While it's still a fact of life that teachers must pay out-of-pocket for classroom supplies, we do have control over how much we are willing to spend. Read the suggestions below and pick the ones that suit your preferences to create a budget that is just right for you.
• Set aside a certain amount every payday to spend on school supplies, and stick to it. Once that amount is gone, you are finished spending until next payday.
Digital Tip: Try making a spreadsheet on your computer, or use an app such as Budget Notes (available for iOS).
• Open up a separate bank account strictly for professional use. Transfer funds from your main account on payday, or whenever you have a little extra.
• Buy gift cards for the stores where you regularly buy teaching supplies.
Digital Tip: Install the Gyft app (available for iOS and Android) on your smartphone or tablet. Not only can you buy gift cards directly through the app, you can also add your physical cards so you don't have to carry them with you!
• Make a list and organize items by priority.
• Alternatively, make one list for essentials and another for non-essentials.
• Another approach is to divide your list into categories, and tackle one category at a time.
• Make an online wish list. Include everything you need and enter a quantity for each. Post the URL for the wish list on your class Web page, announcement board, newsletters, or supply lists. Keep the list updated, and tell parents to check it often if they would like to contribute.
Digital Tip: If you make a wish list on Amazon, you can drag a bookmarklet to your browser that lets you add a product from any website — not just Amazon — so all your requested items can be on one list.
• If you'd rather go the low-tech route, write each of your needs on a separate paper using a star, heart, or other design, and let parents pick one any time they come into the room.
• For the more expensive items you don't feel comfortable requesting from parents, there's always Donors Choose. Any number of businesses and individuals can donate to your project. Just be aware that the process may take awhile. (In other words, this isn't the place to ask for things you need immediately.)
Digital Tip: Get your friends involved. Anyone can create a Giving Page for any project, school, location, or subject. Friends can rally other friends, companies can rally employees or customers, and bloggers can rally readers. Donations can even be requested in lieu of birthday or wedding gifts, or to honor someone's memory.
• Hold a classroom fundraiser. Send a flyer home to your parents that you will be selling baked goods, pencils, etc. Most likely they will be more than happy to contribute a few cents for needed supplies, and it will make both parents and students feel like part of the class community.
Digital Tip: If you're doing a search rather than a direct request, and your search doesn't yield satisfactory results, try using different keywords. To see what people are offering, for instance, you could search for "teaching supplies," "teacher supplies," or "educational supplies." You could take off the word "supplies" altogether, or replace it with the word "materials." Different words and combinations will produce different results. Keep trying!