Home-educating on a budget

The words save on a background of dollar bills

I feel this is something I should have written ages ago.

Choosing to educate your children yourself is an honourable one. But finances can be severely stretched when one or both parents decide to stay at home. How do you make ends meet and successfully educate your kids without ending up in financial dire straits? There is a way.

When I took my son out of school I had no idea how we were going to survive financially: I was a single mum who felt compelled to remove my son from a school and an education system that did not serve him. I had no job and very little savings but I did it anyway. 😉

10 ways I saved money and gave my son a wonderful year at home.

  1. Search for home-school groups in your area. If you can’t find one, create one. We paid £4 per week to attend our local group, which was less than half a mile from our house. In addition to socialising with others you gain from their knowledge; other home-educators will have different experiences which you can draw on.


  1. Make the most of your local library– buying all the books you need while homeschooling is costly and unnecessary. Libraries have a huge stock, and what you can’t find you can usually order. Libraries may also have ongoing activities such as chess clubs, reading groups and special events during holidays.


  1. Visit second hand stores – apart from making economical sense to buy second hand it’s fun to look for bargains. We found many good books, such as the Chronicles of Narnia and some of the books in the Harry Potter series for as little as £1. I also found a pair of roller blades for £5, and they fit perfectly.


  1. Go to leisure centres during off-peak times and save bundles. Some leisure centres charge more if you attend during peak times, typically after 4 and on a Sunday. You can pay considerably less if you go outside these times. We played badminton during the week and paid £3.05 for a 1 hour session compared to the peak price of £8.35. I do have a concessionary rate so that help to lower the price significantly.


  1. Going out – Cinemas also seem to charge more on certain days/times, so avoid going during these times. You can check their website in advance to view the prices for various days and times. They may also offer special discounts for families.


  1. Get paid to eat by being a mystery shopper with Marketforce – Eating out is probably one of the greatest expenses when you’re out with children. Marketforce(operate in UK and US) are a legitimate market research company that will pay you to shop. Assignments are varied and could include visiting an airport kiosk, a restaurant, pub, etc. The assignments you have depend on your experience and the more you do the more you will have access to. They re-imburse you up to the full cost of your purchase and pay you a small fee to complete a report your visit. Their requirements on completing the report are very specific and if you have issues following very particular guidelines, this may not be for you. But if you can follow instructions and write to a reasonable standard, then this could be a great way to eat out and save a few pennies in the process. I am not being paid to advertise for Marketforce, but I have been out with a friend to lunch on a number of mystery shops, and he seems to save quite a bit of money.


  1. Invest in bikes – A friend of mine gave me his spare bike last year and this made a huge difference to our weekly spend. We use our bikes at least four times a week, making a saving of around £12 per week in bus fares. Using cycle routes helps to shorten a typical journey considerably, and you also get to know to know your area better.


  1. Search online for free things – Timeout magazine lists events and activities worldwide. They usually have a free section for each city (not all cities included). When stuck for cash and ideas I just Google ‘free events in…’ Or, ‘The best places to find …in London’ for example.


  1. Group-up with others – Going along to events in a group can save you a significant amount of money. Museums and galleries in particular may offer discounts for larger groups, especially for exhibitions and there may be special rates for home-educators. You may also save on travel if you travel with others regularly. I purchase a discount railcard, yearly, that entitles me to 1/3 off my travel within the U.K.(usually applies to travel outside of London)


  1. Go travelling on a working holiday – It really is possible to travel when you are cash-strapped. But you do need your fareJ. Organisations such as Helpx, Workaway and WWOOF offer accommodation and food (3 meals a day) with a host, in return for work (typically 4-6 hours a day 5 days a week). You will have to pay a registration fee to sign up with WWOOF and Workaway but you can view hosts for free before signing up. Helpx doesn’t require a fee when you register, but you will need to upgrade your membership to contact hosts, which attracts a fee of 20 Euros or £16.97 ($21.15) for a 2 year membership. Destination choices are nearly unlimited as all three operate worldwide but WWOOF has the disadvantage of requiring registration for each country you wish to visit. I’m registered with WWOOF UK and Helpx and have visited one host with WWOOF (with my son in tow). It was a wonderful experience and the work wasn’t very laborious: we did some planting, soil sifting and looked after her bees. I’m looking forward to travelling to Vire, in France, in April to stay with my first Helpx host. Look out for my posts on our experiences in France.

Picture credit: http://401kcalculator.org/






About SJ

A mother, writer and free-spirited home-educator with a passion for challenging the norm.
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