10 tips for homeschooling on a budget

A quality education doesn't have to break your budget.

I began our homeschooling journey like so many of us do, wooed by shiny, new curriculum. I wanted it all—and thought we needed it all to have a successful homeschooling experience. I didn't realize there were many simple ways to make homeschooling more economical. 

Our first year of homeschooling, I purchased a boxed curriculum with a set of brand new readers, a handwriting curriculum, a full science program, and a full math curriculum with manipulatives... and spent about $1500 for Liam's kindergarten year (ouch!). Now, I spend under $500 per homeschooling child per year. 

Many homeschooling families are one-income families, so in order to have a sustainable homeschool for years to come, we have to learn to be wise stewards of our money. Here are a few tips that have helped us along the way: 

1. Utilize your local library. 

I can't emphasize this enough! Not only does our family reserve books every week and pick them up at the library, we've also requested books our library doesn't carry through interlibrary loan. Your library has access to potentially hundreds of libraries (and thousands of books) this way, so it's likely they'll be able to find what you're looking for if you're patient. Your library may also offer free classes and higher checkout limits for homeschoolers.

2. Choose a literature-based curriculum. 

Our family doesn't use many expensive, consumable workbooks that must be purchased new for every child, which cuts down on costs. Choosing a literature-based, family-style curriculum like Beautiful Feet BooksThe Peaceful Press, or even Brighter Day Press that utilizes books you can find at your local library is helpful for your budget!

3. Purchase (and sell) gently used curriculum. 

Search Facebook for buy/sell/trade groups for your favorite curriculum and you'll often find amazing deals on books and instructor's guides—and you'll be supporting another homeschooling family in the process! Also, consider re-selling booksIf you've worked through a curriculum and won't be using it in the future, consider selling the books and adding that money to your homeschooling budget.

4. Purchase gently used books. 

My personal favorite source for used books is BetterWorldBooks.com. I prefer choosing "like new" or "very good" condition and they often have great sales. We have saved hundreds of dollars this way!

5. Try Scribd. 

If your family utilizes audiobooks, Scribd is my absolute favorite app. You pay one monthly fee ($8.99/month) for unlimited audiobooks and eBooks, and their database is unmatched. Here's a link to try Scribd for 60 days free!

6. Research free extracurricular activities in your area. 

With a little digging, I discovered that you could check out free passes to our local botanical garden from the library and there are often free or discounted museum and zoo days for homeschooling families. Your local librarian would be a great place to start to find these things. I've also recently discovered there are 1500 bowling alleys around the United States where kids can bowl for free all summer!

7. Try YouTube. 

If you can't find a particular picture book at the library or used, you can often search for the title on YouTube and watch it being read aloud.

8. Purchase quality art supplies. 

It's tempting to stock up on 25-cent colored pencils or crayons at a back to school sale, but I've found investing in quality supplies that last really makes a difference. We love these colored pencils, these watercolor notebooks, these watercolors and brushes, and these pencils for everyday use. They all have the potential to last all year without needing to be replaced.

9. Make wish lists for extended family. 

For grandparents who want ideas for birthday or holiday gifts, I make an Amazon wish list with desired books, art supplies, or educational toys that would make good gifts. This is helpful to them and to you. Also, consider requesting ballet or art classes, zoo passes, or museum tickets as gifts.

10. Use what you already have! 

I am often guilty of not using everything on our shelves and looking for the next new thing when I already have perfectly good books waiting to be used! Sometimes just reorganizing a bookshelf or a craft closet can reveal all kinds of materials you'd forgotten about. So before planning for your next year, take inventory of what you already have!