Posted in Homeschooling

Curriculum shopping when broke…

…It CAN be done!

This is the 3rd year in a row that I’ve done it.

I am thrilled to report that I am DONE shopping for next year’s curriculum. I know that I say that I am done every year and then buy more later but at least I am done with my core shopping list and anything else is just gravy.

I always like to get this shopping done early in the year because everybody else’s birthday in my house is in July so things get expensive for me starting with Father’s Day and I wouldn’t be able to do any homeschool shopping then.

I still managed to save a good chunk of money but not as much as last year mostly because of some supplemental purchases and 2 of the books were harder to find used so their used price was higher than I usually pay but it was all worth it.

The final stats curriculum for 2 kids =
$137 spent with a savings of 63% over retail.

If we don’t count my supplemental purchase of 2 Reading Eggs (discounted of course) and some workbooks I impulse-bought at Aldi the total would have been $103 and the savings 73%.

To make it easy on the wallet the expenses were spread out between the months of January and May and the most I paid at once was $27.

It may be more time consuming that just going to an online catalog and clicking “Buy Now” but the savings when every penny counts are more than worth it.

Now all I have left 2 buy is 2 notebooks that I’ll pick up at Walmart when they are on sale for $0.18 during their Back to School Sale. I am swimming in pencils, crayons, glue and construction paper so we are good with the rest.

Coming soon, what I bought to use for next year.

Posted in Homeschooling

How to save money on homeschool curriculum

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.
Posted in Homeschooling

Exclusive Planner Offer- Hurry!

As you already know, I switched to Lessontrek online planner late last school year and I’ve been happy with how much peace and time savings it’s given my type A/perfectionist self.

Drag and Drop lessons
Entered in the wrong date? Life happened and you need to reschedule? Just drag and drop

When I used a paper planner I hated making mistakes because I wanted everything to look perfect. So when I made an error last week and didn’t notice that I entered all of the assignments on the wrong date on Lessontrek, it wasn’t a big deal as I was able to just drag and drop the assignments to the correct date. It took seconds to fix and I didn’t have to type anything over.

I am also saved a lot of time and typing as I am able to copy the previous week to use as a template and just change as necessary. Record keeping has become so quick and easy! You can read my previous review here.

Save Money!

Lessontrek is offering an exclusive deal to my readers to save $45 on a year subscription to their online planner. So for less than the cost of the average homeschool paper planner you can get a full year of ease and convenience. You can only get the code here but hurry! it expires on August 24th, 2016.

To claim your special offer go to https://www.lessontrek.com/signup and select the “Annual Subscription” Box. Make sure that you enter the code HM45 in the Discount Code section to get your special rate.

This code will only work with the annual option and the discount will apply for the first year. If you don’t want to be charged again just make sure that you cancel before the year is up.

Tell your friends!