Now is the time of the year when parents run out to the store to get nice new school supplies for their kids.
Parents are told that they need these for the school year. Well, guess what? Most of these items did NOT get used up last year, but people go out and buy new ones anyway. What happens to the unused school supplies? They end up at the bottom of backpacks, in numerous drawers of your home, on the floor of your car and in giant bags at your local thrift store.
This is really a waste of money. Maybe you think, “well, it’s only a couple of dollars, so why not make my child feel happy about going back to school?”
Well, first of all, it is NOT just a couple of bucks. Even buying the basic items at the dollar store, you will still spend at least $10. If you go to the business supply store, and get a new backpack, you are looking at at least $30. If you have more than one child, it really starts to add up.
Do you realize that you can get about $100 worth of crayons, erasers, markers, etc for about $3 at the Goodwill down the street? Will they be brand new in a nice clean box? Nope. Will they still work? Yep. Will you still be able to keep to your budget? Yep.
Now, there is a drawback to all this and I do understand. It is possible that you don’t want to send your sweet child off to the first day of school with used stuff when all the other kids are going to have brand new things. Here are several cool ways to make this a work:
- Save brand new crayon/marker boxes whenever you DO buy new crayons or markers. Immediately put the crayons and markers into another container and save the fresh boxes. You can refill the “new” boxes with “old” materials when you need to “make an impression.”
- Create personalized school supply boxes with your kids out of shoe boxes and other recycled material. Just cover a shoe box with construction paper or wrapping paper. Add pictures of family members and special things that your child likes. Make this box so cool and unique that is is fine that the materials inside are not brand new.
- Shop all year for school supplies at yard sales. 90% of the yard sales that I go to have some sort of items that could be used for school supplies. Many times, these are brand new or high end supplies. One of the best bargains at estate sales is office supplies. Pick these up for a fraction of the cost and at better quality (older office supplies are made better than new office supplies). Keep these stored until you need them.
- Teach your kids that it is smart to be budget smart. Truly help your kids by educating them on what is important and what isn’t important. Learning to live on a budget and not being wasteful are important life skills no matter what income bracket they find themselves in later in life. Let them know what you are doing so that they can be in on the game. Let them feel proud that they haven’t wasted money and planetary resources.
- Share the savings. If you save $40 on school supplies by using last year’s supplies or finding the items at the thrift store, then share the savings with your kid. Give them $10 to spend on whatever they want.
- If you homeschool, the peer pressure isn’t an issue, but you can still save a bundle on art materials using these methods.
Oh, and one last tip. If you DO go shopping for school supplies at a store, make sure that you make a rule to ONLY buy those items you went in the store to purchase. School materials at a discount is one of the main ways that is used to bring customers into the store in the late summer months. Then, the customers buy more products while they are there. So, those cheap school supplies end up costing you way more because of all the extra stuff you buy while you are browsing the store. Buyer beware.
April Yedinak says
Unfortunately, around here for Elementary school children all supplies are mandatory and shared. This means that the teacher will demand a certain brand of crayon or pencil, folders, glue, etc. Not to mention tissues, paper towels, hand sanitizer and various cleaning supplies. Then they collect everything and lump it together and then redistribute as needed. I learned this the hard way after the first year when I bought my daughter all special Hello Kitty everything and the teacher took it and gave it to other kids and gave my daughter some generic stuff instead. I took care of it, but it was a mess.
Bargain Babe says
@April I don’t have school aged children, but it seems this is the case! Teachers are so desperate for help stocking their classrooms that many of the supplies parents buy get added to a communal stock room. Another reason to get bargains on school supplies!
Bobbi Burger Brunoehler says
@April Wow! That is a story. I’m sure there were tears involved. Sorry to hear. I guess getting to know what your child’s teacher has in mind with the supplies is an important step for everyone with school aged children.
Community events have booths where local businesses participate. Many give out pens, pencils and rulers as ways to promote their businesses. If you don’t mind the advertising, I haven’t bought a pen in years.
Bargain Babe says
@Myke That is a great strategy for free pens! What other kind of free stuff have you picked up at fairs and expos?
My pet peeve is the quality of school supplies. Looseleaf paper is now as thin as tissue paper, construction paper is no longer thick and sturdy, and notebook covers are destroyed the first week of school! It’s a total waste of money when supplies have to be replaced so quickly!
Bobbi Burger Brunoehler says
@Denise. I KNOW!!! I’m kind of obsessed with office supplies, so I have been watching the quality of paper goods go rapidly down. This is why I always try to stop at estate sales and go directly to the home office supplies. There always are some old (which means better quality than new) paper supplies. I snatch them up – especially file folders and notebooks.
Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions says
If you shop for school supplies year-round, you can usually score a lot of it for free if you know how to work the Staples Rewards and Rebates. Starting in July every year, too, the major office supply stores will compete for your Back To School business. If you can shop with restraint, and get just the loss leaders in their sales (glue, pencils, pens, filler paper, notebooks, rulers, etc. for $0.01-$0.25 each), you can probably get 90% of your supplies for under $5! (I post the weekly Staples match ups on my blog, but of course the Back to School Season has ended at this point — it’ll be mostly free printer paper, pens, highlighters, software, and boxes until July).
Great idea to put the crayons and markers into another container and save the fresh boxes.
Bargain Babe says
@Nimco I agree! My daughter loves to play with the container as much as the crayons. She’s very interested in putting them in and taking them out, over and over again. It’s as if she doesn’t really believe they will fit it, or that she will be able to get them out.