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Overspending in September - Supplies for the Secondary Schools

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

As a middle and high school teacher I see gross overspending in September. Yes, the students cause most of it with desires for new wardrobes and expensive backpacks; however, most of it comes from well-intentioned parents who go overboard with supplies. Ads promote overstocking, and it's difficult for teachers to tell parents that their children have no need for scientific calculators in the seventh grade. How then do you take advantage of the back to school sales without purchasing too much?


The Real Essentials

While needs vary, there are certain supplies with which you can't go wrong.

Book socks, those stretchy covers for books are the greatest invention since pre-punched notebook paper. They protect the books while keeping adhesive damage (tape or sticky covers) to a minimum. Barring student graffiti and other boredom busters. they last all year and can be recycled into the next year.

Paper is a must, of course. The amount depends upon the school, but a few reams of notebook paper is essential for any desk. Spiral bound notebooks also are more than useful in the upper grades and can often be purchased for as little as $0.10 a piece.

Blue or black pens are important but stray away from the unfamiliar. Don't give in to the teenage demands and spring for the colored gel pens; most teachers don't accept them on school work. Instead, opt for several blue or black pens. With most assignments being typed, however, purchasing a gross of pens is a bit overdone.

The Waiting Game

It pains parents to hear this, but wait until school starts to buy your supplies. Yes, you miss the sales, but you'll avoid purchasing the wrong things. Teachers tell students how things need to be organized. If a student has purchased pocket portfolios and then hears that he must keep his history work in a three ring binder, money has been wasted. Often students come with one notebook for all subjects, a concept that won't work in our school where different binders are required for each subject.

If you're organized enough, try purchasing during the sales but keeping everything wrapped with the receipts. Than, return what's unneeded and take advantage of what was purchased at a bargain. Warning: It's hard to keep the children's hands from those shiny new supplies. Be schooled in patience to try this.

Plan Ahead

Very few students maintain a well manicured notebook from September through June. Face it, teenagers are brutal on school supplies. Binders work as lunch trays, bus stop sleds, and notepads. Plan ahead and purchase a replacement binder for mid-year now. While they're on sale for under $1 in August, they can cost as much as $2.50 in January.


The Lists Have It

If you're fortunate enough to live in an area which has realized the back to school dilemma, you'll notice school supply lists at your local office supply stores. Broken into age categories they tell the basics that each student will need for the upcoming school year. If one is not displayed at the store, check your school's webpage for such a listing. Some schools mail these lists with their bus cards. They're valuable; it's here that you'll see a scientific calculator isn't needed until grade ten.

About The Author: Kelly Ann Butterbaugh is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to a variety of magazines as well as online newsletters. She teaches writing in the public school as well as at the collegiate level. Contact her at or visit her website at http://users.rc … avedamutt/Writer

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August 18, 20060 found this helpful

I would subject any parent if supplies are available

shop for supplies at a Dallor Tree if you have one close to you.

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May 28, 20160 found this helpful

Many schools email the list to parents before school starts.

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May 28, 20160 found this helpful

My local "big box" store has the lists available for all local schools so you can consult them while shopping.

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