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Tasked recently with creating a furniture budget for your learning environment? There are probably 100 other things you need to be doing, and it’s likely been a while since you’ve had to do this (if ever at all).

That might seem overwhelming, especially if you’ve never done one before. Where do you begin? What furniture is essential? How do you manage your limited resources? While this article might be all you need to create a great furniture budget, it’s also one of the many things a Natural Pod team member can guide you through one-on-one.

If you’re an educator or administrator looking to create a budget for a welcoming, safe, and functional learning space, this is for you.


The Elephant in the Room

A sustainable furniture company for learning environments is writing an article on how to budget. Is this really a good place to guide you? That depends. For over 15 years, we’ve supported individuals just like you with space design and budgeting. And if you believe what we believe—that sustainable materials and practices are fundamental to our support of children, community, and planet—then yes, this is a great place to start.

Our aim is to provide you with a few key considerations so that you can spend less time thinking about the work and more time doing it. After all, furniture affects everything from a learner’s comfort and wellbeing to the overall aesthetic and practical functionality of the learning environment. When a learner is overwhelmed versus being supported by their environment, their capacity to process and hold new information is diminished.


Speaking about time, you’re going to need enough to allow for creating your order, getting approval, shipping, and assembly. For example, if you want new furniture for September, we suggest having your order placed in the spring, ideally by the end of June. Depending on the size of the order, having everything assembled in time for your learners could be a challenge. Give yourself enough time!

You may also have preexisting furniture that can be reused or repurposed. Assess your current inventory, take note of anything that’s broken or isn’t needed any longer, and plan for its next life. Use what’s left over to help you decide what new items you need for your learning environment.

Are you still trying to decide which furniture elements you need? Our Learning Furniture Buying Guide is a curated resource with essential considerations, from promoting movement to fostering sustainability, all while ensuring that every piece of furniture serves its pedagogical function.

How do I Create my Budget?

The numbers side of the equation. While this part of the task may seem a little daunting, it’s actually more about being organized than about complex formulas. This process involves assessing needs, establishing a financial plan, and implementing a system to monitor spending. Here’s how we recommend you approach these tasks step-by-step to ensure they make the most of your available funds.

Conducting a Needs Assessment

Your Vision: What is the vision for your learning environment? In Dr. Kathryn Murray’s article “More than just where to put the furniture – The Brain-SET Environments Formula©” she asks the question, “What if we considered the needs of the brain when setting up the learning environment?” Creating a space with these strategic considerations is an integral component for today’s learners. Understanding this is deeply integrated into what makes Natural Pod different. Everything we make is intertwined with learning and safety in mind.

Space Design: Take time and think through your learning objectives and outcomes for a space. Consider the age and number of students, the size of the classroom, and specific educational activities that require special furniture.

If your budget doesn’t support your full vision, consider a phased approach in collaboration with a designer. You can read more in the How can I Stretch my Budget? Section below. A phased approach ensures that the integrity of the design remains intact while deciding on what is critical to invest in now and what can wait.

Need support in designing your space? Our learning environment experts are here to guide you! We can create a tailored concept that aligns with your unique learning outcomes. Plus, we pride ourselves on minimizing the number of products we ship, ensuring each piece of furniture thoughtfully serves its pedagogical function.

List Your Essentials: Based on the furniture essentials that bring your vision to life, create a detailed list of what would be the most impactful for your learners. Remember to keep your design and your wish list for the future in mind.

Developing a Budget Plan

Estimate Costs: Consider how long you need your furniture items to last. This should be balanced with the initial and future replacement costs to make an informed decision on how to best invest your resources. Research current market prices for the essential items while considering quality, durability, and warranty.

Set a Total Budget: Based on your funding availability—whether from school funds, grants, or donations—set a realistic total budget that covers all the essential items. Rounding up your budget to accommodate unforeseen expenses is also a best practice.

Allocate Funds: Divide your total budget across the categories of furniture, allocating more to the items that best support your learning outcomes. For example, if open-ended learning or collaboration are a priority, elements that are adjustable, moveable, or multifunctional should receive a larger portion of the budget.

Tracking and Managing Expenses

Use a Budgeting Tool: Create a spreadsheet or use your organization’s budgeting software to track every expense. If you’re starting from scratch, setting up the following columns is a great start:

  • Supplier
  • Status (e.g., Approved, Ordered, Shipped, Received)
  • Item
  • Quantity
  • Unit Cost
  • Order Date
  • Arrive By
  • Point of Contact (Adding an email here can make handing off the ordering process a lot smoother in the future)
  • Warranty (Many suppliers offer between 3 and 10 years. Natural Pod’s is lifetime!)
  • Notes (Keep track of special instructions such as assembly links, maintenance instructions, etc.)

Some other costs you’ll likely need to consider include Shipping and Assembly. Your supplier will be able to give you an estimate.

If working through this part of the process has you stuck, it might be the right time to reach out to us! Sifting through catalogs can be a real chore and our experts would be happy to guide you through a Natural Pod environment with a free custom concept.

Monitor Your Spending: Regularly update your budget tracker with actual spending as purchases are made. This helps in staying on top of expenditures and ensures that you’re not overspending in any category.

Adjust as Necessary: Be prepared to modify your budget allocations as you go. If you find a good deal on some items, you can reallocate the saved funds to other categories or save them for future needs.

How can I Stretch my Budget?

Following a thoughtful and strategic approach is something that educators do best. In the past, you’ve likely spent countless times considering ‘How can I make the most of what’s available to me?’ Furniture will benefit from that ingenuity, and here are several strategies to consider:

Thoughtful Selection: Considering your core values and specific learning outcomes, ensure each piece enhances the educational experience. By leveraging an intentional design approach that considers the number of students, the size of the classroom, and specific educational activities, you can avoid redundancy and aesthetic mismatches through the selection of items that complement each other in both function and design. This supports creating a cohesive and supportive learning environment that directly reflects your educational philosophy and maximizes your budget.

Bulk Purchasing: When outfitting an entire classroom or several classrooms, purchasing furniture in bulk can lead to significant savings. Suppliers may offer discounts for large orders, which can stretch the budget further.

Durability Over Time: It may be tempting to opt for cheaper, less durable options when facing budget constraints. However, investing in high-quality furniture that withstands the wear and tear of regular use pays off in the long run. Remember to consider the cost of replacing the items and how often you may need to do so.

We’ve collaborated on a number of projects where an educator needed to replace what we call fast furniture—products that are built-to-fail with little to no care for longevity.

Multi-functional Furniture: Choose products that can serve multiple purposes. For example, a table built strong enough to be a stage, or a mobile shelf that can act as a seat. Multi-functionality is one of the most effective ways to do more with less.

Phased Purchasing: Start by purchasing the most critical pieces of furniture. This ensures that the most immediate needs of the classroom are met without exhausting the budget on less crucial items. As your budget permits, gradually add additional elements. Remember to keep track of these items in the budgeting tool that you’re using. If that’s a spreadsheet, adding a Purchase Timing column that tracks the month or season you plan for could be helpful.

If You Need us, We’re Just a Phone Call Away

Remember, if you’re ever stuck or frustrated, you can give us a call anytime. Our team is excited to support you in creating your next inspiring learning environment—there’s no question too big or small.