Posted in Spirited Blessings

Home School How-To #8: Acquiring Everyday Learning Needs On A Dime

Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for homeschooling On A Dime. Some of these are my own ideas and others are from some of my favorite links. Enjoy!

1) Make your own bulletin board from cardboard or foam board and pretty paper.

Find out how I made last year’s bulletin board here. A new bulletin board close to the same size would have been $35.49 at Office Depot, but it was $0 when I made it myself from items I already had around the house.

2) Cutting Practice

Printable cutting practice sheets can be found online. They are really cute, and we will be using them throughout the year to help the children develop their fine motor skills. However, when you don’t have a printer, or when your child wants to do more practicing than planned, have a box like this ready:


After buying our art supplies (we found AMAZING deals for back to school this year), I cut up some of the boxes to create an easy array of adorable  “cutting practice” in heavy paper/ light cardboard. Blueberry Ball (almost five) can cut paper pretty easily, but Raspberry Bug (just turned two) has just recently learned how to hold her scissors. I geared the activity box more toward her skill level and cut the scraps into long, thin strips. I like this idea a lot because it gives me something I can just grab and give to her if when she finishes her work before Blue. Not to mention the only things I had to purchase for this activity were scissors and the box. I also decided to add our hole punch for Blue. Red is too young for that, but he just has soooo much fun with the hole punch and it really works those finger muscles and fine motor skills =)

3) Use baby wipes containers for pencil boxes.

If you use a lot of wipies still in your home, consider buying them in the plastic containers. They are the perfect size for pencils, pens, markers, most sticker sheets, chalk, and more.

It may be more expensive for the wipes themselves, but way cheaper than purchasing the pencil boxes individually. Let’s use Wal-Mart’s Parent’s Choice brand as an example:

  • Bargain Box with 800 sheets: about $1.35 per 80 sheets
  • Plastic container with 80 sheets: $1.88 per 80 sheets

So instead of paying more for baby wipes, you would be paying the same ($1.35) plus $0.33 per pencil box. 😉

4) Make your own paints

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Aside from curricula, paints are perhaps the most expensive items on our school shopping list. Find out how we made paints On A Dime here.


I also love this puffy paint recipe that Heidi at ABC Jesus Loves Me recommends for tactile letters.

Happy Hooligans has 15 Easy Homemade Paint Recipes too, and they always seem to be having fun with their crafts.

5) Collect your own math counters instead of buying the expensive standards. Our math manipulatives are kept in a plastic shoebox individually separated by zip top bags. Each week or two I will change them out so my children never tire of them. And when you use cheap/free items (most of which can be found around your home already), you can afford variety! Our counters include sea shells and small coral found on the local beaches (we are so blessed), aquarium rocks that we’ve just had around forever, water bottle caps, pennies, beads, and cut up straws. That’s just to name a few.

6) Speaking of straws, if you cut them into smaller pieces, they can be used for beading and color recognition like we did here. Or, go with the classic for beading and use uncooked pasta.

7) Use plastic page protectors or clear contact paper to turn your worksheets into dry erasing fun. Or check out my post on how to use zip top baggies to make your own dry erase book.

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It’s cheaper than laminating, and you can reuse worksheets rather than reprinting every time. Save money, time, and energy.  I can’t tell you how much this has saved our budget! My daughter loves her dry erase book and with the new A Beka curriculum needing to last through both children, it has been a much-needed insurance policy.

Note: If you go for contact paper, you may want to place a sturdy backing on it, or hole punch it and place it in a binder. And keep in mind that there are different kinds of contact paper. For dry erase use, you want to make certain that it is the shiny clear kind, not a matte-looking one. I go for the kinds that are designed to protect appliance surfaces.

8) Purchase your books used.


Yeah, you’ve probably already thought of that one. Here are some ways we’ve used to purchase books on the cheap:

  • Garage/yard sales
  • Thrift Shops
  • Flea Markets
  • Book Off (or other used bookstores)
  • Friends who are moving or spring cleaning (can’t tell you how many of our books have come at us that way!)
  • My absolute all time favorite: HPB Marketplace or (if you have the storefront in your area) Half Price Books. You can get almost any children’s book for under three dollars, including board books. That’s on the website; we don’t have a storefront here in Oahu. Last year, we purchased the entire year’s reading list in ABC Jesus Loves Me for about $100! Keep in mind, that cost is including the outrageous shipment cost to Hawaii.

By the way, do look at their shipment policies before starting your shopping cart. You can save money on shipping by ordering from the same stores when possible.

9) Always keep an eye out for the sales. You never know what you may find- or when- or where. You are a home schooler. That has a lot of shopping perks to it. Buy things when they go on absolute sale whenever possible. Back to school “sales” can often be deceiving. I’ve found the best sales are post- back to school. Wait til everyone has completed their lists and go pick up the scraps. In between “Back to school” and the Halloween stock-ups is the perfect time to do your bargain hunting. Just when the stores are trying to clear the shelves from one sale to set up the next.

But, I’m always looking. If I’m at a store- it doesn’t matter what store you can bet I’ll be scouring the office/ crafts/ kid sections for anything on the cheap:

  • I got all of my binders to set up the A Beka program this year from CVS (or Longs as we call it in Hawaii) for 30-40 cents each! The bigger ones, which we weren’t in need of, were only 65 cents! Not bad compared to the normal price of about 8-9 DOLLARS! I also picked up all the eight packs of large erasers they had because they were thirty cents each- and all of the dot stickers they had for twenty cents a pack. And I got four packs of dry erase markers for around a dollar each. Think about it- that’s just because I was in the right place (a pharmacy of all stores) at the right time. You never know what you are going to find.
  • I like Malissa and Doug a little too much probably, but every time I’m in a TJ Max or a Ross, I have to check the kid’s section- and the kid’s clearance section – to add some extra fun to our learning.

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  • I have to mention my all-time favorite store as well (call me a nerd, but yes, it’s an office and craft supply store). Fisher’s Hawaii. It’s an Office supply warehouse to be exact and it’s the only place on the island I can find regularly low prices- I mean mainland-low-sale prices! We got a box of 24 crayons for 20 cents (or rather, I should say we picked up about thirty boxes for twenty cents each), we got those pencil boxes (pictured above) for fifty cents each, markers for a dollar a pack, composition notebooks for ten cents each (including primary!), and fun animal folders for five cents each. That’s just to name a few! I LOVE LOVE LOVE this store.
  • I need to give a shout out to a store I really miss from the mainland as well. If you’ve been homeschooling much at all, I’m sure you’re well aware of this little gem called Dollar Tree. I miss it so much my heart almost aches for it. EVERYTHING in the store is a dollar.

What are some of your favorite ways to educate “On A Dime”? Got any suggestions for us? I’d love to have some fresh ideas for saving money.



My family and I have made a decision to dedicate our lives to serve the Lord. We've started a seaborne, nonprofit Mission organization that is aimed at bringing the gospel and disaster relief to otherwise hard to reach areas. Follow us as we grow together in Him through our average day to day experiences. See how we make a family of five work aboard a small sailboat, follow us in the travels, projects, and experiences of day to day life as we share our calling with those we love.

2 thoughts on “Home School How-To #8: Acquiring Everyday Learning Needs On A Dime

  1. One of my favorite things, although not free, was an annual membership to our zoo. Since we went so often, the family pass paid for itself many times over. That goes for annual museum passes too. Our zoo an museum passes also gained us entry into venues in other parts of the country as well through a reciprocal program.

    Liked by 1 person

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