Posted by Deborah Pujoue on August 19, 2011
It’s almost that time again. While we are still “enjoying” the summer with our kids, I am already seeing back to school supplies plastered all over the place. I groan to myself as I think of all of the supplies I have to buy for my older kids. Now that they are teenagers, I have to spend far more money on new tech gadgets, all while still covering the basics. All I can think of is how happy I am that my two-year-old doesn’t need any of this… yet. So I am always on the lookout for ways to save some money on the basic supplies, and I have gotten pretty good at it.
These days, schools provide less and less and the year’s “must have” list gets longer and more expensive. Parents are now expected to give their elementary school-aged kids a backpack, crayons, gym shoes, tissues, lunch bag, hand sanitizers, pencils, white glue, glue sticks, markers, erasers, scissors, binder, notebook paper, dividers, composition book, colored pencils and a ruler. Some schools even expect parents to provide the construction paper. What, no proton accelerator? I’d double check to make sure, if I were you.
Here are my five-to-live-by tips that can help you get all of the supplies you need on the cheap.
1. Start as early as possible and give yourself the chance to shop for the best price in different stores before school starts. It saves you from having to do the last-minute, one-stop shopping trip that can add up significantly if you have more than one child like I do.
2. Weed out what your kids NEED from what they WANT. I know that the newest binder with Justin Bieber on the cover is a “must-have” for your tween daughter, but you can save money by buying a cheaper 3-ring binder and going to a dollar store to buy decals (or Bieber stickers) and let them decorate one themselves.
3. Hit the back to school sales shelves early, because they get empty pretty quickly as the day wears on. Oddly enough, shopping at an office supply store like Staples has proven cheaper than my trusty WalMart and Target. The best part is that you can buy stuff in bulk, which brings me to my next tip.
4. Buy your supplies like paper, pencils and pens in bulk. You will need plenty of it as the school year progresses, and the sales at this time of year are amazing. I even stock up on my own office supplies at this time.
5. Finally, if money is REALLY tight at your house, don’t underestimate the great deals you can get by looking for back to school supplies like gently-used thermoses, lunch packs and clothing at thrift stores. Items like jeans (which look better used anyway) and sweaters are a great buy and the clothes are cheap enough that you won’t mind so much if you child/teen starts ripping holes in the knees or thighs for style purposes. (Oh, yes… that’s in style again. Sigh.)