Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back to $chool

Notebooks, pens, Fiskars scissors--ahhhh...the great big bins of back-to-school. It is the only form of shopping that I actually enjoy. In our household, it is a celebration of near holiday proportions. Or, was. With two boys going into their Senior year, and my taller-than-me "baby" in eighth grade, our supply lists have diminished to little more than a few composition books and fancy gel pens. I'll never forget the first year I didn't have to buy Crayola crayons. I nearly cried.

I can understand, though, how it's not everybody's favorite thing, and after overhearing a conversation between a befuddled father and his eager secondish-grader son, I thought I'd share a few tips that made this a painless experience for our family.

1. Look at your kid's supply list, and estimate a total for everything. I usually went for something between $30-$40 dollars. Even the most egregious list should fall in that range. Then, get the cash, and hand it over to your child. From here on out, he is the consumer. Whatever he doesn't spend, he keeps.

2. First shop-stop? Home. Seriously, several items on the list are lurking under your roof. Maybe your daughter brought home her Fiskar scissors at the end of last year. They're still good. You probably have a red pen and a yellow hi-lighter. Sure, brand-new stuff is fun, but so is saving money. Designate a box or basket for a gathering place for things you find at home.

3. Watch the ads and hit the stores. Once. Designate a day (better still if you can go in the morning when stores are less crowded) and make it an event. Include lunch or a movie if possible, but make it a point to get (almost) everything on the list. I usually tried to get it all done at one store. The little bit you'll save probably won't make up for the gas you'll use. And, major stores like Target and Walmart honor their competitor's ads. Take them with you.

4. Remember, the kid is the consumer. This spiral is .25; the one with the cute puppy on the cover is 2.50. Let her decide. Do a math lesson and see if it's in her budget. It might mean not buying a new pencil box. She might have to make do with last year's lunch box. It's a great opportunity to teach real-life budgeting.

5. About that (almost) everything...Your supply list will include things like tissue boxes, zipper bags and Clorox wipes. That's great, but if your family is anything like mine, this is a crazy-tight money time. Yes, you need to bring 2 boxes of tissue. No, you do not need to bring them on Day 1. Let other parents who haven't read this do that. The teacher will be just as grateful to get those things from you later in September or October when they can be worked into your regular shopping list.

What are some other ways to make this a painless experience?


  1. I made my kids bring all their stuff home from school at the end of the year and I "cleaned" it up, then when we got that huge list the next school year,we went through our cache of school supplies and used those things first before going shopping. I cleaned up the water colors, ripped out the two pages used in a spiral, saved an assortment of scissors, rulers, compasses.

    1. Yep! Us, too. I'll run a "reminder" blog about that in the spring :)

      And, might I add...I HATE the unused spirals. Heaven forbid students use one spiral for more than one subject. grrrrr

      And nobody--NOBODY--needs a 2" Binder!

  2. Al these are excellent tips!
    Love love love the recycled products from the previous year. We would actually have a drawer for 'gently used' left overs - when each child brought in his or her backpack at years end, we would immediately empty it out on the table, collect the reusable items and put in the drawer.
    Multi-sectioned spirals were gleaned of used pages and placed back in the drawer as well. Our Back-to-School drawer saved a lot of $$.