Today's #EdHack post is brought to you by Ms. L, a second grade teacher in a Title I school from the San Francisco Bay area. This school year will be her fourth year teaching!
Hi, teachers! It’s that time of year again — The aisles are stocked with classroom supplies and décor. When I was starting my first year of teaching, I was thrilled by all the specials, deals… and the number of supplies that I could get for $1. Three years later, I have learned that if a deal looks too good to be true, sometimes it is. Even if you think you are saving money buying supplies at Dollar Tree, occasionally the quality of those supplies means that you will end up spending more money in the long run as you replace those supplies partway through the year (or next summer, if you’re lucky)
This list is by no means comprehensive, and is based entirely on my own personal experience. I also do not personally have any affiliation with Dollar Tree, Target, Joann, Ikea, Amazon, or Lakeshore — I just go to these places. A lot.
Cleaning Supplies: SAVE!
Do not spend a fortune on these items. They are at Dollar Tree year-round and can be replenished as needed. I also request donations of these items at the beginning of the year specifically because they can be purchased at Dollar Tree, and parents who want to help stock the classroom can contribute without breaking the bank.
Game Materials: Save!
Classroom Storage: Save and Spend!
My students store their weekly Words their Way spelling words in a plastic baggie stapled inside of a folder. These baggies can be purchased at Dollar Tree, 29 bags for a dollar. Even the more expensive brand name bags will rip and get yucky, so in this case spending more will not always save you money in the long run.
Classroom Décor: Save and Spend!
Another great tip I’ve picked up over the years is using fabric on your bulletin boards instead of the Fadeless paper — no rips, reusable, and far less frustrating/difficult to put up. I ordered bolts of Joann’s Oly-Fun fabric (online only), which I like because it cuts like paper with an Exacto knife and is available in bold colors. I bought it during a sale and got it 60% off, meaning instead of $29.99 per bolt, I paid $19 (including shipping). Since I can reuse it every year, it was a good investment.
If you have a good pair of fabric shears, regular cotton quilting fabric is usually available for under $3.50 a yard without a coupon. With the ever present 40% off coupon, you’ll pay just over $2 per yard, AND Joann gives teacher discounts that stack with all promotions, although much to my frustration their discount cards expire August 31st and some employees will not give you a new card without a current school ID with picture.
Dry Erase Boards and Supplies: Save and Spend!
When it comes to erasers, you can save. Dollar Tree sells three-packs of microfiber sponges, or a regular sock will do the trick. If you’ve invested in nice dry-erase boards, DO NOT let your students clean them with Clorox wipes. A former co-worker destroyed her boards this way. I get a big bottle of Expo cleaning fluid — one squirt and a quick wipe-down with a paper towel, and your boards are good as new!
Adhesive Vel-Cro/Hook-and-Loop Dots: SPEND!
Pencil Sharpeners: SPEND!
If you have Amazon Prime and/or can wait a few days to receive it, it’s currently on sale on Amazon for $23.99. ((Snarky tip: if you're not a Prime member, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial here!))
If you, like me, cannot stand the sound of a sharpener running during class and/or don’t trust your young students to sharpen their pencils unsupervised (erasers in the sharpener WILL destroy the heavy-duty sharpener), do NOT get the cheap hand sharpeners from Dollar Tree. Don’t even get the $3 ones at Target. They do not last. The best one I’ve found is the Staedtler double-hole tub sharpener. Two of these for my whole class last year took care of all pencil-sharpening emergencies without falling apart or breaking up pencils. Even better, there are two holes—one for regular pencils, one for colored pencils. They are currently selling on Amazon for $5.99, but I spent more on that on cheaper hand sharpeners that broke my first year.
Duct Tape: Spend!
If you’ve spotted a great deal in-store or online, or you know of a terrific product that won’t break the bank, let us know in the comments. Happy shopping!