How to Order Fewer Art Supplies Next Year!

Always run short on your art budget money each year? Wish you had more money to buy supplies for your students? We all do!  Here is a quick tip that could save you some dollars and cents.

Art-SuppliesEach year in the grade level classrooms students bring glue, markers, colored pencils, watercolors, etc… to their home room classrooms as a part of a supply list that each student is asked to bring to start off the school year. I think this model is pretty universal in most schools.  These supplies stay in the classroom for crafts and art projects. However, with changes in curriculum, and high stakes testing increasing, it seems these supplies are not being used in the classroom like they have in the past. Many of these gently used art supplies are going to waste at the end of each school year.  The items are either put into a cupboard, with more supplies coming in from the new class in the fall, or are donated elsewhere.

My suggestion to you:

Email all of the teachers in your school and ask they keep you in mind when sorting out their rooms at the end of the school year.  The art room will gladly take gently used crayons, glue bottles, colored pencils, etc. You will be AMAZED at what you will get. I have not ordered crayons for 3 years and colored pencils, too. Some of them are not even used and they may have just sat in a cupboard. My principal things this is a great idea, too, because in the end, it’s always smart to use materials and resources wisely. (If you don’t mind gently used, which I don’t!)

With the tight budgets many art teachers are facing, using what’s already in the school can give you the freedom to order things you REALLY need or the basics you just can’t always afford. Trust me. It works! I choose to spend my money on higher quality paper (Blick 80lb construction paper is my go-to) since I am saving so much on my crayons! :)

Is this something that might work for you?

What other tricks might you have up your sleeve to save money on ordering supplies? 

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Janis

    At my school we have started attaching one item to the classroom list for the art room. For example all the fourth grade students might be asked to send in two sharpies for the art room. Or all second grade students might be asked to send in a pack of crayons. Other items include glue sticks, paper plates and tissue paper. This has been a great way for me to stock up on some of the basics leaving more money for other supplies.

  • I want more large size visual aids for my kids, but can’t afford to buy them through the art supply houses. So expensive. This year I noticed art posters available through Amazon for a fraction of the cost.

    • Elizabeth

      You can also print images and create posters and have them printed at a color color printer shop- super inexpensive.

  • Kellie

    I have asked all my teachers to save and send me their dried up washable markers. I’ve made some terrific watercolors that rival the pan sets. The colors are far superior and I’m willing to share with the teachers. They send me baby food jars and I return them with the newly made paint. I have plenty for my classroom and they LOVE the paint. Win-win!
    I do like the idea of asking the teachers for the gently used supplies and for the donations. If I have a job next year (major funding cuts in Michigan), I plan on utilizing some of these strategies. Thanks for the ideas!

    • Vivian

      Hi Kelly, this is fascinating. Yes, so you take old dried out markers, and do you soak them in baby food jars of water and make your own watercolors this way? I toss out those old markers, but have let students dip them in water and use during recess as watercolor markers, to really use them up and then throw them out. I’m interested in your watercolor making with dried out markers. Please sshare! :)

      • Elizabeth

        You can also recycle crayola markers after making the watercolor paint. Crayola will actually pay for shipping and they melt them down to create fuel.

  • I get lots of donations. The key for me is figuring put what really gets used, and what sits in the closet. I throw it away if it hasnt been used in 3 or more years. I accept all donations with a smile but can only use a fraction of what people give me the rest goes in the round file if you know what I mean. Have to be ruthless if I don’t want to end up on hoarders and my friends are none the wiser unless they read this which I doubt!

    As for crayons I throw them out every semester because I’m a germ freak. I imagine them crawling with the flu virus that just went around. We don’t use a lot of crayon anyways.

    • lives large on a budget

      Really? I have supplies that are 10 or 15 years old. Crayons never go bad. The best thing is to encourage students to take them home and use them up as artists over the summer. You can use your old crayons for sandpaper mono printing.

      • Laurie Shriver

        I’ll have to google sandpaper mono printing- cool!

    • Elizabeth Castor

      Also… using crayons on ceramics is SUPER fun (and the rough textures can really chew ’em up so old crayons are the BEST for it!) Use the crayons on any fired/non-food project. The colors are very vibrant and if you dunk the colored items in an ink or watery-acrylic paint mix any uncolored parts will get an antique-like stain… think of it like a 3-D batik look. If there’s spare time in the curriculum I do a mini-lesson on sugar skulls that rocks using this technique.

  • stephanie

    i recently left a position as the art teacher for a private ms/hs. although the students did not bring class supplies for their other subjects (like they would in elem), they did all seem to have glue, scissors, colored pencils, etc over the course of the year for one special project or another. at the end of each semester, there was always a “locker clean-out day” – i would roam the halls w/a box and collect all kinds of goodies the teens didn’t want anymore! sharpies and glue galore! :) i figure, it never hurts to ask! :)

  • whenever I see people like you which sharing information for other peoples, I feel so glad, thanks for your information and continue your work.

  • If you know anyone that works for Costco or SAMS Club, their pharmacy (in AZ ) has meds delivered with cardboard dividers that are 9×14 inches. I’m a pre-school art teacher and have been blessed with a parent who still drops off a case of cardboard quarterly even though her son is in 6th grade now. It has so many uses. 
    Thanks for all of your posts.

  • Susie Belzer

    My school does the same as Janis’ does.  Each grade level is responsible for bringing one or two items specifically for art class.  I usually have one bring crayons, another markers, masking tape, sharpies, glue sticks, etc.  I hadn’t thought of paper plates before- that’s genius!  Mentally filling for next year!!

    • And small paper bags to take home clay in is another good idea. Bubble wrap to wrap up clay pieces, too! :)

      • Deb King

        I shred old newspaper or magazines to put in the paper bags for the clay

  • Shonda

    Art supplies go on sale in October. If you can wait a few months to place your order, you can save 20-30 percent.

  • Alexandra Coyle

    I’m going to try a new idea next year. My school each child has an “art bin” in their classroom….I know of an art teacher who has them bring their art bin to art class each time. Yes, it maybe a lot of ask of the teachers, but you save a lot of time and money on sharpening colored pencils, dried out markers, dried out glue…etc… THIS WAY: kids are responsible for their materials, and you save money and organizing in the long run. I’m testing it out next year! So excited :)

  • Kimberly Gilman

    I have been doing exactly this for the 4 years I have been at my elementary school. With my savings on basics like crayons and glue, I have been able to buy durable items that my program lacks. One year I was able to purchase a portable slab roller for ceramics. Another year, I bought printmaking supplies and weaving supplies.
    My parents are great about donating to my program as well. I have been in a position to share donated supplies with the school’s Safe Key program and a local organization with a mobile art bus that visits under-served communities at art centers and parks around town. I get brown paper for my Prehistoric art lesson, cornstarch packing peanuts for building projects, and bubble wrap for printing, all as donations from parents. This year one of the classroom teachers asked her scrap book group to clean out their closets for the art room. I received boxes of colorful papers, rubber stamps, stamp pads, and punches that enabled me to enhance the card making center in the art classroom. Everyone should be fortuate enough to adopted by a scrapping or craft group!
    I begin and end the year with whole, gently used crayons. The kids help me sort and peel the broken crayons at the end of the
    year to melt down into crayon chunks that go in
    the art room birthday box.

  • Lori

    I put an ad out on Craigslist asking for yarn…I got 3 bins full from one donor! I figure it’s easily several hundred dollars worth! Now that money I had earmarked for yarn can go somewhere else.

  • Mari Ellsworth

    I recycle everything possible at my school. The lunch room ladies even bring me cardboard and other items from packaging. I take all donations and use what I can and let the rest go. Part of being a frugal art teacher, and making those dollars stretch as far as possible.

  • Stacey Smith

    When I taught elementary art, the previous art teacher would have students bring those types of basics to art class each time they came. The problem with that was that the quality was cheap and we often used very little of these basics. I felt badly that parents had spent $15 on glue, scissors, crayons, etc. when we didn’t always use it and I wanted to use some more “special” supplies for art, so I came up with this: ( I sent my supply list to the elementary grade level teachers to add to their list) I took my six grades, K-5, and and divided each grade into boys and girls. I assigned each section one thing. For example, girls in fifth grade, bring one pack of oil pastels, any size and Boys, bring one pack of crayola markers, classic, bold or pastels. It was cheaper for them to buy one thing and I could pick “better” stuff. I always had this statement put by my item “to be pooled together for student use” and explained how that gave the students more quality supplies and saved them money. One year I had all girls in a grade bring a pair of Friskars scissors and because that totalled fifty pair, I didn’t have to ask again for about three years or four years! One year I had all fourth graders bring a pack of 24 colored pencils, Crayola preferred and had plenty of pencils for the whole school! It worked well and no complaints!

  • Laurie Shriver

    AOE is the best! I was hired on at a new school a couple of weeks ago and I took the advice of this AOE article “How to Order Fewer Supplies” & submitted a donation letter for the teachers and a different one for the parents to the principal for approval on Saturday, then this morning on Sunday I received this response:

    “Your letters are approved. The main office will print them. We will send home to parents next week. We will put a hard copy in teacher boxes on Monday. Thank you for taking the initiative to get our art program stocked and fully up and running. I am very happy to have you as Our art teacher. Your skills and experience will allow our scholars to expand both their academic and artistic knowledge.”

    So thank you AOE for offering the best advice in my inbox, so consistently. And by offering the online classes too (christiansen’s iPad class was fabulous), you are helping me be the teacher I aspire to be.