Don’t even get me started on how variations in district budgets and sources of school funding affect our programs unfairly, and therefore can negatively impact the equitability of opportunities based upon the student populations we teach… That’s an entire soapbox convo I’ll save for another day (or another post!)

For now, I’ll just share how I’ve been able to stretch and extend my art supply budget through different adjustments. By making a few tweaks to your art curriculum, you’ll find you can stretch it for more supplies, despite various low-dollar spending amounts.

Here are few ways:

1. Extend timeline/length of project (Idea One) –

Do fewer projects, by aiming to complete one step per class period, resulting in a finished project every month or so. I’ve done this by structuring my classes in a way that provides an into/warm-up activity, then I share the relevant main instruction (about the artist, the art element/principle, art vocabulary/terms, and/or the art movement) and then demo the next step from their project completion instructions. I always have relevant early-finisher activities on hand, too.

Is this a lot more work?


But, do I mind?


… Not if it enriches their experience to make the learning more memorable or increases student investment into their final, finished piece!

2. Extend the timeline/length of project (Idea Two) –

Or, go deeper into the technique, honing in on a certain skill. You’ll do fewer large displayable projects, but your students will benefit from diving into your knowledge and skills. They might even impress their future art teachers with their noticeably higher proficiency level at that skill!

3. Alternate project work sessions –

Here are a few of my go-to ideas on what to alternate project workdays with:

– Written brainstorms (pre-) or reflections (post-).

-Lesson/Topic/Concept presentations.

-Interactive challenges, games or activities.

4.Use reusable materials wherever possible.


**Make Dry Erase Boards and Erasers from sheet protectors paired with cardstock, and dry erase markers with felt erasers (or just use crayon – which erases with nylon / pantyhose!) and use them for anything that doesn’t require a ‘hard copy’

Things like:

  • Practice
  • Whole-Class Checkups (Such as, “Write which colors make green.”)
  • Warm-up Games (ie: “Draw something that’s used when ___” “Draw something that’s blue!” “… that has the form of a sphere!”)
  • Draw-Alongs with “How to Draw” videos or lessons
  • Draw-Alongs with the teacher
  • Center Activity work, Early Finisher work, or anything that doesn’t need to be saved or displayed.

5. Adjust Scale –

You can work with half- or quarter- sheet sizes. Reducing the size of paper (can double or quadruple paper allocation) It’s not ideal, as every art teacher knows it’s better to give kids the opportunity to work in a larger, less restrictive space, but it can work.

My big advice for this one… Trim that project paper down ahead of time! It can be time-consuming and affect your class time/lesson structure (or even be seen by some busy students as an opportunity for behavioral/conduct incidents!) if you try to cut it as you’re passing it out.

Unfortunately, the higher the number of students, the greater the stretch for your budget. But, the bright side is…. the smaller the project, the less classroom storage space it requires!

And another bright spot: f you decide to display the smaller projects, it takes up SIGNIFICANTLY LESS space to display.

BONUS: If you get any snarky comments on the smaller scale, then calmly cite your small budget!

6. Limit Project Media-

Carefully and thoughtfully limit your project medium to provide maximum variety in student experience. With consideration and some fidelity, you’d be surprised at how many different materials and mediums you can provide for your students to experience over their time in the art room.

With consideration and fidelity, you’d be surprised at how many different materials and mediums you can provide for your students to experience over their time in the art room.

7. Go Green-

Explore Eco-Friendly Art Room Ideas for freely available materials, reuse or repurpose project media & scraps, use found objects, and definitely remember to ask for kids ‘junk’ 🙂!

8. Quantify the Budget-

Calculate, with real numbers, the budgeted dollars, per child, or per class, then compare it to cost of construction paper, drawing paper, etc per sheet. When you can communicate to your supervisors by clearly quantifying the financial impact on your students’ lesson experiences, you’re likely to get more attention in the budget next time around, should it be available.

9. Ideate fundraisers

I wrote a post with some of my ideas for Fundraisers. (The post includes a “step-by-step” guide if you’ve never done a fundraiser before!)

But, really- the possibilities are endless!

10. Seek out grants.-

One type of grant I really love -which also incorporates my personal passion for progress upon actionable issues- is called a “Service Learning Grant”. Collaboratively, your students figure out a way to use their artistic skills to benefit a group with a collective need or impact community change.

IF you go this route, I have a resource for that! Find it here.

11. Increase Visibility

Increase visibility of art program with displays, shows, digital distribution, etc. “How to Increase Visibility For Your Art Program to increase your odds at a better future art supply budget.

12. Advocate

It’s likely you already do this, if not intentionally, than unintentionally… but learn more ways to Advocate for your artists and your program here: “How to Advocate Your Art Program

13. Integrate projects –

Determine which of your projects might be easily adjusted to integrate with general education classroom standards and/or curriculum.

Sometimes certain funds are designated and budgets set aside for materials to be used for the ‘regular’ classroom.

The bright side for you is… many teachers may not want to get their hands (or classrooms!) dirty. There lies YOUR opportunity to save the day (while enjoying the fruits of the district’s ‘financial labor!’)

For example:

I’d ALWAYS wanted to incorporate clay in my supply budget. I searched high and low for a way to make it work, budget-wise. The best I could do was provide reusable modeling clay. It was cost effective, and I could order a little more each year to add on to the Art Room’s collection of supplies.

But one day, there was a project a teacher approached me about. I had their help in correlating it to their grade level domain, and they provided the actual air-dry clay materials for their Social Studies project based on History. Win-win!


If you’re interested in incorporating more ‘Gen Ed’ into your art projects, look out for my blog post, “Cross Curricular Connections With Clay” for a few useful ideas to get the brainstorm rolling.

You CAN Make Lemonade, Despite A Budget Lemon

Though I’m truly disheartened by the unacknowledged inequity of public school’s art program funding, I do know that a bit of scarcity invites creativity… and that us art teachers are some of the world’s most innovative problem-solvers, not only in our own art, but in our abilities to empower our young artists through their art-making, too. 🙂

Art Teachers are some of the world’s most innovative problem-solvers, not only in our own art, but in our abilities to empower our young artists through their art-making, too. 🙂

I hope these ideas got the wheels turning for some creative, budget- conscious ways to extend your supply dollars!

If you’re interested in more, feel free to check out my Pinterest board, “Thrifty Things” and these other helpful posts about Supply Budgets.

Happy Art Teaching!