Each year I endeavor to prepare for the coming homeschooling year with high goals for academics and spiritual content. I do not desire to just meet standards put out there for the general public, and I do not have a yearning to plod through high level works devoid of any spiritual benefit. Setting high (yet, achievable) goals is just the beginning. I also have a desire to do this as frugally as possible and have learned throughout my homeschooling years how to provide a quality education at home without sacrificing the budget.
Choose curriculum carefully and if you like it, stick with it. I wasted a bit of money early on rushing to buy whatever I heard someone say was 'the best.' Everyone has their favorite, I just needed to find mine. Even after settling into our favorite, I still hear about a great book or program that I don't use and I look very carefully to determine if it offers much more than what we already have. And, I like to make things up as I go along in certain areas (not changing content, but rather in methodology). Sometimes I will take a method that people rave about and tie it into a curriculum that I already use. For example, I have heard wonderful things from many people about Spell to Write and Read. So much so that I considered buying it. At around $100 it seems a reasonable price, but I already have spelling, reading, and writing material that I also like. One of the great things that I heard about it is that it introduces all of the sounds that a letter could make at the same time (I haven't used this curriculum, I am just going on what others have told me at this point), and I thought that was a great idea. So, now as I teach reading to my kids and review phonics with my older ones, I use this concept. We don't just say 'A' says 'a' we talk about each of the sounds that letter (or combination of letters) can make. Sometimes without buying a new curriculum we can breathe new life into our existing ones with a little creativity.
Take full advantage of your library. I cannot tel you how much money I have saved by using my library. A number of years ago I used Sonlight, another curriculum that I had heard great things about and did really enjoy. However, I looked at their core packages and the prices seemed so high. For those without a library, I know they need to buy the packages offered. For myself, rather than just swallow it as worth it for the sake of educating my kids, I took the catalog and jumped online to check which books I could get from my library. I found quite a few of the required reading and history books either at my library or at other libraries that I had access to. Instead of ordering the whole core, I ordered just the books I could not find easily and saved almost $200. If I did find a book that we really enjoyed or I knew we would use for years to come, I still might consider buying it.
Enjoy the internet! If you had the time to explore and are comfortable with your searching ability, I think you could school very well using just the internet. Any time that one of my kids needs extra practice in an area, I google the topic with "printable worksheets" added on and come up with a variety of sites that provide what I am looking for, often with answer keys as well. I now use Ambleside Online for most of my homeschooling needs and through their site found a number of great books that you can read in their entirety from the internet. I do try to get what I can through the library because my kids can't all be on the computer at the same time, but I use these online book sites as well. Here is their "Online Library". The Baldwin Project and Project Gutenburg offer a number of classics as well that you can read without cost in the comfort of your own home.
Shop garage sales and used book sales, buying what you know you will need. If you have any homeschool co-ops or support groups in your area, chances are they have a book sale at least once a year (usually in the spring). These can offer a great opportunity to see many curriculums free, and talk to people who used them, and to buy books at affordable prices. After I settled on Saxon Math for fourth grade and beyond I started looking for all of the other years. I have now bought all I need through Algebra Two (still looking for the ones beyond there) at no more than $15 each! Also, if you have a curriculum that you like, some will have scratch and dent sales. I stocked up on my Rod and Staff English through one of these at 20% off or more.
Have a wish list for each child for birthday and Christmas gifts. If others ask what your child needs, have a couple great book titles on hand to suggest. Obviously, you don't want your child to receive a gift they would not appreciate. Although, for my son's second birthday I did ask for a couple science books that we needed. He has enjoyed them, didn't know the difference at the time (a present is a present is a present!), and they will be put to good use even long after the trucks or clothing that he enjoyed from others. While I wouldn't want all their gifts to be school books, I enjoy getting curriculum books for myself. I know, I'm strange like that.
I hope that some of these tips offer you some help in providing quality academics in your home in this coming year.
For more frugal tips check out Crystal's blog.