By Deeli from Richland, WA
After raising three children, and retiring, I find myself the mother to an 8 year old. And I have learned to send this little lady to school, and to do it frugally. My daughter is very well dressed and has plenty of top notch supplies. And here are some of the ways I do it:
Yesterday my daughters school year ended and she cleaned out her desk, coming home with her backpack bulging. Time to prepare for next year. I unloaded it and separated things into piles, "reuse next year", "let her use this summer", and "trash." A lot of items the school requests in certain amounts, but the kids end up not using them.
The colors that were mismatched and broken, my daughter can use them this summer. Half used color books and workbooks were placed in the use this summer pile.
The plastic pencil box had color marks on it, but otherwise was in fine shape. A little hot water and a quick rub with a Magic Eraser made it as good as new; it can be reused next year.
My daughter not only had a rather large amount of glue sticks unused, but several that she had used maybe once. Several sticks were pretty well emptied and they went to the trash. A cotton ball saturated with rubbing alcohol took off the excess glue, and her name written on them with Magic Marker. I allowed them to dry, re-wrote her name, and placed them in baggies. This August I won't need to buy them, either.
The same with lead pencils, erasers, and her scissors. Smudges and dried glue wiped off with an alcohol soaked cotton ball. They won't need replacing, either.
My daughter prefers to take her lunch. Her insulated lunch bag was looking pretty rough, but I was amazed at how nice it ended up looking after a rubbing with Fels Naptha soap and a run in the washer. Her sandwich box and large mouth thermos received a good scrubbing, too. They all look new again.
The backpack is pretty ragged, but it will work to carry things with her on little trips this summer.
After all the reusable items were cleaned and packed in a box, it was time to check out the closet. A few months ago I cleaned out her closet and packed her winter clothing away. Now I need to pack some warm weather items. My daughter prefers "skorts" in the early fall and late spring, and since they have an elastic band, and were a bit long on her in the first place, she won't be growing out of them by August. I made sure they were all clean, stain free, had no rips or tears and packed them in a box. Also her nice pullover shirts that will still fit her when school restarts.
Her shoes she will probably outgrow so when she is not running barefooted through the grass this summer, she can wear them. Same with panties, socks, and any clothing that probably she will outgrow.
During the summer I will go to yard sales looking for items she may need when school is ready to start again. I will keep a list in my car. (backpack, shoes, etc.) At a recent sale I picked her up a pair of name brand sneakers, probably only wore once. A trip through the washer, they look new. And they are one size bigger than she is wearing now, so they should be perfect size when school starts again.
When school begins and she heads to school in her neatly ironed outfits, I doubt if anyone will notice they were not purchased a week ago. Most likely they will notice how nice she looks. :-)
By Beverly from MO
When the kids come home on the last day of school, don't just put the backpacks in the closet. Go ahead and empty them out; tossing out the short pencils, used workbooks, etc. If there are usable art or other school supplies, put them in a safe place for next year. At my son's school, he had to purchase his own art class supplies and I reused the same paint colors and magic markers because of their light use. If you have a supply list for next year, put that in a safe place as well so you will have it when the back to school sales start.
Finally, inspect the backpacks. Can they be used again another year? I'm not sure where the practice of a new backpack every year started but if you start out with a sturdy one they can be used for many years. Toss it in the washer and give it a good cleaning. When dry, hang it back up and it will be ready and waiting for you at the end of summer.
By wendiesioux from Edwardsport, IN
Don't just shop where you normally do. It may be worth the gas to do your homework for additional savings. For example, many office supply stores have huge savings. Normally, there may be one kind of notebook, pencils, pads, and a few binders. This time of the year, they are stocked full of everything anyone could need. The key is don't get everything in one place. The Dollar Store has supplies. We know to take advantage of those first because they go fast.
You may find deals that beat $1.00 per item in the least likely places. I had to get a RX where usually every item is extremely over priced, right in front of my eyes were markers (name brand) at $.39, plus 5 for a $1.00 notebooks. I couldn't believe how affordable! I stopped to see if smaller note pads were a bargain, there was the catch. No, in fact they seemed higher then normally would have been. The savings are huge but most likely not all in one place. They have to make a profit, what better time of the year to do it. Most families need all these things so they advertise a couple at great savings then profit on the others.
Make a list and check before you leave the house. Compare online prices and you'll save money on everything instead of just a couple. Think ahead and stock up. You will need supplies throughout the year. I noticed online has wonderful deals with free shipping over $25.00. It may be worth your time to start there. No gas money is involved. You can do it without all the standing in line and hassle involved at the store. It will be delivered right to the door, checking so much off your list. Don't forget if it's free shipping, check for socks, underwear and T-shirts. With price of gas, I think its a win-win!
Some of us don't have kids at home any longer. However make up, shampoo, deodorant and even home needs are on sale for those college kids who have to fill a dorm room. Area rugs were 75% off near me, lamps same thing with a bigger then normal selection. My mouthwash is expensive for my budget when I saw "buy one get one free", I made mental note for the first of August.
I can cut back at the grocery or do a different meal to be able to take advantage of these savings I never see. We who live on a budget are always trying to find new ways to save. In my case, I can't work so you have to "work it out". This seems to be a helpful way I can do just that.
Do you know the same savings online are in stores out of your state? Of course school is everywhere. If I bought at a very family oriented store on the East Coast, there is no tax. No tax and free shipping over $25.00, back to school savings makes it like an after Christmas sale. Also look to see if your state has a day where you pay no tax on clothes, supplies, computers or anything needed for school. There are still a few that have this Saturday each year.
We all have computers, what a better time to get computer paper or ink. These are expensive and not in my budget things that seem to run out at the worst times.
Thrift stores are having deals or days of savings. Keep in mind most parents have cleaned house, clearing out the old to have room for new. I like the old, its all clean, donated and waiting on a rack for us to see. My local favorite thrift store has a "bring your own bag, fill it for a price" (according to bag weight or size). I wear a smaller size then most high school students so some of us get lucky with cute, in style clothes. Even one new item (new to me) can make you feel like smiling all day. They also have home items like: pots, pans, slow cookers, lamps, etc. on sale. If you love reading, all the books are marked way down. Check your favorite thrift store to see if they have specials going on.
Don't forget many are having garage sales to clean out last year's stuff. Its always fun to see what is there. Love the saying "I brake at all garage sales " You may want to stop this time of year or in next couple months. Moms may be waiting until kids are in school before having a sale but they are coming.
Take a note about the holidays coming up. How often do you use these items as stocking stuffing? If you have been saving for computers, they are cheaper now than any other time of the year. Keep in mind online or shopping channels have flex pay with no interest so you don't have to pay it all at once.
Grocery stores do have back to school lunch items on sale. We all eat lunch, people who work or us at home. Check when you do your shopping. It may be worth going to a couple places this next few weeks.
I'm sure you all have ideas, please share. The no tax probably surprised me most. Here anytime I can save, it's a good day. Happy back to school for you who are parents, praying its a safe year for all. For the rest of us, let's keep enjoying summer while keeping in mind holidays are coming. Blessings!
By Luana M. from San Diego, CA
So, how is a frugal mom supposed to save some cold hard cash this time of year? Glad you asked! And, BTW--you are going to spend much more than you save this time of year, so take an aspirin before proceeding:
For my college kid I employ the same strategy and even use this time of year to buy new toilet brushes (yes, they are on sale for $2 less than the normal price and I make a habit of replacing them every year at this time), wastebaskets, sheet sets, and small appliances are on sale too (for your personal use, as a replacement, Christmas gifts or wedding showers you know are coming up)
Source: Posted on my blog: http://frugality-girl.blogspot.com/
By skibum1910 from Prospect, KY
By luckylange from Chicago, IL
When she moved to a different district, she got quite a sticker shock especially since it was all Crayola this, Bic that. Between her two children, it was now $300 whereas the year before it was $60.
I was thinking that pooling your resources with other parents perhaps from your church and work, as well as your friends/family, and buying in bulk might be quite a savings.
By joycrazy from CA
First: Do not bring the kids, if possible.
Second: Look for basic items on the bottom shelves. The further up to eye level is where all the specialty items are - meaning more money.
Lastly: Purchase extra packs of pencils, pocket folders, and loose-leaf paper while the price is down. Usually mid-year is when you need to replenish those items.
By Colleen from Waterford, NY
This was wonderful for our art projects, the glue bottles would be filled from our gallons of glue purchased; pencils, erasers, colors, markers, even scissors, rulers could be sorted and some things sent off to missions as school supplies.
A "TWOFER" recycle. This would be our supply of colors through out the year, you could make things with the spent crayons, shaving them, etc.
By Grandma J from Benson, MN
Knowing this before the school year started, my children did very well and made some much needed vacation money from me at the end of the school year. Each year they look forward to this recycling money. My school supply costs went way down!
By Diane from Winnipeg, Manitoba
Instead of a new pencil box, paint and decorate a pasta box instead. It works just as well and can look very pretty. I remember I had my kids go to school with old sharpened crayons and a glittery pasta box and my daughter came home saying, "My friends love my pencil box and are wondering if you could make some for them!" I did, and her friends loved them. I was the "cool mom" (wink, wink) for a year!
I guess my tip is when school comes around, just get out an old pasta box and some used crayons, they'll work just as fine.
By Claire Bear from Columbus, OH
By Ellen Brown
I redecorate my son's discarded binders and barely used notebooks. Then, I use them for journals, collecting recipes, etc. It's fun to decorate the books by gluing on flower photos from gardening catalogs, ribbon, paint, and stickers.
By Kay from Tamarac, FL
Thanks for the tip! (07/24/2006)
By Sheila in Florida
Where does it say that school supplies have to be brand new each year? I would think that if you had supplies leftover from the previous year that were still good and usable, that they could be sent.
My son is in Spec Ed. and I have to sent all sorts of things including hand towel, wash cloth, toothpaste, toothbrush, snacks, drink mixes... and on and on. Anything that can be used again I send again. (08/20/2006)
Another thing that I do is stock up on extra glue, glue sticks, scissors, tape, crayons, construction paper, very cheap backpacks or tote bags, etc. When Christmas or a birthday party comes that my child is invited to, I just throw together an activity bag. The kids love to get craft stuff and I don't have to run around wondering what I should buy for this other kid that I hardly know, and it is usually at a time when I have no money, so it works out great.
Hope this helps.
Firstly, establish the family ethic that function, not fashion, will determine the choices. The only way any item with Lisa Frank's artwork comes into this house is if I find it in a clearance bin at a discount of 40% or more, and it is not extreme. The same goes for items with any currently or recently sought-after pictures or patterns. In other words, it has to cost less than the generic-looking ones, and it has to be something we would have liked regardless of hype. Also, we feel we have the privilege of setting our own fashions when we choose. So, when time allows, we might use some stickers or adhesive-back shelf paper from my stash. For instance, when I got my daughter a bicycle helmet that was a boring blue, I gave her some flower stickers to jazz it up. My son preferred the bug stickers. All the stuff in my stash, by the way, has been bought second hand or on sale.
We do not pay for top quality in items that are soon to be lost or damaged. We have just one giant set of Crayola's at at time, and that lives in my craft dresser. When the occasion warrants, I allow the children to use these, but only if they use them at the dining room table, and put them away as soon as they are done. For all other uses, we buy a cheap kind, like RoseArt. And last Christmas, I found eight boxes of 64 RoseArt crayons, in a special set that was discontinued, on a clearance cart. I bought up all eight, and tucked them away until needed. The back to school sales in all the department and discount stores are the last resort for me. I shop ahead for things I know will be needed year after year. Many of the most basic supplies are also used in offices; #2 pencils, pens, highlighters, 3-ring binders, etc. So, it is often possible to find them in bulk from business supply stores and catalogs. It is not that difficult to figure what basic supplies are appropriate to the age of your children. Buy them in quantity, because most of them are suitable for several years of school.
For instance, you know that by second grade, they will need a constant supply of #2 pencils. By about fourth grade, they will need loose leaf note book paper and binders to keep it in, and pens. The high school student may have discovered the advantages of a legal pads for taking notes during lectures. Steno pads are also handy by about middle school, to tuck inside a loose leaf binder, and use for personal and homework reminders, correspondence, doodles, and other things that don't belong in the notes of a particular class. The best bargain I've found yet on pencils is the gross of left-overs from custom printers. You get all kinds of things, like misprinted promotional ones from businesses you never heard of, and cutesy ones with other people's names stamped on them, but children lose pencils so fast it does not matter.
Some items I simply do not buy. Pencil boxes get lost or broken, as do pocket-size pencil sharpeners. "Anything" made of brittle plastic will be broken, if not by your child, then by some other child. "Anything" that is not convenient to carry will be set down and forgotten, or will slide out of hands at the worst moment. The sturdiest book covers are made from plain brown grocery bags or mailing paper; as an added benefit, they can be personalized, or homework notes can be written on them. Other items are kept at home and rationed out as needed, like erasers, pencils, and extra packs of loose leaf paper.
Rose B, mother of three, in NC
Rarely have I ever used a whole notebook for a single class (except math). So when a class is finished, all I do is rip out all the pages from that class, and there I have a newish notebook. Now I am still using up notebooks I bought four years ago for a school list. This helps the pocket and the environment. (08/24/2008)
By Nicola C.
I need tips on saving on school supplies required by the school.
Stock up now during back-to-school sales on school supplies. During the year you will need more glue, markers, paper, notebooks, etc. and they will never be cheaper than they are right now! Store them all in one place, like a crate so you and your kids will know where to look before buying anything more.