Tuesday, July 12, 2016

How to Save Money as a Special Education Teacher

I can't possibly be the only who has noticed how much social media is affecting my wallet. And not just in the world of teaching. In life in general. I follow fashion bloggers and interior designers on instagram that make me feel like I need to always be re-decorating my house and stocking up my closet.

I've also noticed how out of hand this trend is getting in education as well. I run an Instagram account for my blog and I follow a ton of teachers also on Instagram so I can get great ideas from them. But it is so easy to get carried away with determining what you ACTUALLY need for your classroom and what is just filled with hype.

I've made a list of 5 money saving strategies I've begun to implement to help my pockets when it comes to the classroom. 

1. Sleep on It

As exciting as a lot of the things other educators may share on Instagram are (hello light boxes), as a special education teacher there are A LOT of things that really just aren't practical or necessary for our classrooms. When there's a lot of hype around a product being shared a lot on instagram, blogs, facebook, etc. It's hard to resist. Everyone has made it seem so fun and exciting and you want in on the action. I can't help but compare this to the recent light box craze. Don't get me wrong-- light boxes = awesome. The signs teachers are making for them = also awesome. BUT how would I realistically utilize this in my classroom? Just as a decor piece? If so, it's not something that I NEED. Could I use it during instruction with my students to make it fun and engaging? If so, then maybe I can score it on sale. But first, let's sleep on it. Before jumping in the car and running to closest craft store, sleep on the idea. Really give it a lot of thought. How can I use this item and what can I use it for? Is it going to be that beneficial to my instruction? If you end feeling like yes it is, then you know it's a purchase worth your money. If you just want one because everyone has made it seem so fun and exciting, then do yourself a favor and save that cash.

2. If It's Not Broken, Don't Fix It

Just because someone shares about something really awesome they've found, again, doesn't mean it's something you have to have or do. I LOVE containers. My para told me the hallway looked like the container store when I was moving out my classroom this year. I love containers so much I will passionately share with you my favorite ones on Instagram. BUT unless you're in NEED of new containers don't run out and by them because I said how great they are. If you already have bins for your books, use what you have! For example, I LOVE the magazine boxes that everyone keeps sharing from Big Lots. They would be awesome to put my books in. They look sturdy and they look like they hold books that are a little larger too. But I don't NEED them. I have containers for my books, and plenty of them. I have found great bins at the Dollar Tree for my books and I've had a lot of these bins for 6 years and they are still intact. It would be frivolous of me to go out and buy all new book bins at $3 a pop just because I liked the style or color. As my existing bins begin to break, THEN I can consider switching to this new style everyone raves about. But for now, I'll save that cash.

3. Donations

Asking for donations can actually be tough for some people. You feel like you're asking for handouts, but as a teacher you should never feel this way! You're asking for others to help you shape and mold the minds of our future! When I first started my toy boxes for my students to help increase picture exchange communication trials I was in need of A LOT of toys, and a lot of character toys. You know, the ones that usually cost twice as much as the store and are sometimes hard to come by at a thrift store, but these items are SO motivating for most students so I knew I had to have them. I sent out an email to my entire district. Explaining to them what I was doing and asking if their children had any small toy items they no longer played with. I gave them an option of where to drop them off or even offered to pick them up. I had an amazing turn out! Enough toys to start my new project and I knew that I could continue to shop yard sales, thrift stores, and clearance sections to work on adding boxes over time. What could have been a very expensive project to get going became very reasonable.

4. Donors Choose & Reddit Gifts

I know Donors Choose is probably something most of you have heard of. You've maybe heard of Reddit Gifts. That one is new to me and I used it back around Christmas time for the first time. And don't be discouraged with Donors Choose! I've had some projects funded and some haven't made it. But you never know until you try so why not give it a go! I've found these outlets to be great for getting that special item for your classroom you don't realize you need until that one particular kiddo walks through the door. Or maybe it's November and you realize you need some new sensory toys/fidget items and those can add up VERY quickly. With both groups, if they supply you with the materials they MUST remain at that school you are at the time they are given. I'm okay with that. Yes I did the work to get them, but at least I didn't have to pay my own cash for them and they're a benefit to my students. I had table tops for my cube chairs funded through Donors Choose and sensory toys purchased for my classroom through Reddit Gifts during their Secret Santa exchange.

5. Plan Ahead 

This one can be tricky depending on the time of the year and how much time you have to devote to lesson planning. But I always try to plan a few weeks ahead. If nothing else, at least plan any "themes" that I have in mind for the time ahead. How can this help you save money? Well, we are all huge fans of Teachers Pay Teachers, but we know sales don't happen that often, especially site wide sales where you save the bigger bucks. By planning ahead with your lesson plans can buy ahead of time during these sales to save on your must have resources. AND don't forget about your TpT credits! TpT gives you credits for leaving feedback on items you have purchased. Buying during sales always leads to a lot of credits for me. THEN when I realize I need something last minute I can use my TpT credits to purchase it, versus opening my wallet.

I hope these are some tips and strategies you can use to help keep that wallet a little tighter before the school year gets here. It's easy for stuff to get out of hand in the summer. So many people are sharing about so many awesome finds for their classroom-- eh hem, Target Dollar Spot. But don't let yourself get carried away. Make smart purchases and sleep on them! I promise you you can live without the rainbow colored file folders and cute pencil felt banner from the Dollar Spot :) Do you have any money saving tricks you use? Share them below!



Pam said...

So many good reminders! Social media definitely impacts my wallet, too! One of my goals for this year is to spend less. Your post will be a good help in that regard!

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