School supply shopping tips

School supply shopping is not for the weak, that is for sure. It is expensive and often times frustrating. As a veteran back to school mom, I thought I would pass along some of my money and time saving tips to newbie moms.

A lot of PTAs and other parent groups will sell prepackaged schools supplies and this is a great time saver that will (almost) guarantee that your child will have the right supplies from day one that will last all school year. It’s a good idea to get recycled/sustainable products whenever possible and they usually aren’t included in the packs. That being said, if time is of the essence for you or you are new to the school, this might be a viable option for you. 

Go through that big bag of stuff that your children brought home at the end of school last year and see what can be reused. Scissor, pencil bags, rulers, binders, even some colored pencils can be used again. Tear out the used pages of spiral notebooks and send them to school. Does it really matter if there are 55 instead of 70 pages in that spiral notebook? 

Don’t go all over town trying to find the exact brand, size or color of everything on the school’s supply list. Chances are that list was compiled off the list of the beforementioned prepackaged supply list. The PTA picks the brands that they want for the supplies and contracts with the school supply vendor based on those choices. It probably doesn’t matter if your child has Crayola crayons or Prang crayons, they both make pretty colors when applied to paper. The only exception might be the color of the folders and spirals, since teachers often use different colored folders for different subjects.

Go shopping alone. Do it in the dead of night if you have to but under no circumstances take your children with you to buy supplies. It is a recipe for disaster.

Don’t send all of your children’s supplies to school the first day of school. Send only the spirals and folders and a few of everything else along with a note to the teacher stating that your child has his extras at home and you will send in anything they need when he sends a note home telling you what they need. Older kids can simply tell you what they need and you can send it in. Have a designated area in your house for extra supplies for you children to ‘shop’ for their needs and replenish when needed. This is a huge time and money saver.

A word about backpacks. Sometimes the kids don’t like to use the same backpack two years in a row, but if the one from last year still has a lot of wear left in it – trade. If you only have one child maybe they could trade with a friend. Ditto with lunchboxes. Oh, and forget about the backpacks with wheels, they don’t fit in standard sized lockers and they are just a general pain.

Buy earth friendly whenever you can. This is not always a money saving idea, but it is worth mentioning anyway because it is important to live in an environmentally sound way. Often times things that are produced in an earth friendly way are way more expensive than their conventional counterpart, but things are becoming more available and more affordable.

By following these tips, it’s possible to spend less than $100 per year for up to four children and have these supplies last all school year.