You’ve recently been hired for your first teaching job! Congratulations! Summer can be a crazy time for new teachers. There’s curriculum planning to do, school district meetings to attend, and, of course, a classroom to set up. While the process of setting up your first classroom can be fun and exciting, it can also become expensive, especially for teachers working with a tight teacher salary. As you begin your classroom prep, here are a few of my favorite tips for maximizing your new teacher budget!
Ask about district reimbursement programs.
Many school districts have a general fund in place to support new teachers in setting up their classrooms. In some cases, school supplies and other classroom items can be ordered on your behalf. You may have the opportunity to put forth order requests for many of the supplies you will need for the upcoming year. If you have been hired after the supply order has been placed, ask whether or not supplies have already been ordered on your behalf. Many schools or teaching teams will proactively order essential supplies for open teaching positions.
Other districts may offer reimbursement for purchases you make using your own money. This could apply to Teachers Pay Teachers resources, classroom decor, and other school supplies. While there are typically stipulations and limitations for what the reimbursements can be used for, programs such as these can at least help cover a portion of your first year startup costs.
Look into professional development budgets.
Some school districts have extra money set aside specifically for teacher professional development. This money could be used for purchasing your own courses relating to your subject matter. It could also apply to books or curriculum resources that you purchase in order better prepare yourself for your first time teaching in your own classroom.
When it comes to professional development for first-year teachers, I highly recommend checking out my Ultimate Guide to Classroom Management. This e-book contains 118 pages of practical tips and strategies for managing a middle school classroom. It’s a resource I created after I struggled as a first-year teacher. I know this book will come in handy throughout your year. (Bonus points if your district will reimburse you for this professional development resource.)
Scope out local library sales.
Every classroom needs a classroom library. I don’t care what subject or grade level you teach, education statistics show that having teachers of all disciplines and content areas show support for literacy programs by making good books accessible within the classroom will only benefit student performance across subject areas. How do you build a classroom library full of engaging books (especially when even the basic supplies needed for the year cost so much money?!)
Library sales are a great way to build a collection of books for very little money.
Most local libraries will periodically review and purge their collection of books to make room for new releases. When this happens, they often hold a sale open to re-home the books that will no longer occupy the library shelves. These books are typically significantly discounted (I’m talking less than $1.00 in many cases!!) and often still in great condition. Give your local library a call and ask about upcoming library book sales.
Public libraries aren’t the only ones that occasionally need to purge excess books. School libraries and other classroom teachers regularly do the same thing. Consider asking your school librarian or other teachers in your building about a book drive or if they have any books that could use a new home.
Shop online marketplaces.
Online shopping using marketplaces, such as Facebook Marketplace or Teachers Pay Teachers, are great places to find a variety of resources for building your dream classroom. While Teachers Pay Teachers obviously focuses on digital download products (such as lesson plans or classroom posters) you can find additional supplies on your wish list from Facebook Marketplace. Many of these items are discounted, and if you’re really lucky, you may even find a few free treasures!
Interested in flexible seating? Try searching Facebook Marketplace for some unique chairs. Planning to use guide some guided reading lessons? Teachers Pay Teachers is full of resources that can help. Here are a few examples:
Tour the local yard sales.
It’s very common in the summer for different neighbors to host community-wide yard sales. Yard sales are the “in-person” version of Facebook Marketplace. The only difference is that you can potentially get a whole bunch of items in just a few hours, rather than selecting one item at a time over the course of weeks. This is a great way to save so much time and, potentially, lots of money.
Things I like to look for at yard sales:
- Books for the classroom
- Bookshelves (something needs to hold all of those books, right?)
- Furniture in good shape (chairs, tables, etc.)
- Board games
- Storage containers (baskets, boxes, etc.)
Ask about previous teacher supplies.
You are more than likely inheriting a previous teacher’s classroom. Before you, there was someone else. In most cases, teachers do not take every supply with them when they leave a teaching job (this is especially true when someone retires from teaching.)
Ask about the previous teacher’s supplies. Are there items that have been put in storage that you could have access to? Do your classroom cabinets contain resources that might be helpful for your instruction. While you’ll certainly want to put your own stamp on the classroom and instruction, making use of leftover supplies from your predecessor can be a convenient way to save money.
Survey other teachers.
Although things may feel sparse as you enter into your first year of teaching, over time you will probably accumulate more than you ultimately need. This is definitely the case for other teachers in your building. Start asking around! There are more than likely other teachers looking to purge and unload excess supplies or even classroom furniture they’ve collected over the years.
Set up a wish list.
What items do you need for a successful year? What are the essentials? The “would be nice” items? I highly encourage you to spend some time thinking about your classroom needs and writing these items down on a list. Not only will this help focus your personal classroom shopping and cut down on unnecessary spending, but it also provides others with the opportunity to contribute to your classroom. (Not sure what to put on a wish list? Here are some examples!)
Where can you share this list?
Many teachers will create an Amazon wish list that can be easily shared on social media. You may find that there are friends or family members that would love to show their support of your new career with the purchase of dry erase markers or construction paper.
Even better, however, is to share your list with the parents of your incoming students. This can be added to a “Welcome to my class” letter or email you send out. Think about it…no one is more invested in the student school experience than the parents of those students. You’ll find that many parents are often happy to contribute supplies that will impact or enhance their child’s experience in your classroom.
Buy unit bundles rather than individual resources.
When it comes to buying instructional resources (particularly those offered on Teachers Pay Teachers) I always recommend looking for unit bundles. Yes, it’s a higher upfront cost than buying a single resource, but you’ll save money in the long run by purchasing a unit bundle (which typically discounts the cost of individual items) than buying one single activity or lesson at a time.
Not only that, but buying whole units offers some cohesion and guiding direction to your lesson planning, which can be hugely helpful, especially in your first years as a teacher. Here are a few of my favorite unit bundles. Check them out!
Interested in purchasing one of my resources?
Let me try to convince you that the products I’m offering are worth your hard-earned cash. (Or you can always apply for reimbursement through your school.)
I work hard so you don’t have to. Finding useful resources for your lesson is a lot of work. Making them is even more work. Whenever I can, I always trade money for time. A couple dollars to reimburse another classroom teacher for their efforts in creating valuable resources is seen as a fair trade according to thousands of positive reviews.
My resources are high quality. Most of my resources come in both PDF and digital format to support you in face-to-face, virtual, or hybrid learning models. Having multiple representations is always useful for differentiation. My resources also include an easy-to-use answer key and high-quality images, graphics, and explanations where needed.
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