Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Buying used curriculum

I purchased about 90% of next year's curriculum used, which saved me at least 60% off the list price. I thought I would share some tips about how and where to successfully find used text books.

- Oftentimes, older editions are fully compatible with newer editions. This is especially true for A Beka, who changes their book covers every couple of years without changing the content at all. If you do the research in advance, you can save money by buying older editions or combining older and newer books.

- As a rule of thumb, the most I would ever consider paying for used curriculum is half of the original list price (including shipping, since I get free shipping on my new purchases).

- In order to keep track of my purchases, I start by making a list of all the books I will need for the next school year for each child. I then check what books I already have on my shelf, and mark those off. Then I mark books I buy used off as I go, to avoid buying something twice or forgetting to buy a book. This year, it took me about one month (late May and June) to get everything on my list.

- I find that the best time to get good deals is in late May and early June, when much more books become available as moms get done with the school year, but buyers are still slow because they don't want to start thinking about the next year yet. July and August offer the greatest selection, but as demand increases the prices go up. During the school year the selection tends to be much smaller as moms are too busy home schooling to find the time to sell old curriculum.

- My favorite source for buying used curriculum is eBay. If you start early and are patient, you can get some great deals. Just don't get into the heat of bidding and pay more than you were willing to pay in the beginning. That same item might be available in a couple of days for a fraction of that same cost. I have been appalled by people getting so "worked up" at the end of an auction that they paid more for a used item than it would have cost new.

- HSLDA offers used curriculum on their website, and it is similar to eBay in that it is auction-style, with an option for immediate purchase at higher price. The selection is large, and the prices are lower than with eBay. The downside is that you have to be an HSLDA member to buy (but not to sell).

- You may get lucky and find something good on your local craigslist, but I have not had that experience. Seems to me that people are always asking way too much for text books on there. Just because something is "nearly new" doesn't mean I am willing to pay almost full price for it.

- A new website I just found but not yet used myself is Homeschoolclassifieds. They seem to have a large selection, and overhead is low because it's kind of like craigslist - the seller lists their own item, and you contact the seller directly via e-mail (rather than paying for all the bells and whistles that eBay offers).

- If you are looking for books from a major publisher such as BJU Press, you may find good deals in the used book section on Amazon. I bought all the kids' math books (from Harcourt Math, a secular publisher) at incredibly low prices there. Amazon is also a good source for buying educational books that are not part of your actual curriculum, such as for example a book of fun science experiments or a book on a particular subject your student is studying.

- If you live in a big city, you may have a store in town that sells used home school books. There is one here in Phoenix, and their used prices are pretty high - but they have 50% off days once every month. On these days, they also offer discounts of 10-15% off new curriculum orders.

- One way NOT to save money is by copying text book pages and having your student write on those copies rather than the actual worksheet. For one, these items are copyrighted and you are being dishonest. For another, you are probably not even really saving money because of the copying costs. If you would like to cut the cost of consumable textbooks, you could have your student write the answers in separate notebooks for each subject instead of writing into the workbooks directly. This usually works very well with older students.

For additional information, check out this helpful article I found online.

In the end, I think it would be possible to teach children almost entirely for free if you have a good education yourself and know how to use the internet and libraries. This is certainly the most time-consuming of all options, but your children's education will be just as good if you put the necessary effort into it. I am not talking about "unschooling" here, which I find is a terrible option and leads to kids who lack both a solid education as well as any good work habits and character traits such as perseverance, timeliness, etc.

Buying curriculum used is no doubt much more time-consuming and troublesome that buying new from the publisher. But I think it is so much more fun to get a great deal on something. As a stay-at-home Mom I also think it is my duty to use the extra time that I have by not having to work an outside job on finding ways to save money. A penny saved is worth a lot more than a penny earned because I don't have to give Uncle Sam half of it. So if you have been making excuses for wasting money on new books, or (worse yet) if you have been slagging on your kids' education and hiding behind the excuse that you can't afford the books you need, try one of the sources above for finding used books.

1 comment:

  1. Would you please post the books/workbooks you are using for Isaac this year for first grade? If you have already done so in another post, please let me know where. I'm probably using fewer materials than you are, so I'm also curious about which books you think are the most necessary versus those that are optional. I bid on an old BJU reader today on ebay and am planning to the rest of my online shopping around the 8th of August. I'm leaning toward A beka for the workbooks, but I'm keeping an open mind based on what kind of deals I can find used.


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