As a teacher and mom, I am on both sides of the "school supply list" scavenger hunt. Here are my tips.
1. You don't have to buy everything new every year. If your child's crayons, scissors, geometry set, pencil case, etc. is in good shape, re-use it for next year.
2. Avoid trendy supplies with the latest cartoon character on it. These are more expensive, and often not of good quality.
3. Don't give in to your child's request to get some expensive padded binder with zippers and compartments or calculator with 700 functions or some other high cost item, especially if it has been specifically requested NOT to be supplied. The teachers have reasons for not wanting such things -- no room to store them, too complicated for the students to use, or whatever.
4. Pay attention to the details on the supply lists. If a certain size of line spacing is requested for notebooks, get that size. If a certain kind of paper is requested in art sketch books, get that kind. The teachers did not specify these things to make a mom's life difficult. It has some specific educational reason that will make things easier for your child.
5. Buy good quality supplies. Bargain pencils often have off-center leads that make them impossible for kids to sharpen. Bargain pens often blob and are messy. Bargain glue does not do the job like the regular top quality brands. That being said -- watch for sales, specials, loss leaders, or buy in bulk from places such as Costco for items such as pens or glue sticks, that your children will use a lot of.
6. If you have difficulty finding some item, such as a specific dictionary or some sort of specialized notebook, phone the child's teacher and ask where such things can be found. If you live in small towns, sometimes the local stores request the supply lists from the local schools and order in the specific items, which might be impossible to find in bigger centers! Experienced moms or friends who are teachers can also help with suggestions of where to find a specific item.
7. For class specific lists, such as high school art or home economics, see if the specialty store (art supply, fabric store) will give a discount because you are purchasing school supplies. Many do.
8. When all of the supplies are purchased, especially if your child is in the primary grades, remove the supplies from the blister packs and put your child's name on the items with permanent marker or pen so that your child will not spend a lot of time fussing with this when it is time to get to work at school and so that things will not go missing in a week or two.
9. Another money saving source of binders or rulers or dictionaries can be yard sales, but you have be on the watch well ahead of time.
By Louise from Nipawin, SK, Canada