As August draws to a close, many children are cringing at the thought of returning to school. Many parents cringe right along with them at the pressing need for new shoes, school clothes, and all those school supplies. But going back to school doesn’t have to break the bank. With a little thought and planning, you can save money every year on back to school supplies. Here’s how.
Save Money on Back to School Supplies
1. Plan ahead. At the end of every school year, I pack up a bag for each child containing items from that year that can be reused. Intact crayons go in a metal pencil case, scissors that are still intact are kept, and all mechanical pencils with their pieces and parts intact are replaced with fresh lead and stored for next year. This gives my kids a starter pack for the next August.
2. Shop late. If you time it right, you can pick up great deals on school supplies once the shopping rush is over. Last year I bought each child a brand name backpack with padded straps and a computer compartment for $5 each at Pac Sun. Those same backpacks would have cost $85 two months earlier. Send your starter packs to school in August, then add to them a month or so later with additional supplies.
3. Shop at unconventional stores. Some of my favorite places to look for school supplies are local pharmacies. Even our local Rite Aid has great deals later in the year that allow me to pick up small prizes for class treats like fun erasers, stickers, and notebooks. (I put together treat bags of supplies for holidays instead of giving out candy.) Our small-town pharmacy had Crayola crayons for $0.30 a box, and 12-packs of American-made pencils for a quarter last week!
4. Re-purpose backpacks and binders. Letting your kids put their mark on old backpacks and binders is a great way to save money. There are tons of fun and crafty ideas available on the Internet, like this jeans-covered book binder.
5. Make use of cast-offs. Old broken crayons make great classroom gifts when crumbled up and melted into fun-shaped candy molds in the oven. Scraps of paper can be cut and stapled into small notebooks for doodling or writing notes to friends. Brown paper grocery bags are a favorite for making book covers that can be decorated by each child. Even the Sunday comics can be cut to fit over a three-ring binder or textbook.
6. Shop smart. I have two boys who are very different from each other. One takes care of his supplies, but uses them till they’re ragged. The other is more likely to lose a pair scissors than to wear them out. I buy supplies according to each child’s habits. My saver gets a nice set of quality colored pencils and a heavy-duty pair of scissors, while my little monster gets an economy pack of five for just about everything with the promise that if he takes care of his supplies, he can upgrade later.
7. Have you kids help out with the cost of school supplies. Now, I’m not saying you should squeeze your kids for every penny in their piggy banks, but having your child pay for a portion of his supplies (you decide how much is appropriate) keeps him invested in how he cares for those supplies. He’ll be more conscious about loaning out all his pens or karate chopping his pencils for fun if he has to pay for a few of them.
David’s Note: Haha I might upset some parents by admitting this but karate chopping pencils really sound like fun! Share your favorite way to save on back to school supplies.