Save Money on School Supplies



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Save Money on Back To School Supplies

Buying school supplies can be a confusing experience! Try these easy ideas to save money on school supplies and still get everything they need for school!

Save Money on School Supplies

I walked into Wal-Mart today and saw her standing there: a mom. She had two children sitting in her shopping cart, one walking beside it and another clinging to her leg. She had the look of a battle weary soldier, with her feet dragging and her shoulders slumped. Child #1 was punching child #3. Child #2 was begging for a toy and child #4 was doing the “potty dance”.

As she approached the main aisle of the store she looked up and saw the display there. Her face lit up. She smiled and straightened her shoulders. There was joy and hope shining from her like I had never seen before.

You may ask “What was on that display that caused this mom to break forth in song singing, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning?” Was it spectacular jewelry or the latest in designer dresses? Oh, no no no! It was school supplies! For decades, moms everywhere have eagerly awaited the day when that first box of crayons and pack of notebook paper make their appearance.

For many, though, the first reaction of joy about school supplies is quickly followed by a second reaction of pure dread. “How am I going to pay for all of this?” I sat last year and watched as a TV news reporter asked person after person at one store how much they had just spent for back to school supplies. I was shocked at the amount of money people were spending. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. How could it cost $1000 for school supplies? Yes, you heard it right — $1000.

Basic school supplies like crayons, pencils and notebook paper cost only about half the price that they cost 20 years ago. In our school district, the basic school supplies only cost around $15 and that includes an inexpensive backpack.

So what was the problem with the people on the news? Suddenly I noticed something interesting. Each person’s shopping cart wasn’t full of school supplies, it was full of clothes, shoes, and the latest in aerodynamic backpacks, some of which cost nearly as much as the first car my husband and I bought.

If you find that back to school preparation throws your finances out of balance, try these tips to help bring school supplies costs back within your budget:

  1. Make sure what you are buying is only the school supplies your children absolutely need and not simply what they want to make them “cool”.Expensive clothes, shoes, purses and lunch pails are not needs but wants. You don’t need to buy the best and most expensive backpacks in the world. One woman said that she paid $100 for her child’s backpack because she felt it would last longer. She was sure she got the better deal. She was proud that it lasted 3 years. Financially speaking, she could have bought two less expensive backpacks each year for three years and it still would have been cheaper than the one $100 backpack. More expensive isn’t always better.

    If the school’s required school supply list calls for a 24 count box of crayons, don’t buy a 96 count box. One teacher begged her parents to send only the 24 count box because the 24 box gives children some choice without overwhelming them. A five to eight year old can spend ages agonizing over what color to color something and too much choice slows things down in class.

  1. Don’t buy everything at once. I have yet to understand how it could be that, the week before school starts, every child in the United States no longer has a stitch of clothing to wear and needs to have a whole new wardrobe. I think it is one of those traditions that we have followed for decades just because, as far as we can remember, it has always been done that way.

    You have probably heard the story of the woman who always cut the ends off her ham before she baked it. When asked why she did that she said because her mom did it that way. When the mom was asked why she did it that way she said because her mom had done it that way, too. When grandma was asked the same question, she said “because I didn’t have a big enough pan and I had to cut it to make it fit”.

    Years ago, most kids only had one or two outfits and those were generally work clothes. When they started school, they often got new school clothes because their clothes were actually worn out. They needed something a little better and something that wasn’t too small. Since they had gone barefoot all summer and winter was coming, many would get a new pair of shoes. So started a tradition. Most children now have reasonable clothes that they have been wearing all summer and can probably wear to school. If your children really need new jeans, get them one or two pairs now and then, in a month or so, buy them another pair.

    So often we have an all or nothing mentality. I need gas, so instead of just putting in the $15 cash that I have in my pocket right now that would last a couple of days, I think I need to fill the tank and put it on my almost overloaded credit card. (Then later when I get the urge to buy a soda at a convenience store, I’ll rationalize “I’ve got the cash in my pocket, so I can afford it.”)

    You don’t need to buy your children a year’s worth of clothes the week before school. I know there are a lot of good buys just before school, but if you have to charge them on a high interest credit card, they are no longer good buys.

  2. Try to make do with the school supplies you already have. If the kids still have scissors from last year, reuse them. That goes for rulers, pencil boxes and other supplies, too. Go ahead and buy new crayons (they cost 20 cents a box here in back to school sales), folders and pencils. That way your children feel like they are getting something new.

    If last year’s backpack is still good then reuse it. If your child wants something different, then use glue or fusible web and applique it with some fun trims and decorations. If they still insist that they need a new backpack, let them take their own money and buy one.

From A Reader

Thank you for your advice about back to school supplies & buying school clothes. I had already purchased perfectly good clothes for my daughter this summer at garage sales, but like many others, was planning on buying “school clothes”. Why? I don’t know, because it’s just been one of those things people do without even considering why.

When I read that, it was like a lightning bolt – of course, if the clothes she’s been wearing are in good condition, why go & buy more just because school is starting? You saved us a good deal of money, I’m sure, as well as many others who read this advice. It’s all about changing the way we think about things – that’s the real key to saving money. Thanks again!

-Chantelle H.

 

Comments

  1. lela says

    Something that has changed in the 12 years since I graduated from school is the presence of uniforms.Specifically when you have to order them from the school.$$$

    • says

      Lela, if it isn’t required to order them from the school, around this time of year our thrift store has a whole rack of really nice used school uniforms from the schools in our area.

  2. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    Maybe Lela could start a uniform co-op where parents share those that are now longer needed with others.

    I bought a backpack in 1984 for $5. I’m still using it.

  3. tracy w says

    I enjoyed reading your artical My son finally attends a school that requires uniforms Up front yes expensive his first year but
    now his clothe buget is less than mom’s He is responsable for laundring
    and not ruining his uniforms either .
    He reuses 3 ring note books and cloth covers each year Sometime dollar
    store are cheaper than walmart for school supplies
    So this year I mainly need paper and folders which keep my school supplies down
    Tracy

  4. Lucy says

    The required list is horrific. At the time my son was a senior, 9 years ago, the list was 2 pages. I noticed the lists were out in the stores last weekend, and the 12th grade list is now 3 pages!

  5. Peggy H. says

    I usually buy a few extra schools supplies right now since the prices are so low. I then use them for stocking stuffers or for the Operation Christmas Child boxes that our children fill every year. I end up saving money in the long run and get to share with others at an extremely discounted price.

  6. mary beth says

    To help with back to school start up costs for my son, we re-use last year’s backpack if it’s still ok, and for the first 2 months of school, students are permitted to wear shorts, so I simply cut off last year’s khaki slacks to make shorts, and purchase long pants afterward. Also, check second hand stores for pants. I have found pants with worn out knees for $1.00 each and made shorts to begin the year without breaking the bank. This frees up cash for other needed supplies.

  7. WD says

    It cost me $200 for my children (and I am not done). I have only purchased for the elementary children so far–the middle and high school lists have not come out yet in my area. I don’t buy “school clothes” and they don’t count as school supplies. I ONLY buy just what is on the lists. The problem is the required lists. My children’s schools even are so bold as to require specific brands of supplies–and it’s always the most expensive name brands.

    Another issue is that the supplies are pooled together–when I was in school, we purchased and used OUR OWN supplies. Now the teachers require you to purchase the supplies and they collect them and pass out as they see fit. At the end of last year, my children came home with entire notebooks with only 10-20 pages used. The rest of the pages were new/unmarked But we can’t send those back in for this year–the school won’t accept them. And that’s just one example of the wasteful use of the supplies. I could cite several examples from last year alone. I find this to be wasteful and extravagant with FAMILIES’ money. Why should the school care–it’s not their money and if you should question about the wastefulness, they treat you as if you are some fool who cares nothing for your child’s education.

    I wish the schools would understand that we must live within our budgets and everything has a limit. Most parents do not have unlimited resources, for ANYTHING.

    • says

      WD, we are dealing with the exact same problems here in our area and it is very frustrating and we totally agree. If you all can stick with us over the next couple of weeks we have some articles on how to deal with some of these things which might help a little.

      One thing which we mention is sometimes just going to the teacher and nicely saying we don’t have the money to for any extras so what are the bare bones of what is needed on the list and they have at times cut it way back.
      But like I said we will be covering other things like this so “stay tuned” :)

    • says

      I TOTALLY agree with you!!! I see so much waste and large amounts of it that when the school starts hollering about how they need money, they DO NOT get my sympathy! Tawra

    • Shawnie says

      Thank you for saying what I was thinking. I have 3 boys and this is the way it is done here. I’m so frustrated by this. I try to use the notebooks and pads around the house, but really how many does one house need? This year I am sending my 5th grader back with them and letting the teacher know this is all we can afford. They will have to make due, just like us!

  8. Joy says

    Wow – great deals on school supplies if you watch the ads carefully!! and read the fine print. My husband found a one-of-a-kind deal at his place of employment. The office was going to get rid of the lost and found pile before school started again. They let him look thru it and he found a camo backpak for my son. Just in time for his birthday too!!

  9. Cora-Sue says

    when my kids were in school,it was basic.Crayons,paper,pencils,scissors,rulers.Now for my grandkids it is pencil bos,backpack,clorox wipes,big boxes of kleenex,etc. But the thing that really irritates me is the calculator–can’t be a small one. Has to be a Texas Instrument and theres another one—over $25.00 each.And I have one question.Isn’t that what a math teacher gets paid for? To teach math? Guess we can fire the teacher and let the kids play with their calculator the whole math period. Here they even had to take paper for the teachers to make copies of things for classes.

    • says

      It is frustrating when the schools demand certain things, but this is not new. My son is a Lt. Col. in the Air Force. In high school he was required to have a scientific calculator, which was a real struggle for us to get, not only financially, but because we were rural and lived over 60 miles from any large retailers. He had to have that or he could not get the classes he needed for further education. I wish I knew what the answer is – all I can do at this point is pray for the families that have children. (my grandchildren included)

      One thing I did do, even though it was a little more out of pocket a the beginning of the school year was to buy extra notebook paper and spiral notebooks when the before school sales were on, and put them away for use throughout the year. You can often get paper for less than 50 cents and spiral notebooks for 20 or 25 cents. They are never that cheap again during the year. (I give them to my grandkids now with their Christmas. – They are usually about ready for a new set then after starting school in late Aug. or early Sept. I jazz up the spirals with a few stickers or personalize them. You can cut pictures of things they like out of catalogs and do a white glue and water decoupage. It seems more like a gift than school supplies then.)

  10. Pene says

    School clothes shopping is not a problem for us because we homeschool. However, we still need to replenish school supplies. This is the best time of year to get them, however we also look throughout the year for sales. When homeschooling you can treat it two different ways.
    1. Each student gets their own.
    2. Have a community area for all school supplies.
    We use 1 and 2, each child’s items are marked with that child’s color, so if they are left out I know whose it is. Then we also have a community/teachers supply area, so supplies can be replenished, if needed.

    Each child does have a backpack, for those days we need to do school on the road.

    Each of our children have a color, so when getting supplies, they are marked with that color, this also works on clothing. With socks, I mark the line across the toes with a sharpie. For shirts and pants, I put a colored dot on the tag. This method would work for Public School as well, when looking through the lost and found.

  11. stephanie says

    Our school has a program where they help the families in need who cannot afford school supplies and you go to the school and pick up what they have for supplies and even backpacks. Our school does not have uniforms so we save on clothes cause they can wear their summer clothes to school. The school does not have everything since I have a first, third and fifth grader to supply for. But in the end I pay possibly no more than $30 for everything.

  12. Amy says

    If my daughter hasn’t grown out of her clothes yet, I let her pick out one new outfit for “picture day” instead of buying a whole new wardrobe. This lets her feel like the other kids even though it is only one outfit.

  13. Kim says

    I looked through my son’s 4th grade school supply list and shopped at home first. We looked through his desk and my stash of supplies and came up with half of what he needed before we went to the store! We spent @ 12.00 and that included a new lunch box. He will re-use last years backpack. All we need to get are new sneakers to replace outgrown ones and one new outfit. I also make this picture day outfit.

  14. says

    These are really nice tips. Although, I prefer buying in bulk and using coupons. They are most likely to lose their pens, pencils and other stuff anyway, at least we still have some spares. And coupons help lessen the cost.

  15. elizabeth says

    I am a teacher and a mom, and I agree that some of the lists have gotten out of control. I tell my students’ parents that all they REALLY need off the school list is crayons, glue, scissors, pencils, and a notebook – which can easily be had for under $5 at walmart. I still have about half the class bring nothing. :( I personally refuse to “pool” everyone’s supplies together. Our school and community has ample resources for students who are low-income; I think some people who could send in supplies choose not to do so, assuming other parents will cover their kids. Sorry, not in my classroom. Parents should not take advantage of one another IMO. All parents should remind their kids to take good care of their supplies. You would be shocked to see how many kids purposely break their own crayons or pour out tons of glue to play with. They are little and don’t always realize the value of $. So don’t forget to remind them to take good care of their stuff.

  16. Dana says

    What was shocking to me in reading these posts was the general attitude of “If the school says it, we have to do it.” Yes, most of the time the teacher has the students best interests in mind, but just because the school says it doesn’t mean it’s law. My youngest child’s list required a 5 subject notebook, I had found 1 and 3 subject notebooks on sale; I sent these. I will not apologize for the substitution; the school is an institution of learning, not a dictatorial governing force who must be obeyed at all costs. If you do not agree with the requirements, or feel what you have purchased or have available is acceptable, let the teacher know. Most of the time, she will understand and will accommodate you. Kids need to learn how to use the supplies at hand and how to “reinvent the wheel” when needed. Innovation and determination as well as character can be developed in the process.

    • says

      Dana, you may not have had a chance to read them yet but I have said many times that you can go and ask the teacher what basic supplies the kids really need and most teachers are very good about adjusting the list for you. I have also often said if you just ask nicely most people, business are very willing to work with you on most things.

      Sometimes too it isn’t so much the institutions which are being dictatorial (although that does happen) but it can be just people who live in fear all the time and/or are afraid to question things.

  17. Brenna says

    I have to say, that our school district tries to keep their list(s) to a minimum. That being said, though, I refuse to buy another pair of school scissors when my child still has a perfectly functioning, good pair. My daughter’s particular teacher asked for 4 pocket folders, 2 red and 2 yellow, the catch was that she wanted the plastic or vinyl kind…not a big deal, right? I searched 4 different stores for red vinyl folders, she ended up with hot pink instead. I had to make a choice and it seemed to me that what the teacher wanted most was the vinyl kind of folder instead of the paper folders. Hopefully common sense will rule in this case :-) All in all I spent approximately $10 for school supplies…no new backpack, school box, or scissors :-) And as you ladies have so eloquently written before…no new clothes until they are needed :-)

  18. Linda says

    School supply lists are absolutely out of control! How about the schools that are now asking for paper towels, kleenex, bottles of hand-sanitizer, and believe it or not, even toilet paper?? A note to all you parents out there – YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SUPPLY THESE ITEMS FOR THE SCHOOL! The teachers want the items from the children because their classroom budgets are being slashed. Nothing is giong to happen to your child if you don’t send these items to school with them. Teachers and schools cannot force you to purchase what’s on these lists. the just like like parents to think they can! It’s time for the craziness to stop!!

  19. Brenna says

    While I agree with the sentiment that the school can’t and shouldn’t dictate what my child HAS to have to come school, the truth is that the budgets ARE being slashed. So, does that mean that by my buying some toilet paper, kleenex, hand sanitizer, and paper towels, that the school and teachers can then use the money they DO have for books and other specialized learning supplies. I like to think so. I also think this is why buying these extra things doesn’t make me crazy. Is it a shame? Yes it is, that we are reduced to buying toilet paper for our childrens’ schools. But, I’ll do whatever I have to, to ensure my children’s education. However bitter the pill is to swallow. Just some thoughts. Please take in the spirit intended :-)

    • says

      Thanks Brenna. I too understand Lindas frustration, but I worked at a school that sent this kind of needs list home. There were times when classrooms did not have Kleenex etc., but the lists sent home read something like – Wish list If you can help with any of these school needs….. etc., not a list demanding that all parents purchase. Most donations come in at the beginning of the year when the list is handed out. Choose a month that is not so hectic on your budget and pick an item or two to send to the school then. It will be gratefully received! One of the things that happened at our school, was that I was a member of the local Federated Women’s Club. We were rural, small town, as was our W. Club, but I asked the club to budget $25. a month for school supplies, which they gladly did. I also provided one of the school wish lists, and some members bought for the school when things like paper towels were on sale. If your area has a Kiwanis Club, they would probably do the same. Just a thought – it doesn’t hurt to ask.

  20. says

    Years ago when my eldest son started school they sent home a list of things he must have.
    indoor shoes and outdoor shoes. to save the gym floor.
    Ok I bit the bullet and he got 2 pairs of shoes. one fairly expensive for outdoors and a cheap pair of runners for indoors.
    but I could not see spending $10 on a painting smock. They had art class once a week. I know it was to save the clothes but still $10 for a plastic bib was just not going to happen.
    I had kept my old maternity tops the elastic at the neck long full sleeves that covered me to my hips covered my son to his knees.
    I put elastic in the sleeves and he looked like a Parisian painter.
    He loved it and the other kids were envious.
    Now the reason I didn’t want to buy the things they asked for was that my husband was on strike at the time and we had $25. for 2 weeks. That is what strike pay was at the time.
    We were living mainly from stocked groceries and eating a lot of homemade soups and stews and reading books for entertainment. Not much left for the extras the school wanted.
    What I never could figure out was why the schools didn’t cut their wish list from parents to the bone since the company was the major employer for the city so about 3/4 of the population were on strike.
    Sometimes I think schools don’t operate in the real world.

  21. Kelly says

    I second the sentiment that just because the item is on a list from school doesn’t mean that I am requried to buy it. If I find a comparable brand for less, I will buy it and send it. One year we were requested to send in 3 pink pearl erasers. They had been on sale for really cheap, but then they were all gone and I refused to pay $5 for 3 erasers. I just didn’t send them, and figured if they really needed more, I would send them later. Guess what? The need never arose.

    So my feeling is do what seems reasonable and what you can, and let the rest worry about itself–it tends to all work out in the end.

  22. says

    What great points! The school that I taught at had a teacher’s supply area. We definitely didn’t use all of the supplies every year. It does all seem to work out in the end.

  23. Anne says

    Last year my grandson’s teacher told me see needed scissors for her classroom. Most of the kids did not bring them in and she didn’t have enough for everyone. I went to walmart and found them on clearance and was able to buy enough for the whole class for $4.00. The teacher’s are not allowed to ask for things like copy paper, scissors, crayons etc, even if they didn’t get enough at the beginning of the year. I only found out by asking her if there was anything she needed. As a retired teacher(25 yrs) I know how much money teachers spend out of pocket to make sure kids have the basics in the classroom. You don’t have to buy the most expensive stuff just the basics. Never be afraid to ask the teacher how you can help. $4 made her year much easier and the kids got to do more because they could all do projects at the same time. I also do a teacher goody bag at the first of the year with supplies I buy on clearance all year long, for $10 they get, stickers, paper clips, note pads and all kind of other supplies, Whatever I find on sale.

    • Sara says

      When my boys were younger, I volunteered in their classrooms and saw how hard it was for their teachers to keep the classroom stocked. Often, I will not send in all of the supplementary supplies during the first week of school but check in a few times a year and send in sanitizer, Clorox wipes, pencils (pencils and cap erasers always seem to be needed), and kleenex. That way, my budget isn’t overwhelmed and I can still help out. Plus anything I can do to help keep germs down…lol. For the kids supplies, I’m a bit of a supply hoarder. I love paper and pencils etc., so we shop from my stockpile first and grab the rest as we see it on sale. I like to grab the plastic folders rather than the paper, if I can find them, because they last the whole year.I also watch the sales and coupons at Staples for deals on their 3-ring binders, they are the only ones that survive a year with my youngest, but $8 a piece is too expensive for our budget. A few years ago, we invested in some nice backpacks I found on sale near Christmas time and they are still in fantastic shape. They are Jansport and have a lifetime warranty, so there’s always that. Our school has a program where the kids can borrow scientific calculators for the year, but we supply batteries for classroom use at the beginning of the year; an excellent tradeoff, in my opinion. We start class in August, so the kids wear their summer clothes, but they usually need sneakers and a new shirt or two until the weather gets cooler. My boys are teenagers now, so $50 for the pair of them in supplies, and probably another $100 or so in shoes and tee shirts. My books for this semester of college cost double the boys clothes and supplies.

  24. Alecia Wimer says

    I am starting my fifth year of home schooling my two children. My costs are extremely low for learning, but I did give up a pretty good income, that I was making, to do it. (So, in another way, my “cost” is high.) But, I see the fruits of having them around a lot of Christian influences all day. I feel I’m in the Lord’s will by homeschooling, and that brings me peace. I’d rather have peace than more money! I am also a former teacher. You don’t have to bring all the extras, if you can’t afford it. I did not keep up with who brought what. However, if most parents don’t bring in the hand sanitizer, for instance, it will be a burden on the teacher. Teachers already buy a lot out of pocket, and they don’t mind to do it–but–just saying… One thing I put on my supply list was one disposable camera per child (labeled with their name). Then, throughout the year, I would take pictures of their child doing projects, reading, making a presentation, etc… All parents sent that in because they could see the investment in doing so!!!

    • says

      Most of the problem isn’t so much not being willing to provide the supplies my child needs especially to help the teacher but the biggest thing is that I have a problem with is the teacher keeping all the supplies to give out as the kids need it using my child’s supplies for someone else. Even if it was to give kids who couldn’t afford it I could see but what happens is my child has been taught to be careful with their paper and not waste it, to be careful with their pencils when they sharpen them, not to pour 1/4 a cup of hand sanitizer in their palm but to use a little bit.

      A lot of other kids have not been taught this so half the time I am buying enough supplies at my child’s expense to pay for others wastefulness. When I was in school I had to be responsible to bring my own pencil each day and if I didn’t oh well to bad for me I had to reap the consequences of not getting my work done and then fluking if I forgot.
      Problem is kids don’t have to be responsible any more. If they forget their pencil the teacher has plenty from other kids to cover for them so they don’t have to worry and they don’t have to worry if they don’t get their work done in our area because they don’t fluke the kids hardly at all any more because it is too hard on their self esteem.

      We holler about people not being responsible any more but it sure seems like we enable that behavior in so many different ways starting with our children.

  25. Liz says

    I’m with you, WD! While I certainly don’t mind helping with class supplies, I DO mind my child’s own supplies such as his pencils, crayons, etc. being used in a community pool. Two years ago, all the kids had to put their “leftover” pencils in a jar (just after the new year) for everyone to use because some children were very wasteful (breaking and using inappropriately) their pencils. Because my son had taken care of his, he had about 8 pencils left. So, all of his except 2 went into a community jar. I was not happy about that as my husband had been laid off for several months and money was tight. My son also saw the other kids using his pencils (as I had put stickers with his names on each one close to the eraser tip), and he became upset that the other kids were chewing on and using up his pencils. I informed the teacher of our circumstances and told her I will buy pencils for my child, but can’t afford to supply the entire class. She told me he needed to bring the other pencils home with his name on them and could only keep 2 in his box. What!?! She also said he needed to sharpen them at the beginning of the day and if both broke, he would be without a pencil as he could not get one from the community jar, since he wasn’t willing to share his. This infuriated me. Why could he just not keep the extra 6 pencils in his box?!?
    I am also usually the room mom for the class. I always give a pencil, and other school supplies in goody bags for the kids. I do this out of my own money, not money from PTA. I’m spend about $1 on each child’s goody bag. With the school sales, I’m hoping to get boxes of crayons, pencils, etc. for each child for their Christmas or Valentine goody bag, so they can have them for the second semester. They get so much candy during these times, that they really appreciate the new supplies.
    When I was in elementary school 40 years ago, we had to take boxes of kleenexes for the class to share. Each child in each class had to bring one package of one color of construction paper. Then, the classes would share all the colors so each class had some of each color. We also had to bring large jars of one color of powdered paint (to be mixed with water). The paints were divided among the classes as the paper would. My son’s school asks for hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and kleenex to share. I don’t have a problem with that. But, each child needs to bring it, not just expected for some to bring and not everyone. I realize more now than ever that money being still tight for us, that money is a problem for families, especially when you have several to buy for, but if you can’t take the items at the beginning of the year, the items should be taken as the year goes on and it’s needed.
    I have many friends who are teachers and I know they spend a huge chunk of money on supplies for the kids. They don’t get paid well as it is. Please help them by bringing the supplies they will use. I certainly wouldn’t work for that little of pay and then spend a large chunk of my money on school supplies. Many hands make little work…just as many supplying helps cut down on the large cost for others.

  26. Carol Sampson says

    I have saved quite a bit of money on school supplies by watching the sales at office supply stores. Almost every ad has some sort of great special. For example, this week Staples had packages of 8 wooden pencils for 1 penny, limit two. I buy these really good deals through out the year and keep them in a bin in the closet. When it comes time to gather school supplies for the start of another school year I go “shopping” in this bin before I go to the store. This year I was able to “shop” my bin for well over half of my daughter’s supplies!

  27. Liz says

    My husband is a custodian in a very affluent school district. You would be in shock if you saw how many school supplies, coats and jackets, are left at school! There were about 3 tables full of nice coats and jackets…Aeropostale, North Face, Under Armor, Eddie Bauer, etc. They were going to pitch them as the parents and children had a month before the Christmas break to claim any left items. No one claimed them! The organization who was to pick them up, never showed up, so my husband brought them home and we gave to several single moms we know who get little or no child support, we kept a couple for our son for next year, and gave the rest to our church’s clothing closet. Our church is one of the closets/pantries who supplies Social Services clients. We know all the coats found a good home.

    About responsibility, my husband was picking up the school supplies left on the floors every day by the kids. The head custodian told him to just throw them all away because the kids don’t care and are so wasteful because they know their parents will buy them more. He would put the supplies on a nearby desk, but if he really wasn’t sure who they went to, he would bring them home. We have donated lots of pencils and pens to our church, and they have been able to pass them out to kids who don’t have supplies. We sharpened all the pencils as we knew they would look more “new” that way. It’s amazing how wasteful some kids (and parents) are!

  28. heartathome4ever says

    School starts here (Alabama)in 2 weeks. I have already purchased all of my youngest child’s supplies. We spent a total of $10 on actual supplies. She also needed a couple of new outfits since most of her clothes from last year are now to small. Since it stays warm here until October we purchased shorts and a few tops from the clearance racks, spending approximately $25. Her shoes are still good since they were purchased just last spring. She will reuse the backpack and lunchbox she has had for the last couple of years as they are still in good condition. I still have 2 more kids to buy for but they are older and haven’t outgrown as much so they will need very little. As for school supplies for them, I send them to school the first day with only a couple of pencils and a notebook. They never need all of the items on the “master” supply list.

  29. Brenda in IL says

    Danna, couldn’t agree more that the school is not the dictator of the school supply world! We send what we can, and throughout the year, I work on sending the rest or sending in what is called for.
    Jill, yes it rewards others’ carelessness but a teacher doesn’t have the time to keep track of everyone’s things these days. At least that is what I am told. I think if each child had a bin to put all their stuff in, and then when it ran low, they had to bring more, would work. However, I am not a teacher in a school so I can’t say for sure.
    What we do is this: I save/gather/buy shoes all year and keep them in a bin in the basement. We look there first for shoes for the new school year, as well as gym shoes.
    At the end of each school year, we put in a bin all the reusable items the children have brought home [highlighters, scissors, rulers, pencils, etc]. Then in August we get the school lists out, and cross off what we already have. We don’t buy those things, and only buy what we need. Backpacks are re-used until they are trash. I don’t EVER by ‘character’ stuff because if the backpack lasts 5 years, middleschoolers may not want to carry Elmo, you know? I don’t usually give in to the children’s whims on trends anyway, and they are fine with that. If we do buy character or licensed apparel, it’s at garage sale or thrift shop.
    I would not dream of buying all new everything every school year. That is ridiculous! We just assessed socks and underwear yesterday, and made a list of what we need. As for clothes, I have bins of clothes that are outgrown or purchased at garage sales, etc that I have on hand and we ‘shop’ from there. I also ‘collect’ coats and snowpants, and boots, as you can find these for $1 or $2 at sales, and when you have 4 boys, you can NEVER have too many snowpants! I get very nice items, no rips, etc and they look nice. Also, I am not too proud to accept things from friends nor too proud to ‘curb shop’. We have gotten some great things that were put out for trash!
    With minimal planning and space you can achieve this. I have 5 children, ranging in age from 18-15 mos, plus 2 junior high age stepdaughters, and we do this every year.
    I have a recorder from my 7th grader’s year in 4th grade, that I have put away for my new 4th grader son this year. No reason to have to buy another through the school. We also pick up school supplies all year long. I got a trapper keeper type ring binder thing at Walgreens for $2 in the winter. I know what they will need, and general items like notebooks and such can be stored indefinitely. Also, after holidays, Walmart marks down the holiday 12 piece pencil sets to 10cents. They get a kick out of having Christmas or fall pencils in June!
    ps-A sad story to share: Friend of ours run the local food pantry, and they also hand out school supplies. They have told us it is shameful how the same families come in year after year and take ALL brand new items every time. This year she sent out a letter to these folks telling them to take only what they need. They said that their own grandchildren don’t even get all brand new stuff! I think that is a sad commentary on much of society-not caring, not planning, just throwing away, and since they don’t buy it, they care even less.
    Anyway, just thought I would share. Frugal living is something we are passionate about here, especially since my husband is a 99er.

  30. Jeanne T. says

    I don’t have children in school, but there is a trend that I’ve heard of (from my husband’s daughter and others as well) in many schools that perhaps Jill could address. That is the issue of “sharing” supplies. Parents are buying supplies for their children only to have those supplies used by everyone. Children are not allowed to keep the supplies they bring to school because they go into a shared stash. The supplies are shared by all the kids because some cannot supposedly afford to buy them. I have a couple problems with this forced sharing.

    First, it undermines the Biblical principal of ownership and private property. According to my husband’s daughter, many parents (including school employees) don’t buy supplies, not because they can’t afford them, but because they know they will get them for free anyway since the honest parents will buy them. This is wrong, and it encourages taking from others.

    Second, sharing should be voluntary, not forced. There is nothing in the Bible that supports “spreading the wealth” by confiscating from others, or forcing those who have to share with those who don’t have or who don’t want to contribute. I believe this just sends the wrong message to children, who should be taught that charity is not forced.

    Jill, what are your comments? I welcome the comments of readers as well.

  31. Lorene Terwilliger says

    Staples has a lot of “loss leader sales” such as box of pencils for $1.00 and notebooks and paper really cheap which is probably to get parents in the store and buy other things but you can get a box of pens for a buck. I do not know if they do this everywhere but we traveled across the country and saw their sales that were really good. I got a shredder for $10.00 which I assume someone brought back. An eraser for 25 cents or pencil erasers for a dime. I was there a few weeks ago but I know they have good sales sometimes. You can go online and see.

  32. Brenda in IL says

    Hi Jeanne,
    Our school does that as well and I am not offended by it. I have been on both sides of it [able to give more, needing to take] so I see it’s merits. You can’t determine who truly can’t afford supplies and who is lying. We can’t afford much, as my husband is a 99er, and we have many children. I buy what I can, find what I can, and reuse from previous years, but if they need 3 boxes of gallon ziplocs and I can only send one, so be it. I send things throughout the year as well to maintain what they need. The Bible tells us to help the poor, and this is one way we can do it. I don’t mind if I buy kleenex and the kid next to mine couldn’t afford any, to share with him. I would expect and hope my child would share anyway. They are not taking from others in the stealing sense, as the teacher doles everything out. When it’s time to bring supplies in, there is a basket for say, wipes, and a basket for kleenex, and pencils and whatnot. If they want to have special pencils, etc they keep those in their desks.
    Sharing isn’t always voluntary. What about tithing? We are commanded to tithe. I am commanded to tithe, and give my pastor a $100k a year salary, while we have $217 in the bank-total! Since we are born sinners, children have to be trained to share, show empathy, apologize, and care about others. Helping others and sharing is something that is taught to train children how to be caring, compassionate adults. Will people abuse the system? Of course, they always do. But we cannot live our lives looking for that. We need to let people see Jesus in us, as we are his witness to others. It’s like the old saying” you may be the only Bible some people ever read.” And remember, the children are not to blame, the parents are, if they decide on purpose to not by the things they should and can afford.
    Someone else wrote above that it isn’t the end of the world if the entire list isn’t purchased either,especially all at one time. How do you know who bought what, who brings in stuff during the year, and who uses what? If I had the money, I would buy supplies for those who need it, or just ask the teacher what she needs, and get those for her. I was just at Staples yesterday and 3 teachers were in there buying pencils, highlighters and note cards. They know parents will abuse the system. It is up to the rest of us to do our best, and be a blessing to those around us.
    One last thought, by having the children share and be compassionate, won’t that show the child whose parent is less than honest, that there is a right way and a wrong way?
    Just some thoughts from a frugal mom of 5, stepmom to 2.

    • says

      Brenda in IL, I just wish I could give you a hug. People often have the impression that Christians are hateful, callous…. hypocritical. As Ghandi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Your comment above shows such love, such a gentle and giving heart, such Christ-like-ness. Bless you Brenda… your children are fortunate to have such a mother as you :-)

  33. says

    I’m proud to stay I have ALWAYS stuck to the list. In fact, some schools request you buy “extra” supplies and are actually using it for other students who fall short of school supplies. So I buy enough for my daughter to “get started” and I wait for a note to be sent home before I send more. I never spend more than $40 for Back to School supplies. Also, I don’t buy my daughter new clothes until what she has is either worn out or doesn’t fit. I don’t believe in spoiling. When I was little I was obsessed with having material objects and and “best of the best” and I’ve been struggling with that mentality ever since. I don’t want my daughter to do the same. I want her to know how to live frugally so she can save more money for emergencies and the future.

  34. Woodengirl says

    Something to also remember is that just because your child’s list specifies something, they don’t need dozens of them. For example, you don’t need to send each child with a dozen pencils on the first day of school. Buy one box and send each child with two pencils. In a few months, send one more. Three or four pencils will last the whole year, and if you need more, you can always buy another box in the winter. The same goes for pens, erasers, and many other supplies.

  35. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    I would send my kid with one pencil, eraser, notebook, etc if I were forced to share with others. I only share if I choose to, not because I am forced.

    what is a 99er?

    • says

      I didn’t know myself Grizzly Bear Mom so I looked it up. I guess it is someone in the US who has exhausted all of their unemployment. Learn something new every day.

  36. Brenda in IL says

    A 99er is someone who has exhausted the maximum 99 weeks of unemployment compensation. My husband has been laid off since April 2009 and is considered this. I am surprised no one has heard this term.

  37. Maggie says

    I am seeing some great savings ideas on this post.
    One that worked for me when my children were younger was to reuse any supplies which were still in good condition (pencil box, scissors, ruler, binder, notebooks, unused paper, etc). One of my daughters took excellent care of her stuff, and re-used about 90% of it. Another child, not so careful, could re-use about 30%, and as a result, had more new stuff to replace what was in falling apart. That didn’t seem quite fair.
    So, I started reimbursing my kids according to how much of their stuff was salvageable. One child received $15, another $5, another $0. It worked for me, because I saved about $45. That was a very effective lesson for the children too, and a motivator to take care of their stuff.

  38. PJ says

    Mom survived on 65 dollars every two weeks in the early 70s. She raised a kid, paid rent and provided food and clothing plus paid for her car which in the small town was a need not a luxury. You can’t take a bus when there isn’t one and the grocery store is 15 miles away.

    I had new clothes. She sewed them. Notebooks are notebooks they write no matter what they look like. The only thing taken into consideration was how functional were they. Ring binder with paper you can add in won as the long term cheapest. It was plain but I could put stickers or decorate it as I wanted. Ditto the rest of the school supplies. You got a box of pencils. That was the years worth with a second set at Christmas IF you used the others up. That is a LOT of writing. I had one pair of gym shoes. I also had a pair of school shoes. The old ones became knock around shoes for that year unless I outgrew them too quick. She bought them on sale at the local discount Supershoes. They wore better than most of my current expensive pairs. She didn’t buy cheap she bought quality cheap. When I got to High School [old enough to work] IF I wanted anything I had to earn it either by chores or by work. Did it hurt me? Four degrees later, a house and car that is paid for, no credit card bills, no outstanding debts and a full pantry plus survival skills such as gardening and canning? No. What recession? What economic hardship? I know what is important.

    My sister followed the same track with all four of her kids and her husband agreed. My one niece wanted a car. She worked as a waitress and paid for her own first car while in High School and her grades were good. She is retiring from the Military this year. The other who had the same choices is upper management in Budget in her company. Would they be there without this? I doubt it.

    Choices and experience makes a difference and I am sure when the one in Budget was in college you never heard her whine to a co worker “Oh I quit that other job. They wouldn’t give me my birthday off so I just walked out” That happened in the college bookstore in 1999. I’m sure he has had a hard row to hoe.

    It is all how you think. Which might be why I know 3 stores where I can buy a party platter of 64 shrimp for $3. It is because my mother taught me right.

  39. Jaime says

    I know many parents buy new school clothes so their children won’t teased or mistreated in school for wearing used or “last years” clothing. I was just wondering if anyone has considered re-dyeing the used or “last years” clothes so that they not only look like new but also different from what the child wore last year? Has anyone ever tried using a “Bedazzler” to add faux rhinestones? Has anyone taken up embroidery to re-decorate used or “last years” clothing? Has anyone, or even the child, tried any other type of crafting to makeover the used clothing? My point is that some simple crafting skills can save the parent a small fortune and allow the child to go to school looking like they have an entirely brand new wardrobe.

    • Cocoa says

      Be careful when dying clothes. Often dying shrinks fabrics. If this happens, they probably will not fit. It may work, however, if you are re-purposing them to a smaller child as “new” clothes. Also, consider if you do this in your washer, it often will dye the next load of wash! (My dad did not appreciate his laundry after I did this in High School). If you are going to do it on a stove top, do not use the pot again for food!

      It may be cheaper and easier to visit a good thrift shop, or check freecycle.

  40. Grizzly Bear Mom says

    Maggie I like the way you think. Same budget per chlid for school supplies, whether they recyle or not, with the child getting the leftover funds. Good for your wallet, the child’s growth and the earth.

  41. Brenda in IL says

    Jaime,
    We do dying and other alterations to make clothes a bit more different and re-usable. Usually not so much for my oldest son, but for the 2 youngers, yes we do. My 18yo daughter does that often with outfits as well, and since she is craftier she adds ‘patches’ or does other accessorizing on the garments to give them a new look. Tie-dying does wonders too!
    I buy the newest looking things I can at sales and thrift shops, and then they must not wear them until school. Even though they are not brand new, they are new to my children and then they feel like they do have new clothes. I pay particularly close attention to licensed apparel and other things that I would never pay retail for, but can get for $1 or 25 or 50 cents at a sale. Plus, they get new sneakers for the year [usually, unless there is a hand me down pair that fits] and that makes them feel good. This year I picked up a pair of Van’s sneakers at a bag sale, probably cost me 5 cents total, and although the soles are good, they do look a bit used. However my 7 yo son adores them because they are red & black, his favorite colors. They should last at least until Christmas, and then I will get him another pair. For now, he will have those to start school in.
    Good luck and think outside of the box!!!!

  42. Jane says

    For the older students who are required to get a graphing calculator….the ti 84 plus or 84 do everything we ever need to have done. the more expensive ones just get more complicated/have more memory for games. You can buy them from ebay even. PUT THEIR NAMES ALL OVER THEM.

  43. Jane says

    And if you want to save money on math tutoring…find the topic name of what your child is struggling with and search for it on Khan Academy. Even textbooks now have websites with video tutorials saying the same thing I’m telling them.

  44. says

    Hi Everyone!
    I just wanted to share with you the $10 BTS FRUGAL CHALLENGE some of us bloggers are participating in! this is the 2nd annual drive. Last year 4 bloggers spent $10 out of pocket for a total of $40 for over $500 in School Supplies to donate to others in need. I joined them this year and they have extended the invitation to anyone who wants to participate. I have blogged about it here if you want to read / watch / see the details and or the results. There are prizes involved and all proceeds go to the BOYS & GIRLS CLUB ! check it out here http://flbyu.blogspot.com/2011/08/bts-challenge-peekwhy-dont-you-join-us.html

  45. Stephanie says

    I had a JanSport backpack that my dad bought me in 3rd grade; thinking we would use it when we went camping too. Thanks to JanSport’s warranty, I got a new bag (from them) in 5th, 7th, and 9th grades – and that bag went with me to college. I lost it when my car was stolen.

  46. Stephanie says

    Jaime,

    Your question reminded me of the first issue I had with regard to my step children 10 years ago – their mom would send the youngest (a girl) to school in her brothers’ hand me down clothes. (This despite the fact that my husband and I bought six school outfits a year for each kid to take to their mom’s, in addition to $600 a month child support and the clothes we bought them to wear at our house).

    I still think she intentionally chose the ugliest boy clothes possible to dress a little girl in, but regardless – when we picked her up, and she was wearing plain boy clothes, I would slap girly patches on the butt of the jeans, a little bit of ribbon and an iron on transfer on the shirt. If the shirt had a boy design, I’d replace it for $4 at target and put the too little for any of the boys shirt in a donate bag. Several pairs of pants also turned into a skirt – which was very popular at the time. When the pants were way too tight for her too, I’d rip them up the sides and put girly fabric down the seams.

    Eventually, all the boy clothes looked girly and little bit stopped getting made fun of for looking like a boy.

  47. Jennifer says

    This year, I’m going to get a list of school supplies that my boys will need for NEXT year. That way I can get them when they’re deeply discounted after this year’s rush.

  48. Brenna says

    One thing that sticks in my craw is this notion that if it isn’t brand new, then it isn’t good enough. As soon as you wear it once…it’s used and isn’t brand new anymore. I am starting to find it frustrating as a parent to help my oldest daughter (7 years) to understand that being fashionable isn’t necessarily brand new. And also to help her understand that just because “Suzy Smith” has something doesn’t mean that she needs it. I would like to plant the seed of having self-worth not based on what you have but what you do. She seems to be starting to get it, but if any of you have any suggestions, I’d love to read them. I have two younger daughters that are going to be at this place in their lives, too in a couple years. I don’t want them to be teenagers and still not getting it. :)

  49. Michelle says

    Great article. I can’t agree more. My oldest child outgrew his jeans. Luckly Old Navy had a $10 denim sale and I bought two pairs. They are normally $20 each. So we are good for now. So hot down here in Alabama/Georgia shorts are still they way of dress for school until the cooler weather sets in.

  50. Katrina says

    Wonderful article. Another suggestion-Go through the “junk drawer” in your house. Chances are you’re going to discover long-forgotten pencils and/or pens in there. Where we live, elementary schools generally want the kids to use pencils. Junior high/Middle schhool students are generally required to use pencils in math class and pens for their other classes. When I sorted through my son’s stuff from last school year, I found 52 pencils. All except 2 had erasers on them.We’re not buying pencils.
    As for clothes and shoes, wait. Your kids are going to want to see what everyone else is wearing. They will be fine the first couple of weeks or month with clothes that already fit them and that they already have. It will be 90 degrees here until the beginning or middle of October(desert climate).

  51. Katrina says

    Breanna, I understand what you are going through. What worked with my son was this. He was about 8 at the time. It is a 3 step process.

    Step 1)I sat down with him, a pencil, and a piece of paper. I explained the differences between “wants” and “needs”, using examples he could understand and writing them down on the paper. For example, a new video game was a “want”. I asked him to list things he thought were his wants and needs. We went through his list and discussed what he had written.

    Step 2) Then the next time I got paid, I saved the paycheck stub, showed him “gross pay” “takehome pay” and “deductions/taxes” and explained each one.

  52. Katrina says

    Breanna-this was step 3.
    Step 3) I saved the monthly bills. When it was time to pay them, I sat down with my son, a calculator, the paycheck stub, and the bills. I put him in charge of the calculator. I had him enter the amount of takehome pay, then subtract the amount of each bill. We subtracted an amount for groceries, and $20.00 for gas. When we were done, he stared at the calculator. His eyes got real big,,he looked at me, and he said “You must be joking. THAT”S ALL that’s left? I must have subtracted wrong!!”

  53. Katrina says

    Breanna Response: He redid all of his work twice, before he concluded that yes , that WAS all that was left. He is now a teenager, extremely money-aware, and insists on watching every penny.
    You might want to try this with your oldest. Hope this idea helps-it was very effective for me.

  54. Bea says

    I am a Catholic and there is a book called “The Glories of Mary” that says that the Mother of Jesus only had 2 dresses! As we all know the Holy Family was poor, so when I think of how much clothes and stuff do we really need, I like to think of the Blessed Mother as an example. Jesus was not brought up richly.

  55. Brenna says

    Katrina – Thank you very much for the suggestion. My oldest daughter is 7, but I didn’t think that she was even close to understanding, paychecks, etc. Sounds like I was very wrong and underestimated her. I’ll have to try this in the next year or so and see what questions she has:):) Thank You!

  56. Cat says

    Our oldest is starting school this year. I am completely shocked at what all is required! My friend and I compared lists b/c we have kids the same age in different districts. I have to say my school was more reasonable but I was still shocked. The lists are long but just a few that seem outlandish is 20 glue stick, 2 elmers glues, 4-24 box of crayons, 20 pencils, 4 dry erase markers. (that is not the complete list either there are things like gallon freezer bags, clorax wipes, sanitizer,etc. I’m not sure what in the world they are going to do with all those freezer bags.) Thats just to name a few. Then in bold it tells you NO SCHOOL BOXES and you need to seend $10 for a school supply fee. I am writing my childs name on every single item. Including individual crayons etc. I don’t want my child getting stuck with a broken crayon when he wasn’t the one that did it. If he breaks his then I will replace them. It just seems crazy how much there is to buy. I would rather them have crayon boxes and start out with a box of crayons and some glue and if it runs out I will rebuy it.

    • Kelly James says

      $10 for a school supply fee, why, you supplied the supplies. Ridiculous!!!! Not happening in my opinion.

  57. says

    I did some reconnaissance last weekend on back-to-school supplies at both Target and Dollar Tree. The price differences can be drastic between the stores.

    Basically, if it’s an item that is common to most supply lists provided by the school, Target has them super cheap (and other stores like Wal-Mart do too).

    If it’s a less common item (for ex. my 2 daughters need assignment notebooks/planners) then Dollar Tree had the better price.

    It pays to shop for supplies early, as the highly discounted brands will sell out, and you’ll be stuck paying for the more expensive name brands.

    Also, leave your kids at home with a spouse, grandma or a friend (swap shopping days, you watch her kids one day while she shops, she watches your’s the next while you shop). If you don’t have your kids in tow, you can make the sound decision.

    And remember in a culture where parents get their kids input on every purchase, these are supplies. It’s okay to just provide, without your children’s input.

    This is also the time to shop second hand stores for boots and winter jackets. No one is thinking winter right now and the second hand supply at thrift stores is good.

  58. judy says

    A little common sense will save you a lot of hard earned money. If you already own it do not buy another one. Use the one you have and save yourself some money!

  59. Nadine in Nevada says

    I have a friend who posted this to her FB page yesterday. She has 3 children. A 15 year old daughter – a 12 year old son and a 6 year old son. Here is what she posted:

    SCHOOL CLOTHES SHOPPING DONE!!! SOOOO GLAD IT’S OVER!!! 14 PAIRS OF SHOES, 15 PAIRS OF JEANS, 33 SHIRTS, LOADS OF UNDIES AND SOCKS, BACK PACKS AND BAGS….JUST SHORT OF $1500.00 BUCKS!!

    When questioned about the number of pair of shoes she admitted that NINE pair were for her daughter. Really? My kids (26-21-11) all get/got the same thing: 2 pair jeans, a couple new shirts, socks/undies and a pair of shoes. Fill in with a backpack and the requisite supplies and it was a done deal. Oh well – to each their own.

    • says

      That is just insanse. I’m sorry but no child needs 9 pairs of shoes!!! Mine have 2 sometimes 3 at the most. Tennis shoes, sandals and sometimes dress shoes or snow boots. 15 pairs of jeans!!! Nuts just nuts!

      • Cocoa says

        My kids have one pair of BOGO from Payless, sneakers and one pair of snow boots,(thrift store and lasted a few years). The shoes come off when we walk in the house, reducing wear and tear as well as the fact that I only need to “really” clean my floors once a month.

    • says

      That amount is just incredible! Oh well, just think, all that good stuff will end up in a thrift shop later this year. All the more for those of us who go thrifting? : )

      I don’t really buy back to school clothes. I just buy what my kids actually need, when they need them, not when a school calendar says they should have new stuff. It just seems like a silly made-up-by-the-stores sort of marketing ploy.

  60. Tsews says

    One year I looked at my child’s school supply list and realized it had been copied many times over. Some of the stuff made no sense at all. So I bought what made sense and figured the rest could wait. — I was right half the list was left over from a previous teacher. Nobody had updated it. — Lesson learned wait & ask before you buy the wrong stuff and waste money.

  61. Chris says

    Shop for school supplies the same way you shop for holiday gifts – out of season and a little at a time.

    If you find school supplies on “super sale” in February or some off month, buy ahead – the same way you do at the grocery store.

  62. LasVegasWally says

    Go to 99Cents stores, Dollar Stores. I buy most of my office supplies there like notebooks, pens, etc. I don’t purchase computer paper there.

    They also have crafts products, crayons, markers, mailing supplies, wrapping paper, scissors, staplers, paper clips and on & on.

  63. says

    To “Nadine in Nevada”‘s fried: That money would have better spent deposited in a college fund rather than on your daughter’s feet. I hope you remember this in 4 or 5 years when you are wondering why she has to take out student loans!

    9 pairs of shoes for 1 child, truly insane!!!

  64. Cheryl illinois says

    Most “back to school clothes” are actually winter clothes and our kids start back to school in August in 85 degree heat. Those clothes won’t even be worn for at least 2 months after starting back to school so why buy them now? I do buy my Granddaughter new shoes because she has pretty much worn flip-flops or sandals all summer and has outgrown last years school shoes. If your kids need something new to start school buy end of season clearance things on sale.

  65. Jan C says

    Since I am a grandmother with older grandchildren, it was eye-opening reading all these posts. My children were brought up in the (OLDEN DAYS)when kids who remembered to bring their pencils and/or scissors were taught to share with the ones who forgot, or didn’t have enough money to buy their own. I was fortunate to have enough money to buy the basic supplies for my 4 children, and even my 6 grandchildren when they were younger. It’s very depressing to see how many schools demand the high-tech stuff now. There are still a few families who cannot afford the internet.

  66. Sheri says

    We always got a new pair of shoes and one new dress that Mommy made. Nothing extravagant! The one new dress is a treat, just like the Easter dress. It’s nice to start with something new. Shoes? I wore my shoes all year and they were worn out or outgrown. New PE outfits if they were outgrown. We celebrate hand-me-downs! I grew up in a military family.

    Since I homeschool, we just buy or make our clothes we need as we need them. If I stocked up on new pants at the beginning of the year, they will likely outgrow them before the year is over. My 15 year old has been on a major growth spurt for this past year. He is about to pass up his 17 year old brother. I still celebrate hand-me-downs! Some of those pants may become hand-me-ups!

  67. Ellen says

    You know what? I hear a lot about buying things or changing things, not because you like them or your child likes them, or they work better, etc. – but simply to avoid teasing. This really rankles with me.
    I was teased as a child, about things that no amount of dye or iron-on could fix – my glasses, my good grades, and my weight. You know what? It stunk but I learned that mean people will just find something to be mean about. I also learned that it was not worth doing anything to get those kids to like me – I did not want their friendship becase I had seen their character. I’m okay if my kids get picked on for having the wrong kind of crayons or notebooks, and they will be okay too.

  68. Susan says

    After buying cheap backpacks and supplies and ending up having to replace them once sometimes twice during the school year, I have learned to spend a bit more on better quality items to start with thereby actually saving money in the long run. L.L.Bean has good quality, extremely durable backpacks and lunch bags. Our daughter’s backpack from last year still looks like new.

  69. Amy Fullmer says

    Thank you for the good ideas and information. I bought Children’s Place backpacks (which I feel are made better than Walmart or Kmart brands) on clearance right before school started and it is possible for them to last 3 years. Just wash and they are like new again. If you buy cute, they won’t feel cheated if you make them reuse again year after year. After the children do jobs and earn their own money, it is smart to have them contribute to the clothes they want or school supplies. I have learned quickly that if it is their own money I am asking them to spend, they feel entirely different about the purchase they think they wanted. I have 8 children and feeling the pinch of the school fees and all that comes due at the first of the year not to mention any back to school shopping. That kind of takes a back seat anymore, the new clothes purchasing going on like crazy for most people charging up a storm. I have found what works for me is only buying on clearance 1 or 2 really cute outfits for my girls and then not letting them wear them only for “nice.” This way, when school starts they still have their nice outfits that were from last year and still look like new because they haven’t been washed 50 times and usually children don’t grow that much in a few month over summer to merit buying new clothes anyway that are bigger sizes. If you take care of what you have, it always goes farther and longer. Again, thanks for all the good ideas!!!

  70. Cocoa says

    I have found good deals at Walmart, but I have also found great deals at Staples. They had crayons and glue for 1 cent. This week it is something else. You have to spend $5, but that is not hard to do if you stick to the sales and only what you need. They also have a program that you can recycle a binder for $2 off the purchase of a new one. Okay, I will test this to see if it works. They have Avery 1″ binders for $1 limit 2. If I can find some tossed out binders, yes, tomorrow is trash day, can I get those binders not only for free, but get $2 back? If anyone else tests this out, please let me know your results.

    • Cocoa says

      By the way, as far as school shoes, or any shoes for that matter, it you subscribe to AAA, Payless will give you 10% off! Sometimes they will give you the discount on BOGO, sometimes not. It depends on the store or employee.

      • Jessica says

        Cocoa, thank you for posting this! I had no idea that Payless did that and I’ve been a AAA member since I had my first car! My only problem with Payless is that the shoes that we get my kids from there start falling apart more quickly than the name brand ones… not as bad as the Walmart or Target ones thankfully. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Sketchers fall apart rather quickly as well but Reebok’s seem to last our kids a whole year. Maybe, it’s just my kids…. but that’s what I’ve noticed in our household.

  71. Cynthia says

    When my kids first started school, I bought everything on the list and half a new wardrobe. This was when we had 2-full time incomes. When I was laid off I felt so guilty that I wasn’t buying everything, only the basics that I knew my children needed and would use. If I found a good deal I would stock up and send extra supplies to school as I could afford it. I saw that many of the supplies were ‘pooled’ and some of the supplies I never saw used (at least by my kids). I still donate when and where I can, but I no longer feel guilty about spending money I don’t have and buying supplies my kids don’t need. We still do the traditional ‘back to school shopping’ but really keep it down to the absolute necessities (often socks, underwear, and a new pair of shoes) and maybe one new outfit for the first day of school. It’s a fun day to browse and spend time together! My kids are learning to buy supplies as they’re needed, not just because that’s the way it’s always been done, how to save and budget, and to value what they believe is right and true, not what everyone else thinks it is!

  72. Mary says

    Right now at our local Wal-Mart they advertised Hibroy exercice books for 5 cents, 1 subject notebook for 15 cents and 10-pack Bic pen for a dollar.
    Too bad no one in our family is in school anymore!:)

    • says

      I know some things are getting expensive but I can’t believe some of the really good buys you can get now. I remember paying 10 times that amount on crayons, pens,notebooks and paper when I was in school and my kids were in school 40-50 years ago. Paper when I was in school was so expense that we were allowed 1 pkg. a semester and we were so careful of it. I used scratch paper for so many things. Now kids use one sheet after another to scribble or mess on then toss. A box of crayons had to last a 2-3 years until we had used it them to a little nub. There is no way we found crayons for $.25 a box they were often close to a dollar and considering the average person earned 10 less that was expensive.
      I think what happens now is people are going broke buying the “extras” sometimes.

  73. Kris says

    Learn to shop off-season!

    Last year I purchased backpacks and lunch carriers at JC Penney AFTER school started. My kids use backpacks till they fall apart, so they began the school year with “used” backpacks. When my daughter’s backpack fell apart in the spring, I had a $6 backpack available for her. (Originally I think it was $20 or $25).

    Walmart had boy’s uniform polo shirts on sale in the spring for $3. Kohl’s had boy’s uniform khaki pants for $6.50 in the spring.

    Target had girl’s jeans on sale in July for $4.20.

    We all know that eventually kids get bigger and their stuff wears out. Be prepared. Buy ahead. True school supplies (crayons, etc.) are cheapest in the before school sales. Clothing/backpacks, etc., aren’t. Learn the sales cycles. If you buy ahead in size, you don’t have to make a hurried, frantic choice, which in my experience leads to impulsive shopping.

  74. says

    Whatever happened to scratch paper? We use the backs of junk mail, computer printouts, etc. But there used to be pads of lower quality paper sold as “scratch paper”. It’s what we used for rough drafts, math problems, drawing, etc.

    For back to school shopping, if you stick to the very basics, like crayons, spiral notebooks, pencils, sharpeners, glue, the prices are real deals. It’s all the extras, like new lunch boxes/bags, new trapper-style notebooks, new backpacks, new clothing, that will drive the costs up.

    Even if you don’t have children in school, this is such a great time to buy art/craft supplies to use for gifts for kids later in the year. I like to take a plastic bin with a lid from the dollar store and fill with crayons, paper, scissors, watercolor paints, glue sticks, to give as a gift to children for birthdays throughout the year. For about $5 you can put together a nice little gift, if you stock up on the supplies now while on sale.

    • says

      Excellent idea. I’d rather give a small bin or bucket filled with school supplies or Arts & Crafts supplies rather than spend $20.00 or more for a toy that the child will play with for a short time and then get bored with (or even get thrown out). At least if I give “supplies” I know they will be used and appreciated alot longer than the toy.

  75. says

    As a mom and a kindergarten teacher I would like to address the comments on the supply lists some schools have. I know in our school division we have had our supply budgets cut to next to nothing, and by that we now have $50 a year to purchase what we need to educate our students. That includes paper, writing supplies, art supplies,etc. We have not seen a raise in over 4 years and pay a significant portion of our salaries for medical insurance and mandatory retirement contributions. Even with that, I can assure you that the majority of teachers, especially in the elementary schools, spend, on average,$500-$1000 a year to supplement their classrooms. We as teachers are often limited to where we are allowed to spend our supply allottments to only division “approved’ suppliers. This reduces our chances of getting the best price. As to requiring specifically named items, most of the time it is for a very practical reason. For example, gluesticks. When they first came out gluesticks actually had a 3 inch stick of glue to use. Now it is not even an inch, yet the container is the same. Elmers works the best. The off brands don’t stick well at all, thereby requiring the children to use 3x as much wasting glue. Requiring Crayola crayons in my experience is because so many children now have allergies to certain products. RoseArt crayons have many ingredients that children are now allergic. Thankfully, Crayola usually goes on sale this time of year. I feel the pain about the calculators. When my children needed them, it was the same thing. I found out that it was a state requirement because of all the testing. Do not get me started on all the horrible math curriculums out there that we are required to use that won’t let us teach the children basic math skills to proficiency before moving on to other skills, not to mention trying to teach skills at the wrong developmental stage. Many school/teachers won’t’ let the kids have trapper keepers or backpacks with rolling wheels because there just is no space for them or they are a safety hazard. As someone else suggested, just talk to the teacher if the supply list is too much. Often the PTA or other organizations have supplemental supplies for students who need them. Believe me, we understand the need to be frugal!

    • says

      We all know the teachers spend extra and trust me I always say teachers and nurses deserve a special crown in heaven and we do appreciate them so much and are willing to help if we know what needs to be done and what the teacher needs.

      I think the biggest thing is not that parents mind buying what the teachers really need for teaching but buying things that aren’t needed and just tossing everyone’s things altogether to share. Like you mentioned they want everyone to use Crayola because the kids maybe allergic to them but is it really fair that 28 students have to buy the more expensive and special crayon because 2 kids are allergic to them. Surely the parents know if their child has a problem and can buy crayons accordingly. Then there are the kids who aren’t taught to be careful with their things and waste so much and the other kids have to buy extra to cover it.I think that is the type of thing which frustrates many parents.

      • Kris says

        I think K makes some GREAT points! I realize that some readers out there really do have to watch every single cent … but some of us might be able to afford a more generous mindset. Maybe the best question to ask isn’t, “How do I cut back-to-school costs” but rather, “How can I, in a cost-conscious way, help out not just my child, but the teacher and perhaps another student or two?” as well?

  76. says

    I think that if people want to see what supplies are being used and what are not then perhaps they should communicate with the teacher toward the end of the school year to see what they are running low on and what they still have an abundance of. Better yet, volunteer in the childs classroom. That way you get a better sense of what is actually being used day-to-day and what the students have a greater need for. Also, parents should talk with other parents who have older children and may know what is really needed by a certasin teacher and what is just stuck on the standardized list by the school.

    Teachers should have a list available to hand out to parents during every marking periods open house/report card night. That way teachers may get a more steady flow of supplies from parents rather than being overloaded during the first week of school and having nothing else donated throughout the year. I think many parents would feel better about doing it this way instead of buying a ton of supplies in the beginning of the school year and being left to wonder about how much of those supplies is actually being used.

    • Sara says

      A lot of teachers in my area do this and I think it’s a great idea. It eliminates the glut of supplies during the first week of school, and the kids don’t have to lug a ton of stuff the first week.

  77. Lyn says

    At the end of each year we gather all supplies that are still usable in a box to ‘shop’ from in the fall. (This includes the spiral notebooks that they only used 10 pages in. -i know they ask for 70 page spirals each year but no teacher ever uses them up so we tear out used pages and reuse for one more year)
    We also buy the plain spirals and composition notebooks when they are on the cheap sales and decorate them. My son cuts pictures out from toy catalogs or flyers and we cut out words from junk mail & collage them on the covers & cover with clear packing tape. This makes unique covers that match their personality and they love the project. This year my high school daughter bought plain black composition books and decorated with lyrics of her favorite songs in silver & gold sharpie.
    If we buy the basics but allow them the creativity to decorate they have something more unique to them. When my daughter was younger I would splurge on all the cutest gadgets but we had a hard year when I couldn’t and she said she had more fun making her own anyway so we just make that the new tradition.
    Someone mentioned having to buy the expensive backpacks but I’ve had the Walmart ones last 3 years and still look nice if we take care of them. But I do buy the ones for $20 instead of $10 because I check how they are made & buy them to be sturdy.

  78. Jessica says

    I know exactly what you are talking about when it comes to the going back to school shopping. My mother always took us out to get some new clothes for school and always got us all new school supplies! I am nostalgic for back-to-school sales. I literally feel like a giddy little kid every year! But I have found some few ways to save some money. When it comes to the school clothes, I will go to Kohls where we have a credit card that you use to pay for the things you buy and then at the same register hand them a check to pay it off so I never have to worry and they Always have cute clothes and GREAT deals! Now getting down to what I buy, I only buy them maybe one or two new outfits, and a new pair of gym shoes. The few new outfits give them a choice on what they want to wear on the first day of school when I take tons of pictures to send to family. And the gym shoes? My kids wear their tennis shoes So much they literally fall apart. And God forbid I should buy their shoes at Walmart or even Target, they wouldn’t last them but MAYBE 3 months, if I’m lucky!
    When it comes to school supplies I’ve noticed that teachers these years wait until the last minute to send out the lists of supplies the children will need. In our town they highlight that the kids need specific name brand crap. On some of them I can understand but on others it gets me furious! They now have become especially attached to the new twistables, in anything they can get them! I try to go to just the dollar store for most of them. Which is especially easy for me to do considering my kids were in the lower grade classes k-2nd. In those grades they tend to just dump all of the donated things into a bucket and the kids just grab what they need. But then my oldest hit 3rd grade and she had her own desk with all of her own things. she was so proud, except that mommy bought her some generic things that weren’t “exactly” what her teacher claimed to have needed. So this is where your tips are really going to come in handy for me. My main question for you guys is if I start shopping early in the summer to get good deals, how do I know what I’m looking for? I did that one year and ended up with a whole bag of supplies that were not what the teachers wanted…. I mean I know that they aren’t going to be angry about it not being exactly what they need, but when they get into higher grades the things they need start to get more complex. Any ideas?

    • says

      Jessica there are some basics that are needed for every class almost every year for example – back packs, pencils, pens, folders, notebook, pencil case etc. Those types of things you can buy through out the year if you find a good deal. The thing is usually the very best deals on school supplies are right before school starts and when you have the list. The exception is if you find some really good things at some place like a garage sale. What I do then is if it a really good deal and costs little I will buy it because chances are one of the kids will need them if not this year then maybe another year. Plus for something like this too if they don’t end up needing them it is usually things I can use in my office or at home so it won’t be a total lose.

    • Mary says

      Jessica, I had to chuckle when you mentioned your kids tennis shoes.

      My daughter is 45 years old now. When she was about 13 or so, “Nike” tennis shoes were all the rage with the girls, and “everyone” had to have them. The cost was $30.00 a pair. We couldn’t afford to spend that kind of money on one child for a pair of tennis shoes. There was a blueberry farm near us and she worked the entire season picking blueberries to earn enough money to buy her Nike’s. She bought them and you know what? They didn’t last any longer than the Payless Shoes or Fred Meyer brand we usually bought.

      She went a good 25 years before she bought another pair of Nike’s!!!

      She is a marathoner now and buys expensive sneakers (I still call the tennis shoes). Every time she buys a new pair, she thinks back about the blueberry farm and those Nike’s.

      • says

        I agree with you Mary. Did the same with my kids. They had to buy their own by the time they reached a certain age if they wanted super expensive ones. I have never had success with name brand shoes or shoes coming from a different store to be too much better then expensive ones either. Plus I find I can sometimes buy 3-4 pairs of cheaper shoes for the same price as the expensive and that way I don’t have to feel guilty about buying something new and different when I want a change. I just found an expensive pair of Nike’s at the thrift store for very cheap but I don’t like them near as well as my little cheap $1 pair of jellies I bought last year. My feet sweat in them – the Nike’s (they are flip flops too) and they aren’t near as comfortable to wear. People’s feet are different though so what works for me may not work for others.

  79. tracy says

    I brought each of my 3 children LL bean back packs when they got to middle school. The two oldest ones used theirs through high school and college. At ages 25 and 22, they are still using it! My youngest is still in high school and plans to keep using hers for a long time. They are well worth the money!

  80. Lynn in AK says

    As a side note, we stock up on school supplies (crayons, markers, pencils, sharpeners, etc) during the back to school sales for filling Samaritan’s Purse shoe boxes at Christmas time. This ends up being a big savings since our youth group tries to send a minimum of 50 boxes. I’m always looking for sale items throughout the year with those shoe boxes in mind.

  81. says

    Tawra,

    I have just a word of caution when taking college classes. If your children plan to finish college with a four year degree, make sure the college classes they take will transfer to a four year college. Call the four year college in your area to get a list of transferable classes, if that is where they will finish their degree. A community college in our area said their classes would transfer to the local four year college, but when my son went to finish his degree he found that only approximately half of the classes he had taken were accepted as transferable by the four year college. Also, not all classes they say will transfer actually will unless the community college class meets the difficulty standards of the four year college. One more thing, some four year colleges want a certain percent of classes taken in the major field taken from a four year college. I hope all that made sense.

    Love your newsletter and all the tips!

    • says

      Yes this is true Mary. Tawra doubled check to make sure that all the credits the kids take will be accepted and/or are transferable and they are. They have also pasted a new law now in Colorado that the schools must accept the credits from other places and such. Each state is different though I would think.

  82. gail says

    As a former elementary school teacher, I saw some things that parents didn’t. Most children are not taught the value of their school supplies. Pencils that fell on the floor were usually never picked up. The children would just get another one out of their pencil case. After taking the class to the bus line, on the way back to my room, I would pick up pencils along the way. I used to joke that if I sold those pencils, I could retire early. Children need to know that school supplies are not cheap, and that someone worked to earn the money to buy them. It was also a “fad” at our school to break the erasers off of the pencil ends, and then they would get a new one. Broken crayons were discarded also. Supplies that ended up on the floor were considered trash.
    On another note, cheap pencils are not a bargain. The graphite inside them is not centered correctly, so when they are sharpened, they grind down to nothing from the very beginning.

  83. Susan says

    Hi Jill and Tawra!

    It sure is hot here in the deep south,anyway you mentioned the program that allows you to get your HS diplmoa and your associates degree.It is a great program. We have it here and the great thing is the college is only 10 min away from the high school.My child is grown now and that is something I don”t have to worry about but I read in the paper in early June that the local high school had over 75 seniors graduate with both degrees! The parents said it is wonderful because as you said they are not taking classes twice for the same thing and I think it helps the kids feel really proud and gives them a slight advantage when it comes to jobs

  84. Genet says

    Hi. I am a homeschooler in Missouri. I recommend that you just start with the local community college when your child is a Junior. Ask about taking classes for “Dual Enrollment” or “Dual Credit” These courses can count as both high school and yet also college classes. Then when your child is ready for college ? They already have a proven track record at the community college and it is usually much easier to be accepted. I know of high school students who “graduate” with one or 2 years of college credit.

  85. says

    When my children were little and in school I bought school supplies in bulk. Instead of the 7 notebooks ( one for each class) I bought the whole box of 1 subject notebooks at Walmart which were usually .20 a piece and there were 20 in the box, the same with 2 pocket folders. That most of the time lasted 3/4 of the school year. We reused back packs unless they were tire and unfixable. We were able to save quite abit by doing these things and others.

  86. says

    Today I was at wall-mart for some cheaper laundry soap. Since my son will have his 4 kid for the school year and we are helping, I almost panicked. There were rows and rows of school supplies and I had not bought them in years. Then I saw a package of ink pens that were a lot more expensive for the same $1 at the dollar store. So I decided to go there and get just a few normal things until we got the list from the school. I decided that I would get what we would use at home even if school did not ask for them. That way they do not go to waste.
    As for clothes. I remember making my kids school clothes-but I soon learned that within 2-3 weeks after school started my kids out grew their new clothes. So I started cutting their outfits down to about 3 and did like you said let them wear clothes they already had.
    Nana

  87. grizzly bear mom says

    Glad to hear you found a highschool/college combination for your children. Having hubby drive the kids there on his way to his library work space and having them get college credit there for free is an outstanding savings. You can also save money on college credits by taking CLEP and DANTES examinations. Your college should be able to advise you on this. I previously managed tuition reimbursement and alwasys advised students to attend cheap classes such as community college for the first two years, because it’s 2/3s cheaper. I said no one cares where you atttended school. They only care where you graduated from. You mentioned one child didn’t thrive on homeschooling. Perhaps they are an extravert an need more stimulation from others.
    Regarding school supplies: I recommend just opting out of somethings. Perhaps Sissy can use Jr’s merely 8 pack crayon from last year. And I would not contribute my supplies to the pot. I take good care of my things and don’t want others wasting them, or to subsidize cheapskates. Although I try to support teachers, who are they to decide how my items are used anway?

  88. Debbie Gum says

    Thank you for the great money saving tips on school supplies!! Recently, our health insurance premium increased, which means a significant cut into our family budget.
    Here are some things I am doing to save $ on school supplies:
    1. Last summer I invested in LL Bean backpacks for my 3 kids. Guess what? Other than a few (minor) stains, they held up well- no holes and the kids will use them again this year. Same with the lunch boxes and thermoses.
    2. Target’s coupons and Cartwheel- right now there are savings from Target’s web site for boys socks/underwear. I replace socks/underwear every 2 years and this year it is high time to do so. If you have a Target debit Red Card, you will save an extra 5% off your total purchase. There will be more school related coupons come August 1st on Target.com. Scroll all the way down to the very bottom of the web site and click on; “coupons”.
    3. Here is an insider Teacher’s tip: Ask your school’s front office if they have any left over pencils, paper, composition books, crayins and glue sticks, and other items. Our school always has a large amount of pencils, pens, glue sticks, crayons, etc., Most of the packages have never even been opened!! Offer to volunteer at the school for a couple of hours in exchange for the donation they offer you. It never hurts to ask!!
    4. If you are strapped for cash and have several kids you need to buy for, do NOT be afraid to tell your child’s teacher that you were not able to afford the Clorox wipes, paper towels and boxes of Kleenex. Baby wipes are way less expensive and they work just as well as Clorox wipes!! I always have left over boxes of tissue at the end of the year. Believe me- as a Mom and a teacher, I will not blame you at all if you do not have the extra money for the Kleenex and Clorox wipes. If a teacher happens to run out of an item, we always share with our colleagues. Don’t sweat it! We are all working, raising kids and running households- the teachers and the parents are ALL in the same boat!!
    5. As a teacher, I will tell you that I honestly prefer the PLAIN colored folders and pencils and pencil pouches over the folders and pencil pouches with the Disney princesses, music groups, Angry Birds, etc., Those items are a distraction to the child’s learning. Stick to the plain folders and pencil pouches. You will save money and your teacher will thank you for it! If you want to splurge and allow your child some free expression, than have them choose a fancy lunch box. Or, the folder that goes home every night can be a character folder.

  89. Magdalen says

    Schools don’t break up here, in England, until about 23rd July and they go back about 7th Sept.. As a teacher, the adverts for “Back to School” stuff, even before that date, used to depress me.

  90. LAC says

    yes it is ridiculous what people spend on back to school. It has become like another Christmas for many people yet where we live it is still hot and since most kids are swimming all summer long the summer clothes that were bought in May are still in great condition. I know my grand daughter has many clothes that can get her through until December and then we by for the winter. I buy her crayons and notebooks and she is fine until the winter holiday!

  91. judy says

    When I was growing up,I can only remember 1 year getting NEW clothes for school. I had suddenly gone through a growth spurt and had nothing I could wear that wouldn’t generate a note home, so my mom worked extra hours to pay for my 3 new dresses. We buy 75% of school clothes at yard sales and thrift stores. We do try to get one new outfit for school, but mostly we only buy socks and underthings new.

  92. Valarie S. says

    I haven’t seen addressed above, the subject of “school clothes” and “play clothes”. As a child, we always changed from our school clothes into play clothes when we got home, so they would last longer. We just got new clothes when we had outgrown them, and yes, they were always used for the fall pictures. As soon as I was able to work part-time at 15, my parents only paid for half of my clothes and toiletries, so I was especially careful and didn’t follow the fads.

  93. Kim says

    My daughter is a teacher and for the last few years, I’ve made it a point to buy supplies for her class. One year I bought enough crayons for all her students, the next scissors, etc. Usually, I buy the cheapest I can find – on sale – to make my money stretch as far as possible. Normally, I don’t spend more than $20 each year. This allows her to have extras on hand for those who cannot afford to or won’t supply their own. If you have a little extra cash and can afford it, offer to help a teacher!

  94. Candy says

    School supplies do not have to come from a super center and clothing doesn’t have to come from a mall. One year I bought all three sons Adidas back packs from their outlet for $8.00 each. The two older boys used theirs for the rest of high school and college, middle school, high school and college and youngest used his through 10th grade. He bought his next backpack and is using it in college. I bought filler paper one year for ten cents for a large package. We just used the last of that paper last year, Youngest son’s college work is mostly electronic. I got the paper at a private office store. I bought plain polo type shirts at a craft store for $5 a piece one year. Keep your eyes open for sales and deals everywhere you go. You can by school supplies in February and Christmas presents in May, if you find a deal.

    • says

      This is true. One place I love to go is at the end of Aug. Joann fabrics has their back to school stuff for 75% off. You can get all kinds of nice things to use not only for back to school but at home too. Always look in different places for the bargains. I use my 50% off coupons to buy many of my cake decorating things like tips, bags, food coloring etc. You can get so good deals on solid colored t shirts too.

    • says

      Actually it is from me who had to buy school supplies for my kids and comparing the prices I paid to what my daughter pays now. This really isn’t that unusual for many things. We have been lead to believe that things are so much more now then they were years ago but I think this idea started as a good excuse for people who were in credit card debt up to their eyeballs. Yes there are some things that are more but there are just as many things that are less. For example it use to cost people 1-2 months wages to buy any kind of a TV. Now I could go to wal mart and get one that a person making only $7 an hour needs to work only 2 days for.
      Notebook paper was so expensive we tried to make a package of it last for a month or two during school. We used it only for our assignments. You didn’t write notes on it or scribble something and then throw it out. We worked out our problems or wrote our essay on a practice piece of scratch paper then rewrote what we had to turn in on the “good” notebook paper. I could go on and with many things but don’t have room here.

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