My sister used to live in a town where the school bought the supplies and split the cost among the parents. They were able to save money, because they bought in bulk. Another advantage being that every child had the same items.
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
Talk with other parents and find out what they think and what they are supplying. I had a 3 page single spaced list one year. I purchased about half of it at Walmart for $80. I told the teacher this was it, no more supplies for my son for the entire year. She was so angry that she started yelling at me (yes yelling). I found out later I was the only one that did that, I'm a single Mom. None of the other parents got more than about $25 worth of supplies. The next year I was given a list at his new school (same district) of 3 items only, pencils, crayons and a sharpener. What a difference. Sometimes I send his supplies from the year before if they are still good. Enough is enough.
The schools have no right to tell you what to purchase as far as brand name goes. A dollar store pen is just as good as a "Bic" pen, etc. Buy items on sale; purchase extra and give as small gifts in Christmas stockings or put on a shelf for later in the year. If you have extra money, buy extra supplies and give to your child's teacher to help those less fortunate. You don't have to be a slave to high priced brand names.
I have been on both sides of the fence as a parent and a teacher. First, let me say that teachers don't make up those lists to cause parents' grief nor are they in cahoots with the stores to push expensive items. There is likely a reason for a brand name (crayola crayons are better than dollar store ones!) and often cheap supplies are not a savings as the crayons have no color, the pencil leads are crooked and the kid sharpens them down to nothing in an hour and half, the erasers are hard and don't erase, the pens dry up or leave big gobs of ink, the tips on markers smush after the first use, and the glue is either hard and unusable or sticky and unusable. Also, some teachers organize their room and simplify things so that all math is done in the blue notebook, all reading in the yellow one, and so on. As an art teacher, I constantly had kids trying to use sketchbooks with basically unusable paper for drawing because parents didn't get a sketchbook, but a scrapbook. It is extremely frustrating to children to try to do their work on substandard or non-existent supplies.
On the other hand, I can't even imagine what you would need in a classroom that would take a 3 page list! Nor do I know how a kid would function in school with just pencil, crayons and a sharpener. (No glue, scissors, ruler, geometry set, pencil case, notebooks, tape, erasers, white out, markers, graph paper, calculator? Either the school supplies all of this, or your kid isn't receiving much variety in the things he is expected to do at school.)
The best thing you can do to cut the cost of school items is to teach your child not to waste those items. Other than his graphing calculator and loose leaf and a couple of new pens, I didn't have to purchase any supplies for my son beyond grade 7. Whatever he had had in elementary was good for high school. He used the same set of pencil crayons, markers, wax crayons, dictionary, scissors, geometry set, binders (in fact those were hand me downs from his brothers), and so on. I bought gluesticks and white out pens and black jiffys in large quantities from Costco, and he took one when he needed one. On the other hand I have seen kids toss perfectly good binders, boxes of crayons, geometry sets, pencil cases at the end of the year because they didn't want to bother taking them home. Also, I have seen kids waste supplies by making up tape balls, breaking pencils and crayons to bits and throwing them around the room, making spit bombs out of eraser bits to shoot all over the room, keeping their desks and lockers in such disarray that the paper and notebooks are crumpled and torn before they have had a chance to use them, never returning crayons or geometry sets to their boxes so that when it is time to use them again, they are lost, leaving caps off of markers or glue so that the next time it is needed it is unusable.
I have also seen parents buy something expensive that the kid wanted that was not on the list, and then complain about the cost of school supplies. Numerous times I have had kids show up with fancy binders that cost $25 when what was asked for was 5 small binders that would have cost $1 each. And then the kid is mad when he is expected to have separate binders for each subject. Or has no notebooks because he decided that one expensive binder was all he wanted, and that proved to be unsatisfactory for the job.
As a teacher I was very conscious of the cost of supplies and made a point to mention that fancy brand names or logos were not necessary, and that supplies could be used over again from year to year.
We always tried to plan for school supplies, yet our "upper-crusty" school's teachers would frequently demand a specific (expensive) type of notebook, for example. Of course, we weren't in that financial stratum, but they didn't understand that. I simply compensated by hitting the Wal-mart back-to-school sales and bought everything else (loose-leaf, Bic pens, etc) at $0.25 or so per.
Another way I saved was that the $150 scientific calculator my third child had to have got passed down for little brother the next year. That made room in the budget for little luxuries like food. :P
We'd definitely have joined a co-op like you're describing, if that had been an option!
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