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School Supply Shopping Tips

Whatever happened to my FREE public education? Honestly, between "renting" the required text book; the locker, sports fees and equipment; yearbooks; required school agenda (which never gets used because of its inefficient format; necessitating the purchase of one that actually gets the job done!); and boxes of sanitizing wipes, paper towels, tissues and hand sanitizer required for the classrooms; composition notebooks, loose-leaf paper, graph paper, binders, pencils, TI-83 calculators and the like I am out more than $400 before I buy the first pair of new shoes (we'll not go THERE in this post).


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:

  1. First, you must have a plan which includes knowing what you are required to provide for your student. Thankfully, our school makes back to school packets available in mid-July before the back to school sales begin in earnest. Don't buy a lot of stuff that is not on the list because it may not get used!

  2. Stock up - this is a must for the frugal mom. Peruse the Sunday ads, making plans to shop around and only purchase the best deals at a variety of stores.

  3. Purchase 2-3 times the number of items on the list (if 7 composition notebooks are required, purchase a minimum of 14-21 to assure mid-year replacements are available at a reasonable price). At 25 cents each 14 notebooks will cost you $3.50. Should you fail to purchase the necessary replacements for later in the year you'll be lucky to find these for a $1.00-so stocking up is critical and your net savings throughout the year is over $11.00. I also purchase crayons, glue sticks, colored pencils for arts and craft project, Christmas and Easter gifts and my Operation Shoebox at this time of the year and store them away. Apply the same strategy to folders, pencils, lose leaf notebook paper and 3 subject or 5 subject spiral notebooks and any other school supplies.

    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)

  4. Develop a storage system - No one likes to use a bent or tattered notebook. After all, new supplies are the highlight of returning to school for some folks, me included. Therefore, storing your purchases in pristine condition until you need them is a requirement. I use a plastic drawer bin, but an under the bed box or any secure container which will keep out the dust is satisfactory! DON'T purchase a new storage system, that defeats the frugal part of this post - use what you already have!

  5. Get Freebies - make sure you take advantage of any BOGO free offers, rebates, and don't forget to pickup any free samples (pencils, post it notes, hand sanitizer, chip clips, and caribiners seem to be popular items this year) at your local state fair or community event. Put these in your storage system as you accumulate them over the course of the year.

  6. Keep your receipts and don't be afraid to return the UNUSED binder that was desired until DD saw what all the other 7th graders were carrying.

  7. Shop early to assure the best selection (you can always return what you purchased but didn't actually need). Younger kids especially enjoy selecting their own supplies and this will insure they are actually used.

Happy Shopping!

Source: Posted on my blog:

By skibum1910 from Prospect, KY

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July 24, 20100 found this helpful

Buying them each their own bath towel for the new school year and have their names put on them. I have established a storage crate by the shower which are hair towels (thinner, smaller) and bath towels, which must be used a week. If the white towel is dirty, then they are not showering when they shower. Towels are hung right from the shower. On a hanger on a hook, all available for them. I use a safety pin with a piece of t-shirt rag and put their names on it. Wash clothes are new per shower. I have less laundry! Same things goes for swimming towels. To the clothes line and back in their bags.

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July 27, 20100 found this helpful

As a teacher and a mom, I found there were many ways to save money on school supplies. Firstly, there is no need to purchase everything new every year. Binders and duotangs can be reused many many times. Children do not need new crayons every year. Buy good quality supplies, as cheap glue sticks and crayons are frustrating to use. Purchase the kind of thing that is specified on the supply sheet. There is likely a reason if the teacher is specific about the kind of notebook or the size of crayon package or a particular brand of glue. It is absolutely NOT necessary to buy something with the latest celebrity picture on it! This adds a bundle to the cost.

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August 21, 20100 found this helpful

Instead of hair towels have a bathrobe for each, after they dry off wrap their hair in the towel and put on their bathrobe. 1 towel per customer. Try buying a loofa (different color for each child) then you won't need so many wash cloths. The loofas (nylon) run around .99 cents each and have to be replaced every couple of months.

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August 21, 20100 found this helpful

We have parking fees, drug testing fees, book fees, locks to purchase, sports laundry fees, classroom fees, senior DECA fees, and it is never done at that. Throughout the year we have more that comes up. Then if sports are of interest each sport has a fund raiser and uniforms for practice that we have to buy. Along with shoes for that sport. Attending the sport is also costly, parents $6 each students/siblings $5 each. We take our own snack and drink!

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