As with personal shopping, it might be best to hold off on purchases until either a sale comes along, or some extra cash is freed.

As with personal shopping, it might be best to hold off on purchases until either a sale comes along, or some extra cash is freed.

Despite some small signs of an economic recovery, states continue to struggle with their budgets—and districts are still finding it necessary to cut costs wherever possible. But such drastic measures as laying off staff and cutting valuable programs are not always needed, especially if you’re savvy enough to know of some often-overlooked ways to save.

In this article, you’ll find seven helpful suggestions from superintendents, technology directors, and teachers, explaining how their schools have managed to save money—because if there’s one thing this tough economy has shown, it’s that money matters.

1. Become more energy-efficient.

According to Kathleen M. Airhart, director of schools for Putnam County, Tenn., the last two fiscal years have been difficult for her school system. Month after month, state and local revenues have declined as a result of lower-than-anticipated sales tax growth.

“The school board and administration have been forced to make extremely difficult decisions in reducing expenditures and operations for our system, [cutting programs] that had been standard practice for many years. With an anticipated sales tax loss of near a million dollars for 2008-09, I … was constantly seeking solutions that would not directly impact teaching and the classroom,” Airhart explained.

She decided to look at how the school system could save money by reducing its energy consumption, but added: “The energy savings … would have to be found by reducing energy consumption with what equipment we currently had available, and not by spending thousands of dollars to change out operational systems. I have always considered myself to be somewhat of an environmentalist … but how could I convince my system of 19 schools, 1,100 employees, and 10,000 students to do the same?”

Airhart decided the best way to get buy-in among stakeholders was to conduct a contest among the county’s schools to see which school could save the most energy.