Mar 132017
 
Last year I saved 70% over regular prices on curriculum and homeschooling materials.  I didn’t pay full price for a single item.  Over the past year I’ve found myself explaining my “secret” to others so often that I decided it’s time to write down my “strategy”.

 

There is no secret, I am just on a tight budget and can’t afford to spend the hundreds of dollar per child that I see some people spending.  So here is how I made it work.

 

The best way to save is to plan ahead and be ready to order the moment a good deal appears.  This is also helpful when on a tight budget because you are able to spread out your purchases over time instead of spending a lot of money at once.  We don’t get a big tax refund like some homeschoolers so we can’t buy everything at once and be done with it.

The plan:

I start my planning in February with the goal to finish shopping by the beginning of August.

 

Make a shopping list

This may seem obvious but if you don’t know what you are buying it’s easy to get carried away or buy more than you need.  In February of every year I analyze what we used, what we like that we want to buy again next year and research anything new that we want to use.  I create a list of everything that we have decided to purchase and then we move to the next step.

 

Learn the prices

This is important, you don’t know if you are getting a good deal if you don’t know what the prices are.  My shopping list includes regular price or MSRP for each product so that I can easily see if a posted deal is a good one.

 

Some stores overstate the regular price of the item to make it seem like you are saving more than you truly are, you won’t fall for this if you have the regular price listed on your shopping list.

 

Also part of this research is to be familiar with used price trends.  Some curriculum resells for cents on the dollar while others resell for prices near their new prices.  Based on these trends I evaluate what my “goal” price will be.  My goal is usually 50% savings on used books, 20% on new books and 25% on workbooks, this is the bare minimum savings that I want to achieve, I usually do better than that.

 

The website CamelCamelCamel provides pricing history on items from Amazon so that you can see how the New and Used pricing has fluctuated over time.

 

Become familiar with the market

There are many different options for shopping for online curriculum and your mileage will vary.  There are discount online sellers like the Homeschool Buyers Co-op and Educents that provide savings on new materials and there are used sellers like Homeschool Classifieds and Thriftbooks that offers great deals on used materials.  Amazon and Ebay can also sometimes yield some great deals.  There are also many Facebook B/S/T groups for used homeschool curriculum.

 

Look for local markets, check for a Facebook curriculum trade group in your area and you can save money on shipping.  Some Co ops and homeschool groups also host annual curriculum swaps which can be very convenient, specially if you want to look at the content of a book before deciding to buy.

 

Check prices regularly

Decide which methods you feel most comfortable buying from and check their prices regularly.  You can setup alerts to be notified when an item that you want is listed on Ebay.  Thriftbooks has a wishlist feature and you can request to be notified when an out of stock item becomes available.

 

I always setup price tracking for Amazon using CamelCamelCamel, I set my desired price for the item and they e-mail me when the Amazon price drops to that level.

 

I also set up a “Wanted” listing on Homeschool Classifieds.

 

There are so many Facebook curriculum trade groups that I don’t check them all, if there is an item that I am having trouble finding I will create an “ISO” (In Search Of) post, just be sure to be familiar with the group’s rules as some have specific ways that they want you to do this.

 

Even if you only want to buy new materials, it pays to shop around.  Also check for places that offer teacher discounts. I tend to buy workbooks new but never at full price.  If Amazon doesn’t give me at least a 20% savings, I will wait until Barnes and Noble has their Educator Appreciation Days and save 25% buying it from them with my Educator Card.

 

Be Ready to Buy

When you find the item that you want for the price that you want, don’t hesitate to order.  Unless this is a sale by a store on a new item, pricing and availability can change faster than the stock market.  This is specially important on Amazon, Ebay and Facebook groups.

 

Verify before you pay

Depending on the shopping site that you are using, information on used items may be very limited.  Don’t hesitate to ask questions and request pictures before paying to ensure that you are getting the item that you want.  On Homeschool Classifieds I have found it important to verify the ISBN number on books as some sellers try to sell a 20 year old edition of the book.  That may be ok depending on subject but you want to know what you are paying for.

 

Also look at shipping costs.  Sometimes a book is a good deal until you factor in shipping price and then it costs almost as much as buying new or it’s more expensive than buying it used elsewhere.

 

If buying from a person that you don’t know, I recommend paying with Paypal to protect your money if the person doesn’t ship or the item is not as described, do not use the “Personal” or “Friends and Family” option as that doesn’t provide you with the buyer protection.

 

Don’t forget about your purchase

Remember that shopping list?  Make sure you mark what you bought, when, from whom, and how much you paid.  This not only lets you know how much you saved, but it prevents duplicate purchases (I see it happening often) and it protects your money because if something goes wrong you have the data to research the status of the order and file a claim with your card or Paypal before it’s too late to submit it.

 

Some may think that this process is time consuming but a small time investment translates into hundreds of dollars in savings (last year I saved $290) so that makes it worth it for me.  You can do a lighter version of this and still save some money to stretch your homeschool dollar.
Feb 212017
 

It’s not often that I take a step back and look in to see how many hats I am wearing, no wonder I am overwhelmed!

  • I homeschool 1st grade and preK on children with different learning styles
  • I am a Breastfeeding Counselor for the Health Department “on call” 7 days a week until 9pm, except holidays.
  • I volunteer as a leader for La Leche League and I am pretty much “on call” 24/7/365
  • I am the Director of Finance of a national nonprofit organization
  • I have a freelance business doing Virtual Bookkeeping and WordPress Websites and this time of year is the busy season
  • I am the webmaster and editor for a local homeschooling resource website
  • I am the webmaster for several non profits
  • I am a Beta reader and reviewer for several authors
  • My kids are now in a scouting group, while not super time consuming, it does add more things to the calendar.
  • I still have to keep the house from falling apart (laundry, dishes, cooking, sweeping, mopping, scrubbing toilets… you know how the list goes…)

So while I may stay at home 6 out of 7 days of the week, I am definitely not twiddling my thumbs!

Add to that a recent cyberstalking nightmare that makes me want to turn into an internet hermit…

So yes, no wonder I haven’t been able to keep my promise to update you more often. Lately there just haven’t been enough hours in the day. But I am here, we are healthy and eventually the dust will settle and hopefully the muses will visit me at the same time that I have some spare time to write.

Meanwhile I am using my little spare time on house projects and planning next year’s curriculum shopping list (spoiler: We are using The Critical Thinking Company products again!). In the meantime, you can get glimpses on our day to day on Facebook and Instagram, both updates show on the sidebar of this website.

Dec 302016
 

There have been a lot of changes for our family lately and that has been affecting my writing.

After weeks of stress and uncertainty we finally realized the American dream and purchased a house. The month of November was spent in the chaos of moving and trying to get settled in. I still have about 20-30 boxes to unpack in the garage but we are making steady progress.

My latest project, Treasure Coast Homeschooling, has been growing and I’ve been spending time on that. I also had to do some updates to my freelance website Florida Virtual Bookkeeper. And adding to my addiction for taking on projects, I am now a leader for my children’s Spiral Scouts circle. This meant that some time was spent working on their website and taking the mandatory leader training.

When I finally sat down to write I discovered some issues with the back end of this website that then took some time to fix (all good now!).

All of the above + trying to settle in and the craziness of the holidays barely left time for homeschooling so writing seemed to always end up at the bottom of the list. I have still been active on Facebook and Instagram so those of you that follow me there know that we are alive and well.

My youngest child

I want to introduce my new assistant, Reese. She is a 6 month old calico kitten that keeps my lap warm and relaxes me with her purring while I write. Sometimes she’ll edit my writing by walking across the keyboard so I apologize in advance if I miss a typo that she may have added after a final draft.

I usually don’t do New Years Resolutions because I know that I won’t keep them but my goal for 2017 is to be more steady with my updates. I am not going to be ambitious and promise that I’ll post weekly although that would be great if it happened but I will at least aim for monthly posts so we won’t have this 2+ month gap that just happened because life got in the way.

In a couple of days I’ll update with more info about how homeschooling is going and our holiday. In the meantime, I thank you all for reading and wish you a very happy new year.