When starting a new Girl Scout troop, you might need to stay on the thrifty side until your troop can raise some funds for events and activities. Not to worry—every Girl Scout knows the importance of using resources wisely and making the most of every penny you do spend. Even our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, sold her own string of pearls to get the initial funds to start the Girl Scout program. Although we don’t expect you to go that far, we hope her actions will inspire you to think outside the box when looking for ways to fund your troop’s needs.
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Here are some thrifty ideas to get your troop started off on their Girl Scout year (without having to raid your own jewelry box):
Ask your parents for help
Many new troops decide to collect a small amount of dues to provide operating money to get the troop off the ground. The amount should be set by the troop leadership and can be annual, monthly, or per meeting.
When my daughter and I started our troop, we collected $1 per girl at each of our bi-monthly meetings and asked families to purchase uniforms the first year.
Learn to use coupons
Get your thrift on with the tried-and-true method of couponing! Finding deals either in newspapers and magazines, or on modern coupon sites like Groupon can be a great way to plan inexpensive activities for your troop.
Several craft stores also have amazing deals: did you know that JOANN’s has a new Girl Scout discount program? Snag some awesome fabrics and supplies for your next crafting project! It’s also smart to shop your local Michael’s and Hobby Lobby Stores; both offer coupons of 40%-50% off each week. Grab your co-leaders and go shopping with a one-per-person coupon printed for each you so you can score some savings together!
Many leaders also ask the families in their troop if they have access to discounts for stores/services through friends or their work that can be shared with the troop. We’ve had parents get discounts on a variety of items including food and craft supplies this way.
Team up with another troop
If you have the opportunity to save some cash by getting a group rate, consider partnering with another troop! You can buddy up to rent a movie theater, buy supplies or t-shirts in bulk or lower the cost of a fun outdoor activity. This way you all share the savings! Finding out about group rates and discounts for a minimum number of participants is a resourceful way to get a better deal.
Host a meeting at a free space
Local libraries, nature centers, schools, and community centers may have inexpensive or free space for you to host an event or activity. Sometimes touring these spaces makes a great meeting in and of itself, and many places like museums, nature centers, or even fire stations will give you a tour of their facility for free.
Free patch programs
Some organizations offer free or low-cost patch programs specifically for Girl Scouts. My favorite program is with Cabot Cheese. My troop and I learned so much from them and had so much fun with their programs, so it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity to earn one of these free badges.
Let the community know you are collecting items
My first year as a troop leader I posted on my local community page that I was collecting unused art and craft supplies, gardening supplies, and scrapbooking supplies.. I got bags of stuff that would have otherwise gone unused, saving the troop tons of money and making our meetings more sustainable to boot! A little time on Pinterest and we had a ton of ideas to put our new supplies to good use.
Got some new supplies but not sure what to do with them? Here’s what my troop got, and how we used it:
- Wedding thank-you cards: we placed a paper cut out of a smiley face over the wedding bells and since the cards were blank inside we wrote letters to veterans for Honor Flight.
- Garden soil, seeds, and egg cartons: we planned our own mini butterfly gardens.
- Ribbon, jingle bells and wooden dowels: We made streamers for dancing and running in the park with.
- Pom-poms, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, scrapbook paper make awesome trees!
- Lots of scrapbook paper: make “all about me” posters, thank-you cards, collages, and journals.
- Popsicle sticks and assorted craft items: wind chimes, baby turtles, book buddies, cover for mini books.
Starting a new troop can be daunting, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money to give your girls a memorable Girl Scout experience. Along with our thrifty tips above, having fun, singing songs, laughing, and making memories together will be what your girls remember most about being a Girl Scout.
What to do next:
- Want more troop budgeting tips? Check out Girl Scouting on a Budget: Troop Volunteers Share their Two Cents.
- If your troop’s dreams require a little extra funding, here are 5 Tips for Troop Money-Earning that you can try!
- Share your thrifty ideas in the comments section!
Richel Newborg—Richel is a troop leader to Troop 2740 located in Fort Worth, Texas (although she was born and raised in California). Her mom and grandmother were also Girl Scout Leaders. Her favorite memory so far as a troop leader was packing friends, family, and excited girls into her living room (almost 50 people) when their bridging/rededication ceremony was rained out. It was crowded but an awesome celebration of Girl Scouting and they even managed to have a real bridge!