Summer break is in full swing at our house, but I am already thinking about the upcoming school year! Going to a homeschool conference in May has helped motivate my planning bug, and instead of waiting until the last moment as I’ve done some years, I was able to decide on most of the curriculum I wanted before our break even started. So now comes the part I enjoy most: searching for the books I want at the best possible price.
I can get a little obsessed about finding good deals when I shop, and shopping for curriculum is no exception. While you can be really thrifty and find educational resources online, I prefer to have actual books on hand as often as possible. This year there will need to be many books on hand, particularly considering a new literature course that should have my children reading through classic children’s lit for the foreseeable future. But in my view, having more books to find just adds to the fun! Here are some of the places I like to hunt for the books I need.
1) The library
It can’t get much cheaper than free, right? I do love to own good, educational books (mostly because you don’t end up on a wait list!), but it’s great to know that the library can provide several of the books I want, as well as materials for additional research of the most interesting topics! I was recently informed by a friend that our local library system can even provide books on interlibrary loan – I had no idea that was available! Even though my county libraries didn’t have a few of the out-of-print books for the “Before Five in a Row” series for my preschooler, I was able to locate most of them on the interlibrary loan catalog. I’ve put a few on hold, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that works out!
2) A homeschool conference or curriculum display.
As mentioned above, my state conference allowed me to browse many different options and helped me choose my curriculum for the upcoming school year. And while I did not actually purchase the majority of our books there (I’d forgotten to budget for it properly), many distributors were offering conference discounts of 10% to 25%. Similar deals may be offered at separate curriculum displays, which is where I hope to purchase some of the things I didn’t get at the conference. In addition, there were two or three different sellers offering used materials…I did snag a few good deals from one of those!
3) Other used book sales.
I have not been to many used curriculum sales as of yet, but I know of at least a few homeschool groups and communities who host such sales every year. I’m not sure how common these are around the country, but it can’t hurt to do a little searching online and find out. (One tip would be to join a homeschool group or at least sign up to follow one on Facebook)!
My current favorite thing, though, is the used book sales in my area that offer all varieties of books for $1 each or less. Usually, there is some homeschool curriculum (though often outdated), but I have found numerous entertaining and educational books available for as low as free if I bring in books for trade. I have even stumbled upon one or two rare treasures I’d been unable to find in a reasonable price range for years! I’m not sure of the best ways to find these sales (I’ve stumbled upon them by accident on Facebook), but I’ll bet a few options might turn up through asking local friends or a quick Google search!
4) Facebook groups.
Even if you can’t find an organized sale, you can find many homeschool curriculum swap groups on Facebook (some local and some that offer shipping). These are a great option if you’re looking for something specific and don’t feel like digging around a huge sale! You can even set your notifications to alert you when somebody posts a new item with your desired search terms (e.g., I have a local group set to alert me when anyone makes a post containing the word “Apologia”).
5) Mainstream online retailers.
Amazon is the most obvious name that comes to mind, but I will also often use Christianbook.com when I know I need something unused (such as a student workbook). Being on the Christianbook email list alerts me to sales on certain materials I’m seeking, so I have jumped at those chances on occasion! And for Amazon, my new best friend is this site, which not only allows you to view the price trends of a certain item, but also provides the option of receiving an alert when the item reaches your desired price. This comes in handy for virtually anything on Amazon!
6) Other online sellers, particularly of used books.
While I often check Amazon for used books first, sometimes I can find better prices on eBay. Plus, eBay usually has the advantage of pictures, so you can see the actual item you’re purchasing and judge for yourself whether it’s in the condition it purports to be. I’ve found eBay to be particularly useful for locating second-hand teacher’s books, but I’ve occasionally found unused (or barely used) student workbooks as well! Another online seller I’ve just discovered is thriftbooks.com. I only made my first order this week, so the word is out on whether this site will become a new favorite haunt, but I was impressed by the fact that I was able to purchase a couple books for cheaper than I’d yet found on either Amazon or eBay! They seem to be highly reviewed (on Facebook at least), so we’ll see how it goes!
And that covers most of the options this bargain-seeking book nerd has discovered thus far! Where are your favorite places to find books for school?
Photo Credit: First graphic design by Anna Soltis; Other images courtesy of author with design by Anna Soltis.