Readers' Survey 2007: Amount You Spend Out of Pocket Each Year on Classroom Supplies

Edutopia readers weigh in on their favorites.

Edutopia readers weigh in on their favorites.

$500 or More

We can see those checking accounts shrinking before our very eyes! Nearly half of you told us you spend $500 or more. Shockingly, more than one in three of those heavy spenders shells out more than $1,000 a year, up to a high of $3,500. Oh, my. Responses ranged from the magnanimous ("I don't care what I spend -- the results are worth it") to the miserly ("$0 -- I refuse to pay for what I can put in the budget"). But the consistent message in response after response was simply "Way too much!"

Our Take

Payback

If you're tapping your own funds for the sake of your students, David Holmstrom, a licensed tax preparer in Brookline, Massachusetts, has advice on how to get some of that investment back from Uncle Sam. It's tough to deduct it the usual way, by itemizing purchases on Schedule A, because classroom expenses rarely outweigh the standard deduction anyone can take. "Congress therefore decided to give educators a special break not available to other employees," Holmstrom says. "They can take up to $250 as an adjustment -- that is, they can subtract it from their income -- whether or not they itemize deductions."

If you're in the 25 percent tax bracket, he says, this adjustment is worth fifty dollars to you -- not enough, surely, but something. The allowance covers out-of-pocket costs for classroom supplies and is available only to teachers, counselors, principals, and aides in private and public K-12 schools who worked at least 900 hours during the year.

Here's the catch: Congress approved the educator adjustment for this year after the tax forms were printed. So, Holmstrom explains, teachers must put the $250 on line 23 of Form 1040 (the line that says "Archer MSA deduction") and write an E on the line to indicate it's an educator expense. He adds, "Isn't the IRS great?"

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This article originally published on 5/8/2007

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Comments (542)

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Leonie Cammock (not verified)

Where will it end?

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My name is Leonie Cammock and I am a Walden student. I am new to blogging but I can relate to using personal funds to provide supplies for my classroom. This is my fourth year of teaching and I think I got into this habit during my first year. I recall the classroom I was assigned to was bare. Being new at the school I did not know where to get the materials and since no one offered, I went into my funds and provided the supplies I needed because I had a job to do and I was going to get it done. I think I have continued this practice because I believe that the children I teach have the potential to learn. However they are at a disadvantage as supplies are not provided by their parents. On the one hand we hear about the funding that Special Educators are to receive but I have never gotten.On the other hand our principal allows us to order supplies from catalogs but because of the long wait time materials may not be seen until the end of the year if at all. At the end of the year we a re reimbursed a stipend of $90.00 but this is a drop in the bucket compared to what was already spent.

I know I have to break this cycle but the children who needs the things I am providing are the ones who will lose out in the end. It is a sad cycle.

Melissa (not verified)

money spend for classroom needs

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I agree I spend about $500 a year on supplies for my classroom. For have been in school for three weeks now and ever weekend I am at the teacher store picking up something. This past week it was pencils and stickers for my students. Over the summer I even had to go out and purchase a new pencil sharpener for my classroom because I could not fit that need into my budget.

Tonia (not verified)

money

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I have def. spent almost $1500.00 in the last two months on my classroom. I have taught for nine years, but this is my first year teaching second grade. I have gone to the teacher supply store, local stores, office supply stores almost everyday this week to get my classroom ready for the kids next week.

Jamie (not verified)

Adopt-A-Classroom can help

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Adopt-A-Classroom is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission specifically to help teachers get funding. Through the organization, donors adopt classroom and provide support and financial assistance so teachers get purchase the resources and materials they need....without having to dig into their own pockets. Go to www.adoptaclassroom.org and learn how to register or help a classroom.

Chris Jones (not verified)

I agree with the fact that we

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I agree with the fact that we need to see ourselves as "teaching professionals", and that the money we spend is a part of the tools we need. At the same time though, I don't feel as though I was fully prepared on how much I would spend. I am caught between preparing my own classroom, and donating to the classrooms of my children. Because of budget cuts, the time I purchase what teachers are asking for, and what I need, there was none left for actual school clothes for my own kids.

Chris Jones
Kindergarten teacher, AZ

s (not verified)

My Reality Check!

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I completely agree. I too will spend money to make my job easier, that is, if I have the money.

I don’t have :-( kids, a roommate, a sugar daddy, a husband, a provider, a second income, or (credit cards :-).

But, I do have, “my own:” rent, electric and gas bill, car (gas, insurance, and registration) payment, a gym bill, tap class bill, annual AAA and Costco bill, groceries and toiletries expense, cell phone bill, life insurance bill, emergency savings fund (car maintenance, hospital expenses, etc….), and pretty soon a school loan bill, all in the name of “independence.”

After all is said and done (and have worked my 50 hours at school), I have about $500.00 left for my own sanity (clothes, dining out, pedicure, hair trim, occasional mini vacation and presents).

Phew! No wonder I’m poor and can’t afford to go overboard with my classroom expenses. Despite my personal hardship, I am proud of my kids because...they still learn ;-)

S Ortiz
Walden University

Kimberly L. (not verified)

Inevitable Spending

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The subject of spending out-of-pocket money for the sake of bettering my classroom is something very familiar to me. As a first-year teacher three years ago, I was led by my new principal at the time and shown a completely empty classroom, aside from 24 student desks, one teacher desk, and a computer table with a PC. I was unpleasantly surprised to notice the echo the room when I began moving the desks around, and began to panic about the fact that I was the one responsible for filling up the room-with everything from bookshelves to posters-and all in 2 weeks' time. After doing much shopping for school supplies (thankfully, many back to school sales were going on), I also realized that taking donations of used or unwanted supplies from other teachers was a big help. I was not shy in accepting unwanted baskets, scissors, and even boxes of broken chalk. Every little bit helped, and as inevitable it was that year that I had to spend at least some of my own money, I was able to keep the amounts down reasonably by starting out slowly and making the most of my resources. Each August, I spend about $150-$200 of my own money on my classroom ontop of the $250 school budget that we receive. I have accepted this to be a reasonable amount, and throughout the school year whenever I buy anything relating to my classroom, I always keep the receipts. As the article suggested, claiming these items during tax time helps with deductions, and the fact that educators can receive $250 back is definitely helpful. Though it may be considered to be a small amount, I definitely feel grateful that the IRS acknowledges the fact that educators put a lot into their careers out of their own pockets, and it also keeps me hopeful and willing to put the extra time, effort, and money into making my classroom the best it can be.

Kimberly L. (not verified)

The subject of spending

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The subject of spending out-of-pocket money for the sake of bettering my classroom is something very familiar to me. As a first-year teacher three years ago, I was led by my new principal at the time and shown a completely empty classroom, aside from 24 student desks, one teacher desk, and a computer table with a PC. I was unpleasantly surprised to notice the echo the room when I began moving the desks around, and began to panic about the fact that I was the one responsible for filling up the room-with everything from bookshelves to posters-and all in 2 weeks' time. After doing much shopping for school supplies (thankfully, many back to school sales were going on), I also realized that taking donations of used or unwanted supplies from other teachers was a big help. I was not shy in accepting unwanted baskets, scissors, and even boxes of broken chalk. Every little bit helped, and as inevitable it was that year that I had to spend at least some of my own money, I was able to keep the amounts down reasonably by starting out slowly and making the most of my resources. Each August, I spend about $150-$200 of my own money on my classroom ontop of the $250 school budget that we receive. I have accepted this to be a reasonable amount, and throughout the school year whenever I buy anything relating to my classroom, I always keep the receipts. As the article suggested, claiming these items during tax time helps with deductions, and the fact that educators can receive $250 back is definitely helpful. Though it may be considered to be a small amount, I definitely feel grateful that the IRS acknowledges the fact that educators put a lot into their careers out of their own pockets, and it also keeps me hopeful and willing to put the extra time, effort, and money into making my classroom the best it can be.

Nichole V (not verified)

As a third year teacher, I

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As a third year teacher, I remember well having to shell out a lot of cash during my first year of teaching. It is difficult going into someone's old classroom and setting it up for yourself. In my situation there were so many essential teaching supplies (scissors, markers, compasses, etc.) that were unusable or nonexistent! I did spend a lot of money that year and it was, like you said, completely worth it. The following years have been easier since I know what I need, know what I have left over, and can use my school's yearly budget (while it isn't much, it surely helps!) I have found that the Dollar Store is my new 'go to' place for school supplies and if you have one near by I suggest you check it out. Good luck!

Elizabeth S (not verified)

How much money to spend is

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How much money to spend is something that all teachers struggle with, especially new teachers. I was a new teacher this year, and I started about three weeks into the school year. This meant that I didn’t get much money at all from my school, and the majority of money for supplies had to come out of my own pocket. I needed so many things to help my classroom run successfully. As I gathered up my materials the totals were a lot higher than I had expected. If I was in that same situation again, would I spend as much money? Definitely. All of those materials helped my classroom run just the way I wanted it. Going into my second year, I realize that I am going to spend money again on materials. Hopefully, I won’t have to spend as much because I still have some things from last year. Also, I am going to make sure that I take advantage of all those back to school sales. You can get some supplies really cheap if you watch the sales carefully. That will help decrease your final spending total at the end of the year.

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