I need tips on saving on school supplies required by the school. Each year the school list seems to get longer and longer, and with 4 kids I am having a hard time affording the supplies.
By Eearnold from Bel Air, MD
This is rather disturbing, but as a "room mom" for several years, this is the basic process: about 1/3 of the kids in public elementary schools have parents that buy/provide the various crayons, markers, pencils and glue for their own kid.
The other 2/3 of the kids in the class either have nothing or just a few of the recommended supplies.
The teacher "shares" all the supplies so each child has a pencil or marker to do the project of the day. the crayons and markers go into a general storage shelf and the teacher doles out the items daily and replaces them at the end of the school day. Sad but true.
Get what you can. Focus on the inexpensive stuff like pencils, erasers and a small set of crayons. Check the store circulars for big discounts like 10 cent glue sticks. You can check them online.
Don't feel guilty if you can't afford to buy everything on the list. Most other families cannot afford it either. It's OK to send in 5 crayons at a time. If everyone is "sharing" it will not matter in the slightest.
If you saw what I have seen over the years, you would understand. In a class of 30 kids, maybe only 5 or 6 would have supplies.
The other posts are great, I just wanted to share what the "reality" is on how the supplies are used so you won't feel bad if you can't provide everything on the list. (08/26/2009)
Check with your city. In Tacoma, WA I have seen them sponsor an event where children with families who can't afford the supplies can come and get them for free or minimal cost. I didn't pay too much attention at the time but my friend makes use of the program. I think it is sponsored by the program that also offers free lunches to kids during the summer. Doesn't hurt to check it out. (08/26/2009)
Buy off season! Get what you can now, the basics. Like pencils etc. and then Shop again in October when all the school stuff goes on sale again. Also remember to check out your local dollar tree or dollar store! (08/26/2009)
We are so lucky, that here in the UK we do not have to supply anything. My daughter takes a pencil case as do many other children, as she's now 9. But in the younger years they are told they are not allowed to take pencil cases in, (in our school anyway). Also here, we have many free fun days to take the children in the summer holidays. All these have many different stalls giving out freebies with the advertisements on. We went to one today all the children were given a free canvas shopping bag that they then put all the things in from various stalls. Between my two girls, they were given 10 pencils, 10 pens, a few note blocks, 2 bags, 4 star shaped marker pens with colors on each end, and many other items. This has all been divided up with all the other holiday freebies they have collected, and will now be posted to her cousin in Canada and our friend's children in New York. I know my friend and family look forward to these parcels. (08/26/2009)
By ruth langdon
For some of those more expensive items like the calculators needed in high school, you might try craig's list in your area. (08/26/2009)
Check with your local school counselor. Many schools have a program to supply students with free or low cost supplies. Also, check with your PTA or PTO. Many stock a supply closet for both supplies and clothes/shoes for students. Local thrift stores often have backpacks that are gently used (or sometimes, unused) for $1.00 or $2.00. Check local ads for big sales on supplies-sometimes you can get spiral bound notebooks at 10 for $1.00, packages of notebook paper 3 for $1.00. Ask other parents who have children older than yours, if they have any leftover required supplies for Mrs. So-and-So's class. Many of our friends pass along books from last year's reading lists with the understanding that you will pass that same book onto the following year's class. Use your parent networks. There are deals out there, just keep looking:) (08/26/2009)
I saw a story on the news about school supplies last night. They shopped at several different stores for same items. Target was about half price over most expensive store for same items. So if you have a Target close by definitely try there. Also check with your local freecycle to see of anyone has a child that has leftover school supplies from year before they won't be using. My son graduated last year and had a bunch of notebooks, loose leaf paper, lead pencils, left over so I put them on my freecycle so another parent could save some money. Definitely if you can wait on some stuff try to do that and shop when things go on clearance. Check different places for some stuff like glue sticks and markers, they are also used in stuff like scrap booking, I have found 10 glue sticks for a dollar in a scrap booking store. Hope all goes well for you and yours. (08/28/2009)
We never got ahead of that game. If we bought when the pre-school sales were, the items we bought weren't on the list. Or it wasn't the exact brand or colors of the notebbooks. Buying a year ahead was a guessing game also. Or the items were so picked over by the time school started and we got the list only the most awful colors were left. Finally gave up and homeschooled. (08/28/2009)
If the school "requires" them, the school should supply them. I'm a retired SPED teacher and our elementary school had a school wide study skills program. The PTO bought and distributed standardized binders, homework schedule sheets, subject dividers and instructions for the parents. Teachers also requests "donations" from those that were able for kleenex, pencils, plastic bags. paper towels etc. I know this won't help this fall but something the PTO/PTA should be made aware of. (08/29/2009)
When my four were in school, I always went to Wal-mart with my list. They always had the best "back-to-school" sales! We could get the specific folders my kids needed for as little as five cents, and that was only the beginning! Hurray for Wal-mart! The salvation of the working mom. (grin!) (08/29/2009)
I found very good deals on supplies at Wal-Mart in mid Aug. I think Crayola 24 crayons were .20 a box and Elmer's School Glue was around .17 or .20, glue sticks were very cheap too. Crayola washable markers were $1. I didn't spend that much for two children and anything that was still good from last year got sent. My son is using a LL Bean backpack now for the the 3rd year as it's still plenty good. My daughter was harder on hers so she got a new one for 9 bucks at Wal-Mart.
My daughter's supplies do not get shared with the class. I saw her put them in her desk and that's where they stay unless she's using them. She brings it all back on last day too. Now in my son's Spec Ed class I send basic supplies that the teacher keeps and uses throughout the year for all students which is certainly fine with me.
Teachers are always spending their own money for things and giving the kids special treats and gifts on holidays and their birthdays. I certainly don't mind buying some things to help out. I also try to send packaged goodies or munchies for their snack time. I have noticed and even heard that some parents don't bother to send anything nor help when asked and wondered if they truly can't afford it or are just being "cheap" figuring someone else will take care of it. (08/30/2009)
I am way past needing to buy school supplies, however, I do help with supplies for my grandkids. I also find that WalMart has real good buys, along with Target, and Walgreens in SD also has real good buys. What I don't like here in Sioux Falls is that the schools here put lists of required supplies in the stores, and they specify the brand name items. Which sometimes a person finds a good buy and sometimes you don't.
The reason this annoys me is a few years ago when I was buying some stuff for my grandkids the cashier at WalMart told me that the teachers come in and stock up on the cheapest brand of items to have on hand in case a child's crayons or something gets lost. If the cheaper items are good enough for the teachers to supply, why require the kids to bring the more expensive items? In Sioux Falls "The Banquet"(a place where needy people can go for free meals) sponsors a project SOS, which on the last Saturday before school starts needy people can go and get a backpack full of some of the required supplies for each kid that is in school.
The kids have to be with the parent or guardian. They don't always get all of the supplies required, but they do get the backpack, and some of the supplies. The Banquet takes donations for several months to do this and sometime in the summer they put a box inside the doorway of each store that handles that type of things, for people to drop supplies in. This year, starting in the middle of July our apartment management company started collecting things to donate for the project. I donated six folders, a couple pkgs. of 10 pencils, a couple pkgs. of 10 ball point pens and a pkg of loose leaf binder paper, and all together it didn't cost more than $1.50. The paper was the most expensive item at 75 cents for the pkg. (08/30/2009)
As a teacher and a mom of 3, I know what an expense things can be, but be aware that most of the things on the list have a purpose. If you have an elementary list specifying a particular color of notebook, it may be an organizational thing where all the kids will use their blue notebook for science and the pink one for social studies and so on. If a particular brand of crayon or marker or glue is specified, it may be that the teacher has found that bargain brands have peculiar colors, won't do the job she wants done, don't last very well or so on.
However, that being said, I find that lots of people buy all new stuff every year mainly because they don't teach their children not to be wasteful. There is no need to buy new crayons every year if the old ones are still good. Pencils can be the ones that you get free from businesses; so can pens. Kids don't need stuff with cartoon characters on them. You can get backpacks at yard sales; and one should do for years. Put your child's name on everything -- and encourage them to look after their stuff. I have seen kids destroy their supplies before we even got to use them at school-- covering stuff all over with white out, for example. Putting a big puddle of glue on some other kids desk as a "prank", and then not having any for the art class. Don't buy stuff that is too cheap - like a cheap geometry set that falls apart, nor things that are too expensive, and have features that are totally unnecessary.
Use binders over again. I have seen kids throw out perfectly good binders. Tear out used pages and use partial notebooks in upper years.
I would find out if your school has the kids "share" supplies - which I feel is somewhat unethical when all don't bring them. It is one thing for each kid to contribute a box of kleenex for the class to use, and they "share" that, and quite another for a few parents to supply the whole class with crayons and pencils.
If you find that you are not able to afford all the things at once, have a talk with some of the kids teachers and find out if all things are needed right away. I had kids bring 10 pencils, for example, but of course they only used one at a time. The rest were to last the rest of the year. Perhaps some of the things could be purchased later in the year. That being said, the sales are likely the best right now. (09/02/2009)
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