List at}. But one of the main factors in my curriculum is personal interests of my kids. I LISTEN to them. This way I am not stuck with a ton of materials I have paid for, but which were epic fails. Following my boys interests and curiosity virtually guarantees success. Supplies- I purchase just about all my office supplies between July & August when there are some seriously fantastic back to school sales. Where you can find notebooks for $1 each and boxes of pencils, erasers, markers, etc for less than that! My eldest sons birthday is in July and I often make gift bags with back to school supplies since we don't do candy. For larger kits, like for science, we generally ask for those as birthday or Yule gifts. Family and friends are more than happy to give a gift card or experiment kit as a gift, which can save me a bunch of money. Also, another $$ saving tip? Try to find educational supplies at non-educational stores. What I mean is, teacher supply stores, curricula websites, even office supply stores will often charge (at least) double what the same item would be at Walmart or at the Dollar store. They tack on a certain % just for using the term 'educational'. A pencil is a pencil, it doesn't matter if it cost you $3.00 or $0.25. Books- I don't think I have purchased more than 2 books for my kids. And yet we have an entire library in our house (6 bookcases overflowing with books). Most of my books I've gotten through trade. I also purchased 2 book lots on eBay for $20/each and received about 100 books. I also belong to our local Freecycle group on Yahoo Groups. I've had several local ps teachers give me everything they cleaned out of their classroom at the end of the year. Furthermore, at our co-op we do a book/curricula trade, where everyone brings in the books and curriculum they no longer need and trade it with others. (I've gotten TONS this way). 3) Technology: Internet- Don't be afraid of technology. I suggest having a DSL connection in your home and a membership to Netflix ($8/month). In fact, if you have DSL and streaming videos you can save a minimum of $100/month by doing away with cable. You can watch history and Discovery channel shows on Netflix. Computers, net books, iPods, oh my!- I've said it befor, and I'll say it again, my iPad is worth it's weight in gold!! I now spend less than $100/year to school my 2 boys mostly because I've almost stopped printing things entirely. Instead of paying $25-100/year for membership to certain websites, I instead pay a one time fee of $5 for an app. It does depend on the type of learner your student is, but my oldest is a Visual learner, my youngest is a kinetic learner, and interactive apps work wonderfully for both. And they save me a ton. I'm very excited for this fall when iPad is comming out with a smaller (thus cheaper) version, which will cost roughly the same as a kindle. 3)Groups: Co-op. we love our co-op. it helps that I found one within walking distance from our home, so I don't have to factor in gas. But our co-op has a per semester family fee of $50. To cover this fee, I teach classes. I also save $$ for our more expensive supplies by teaching a class and charging a materials fee. For instance, my kids were interested in learning about circuits, and I wanted to get the Snap Circuits set for them. But the cheapest set I could find on eBay was about $200. So I taught an electricity class at our co-op, charged the materials fee to cov the costs of getting the sets, and voila - we get to learn about electricity! Museums- I'll be honest. We rarely go to museums. They are just too expensive. But again, you can ask for memberships as a gift from the grandparents. Also, check out any special homeschooler days. Many of the museums in my area have a homeschooler day once or twice a year where the enterance fee is either waived or steeply discounted. Don't forget to factor in travel expenses as well!! So, I've been asked this about a hundred times. Here's the breakdown of my HS expenses. $25/year= books $25/year= apps $30/year= travel expenses $10/year= field trips $10/year= printing materials I don't count Netflix ($8/month) because we watch way more movies for enjoyment than for education. I also don't count our Internet connection as it is a part of our cable tv package, which is definitely not Hope this helps!

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