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Don’t Allow School Supplies To Break The Bank

School supply lists seem to be getting longer every year, and with two kids to buy for, this family is trying to stretch the budget.

I used to love school shopping.

My mom would take me a few weeks before school started and we would shop for new clothes and shoes. We would pick up a package of loose-leaf paper, pencils, some crayons, and (my favorite) a new Trapper Keeper. I would organize and reorganize my supplies days before school started. That first day, I would march across the field to the elementary school in my new outfit with my $8 for textbook rental in my pocket. As a kid, I loved it.

Now, I’m the parent.

It seems that the school supply lists the teachers send home gets longer every year. Many of the supplies we are asked to buy are for classroom use, and while I have no problem donating items for kids who need them, it would be nice to have a choice in the matter. Be that as it may, I dutifully take the kids and their lists shopping each year and tick off the items as we load them into our cart.

This year we are going to be out of town for tax-free weekend (Aug 5-7) taking place in much of Missouri (but not St. Peters), but I don’t think even shopping then will help defray some of the cost that much. The grand total of our late-July shopping spree came to: $72.50. That was for school supplies for a fourth grader and a third grader and did not include tax, their backpacks, shoes, lunchboxes, or clothes.

I usually start preparing for the school year weeks in advance, but the summer passed by quickly, and it snuck right up on me. I realized school was right around the corner and it had me scrambling to get things done, but in order to figure out what was truly needed, I had to take a breath and an afternoon to take stock of what we had and what was really needed.

First, I went through all of their supplies from last year. Anything that could be salvaged will be used this year. Many of the folders from the previous year had been written on or torn to shreds, but there was no reason we couldn’t recycle rulers, scissors, and bottles of glue that were still three quarters full.

Whatever nonperishable items were requested, I went to Costco and bought giant boxes of tissues, paper towels, sandwich bags, freezer bags, and disinfectant wipes. Buying them in bulk saved a little money and since we use them at home, I didn’t feel too guilty about it.

I splurged on backpacks for the boys 4 years ago from Land’s End. I may have spent a little more, but they have toted them on vacations and sleepovers and have been through the wash numerous times and they still look brand new. Had I gone the cheaper route, they probably would have needed to be replaced each year. No new backpacks, and since the boys have decided they want to eat lunch at school every day, no new lunchboxes either.

Having two boys that are close in age comes in handy when it comes time to go shopping for school clothes. I go through 7-year-old C’s things first and pass on everything that doesn’t fit to a younger boy in our neighborhood. Next, I go through 9-year-old E’s clothes and pull everything that he’s outgrown and move it to C’s closet. Viola! C has a brand new wardrobe. I will have to buy E new clothes and I still buy C a few new things too, but the hand-me-downs help cut down on how much I’ll spend.

Aside from new shoes and a recorder (!) for music class, we’re pretty well set for the new school year. Until October, when we will need to buy coats and replace all of the pants these boys have outgrown.

stephanie August 01, 2011 at 07:38 PM
You just have to shop the ads.. I got crayons for a penny at Office max and wooden rulers, Last week I got a 50ct eraser pack for a penny there too. The best school supply deals have been at office max, office depot and walgreens.
Holly Hunt August 01, 2011 at 08:22 PM
It definitely pays off to scour the ads. Thanks for the great advice Stephanie!
Kelly Lester (EasyLunchboxes) August 02, 2011 at 07:08 AM
My affordable EasyLunchbox System is now the #1 best selling lunchbox on Amazon. Pack lunches fast, healthy and green :) www.EasyLunchboxes.com
HouseofGourds August 29, 2011 at 09:45 PM
I think perhaps we should start challenging the school system on why the parents are paying for such a variety of items that should be covered by our tax dollars. Having to buy rolls of tiolet paper, chalk, material for the classroon boards should be covered by the school. At the next school board meeting us moms should ask what items the district could purchase at bulk prices to eliminate or reduce costs of pens, clips, etc. We are forced to purchase at retail prices that could be purchesed at a much lower price. A simple example is the purchase of one packet of 10 mailing envelopes goes for 7.75 or 75 cents each. You can buy 100 for seven cents a piece. Just a thought.

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