As a teacher, I wanted to create amazing over the top crafts with my students. Unfortunately I only had a budget of $0.10 per child provided by the school. That’s right, $0.10! I constantly searched for how to get cheap craft supplies. Many teachers are faced with spending money from their own pockets with low pay. We are constantly searching for ways to cut costs on materials, which leads to some creative solutions that I am now sharing with you!
The best way to save money is to lower purchasing costs and aquire as many free materials as possible. These are the purchasing tips I have found over the years:
Amazon is king! I LOVE LOVE LOVE Amazon! You can find bulk craft supplies for low prices and with Amazon Prime it arrives in 2 days. I usually prefer to shop in store but I will gladly shop online with Amazon.
Jo-Ann, Hobby Lobby, and Michael’s make up the trinity in the craft store world. I feel like singing and dancing for joy in these stores! I could literally spend thousands….and that is the problem! Although their craft supplies are top notch and worth every penny, I can’t always afford full price. Fortunately they offer coupons, rewards programs, and sales ALL THE TIME! YES!!!
Jo-Ann has the following programs:
- 15% discount for 4-H members https://www.joann.com/4-h/
- 15% discount for teachers https://www.joann.com/teacher-rewards/
- 15% discount for military https://www.joann.com/military-discount/
- 15% discount for girl scouts https://www.joann.com/girl-scouts/?icn=girl-scouts&ici=footer
- 5% discount plus more savings for resellers, organizations, business owners, and bulk buyers https://plus.joann.com/
Hobby Lobby has their sales and coupons listed here: https://www.hobbylobby.com/find-savings/weekly-ad
You can find savings at Michaels via:
- Bulk buys, Rewards program, price matching and more here https://www.michaels.com/shopandsave
- 15% discount for teachers https://www.michaels.com/teachers
- 15% discount for military https://www.michaels.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-MichaelsUS-Site/default/TaxExempt-TaxTMSLanding?Action=Military
- 10% discount for seniors https://www.michaels.com/on/demandware.store/Sites-MichaelsUS-Site/default/TaxExempt-TaxTMSLanding?Action=Senior
I also love to shop at Dollar Tree and keep my eye out for new deals and products with their loyalty program. You can sign up here https://valueseekersclub.dollartree.com/vsc-create-account
Oriental trading is another online favorite of mine. I started using Oriental Trading with my VBS programs and children’s ministry program many years ago! There are tons of premade craft packs along with supplies. The key here is to buy in bulk and save some cash! There are usually shipping deals for buying in orders over a certain amount. Here is their coupons and sale page- https://www.orientaltrading.com/s3-coupon-promo-code.fltr
Don’t be afraid to make returns
Always save your receipts, and don’t be afraid to return what you do not use! I often buy a bit more then needed to ensure I have enough materials for my project and return anything that I did not open. Any half packs, or unused supplies that I cannot return, I keep to use later. Also be aware of store coupon/sale policies as you may not be able to return products for the same amount you purchased them. In addition, many stores will limit the number of times you can make a return during the year.
Recycled Materials Rock!
Next up is gathering materials you don’t have to pay for! You can do this in a variety of ways. First is saving your leftovers from previous crafts. I don’t know how many times I have been able to use craft leftovers. Simply by saving a leftover half sheet of felt, I can then use it later on for smaller felt pieces like a bow or shape. Pour leftover glitter back into the container. Make your supplies last as long as possible by being conservative!
Teachers-utilize your parents!!! I cannot stress this enough! Give parents a list of materials that they can donate to help subsidize your class projects. From past experience I can say it is not helpful and will not provide results to simply ask parents to donate. Make a list! Send home a sheet of donation requests with every child and post the list where parents will see it. When parents ask if there is anything they can do to help, refer them to the donation list. ( and hopefully you will have volunteer opportunities available as well!) Parents don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for supplies as well, Facebook is an awesome platform to reach out with!
Keep in mind that it is important to ask for things that are easy to collect and donate. Include items that any parent could contribute to. Such as empty bottles that all families could help with to specific supplies like scissors or glitter that a few families could donate. Make sure you let parents know that you are requesting supplies not demanding them. The point is to help ease the burden on you as the teacher for all the costs while including your parents. It is important to create an environment where every family has an opportunity to be engaged in their child’s classroom. Every class list will look a bit different depending on what projects you have planned. These are some common items that are helpful to have on hand for a variety of crafts, activities, and experiments for your classroom (and may give you some ideas as well):
- Empty 2 liters, water/soda bottles, milk jugs, etc. including the lids!
- Empty tissue boxes or cardboard
- Cardboard tubes from paper towels or young living (NOT toilet paper tubes-they are commonly found to be unsanitary and should not be used in the classroom for health reasons!)
- clean sponges
- Old magazines-make sure to always go through each page to ensure there is nothing inappropriate or indecent language cut out before allowing it to go to the kids-you never know what you may find!
- Cheap items like tissue paper, crayons, food coloring, or paper. Basically the supplies you could get from Dollar tree.
- More expensive items like glue, glitter, scissors, colored construction paper, yarn, etc.
You know what is absolutely free?
Now for a more unconventional way to get free supplies-use nature! That’s right I’m talking sticks, rocks, leaves, snow, all of it! Not only are the supplies free but it is a great teaching opportunity for your kids. Also, for teachers it looks great for STARS evaluations to have class projects using nature displayed in your classroom. Here are a few examples of nature crafts I have personally done:
- using rocks, leaves, sticks, and twigs as a paintbrush. Simply have the kids collect supplies during recess and then set out paint, paper, and the collected nature supplies for the kids to have fun with.
- Decorate nature objects. Decorate objects from nature with paint, glitter, glue, and paper.
- Make rock buddies! Get some paint, glue, and googly eyes to make a rock buddy.
- make dried/pressed/preserved flowers
- decorate pinecones to look like pineapples
- fill empty bottles with small rocks and twigs for a nature themed sensory bottle
Create craft projects using materials you already have
Instead of researching for new craft ideas and sourcing new materials, it is a good idea to take stock of your current supplies for new ideas on your current holdings. It is important to periodically go through supplies and use what you have spent so much time and money investing in. If it is not possible to do complete projects with what you have, you may be able to reduce what you need to buy at a minimum. Also check with other parents, teachers, or friends to see if they have any supplies they no longer need as well.
Crafts aren’t just for kids
Remember that you deserve to make something for yourself as well. I personally love the proud feeling when someone compliments a handmade project of mine. I love to release my inner creativity, I find it relaxing and a great way to have some “me time.” It is an activity I have always enjoyed doing with my students, siblings, and my daughter! Look out for my new craft tips here on Towne Creations!