Every teacher has to carefully balance a razor-thin budget while still doing everything they can to maximize the benefits their students receive. When it comes to supplying your classroom, every dollar counts—and there are a surprising number of creative ways to stretch your budget at Dollar Tree!

From savvy swaps to getting more use out of the same number of items to clever organizational tricks, these Dollar Tree classroom hacks will help you maximize the benefits to your elementary classroom while minimizing your spending to make sure every dollar goes as far as it can.

Stretching Every Dollar

Double Your Composition Books

How often do you have assignments that start with the instruction “turn to a blank page” and end with your students using only half of that page? These half-blank pages often get wasted when the next assignment inevitably starts with “turn to a blank page.” Avoid notebooks full of unutilized space and effectively get twice the composition books for your money by cutting the books in half horizontally. Many office supply stores can actually do this for you!

Decorate Your Composition Books

If you want it to be less obvious that your composition books started out regular-sized, decorate the covers with decorative tape and stickers, and add a label with the students’ names to the front of the book. You can do this in advance, or you can let students choose their favorite color or pattern of tape and decorate their composition books on their own.

Glue Sponges

Glue sticks can be convenient, but they’re not very cost-effective, especially when you think about how many of them have to be replaced because they get lost, used excessively, or abandoned without their caps on to dry out. Instead of glue sticks, opt for glue sponges!

Put a kitchen sponge into a plastic container with a tight lid and fully saturate it with school glue. Make several glue sponges to share throughout the classroom—students simply need to press an item lightly against the sponge to pick up enough glue, then stick to a piece of paper. The sponge will stay fresh as long as its kept tightly sealed between uses and can be refilled as the glue is used up.

students-coloring-with-markersReplace Fewer Markers

Avoid losing markers by taping each set of colors together at the caps. Simply lay the markers in a row of one of each color, then lay a piece of tape across the tops, carefully turn the whole set over, and wrap the tape around the other side of the lids. Now that the markers are in a set, single markers won’t be able to roll away without notice: you’ll obviously be able to see which marker is missing from the set by seeing which lid has no marker attached.

Cable Management

There are many cable management solutions available at Dollar Tree that are much cheaper than what you’d pay for something similar at an electronic store. Pipe cleaners (apparently, they are called chenille stems now) are ideal for binding cords together to avoid unruly, twisted cables.

Duct tape works to attach cables to the floor or a wall (make sure to test a small section of the wall first to make sure the tape won’t cause any damage to the paint); binder clips work well for clipping to the edge of a table and then threading cables through for easy access.

Erase Permanent Marker with a Dry Erase Marker

Did someone write on a whiteboard with a permanent marker? Instead of throwing it out or spending money on an expensive solvent, try writing over the permanent marker with a dry erase marker! Let it sit for about ten seconds, and then wipe it clean. You may have to repeat this process more than once, and if it doesn’t remove completely, you can get the remainder off with an alcohol-based disinfecting wipe.

Are you Enjoying this Content?

Blog Hub - How To Save Money As A Teacher

Bulk Order

Many of the items carried by Dollar Tree are available to order online. Most online orders require you to order in bulk, but if you wouldn’t be able to use everything you’d need to order, consider doing a group order with one or more fellow teachers to meet the minimum quantity.

When you place your order, you can have it shipped directly to your home or school, or you can pick it up at your local Dollar Tree store. Make sure to check out what information you need to set up a tax-exempt school account to order items for your school.

Classroom Supply Upgrades

Motivational Pencils

You Need: no. 2 pencils, clear tape, a printer, ink and paper

How To: Pencils with a custom message can be a fun way to recognize student achievements or a clever way to help students stay focused and motivated during a stressful situation (hello, test day!). Rather than having to pay a large fee to bulk order pencils with a limited number of messages, simply make your own!

Decide which messages you want on your pencils—we like short, confidence-boosting phrases like ‘You’ve got this!’ ‘Don’t stress, do your best!’ and ‘You can do this!’ Type out your messages in a document set to two columns with 5-6 spaces between each line. Choose an easy-to-read font that isn’t larger than one side of a pencil (10-point Ariel works well).

As soon as the paper comes out of the printer, stick a piece of tape onto one of the messages, then peel it up. This will pull the message off the page, but don’t wait too long because it won’t work if the ink fully dries. After you have your messages on clear tape, simply stick the tape to the pencils and now you have your very own custom-made motivational pencils!

Dry Erase Markers with Eraser-Ends

You Need: dry erase markers, pom-poms and hot glue

How To: Keep your students from erasing mistakes on the whiteboard with their fingers by attaching an eraser to the end of every dry erase marker! Dry erase markers with erasers attached cost a lot more than dry erase markers without, but you can add an eraser to all your dry erase markers by hot-gluing a pom-pom onto the end. The best part is that you can get almost everything you need, including hot glue sticks, at the Dollar Tree.

Sharp and Dull Pencil Swap

You Need: Two containers (we like unique-looking plastic cups, but small buckets or boxes will also work) and labels

How To: Prevent the need for students to sharpen their pencils during test time by setting up an area where students can exchange their dull pencils for sharp ones. Label one container ‘sharp’ and the other container ‘dull,’ then choose random students to sharpen the dull pencils at designated times.

Extra Desk Storage Space

You Need: Plastic trays for in/out box and zip ties

How To: As the years go on and young learners become responsible for more books and school supplies, storage in elementary school desks becomes less able to contain everything they need. Use zip ties to attach plastic trays under students’ chairs at their desks to provide additional storage for books or other materials. This gives students more storage space without having to leave their books or supplies on the ground or in lockers.

Classroom Activities

Learn Fractions with Paper Plates

You Need: Paper plates in multiple colors and markers to label the plates

How To: Cut the paper plates into sections and label them (1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8). Give each student one of each labeled section, then have them arrange the fraction sections (1/2, 1/4, 1/8) onto the full plate (1) to get a visual representation that will help them get a better sense of the scale of different fractions and how they compare to each other and the whole.

students-playing-with-cardsArithmetic War

You Need: Decks of playing cards

How To: Sort students into groups of 2-6 and give each group a deck of cards. This is a modification of the traditional card game War. Students all lay down two cards, then they decide whether to add, subtract, or multiply the cards (change the options depending on what you’re studying) and they can also change the order of their cards. The goal is to have the highest total. Whoever has the highest total takes all the cards from the round. The game continues until one player has all the cards.

Pi Bead Bracelet

You Need: Pipe cleaners (chenille stems) and pony beads

How To: The best way to celebrate Pi Day (March 14) is with a slice of pie, and the second-best way to celebrate Pi Day is with a string of Pi! Guide your students in crafting their very own Pi bracelet by stringing pony beads onto a pipe cleaner based on the number pi.

This works best if students are able to work in small groups with each group being given one pipe cleaner per person and a bag of pony beads to share. Each student can choose the beads they want to represent each number and string the beads onto the pipe cleaner to represent pi, then they can wear their bracelet home! In order to fit a child’s wrist, they only need to go to the ninth decimal place or so: 3.141592653.

Craft Stick Word Puzzles

You Need: Large craft sticks, a photo or picture, craft glue and a marker

How To: Find photographs or illustrated pictures of places or objects, use the craft glue to adhere the picture onto a set of craft sticks laid out into a rectangle, write the name or word describing the picture underneath (like ‘Canada’ or ‘umbrella’), and cut them apart after the glue is dry. Mix the pictures up, then hand out the stacks to students to put together using the picture as a clue to learn how to spell new words.

Turn Your Students into Published Authors!

If you’re looking for another inexpensive project you can do with your students, consider turning them into published authors with help from Studentreasures! Simply collect your students’ writing and artwork and use one of our FREE classbook publishing kits to create your own classbook—you’ll get a free copy for your classroom, with an option for parents to buy their own copy for at home that will be a treasured memento of their student’s year.