Walk into any Target, Walmart, or Staples after the Fourth of July and you'll find aisles packed with pristine, colorful, new school supplies. While some teachers find this depressing, others are exhilarated and excited by back-to-school discounts and stuff their carts with sale items.
But when you're surrounded by the shiny new knickknacks and gadgets, it can be hard to determine which supplies are the ones you should take back to your classroom. Over my long teaching career, I've learned that taking advantage of deals and spending money on items to improve your classroom appeal, student engagement, and comfort will go much further than simply restocking pencils and pens.
Further Reading: Financial Planning for Teachers: 10 Tips I Wish I Knew
Here are some ideas on the best items to purchase when school begins and where to find the best discounts on teaching supplies.
Teachers need to be extremely organized, and keeping order in your classroom and teaching your students organizational skills requires having good systems in place. It might be difficult to know exactly what you need to better organize your classroom. Check out classroom organization ideas on Pinterest, Really Good Stuff, and other inspiration board–type sites, decide what you like, figure out what you need, and then see if you can find it—or something similar—in the back-to-school sales in stores.
You can also find back-to-school deals through The Container Store's Organized Teacher Discount Program, which offers teachers discounts on organization supplies throughout the school year. Sign up by the end of the calendar year to take advantage of the program.
If you want to update your room with flexible seating options, you'll likely shoulder that expense. My classroom started off with nothing more than desks, but the seating options grew over the years to include a combination of desks, tables, comfy chairs, exercise balls, and bean bags. I found many of these items by regularly checking for used furniture on Facebook Marketplace, on Craigslist, or at Goodwill. But if you have a budget or want something new, there are other good places to look for furniture items.
Amazon has a wide selection of classroom furniture and some of the cheapest flexible seating options around. Amazon doesn't currently offer a teacher-specific discount, but the Teacher Discount Club, run by an Amazon associate, is a site you'll definitely want to follow. It keeps its members abreast of all the latest Amazon deals for teachers—not just classroom furniture.
Let's be honest: During the school year, you'll likely spend more time in your classroom than you will at home. Do yourself a favor and make it a place that feels comfortable for you and your students. Whether that means adding a rug, some inspirational art, or softer lighting, making your room feel less sterile and more welcoming is sure to improve your classroom environment.
Even though my classroom has large windows, I've failed for many years to keep plants alive in it. So every year, I purchase artificial flowers and plants to add some fail-safe greenery. I've also covered computer tables and shelves with table runners or fabric to add a splash of color and a softer feel. Arts and craft stores such as Joann, Michaels, and A.C. Moore are good places to find subtle touches like these, and these stores offer back-to-school discounts in addition to a year-round 15 percent discount for teachers.
Shoes and Clothes
Kids aren't the only ones who need new school clothes and shoes. Start off the school year with a comfortable pair of shoes and at least one new outfit you love. Teacher discounts are plentiful this time of year, so take advantage and shop now, before school starts, when you'll have less time.
Aerosoles, J Crew, LOFT, Talbots, Kate Spade, and Banana Republic are just a few of the stores offering teachers discounts with a school ID card. Dr. Scholls offers teachers a 20 percent discount with the promo code TEACHFOR20, and TOMS Shoes currently offers back-to-school discounts on top of a 10 percent discount with the promo code TEACHER10.
For teacher discounts on additional items, check out My Education Discount, Best Teacher Discounts, and Brad's Deals Summer Shopping Guide.
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It's time now to finish preparing yourself and your classroom for the new year. Don't buy your students highlighters and pencils; take advantage of back-to-school deals on items that will make your classroom feel like home. With these deals, you'll start the year off right.