I’m entering the months when I start planning for our next school year, so I thought I might share a few of my favorite resources for saving money on books, curricula, and supplies. At the end, you’ll also find a free, printable spreadsheet for keeping track of your own homeschool expenses!
Obviously we start here, with the actual buying. I don’t like to spend a lot of time shopping around, so I have a few go-to websites that I use often to save money and cut down on how long it takes me to find books.
Bookfinder.com One of my college professors introduced me to this site as a good place to find used textbooks and I’ve been sharing it with others every chance I get ever since. I know that many homeschooling families have their favorite sites for buying used books…Abebooks, Alibris, Biblio, Textbooks, etc. I’ve actually gotten books from all of them at one point or another, but the main reason for that is Bookfinder. The beauty of this site is that you put in one book title or ISBN or some other kind of identifier, and it searches ALL of those sites as well as Amazon, eBay, and many others for the best price. You can look for new or used books and it’ll show you prices on all of them, including shipping. I have saved a LOT of money on books over the years thanks to this site.
Library Book Sales These come in either giant, combined-effort-of-many-different-libraries-a-few-times-a-year form, or as an area or small room in your local branch dedicated just to used book sales. Either way, these are a fantastic way to get books. I like to keep a copy of the AmblesideOnline master book list on my phone and when I’m in the library used books room, I can check it when I see a book I think might be scheduled in the future. I’ve honestly been really surprised at some of the books I’ve found at our local library, including classic copies of the Five Little Peppers and How They Grew series, and I’ve been able to stock up a nice supply of AO books as well.
eBay For specific curricula or books that I can’t find through Bookfinder, I use eBay. I have found that the best way to save money on eBay is to set up a search for the particular product I’m looking for FAR in advance of needing it. For instance, beginning in about October or November of last year, I set up a search for our math curriculum books for this coming year. Any time any products matched that search, I got an email. In January, one finally came through that was exactly what I was looking for at a great price.
Costco I’m sure a lot of you know about this one, but it bears mentioning anyway. Costco often has great prices on new books (including beautiful, leather-bound reprints of classic books) as well as lots of office and school supplies. We have gotten pencils, pens, printer paper, construction paper, scissors, tape, ink cartridges, 3-ring binders, colored pencils, and many other supplies here for several years and because it’s usually in bulk, one purchase can last at least one school year, often even longer than that.
Black Friday Sales These are obviously not going on right now, but the day after Thanksgiving is always a great time to get deals on homeschool resources. Last year I participated in a group effort of many different Charlotte Mason shops offering deep discounts and a few of the resources I use, like RightStart Math and Beautiful Feet Books, also had sales.
Subscribe to Newsletters/Social Media If you buy a lot of homeschool products from a particular site, be sure to sign up for their newsletter and/or follow them on their social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Many companies will offer a discount code on first orders when you sign up for their newsletter and you’ll be the first to know when they have sales at random times of the year.
Paying For It
I think most families keep a homeschool budget, but it’s always nice to be able to find ways to add a little more to that budget. Here are a few ways I’ve managed to pad ours.
Rakuten I’ve talked about Rakuten before, but I like to mention it anytime online shopping comes up. I have their extension installed on my browser, so any time I’m on a website that offers cash back, I just click a button and I’m all set. When I get paid, I take that extra money and put it toward our homeschool costs. The added bonus of this is that many of those used books sites I mentioned above with Bookfinder also offer cash back through Rakuten.
Honey This is very similar to Rakuten, except you collect points when you shop on certain sites instead of cash. You can then turn the points in for gift cards at stores like Amazon and use them for homeschool supplies. They also have a pretty handy browser extension that automatically tries coupons for you at certain sites as well. (You should know, however, that you can’t use Honey and Rakuten at the same time, so I usually opt for Rakuten if I have to choose.)
Credit Card Points If you’re in the habit of paying off your credit card balance in full each month, this is an excellent way to collect credit card points which you can cash out and put toward your homeschool budget. Amazon’s program is particularly profitable if you shop there a lot as all purchases on the site and at Whole Foods get 5% cash back and you can also use that amount toward future Amazon orders. (If you’re currently working on paying off credit card debt, I’d skip this option.)
Of course, you do need to keep track of all those purchases as well and I use these tools to help me make sure I’m staying within my budget.
YNAB This is another site that I’ve mentioned before, but I feel it’s worth recommending again and again. You Need A Budget is what I use for budgeting both for our home and my business. Within our household budget, I have a special category just for homeschooling. This helps me keep track not only of what we’re spending, but also, whenever I earn extra money from one of the methods I mentioned above, I move that amount into the homeschool budget. It makes keeping track of how much I have available to spend easy!
Book Budget Sheet I have a special folder in my Google Drive just for school and a subfolder for each year of our school. Within those folders, I have term overviews based on the ones offered on AmblesideOnline but customized for us, as well as each of the Morning Time printouts I make throughout the year. I also have a sheet where I copy all of the books we’ll need for that year from the AmblesideOnline master book list, but I’ve edited it so I can also keep track of the books that we already own, those that are available in ebook form for free, and those that I need to buy as well as a link to where I can buy it, and the price. This helps me keep track of how much money I spend over the course of the year and, when it’s C’s turn to enter into that year, I know if I need to buy any other books (eg. a new worksheet book for our math curriculum or new geography maps). You can take a look at the online version of the spreadsheet here that you can download for your own use, or here’s a link to a printable version as well!
I hope this little list has been helpful! If you have any useful tips that you’ve used to save money on homeschooling, leave a comment as I’d love to get more ideas!