Classroom Management

Streamline Your Ordering Process With These 8 Tips

Ordering art supplies each year is overwhelming. Many orders are due in the spring, so the race is on to find the best deals while keeping the process simple and streamlined.

It would be nice if you could count on “one-stop shopping” with art supply catalogs, but this isn’t always the case. You may need to place smaller orders from many catalogs to find all of your favorite supplies at the right price, leaving you with a mountain of catalogs to dig through. For example, I always ordered my paper and paint from Blick, but had to jump over to Sax to get a few specialty items I couldn’t find anywhere else.

Given all of these fun challenges – here are some simple tips to make your next ordering session a breeze and save you some cash, too!

1. Save past orders.

Keep spreadsheets from previous years so you can look back at what items you ordered from each catalog. You may even want to keep each spreadsheet with its matching catalog.

2. Add tabs to your catalogs.

Rifling through a large catalog can be a time suck. Add tabs to your catalogs in the categories you use the most, which will cut down on searching. Then, use a highlighter to accent the items you order. This will make searching for your favorite supplies next year even easier.


3. Save money back.

Always save some of your budget in case you run out of supplies mid-year and need to place a quick order.

4. Place a bulk order with other art teachers.

When it comes to things like clay, you can get a discount (and split the shipping) by getting a bulk quote for your entire art department or district. After a year or two, the process should become second nature.

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5. Comparison shop.

It’s worth taking a peek at a few catalogs for your most-used supplies, as you might find drastically different prices. That said, saving a few cents on glue or pencils may not be worth the hassle of placing an entirely separate order.

watercolor comparison

6. Look on the back of your catalog.

Read the fine print! Often if you spend a certain amount of money, shipping will be free. Don’t forget to mention free shipping when you are sending an order to your secretary, as these deals aren’t always common knowledge.

free shipping

7. Find local resources.

Your school might qualify for discounts from certain companies or consortiums. I used arrangements like these for the basic pencils, erasers, and glue, and stuck to the catalog for specialty items. Also, superstores like Walmart have great deals during back-to-school time. I would stock up on yarn, glue, and scissors each August, and the supplies would last me for the entire year.

8. Watch out for impulse buys!

I know the ‘art games’ section is the most fun to look at in the back of art catalogs but resist. Quality art supplies are most important to have at the beginning of the year. It’s a good idea to keep a running wish list of extras for the art room and only consider them if you have surplus funds or a PTO donation. Another tip is to ask your librarian to order art books for the school library, so you can use them without the financial burden of buying them all yourself.

Whether you are ordering now, this summer, or in the fall, it will feel good to get this task checked off your list, and even more fun to see the boxes come in with fresh new art supplies!

Note: We fully realize that everyone’s budget situation is different. Some of you are working with a tiny budget, or maybe no budget at all. Those of you dealing with a less-than-ideal situation may want to take a peek at some of our favorite fundraising articles for ways to supplement your budget.

Which catalog do you order the bulk of your supplies from? 

How do you keep the ordering process simple and streamlined? 

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is AOEU’s Founder and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.

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