Big Classroom Dreams, Small Teacher Budget: 8 Tips to Stretch Your Dollar

By Phil Kitchel posted 06-21-2022 06:00 AM

By  Becky Clark and Lauren Hawks
Creating an inviting classroom environment can be an exciting yet stressful challenge for new teachers. Based upon our experiences as classroom teachers and teacher mentors, we have discovered eight practical suggestions for creating an inviting classroom environment on a limited budget.

New teachers understand the importance of creating a well-managed and welcoming classroom. They recognize that an effective classroom management plan is “the primary determinant of how well students will learn” (Wong et al., 2012). For new teachers, however, budgets may be thin, and they may wonder how to create an inviting classroom environment on such a limited budget. Consider the following ideas to save money while creating the classroom of your dreams.

Social media is your friend when it comes to gathering supplies for your classroom on a dime!

  1. “Wish” upon a list! Create an Amazon “wish list” containing resources to use in your classroom during the upcoming school year. Share your wish list with friends and family through social media. Anything they decide to purchase is delivered straight to your school or front door. Next, join social media groups such as the #ClearTheList global community on Facebook or Clear the List at Get Your Teach On, both of which are dedicated to clearing these lists! Lots of people are willing to help teachers and their students; you just need to find them!
  1. Adopt a “secret” student. Ask family and friends to consider adopting a “secret” student from your class list using Facebook or other social media sites. Volunteers pick a random number that corresponds to your class list and donate supplies, books, end-of-year gifts, or even e-gift cards that will go toward supporting that specific student. People are more eager to donate when they feel a personal connection to where their money is going. 
  1. You buy, they sell. Scour the web for local bargains on classroom items. Try out different “buy-and-sell” apps like VarageSale and Letgo, or Facebook Marketplace, to find great deals. The best part about shopping these virtual yard sales? The bargaining power! Use the power of negotiation to secure things you need. Many sellers may lower the price if they know it’s for a great cause. 
  1. Search the Web. If you’ve thought of it, someone else has probably already made it! The Internet is a goldmine for free educational resources, but properly vet anything you decide to use and assure that it aligns to your objective or standard. Websites like TeachersPayTeachers are helpful launching points for supplemental materials that complement your curriculum. Pinterest is a launching point for spectacular DIY creations.

Not social media savvy? No problem! Check out these suggestions for stretching your teacher dollar: 

  1. Split the bill! Encourage all grade-level team members to chip in for a particular resource that you can all share. Decide to split purchases such as an RTI resource book, math manipulatives, or timers. Steer clear from splitting the cost of things not easily shared like flexible seating, student mailboxes, or membership to an online platform with limited student access. 
  1. Be creative and DIY. Repurpose used household items for practical classroom uses. For example, save and paint empty tin cans and Pringles containers to create unique and inexpensive storage containers for pencils, rulers, scissors, and so on. This is a fun way to incorporate your personal style, classroom theme, or school colors into your teaching space. Students can use their desks as individual whiteboards; you can make individual dry-erase boards by cutting white poster board to fit in gallon-sized plastic bags. Be creative and use what you’ve got! 
  1. Beg, borrow, but don’t steal! Find bargains at yard sales, thrift stores, or clearance racks. Look in your local newspaper for coupons or upcoming sales. You’ll be amazed at the high-quality books and furniture you can find when you take the time to bargain hunt! 
  1. Use administration to your advantage. Have your eye on a resource or set of materials that would greatly benefit your students but you’re not able to afford on your own? Administrators often have a yearly budget set aside for purchasing new school materials. Make a strong case for why your students would benefit from purchasing these materials and see what they say! Have a reason for requesting the materials and develop a plan for exactly how you’d use them in your classroom. As a member of your faculty, you are a trusted professional, so have confidence that your recommendation is beneficial for students. It won’t hurt to ask and shows your passion for student success. 

Concluding Thoughts

A beautifully furnished and impeccably decorated classroom, fully stocked with desired materials, only supplements the most important resource that comes free with your new classroom: you! Student learning begins and ends with your teaching practices, and student success can happen with or without everything that exists in your dream classroom. 

Here are two additional resources to inspire your thinking:
20 Best Money-Saving Tips for Teachers
35 Ways to Make and Save Money as a Teacher

Dr. Clark is a former classroom teacher and K-5 Instructional Coach. Currently, she serves as an Assistant Professor of Education for Liberty University and an Adjunct Professor of Instructional Practice for Lipscomb University. In these roles, she works to prepare undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students for their careers in education.

Mrs. Hawks is a classroom teacher with experience teaching both second and fourth grades. She started her teaching career at a rural K–8 school in Franklin, Tennessee, where creating a dynamic classroom environment was crucial to engaging her students and cultivating their success.


Wong, H., Wong, R., Rogers, K., & Brooks, A. (2012). Managing your classroom for success. Science and Children, 49(9), 60–64.



07-14-2022 09:28 AM

Awesome information! I’ve never heard of Clear the List or Varagesale. I’ll have to check those out. I am very fortunate to have an amazing PTA so I can get several of the items needed for my class through a grant proposal that our PTA is in charge of. Thanks again!

06-25-2022 12:05 PM

@Elizabeth O'Hara I'm so glad you found the information provided in this article helpful! Thanks for reading it!
-Becky Clark​

06-22-2022 10:48 AM

These suggestions are pretty awesome! Some of them I have never thought of before! Thank you!