Can You Unschool on a Tight Budget?

When the question of whether a family could unschool on a limited budget, the Unschooling Mom2Mom group overwhelmingly agreed that the answer is yes. Of course, it can be harder, and raising kids in or out of school takes a certain amount of money. Sometimes families shift their priorities so their children can have more of what they need to flourish.  With a little creativity, unschooling can be done very well. Lots will depend on the parent's attitude.

If you're thinking that you can't unschool because you don't have enough money, here are some options you might be overlooking.

  • The library
  • The internet
  • Used book stores/thrift stores
  • Field trips (free days/free places)
  • Free community programs
  • Most museums have one free day per week
  • Trade and barter for services
  • Craig's List, FreeCycle
  • Buy things at second hand stores that will sell on Ebay, then put money into a fund for kids' purchases
  • Some libraries loan out day passes for children's museums
  • Farms offering free field trips
  • Zoos have an annual Free Day
  • Yard sales
  • Consignment stores
  • Create a local group online where members contribute knowledge and skills for those who want to learn (working on car, creative cooking, sewing, building, in additions to how to use a microscope, musical instruments, etc.)
  • Create a local Math Games day
  • Check if your local homeschool group has swaps or books to loan
  • Group trips to places as the group rate is usually less
  • Freebies on Kindle
  • Start a Savings Jar for things the kids would like to have
  • Trips to Europe - or anywhere! - on YouTube
  • Educator discount cards at Barnes & Noble
  • Project Gutenberg - any book that has reached "public domain" status is digitized
  • US National Parks' gate fees are waived a few times every year
  • Dollar Movie Days or Dollar Movie theaters
  • Work/internships in exchange for classes (theatre, gyms, etc.)
  • Think of the money you save from not having to keep up with fashion trends
  • If your state offers it, Sales Tax Free days happen in August to replenish school supplies you'd use at home, clothing, backpacks, etc.
  • Potlucks with other families
  • Ask family members to give Annual passes (museums, zoos, etc.) for holiday and birthday gifts
  • Camping trips instead of expensive vacations
  • Volunteering at unschooling conferences to get free conference passes

More Resources

Frugal ideas with an unschooling spin

Natural Born Learners


An Unschooling Life

Sprout, Squidge and Moppet

Allison B. Carter | NEW YORK TIMES

"So why am I a luxury while the bigger houses, nicer ZIP codes, vacations and other things we’ve chosen to do without are suddenly “necessities” that demand a second income?"


Sandra Dodd's collection touches lightly on budget but also talks about creating abundance and days that flourish which can be created in any financial circumstance. It's not about 'things'

Click to listen


If you aren't familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs, it makes sense, especially in the context of unschooling. The 2 bottom lines on the pyramid form the base. These are the things that require money. Presumably, one cannot rest effectively without the bottom 2.  The first and largest base is: Biological and Physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.  The second tier is: Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear. Housing, food, heat and lights, then kids and everything else, but you really really really need to have housing, food, heat, and lights first!

The top 2 sections on the pyramid are what make up the bulk of unschooling. Those things can cost money too, depending on what each person loves to do and wants to do. On the second to the top: Esteem needs - achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others.

At the very top is this: Self-Actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

Right in the middle is the part that glues those things together: Love and belongingness needs - friendship, intimacy, affection and love, - from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships. That's the part that doesn't cost money.

~Jenny Cyphers

Mazlow's Hierchy of Needs

More Free Resources!

Sue Patterson offers a variety of free resources at her coaching website. Check it out!