It’s the equivalent of giving a 6-year-old a shopping cart at Toys R Us. It’s exciting, exhilarating, overwhelming, and can be budget busting. It’s the NCHE Thrive! 2016 homeschool conference and if your frugal homeschooling family has never been, you are in for a treat. If you are a seasoned attendee, read on for some money saving tips.
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The Thrive! 2016 NCHE Conference Vendor Hall. You’ve heard about this splendid display of all things learning. There are bright colors, fancy workbooks, crisp pages just begging to be stroked with the tip of your brilliant prodigy’s pencil. There are manipulatives, videos, chemistry beakers, dissection kits, Lego sets, books to teach you everything from ABCs to advanced theology. And it is all there just begging to go home with you. It is too easy to be seduced by all of the amazing offerings at a homeschool convention, but for some of us it’s like being on a diet and going through a buffet line. You only have so much money in your budget, but one could easily drop thousands upon thousands of dollars, after all it is for the advancing of our youngest malleable minds. Not to worry, you will be learning some tricks from the most seasoned of shoppers.
Tip#1 Make a list
Sounds simple, right? Think about this in terms of the grocery store, if you go to the grocery store without a list, and even slightly hungry, you can spend triple what you would with a well-planned list of items you need for your upcoming school year. Your list need not be overly specific; it could be general categories like “math for 7th grade, grammar for 2nd grade, art for preschool.” But without a specific and identifiable list, you are more likely to fall prey to impulse buys and you may still turn up wanting for certain subject areas of your homeschool.
Tip# 2 Consider buying by the subject
Many a well-meaning homeschooling mom will do what seems easiest, and just purchase big box curriculum. By this, I am referring to the whole grade level kits. While possibly easier in theory, you can also end up with a lot of waste. Each child is a unique individual and they each have areas that they will excel in, as well as areas that may be more challenging. For this reason, consider buying your curriculum by the piece. Your child may not need 3 workbooks for mastering phonics, maybe this is an area that they excel in, your child may be more advanced in mathematics and although the box set of curriculum is geared towards your 4th grader, his math level may be more that of a 6th grader. By purchasing your curricula separately you can tailor it to each child’s needs without waste of books that are not useful, challenging, or a good fit.
Tip #3 Pack snacks
This is a multifold suggestion. If you have children with you, they will undoubtedly become hungry and fidgety at some point. Save that well-earned cash for books and supplements, don’t spend it on expensive food items. With this suggestion do be respectful though and not peruse the aisle of books with your snack in hand, find a location that food is allowed and park it a moment. This also gives you time to reconsider purchases you are thinking of making. You saw something that really looked like a good buy but it will eat a large chunk of your budget. Don’t impulse buy, go chew on it… literally.
Tip #4 Set a budget and STICK to it!
Don’t let the suave salesperson at a curricula table convince you that you can’t wait on an item. Yes, often vendors do have specials during the conferences, however, Christianbook.com and Rainbow Resources also run specials throughout the year. Many of the curricula vendors also offer free shipping on their sites for homeschool convention attendees (usually for a limited time). So if you have hit your budget, STOP. You then can write down the items that you want to purchase in the future, when money allows, and get them later. Even if you have to purchase them next September, it will be okay.
Tip #5 Consider used
In the first few years when you are building a homeschool library, expenses can seem monumental. Don’t let this discourage you. Many parents take the approach of spending the most on their oldest child, knowing that they can keep the curricula for their next few children to use as well. Don’t discount buying some of these items used. The conventions are a great place to really get your hands on the books; if you are a visual person this is imperative. But then, step back; write down the ISBN number, the title, edition number and maker of the product you are looking for. When you get home, hit up eBay and craigslist. NOTE: used items are cheapest on EBay and the 2nd hand market in September and October because most have purchased their curricula. You can literally save hundreds buying during these months. And of course, don’t forget about used curriculum sales groups on Facebook, and be sure to check out Homeschool Curriculum Free for Shipping.
Tip# 6 Check out your homeschool convention’s website
You can sometimes stumble upon really good giveaways there. For example, the Thrive! 2016 conference has giveaways for early registration. I’ll be hosting one here in the next couple of weeks – be sure to subscribe or follow me so you won’t miss it!!! You can win 30% off at select vendors just for planning, preparing, and not being a last minute registration. The website (for any conference you attend) will have information on speakers, workshops, vendors, and a host of other details. If you are REALLY on a TIGHT budget, consider buying a vendor hall pass only. You can make a list of 2-3 of the workshops you really would have loved to attend, and then often those speakers have CDs of their presentation that you can purchase very reasonably and listen to on the way home. It isn’t the same, but in a pinch, you can still get some encouragement and save a little bit of money.
Tip #7 Ask for what you need
Don’t be afraid to just ask. When you are visiting a vendor table, talk to the vendor, make friendly conversation and don’t hesitate to ask for what you need. If you are really impressed by an item they have for sale and it is not in your budget, ask if there is a free shipping code for later use. Ask if there are ever sales on their websites that you can take advantage of. Ask if they ever have seconds or used curricula returned to them that they sell. Ask if there are upcoming releases of new editions which may cause them to mark down last year’s edition. Many of these vendors are more than willing to work with a customer rather than lose a sale. This is especially true of the smaller vendors who have created something fantastic, but may be just now showcasing it. Word of mouth goes a LONG way so if they treat their customers good and fairly, you and others will refer them to your friends.
Tip #8 Go to window shop
If you are VERY new to homeschooling, perhaps you haven’t even started yet, or you are just entertaining the idea of homeschooling as an educational option, go to the NCHE 2016 convention. You will be amazed, encouraged, and blown away by what is available to you. Many a mom who was just curious about the “homeschooling thing” have gone to a convention only to walk away with a deep sense of purpose that this is the best option for their family. Window shop, see what is available to you. You are surrounded by people who all have at least one thing in common, they believe in some aspect of home education. Ask other parents while you are browsing, what do you like about this curricula? Ask vendors why theirs is the one you should be interested in, just see what is out there. Window shop the vendors, listen to the speakers, get a feel for this world, you will walk away enriched in some way, this is a promise.