The other day I shared on Instagram how much we budget for our children each year for homeschooling, which is about $350 per child (or less). I couldn't believe how many were shocked by this number! I think there is an assumption out there that homeschooling is expensive. But in my experience, homeschooling is only as expensive as you make it.
Obviously, there are some costs, but if you're intentional it doesn't have to be more than you can afford. It can be way less than what you would be spending at your local public school too.
The best ways to keep homeschool costs down
1. Choose a Curriculum That Is Not Consumable
For the sake of cost, but also for the sake of the environment, we try our best to choose curriculum that is reusable. For us, that means less workbooks, less printables and even less art supplies that won't last. We don't print anything we don't have to, and when I do have to print something I usually print it at home (aka--not fancy, not expensive).
For the rare instance that we have a consumable curriculum (math is typically a big one), I use transparent pockets and a dry erase marker and then save each sheet in a binder or in a folder. Both the pockets, markers and binders you can find inexpensively at Walmart or Target, etc. and it's a lot less than buying the same math curriculum for all of your children.
If your curriculum is reusable, you can buy it once and use it for every child!
2. Find Ways to Buy Your Curriculum Used
Nearly every curriculum has a buy/sell/trade/used group on facebook these days. If yours doesn't, you can join a general support group for your curriculum and ask moms in that group if anyone has to sell what you're specifically looking for. Watch for used book sales at your local library or local university (many are hosted in the springtime, but just calling and asking will give you more insight).
If you're in a group of homeschool families (like a co-op or nature club) that isn't doing a used book/curriculum swap--why not? That's one of the best places I've ever found homeschool books for less. Plan an evening where moms can bring 10 books and take 10 or have a trunk sale in the spring where families can bring their used items to sell!
Money you make from these types of groups or sales can help reduce your overall costs and make more room in your home, so don't hesitate to sell what you're not using!
3. Use a Library Card
Honestly, you're probably under-utilizing the library. Libraries have so many resources! Even if your local library doesn't have everything you need, they may have access to it online.
Don't discredit the amount of audiobooks you have access to either. Make requests for materials to purchase, modify what your curriculum recommends vs. what is actually available, and don't sleep on scholarly articles and resources for your older students. If you're paying taxes to your local library, make it worth it!
Here's a great idea too: Do you have a local college or university? Many universities allow you to purchase a library card for cheap every year to gain access to their catalog as well. The universities we have locally have amazing vintage children's materials that I can't find anywhere else and they even have curriculum like Singapore Math (imagine that)!
Don't forget your school libraries either! A simple phone call will let you know if you can use the library there as a homeschool family. If you're in the school district, many libraries will let you use their books.
4. Ask for a Discount from Sellers/Becoming an Affiliate
If you see a product you love online, ask the sellers directly when they run their biggest sales. Many run a December sale and one in the late summer for back-to-school. Ask if they have discount codes, if they have affiliates who have discount codes or if you are what they're looking for in an affiliate and how you can sign up. It never hurts to ask!
5. Find Funds Through Your School System
Find out if your state or area offers funding for homeschool families and what is covered, if they do. Most schools who offer this have strict requirements (and won't allow any curriculum that has religious materials in it) but you could at least have some covered!
Check to see if your state or area offers a tax deduction or tax credit for homeschool supplies as well. It's not many states, but there are a few!
6. Find Books or Curriculum That is Free or Cheap
Thriftbooks, Facebook marketplace, thrift stores, garage sales, neighborhood "little libraries" and even my own parents' basement and bookshelves are all places I have found some of the books we need for homeschooling!
There are quite a few curricula that are out there that are completely free! I encourage everyone to check out what is available even if you use something else. Our favorite is the one we use, Ambleside Online (amblesideonline.com), obviously. We love it!
7. Use What You Already Have
If you have been homeschooling for any amount of time, you probably have resources on your shelves that you haven't used yet! It happens to us all. When you're planning out your year, especially for subjects that aren't tied to a specific age (like poetry, artist study or literature) plan around what you already have, if at all possible!
8. Borrow Materials From a Friend
Find a friend who is homeschooling and ask if you can peruse their library or borrow some books! I've swapped books with a friend who is using the same curriculum I am and even in the same year. She and I just rearranged our schedule so the books didn't overlap!
9. Choose a Curriculum That is Family Style
Family style learning helps cut down on costs, big time! Usually, then you will only need to buy individual curriculum for each child for a few subjects (like math, reading, etc) rather than all of the subjects!
There are some teaching methods that are cheaper than others, for example, Charlotte Mason or Unschooling will typically be less than a Traditional Method of homeschooling.
10. Give and Request Materials as Gifts
Consider giving materials as gifts. Whether it's a science experiment kit, a pass to a museum, a special copy of a classic book you're reading for school or dance class, there are lots of ways you can sneakily gift your child an educational resources. This is especially great for grandparents who are looking for gift ideas!
You Can Do It for Less! It Is Possible!
Not all of these ideas will apply to your situation specifically, but I do hope that you've found one idea you can consider as you go into planning your year in a frugal way!