Money Saving Tips for Teachers

I was invited to give a hands-on workshop for teachers at the Educator’s Networking Conference held at Cedar Crest College last weekend, and we had LOTS of fun!! The topic was Creative Money Saving Tips for the Classroom, and we were busy, busy, busy with all sorts of super-frugal classroom activities! I felt so lucky to work with such a great group of teachers!!

Here is a quick recap of the session. If you are a teacher or homeschooler, you may want to bookmark this post for future reference!

Finding Free Supplies — adapted from TeacherVision

  • Appliance store: large boxes, cartons, cardboard, styrofoam peanuts, bubble wrap
  • Carpet store: carpet squares (great for circle time & indoor games), rug samples
  • Florist: ribbon, plastic ties, foil, tissue paper, empty ribbon spools
  • Newspaper: end rolls of newsprint, old newspapers
  • Paint store: paint samples, empty cans, stirrers, discontinued wallpaper sample books (we use wallpaper AND the covers are made from very strong cardboard, perfect for making into large clipboards!
  • Art supply store: rags, paint, crayons, ink (Be sure to apply for a teacher’s discount card.)
  • Pizza parlor: pizza boxes, cardboard circles
  • Bank: coin wrappers, deposit forms
  • Hospital: x-rays, colored file folders
  • Camera shop: 35mm film canisters
  • Liquor store: cartons, lots and lots of boxes
  • Contractor: leftover wood pieces, plastic tubing, bricks
  • Cleaners: hangers
  • Travel agency: travel brochures, pamphlets, maps
  • Supermarket: egg cartons, boxes, paper bags
  • Doctor/dentist: old magazines (save for use as student rewards)
  • Drug store: empty pill bottles, posters, signs
  • Tennis Club: empty tennis ball tubes, flat tennis balls for attaching to the bottoms of chairs/desks.
  • Letter to Parents: Send a letter home with students asking their parents to save supplies for the classroom. Include a short wish list of items. Later, be sure to tie this in with a Language Arts lesson by having the students write thank you notes to their patrons. Thank you notes help foster a sense of gratitude, and it just may help increase future donations!!

3 Different Projects made from Coffee Filters — We love crafting with coffee filters because they are cheap, they hold up well to students who may tend to use lots of water when they paint, and they can easily be found at any grocery store. Here are three sample projects!


Sun Ornaments

Pine Tree Forest

Projects for Pennies — Here are a few projects that literally cost pennies to make!

Build a Kite from a Sheet of Paper – Super fun, easy, and they really fly!

Rewards Chart (Gumball machine made with brown paper bags & color coding labels)

DIY Fabric Wall Decals – Lots of fun possibilities for this!!

— Decorate a Bulletin Board w/Sticky Notes – Spring Mural, Cityscape

Super-Cheap Classroom Reward Ideas

— Free Homework Pass

— Certificate of Achievement

— Dollar Store Items

— Kid magazines collected from pediatrician offices

Online Resources & Other Tips

Inner Child Fun — Hey! That’s me!! You can subscribe to our feed, follow us on Twitter, and/or “Like” us on Facebook! I would love to connect with you!! — Find out how to earn rewards for your classroom, plus lots of free Highlights printables for fun in the classroom!

We Teach Group — A highly engaged online forum made up of parents, teachers, homeschoolers, and early childhood educators. Terrific resource for classroom ideas! — Send in a proposal, and you may have donors fund your classroom project! — Take your Invention Kit to the next level with Makedo, a set of connectors & hinges for building structures from cardboard. Visit the Makedo website to sign up for teacher’s resources including building sheets with detailed instructions on how to build a specific project & ideas for related classroom discussion topics.

No Time for Flashcards — Allie has worked hard to create a very accessible online resource for parents and teachers. Her site is filled with learning activities, books, songs, and educational play ideas!

Getting Messy with Ms. Jessi — If you are in the Phoenix area, Ms. Jessi was kind enough to inform me of a place there called “Treasures 4 Teachers” which collects donated items from companies such as: paper, binders, and other school supplies. A fantastic idea!!

Raising Leafs — A fun blog by a homeschooling mom, Erika advises to use what you already have on-hand. For example, for math manipulatives, they use Legos, blocks, and barrel o’ monkeys. She also loves finding books at the Salvation Army for a quarter!

Know When to Shop — Many of our readers said that shopping for supplies during back-to-school sales was FAR cheaper than any other time of the year!

Audio Books — Instead of buying expensive audio books, try Audacity, a free software program to record your own. Burn files onto audio CDs or download onto an iPod!

It was a really FUN workshop, and I hope to be invited back for next year’s conference — fingers crossed!

Do you have a money-saving tip for the classroom that I forgot to add?? Leave a comment and share your ideas with us!


  1. Wow, great post, Valerie!
    Thanks a lot!

  2. love it glad it went well . i still can not get my pine trees to stand lol

  3. Elisha Brewer says

    This is a great workshop idea. I have to give a workshop on anything relating to early childhood education for a class. I wasn’t sure what focus I wanted to present. if I decide to go with this similar idea could I use some it your information, how would that work do you know? I’d definatly want to cite my references and make sure proper credit is given. thanks Elisha

    • Hi Elisha,

      Feel free to include a link back to this post, or better yet — the blog! Best of luck to you!! xoxo

  4. Valerie,
    Thank you for my mention! T4T has a great website, which I should of including earlier. Here it is:

    Your post is great! I’m definitely going to bookmark it. 🙂

    • I’ve updated the post to include the link — thanks!! 🙂 BTW, we love your blog!!

  5. Have printed this off for my kid’s teachers.


    QLD, Australia

  6. If you like to use Post-It Notes (wink, wink), they have a whole section of teacher’s activity ideas here:

  7. I am going to save it for our teachers too, and I hope they are half as inventive and creative as you are.

  8. What a cool workshop! Thanks for sharing these tips and resources!

  9. Thanks for the link! I love reading your blog. You have so many great ideas!

  10. For audio books – make use of the library – you can’t beat their price!

  11. Ooohhh, there’s some fun new sites for me to check out.

    Friends are a great source for extra materials. If you give them the heads up they’ll happily save recyclables for you.

  12. Awesome website list!

  13. Great ideas.
    Thank you.

  14. Architects! Old blueprints are a favorite resource of mine. Where else can you get giant sheets of white paper? Works as an underlay for messy projects, as wrapping paper, flip-board paper, etc.

    Now to forward this to the teachers at my kids’ school!

  15. great list, valerie : ) thanks for the ideas and suggestions. doing preschool stuff on a shoestring budget definitely requires a lot of creativity and thinking outside of the box.

  16. What a comprehensive list! I’m sharing this on FB for all my teacher friends to see.