The school supplies section always calls my name this time of year. Can you hear it? Sharp pencils . . . colorful notebooks . . . pretty folders . . . spiffy new backpacks! As tempting as it is to buy yet another new box of Crayolas, the best prevention for overspending for back to school is a little advance preparation.
Get Organized. Save Time and Money
Figure out what you and your students really need for back to school and write it down on a list. If your child is attending school outside the home, you should have a list from the teacher or district of everything you need. If you’re homeschooling, think about what you’ll really use. For us, Staedtler pencils, printer paper, and ink are probably our most-used supplies.
Instead of wandering the aisles tossing things in your cart, take your list with you to the store and stick to it! As tempting as all those cute ‘Minions’ notebooks are, limit how many extras each child can choose. Set a limit in advance so there won’t be any misunderstandings at the check out line.
Shop your closets
Do an inventory of what you already have on hand before compiling your list. Check markers and glue sticks to see if they’ve dried out, and toss anything that needs replacing, then add these items to your list. Our supply closet is packed full of index cards, but I can never find a roll of tape when I need one.
Many leftover supplies can be spruced up to be used up. Get some little cap erasers and sharpen those poor unloved short pencils so they can write another masterpiece. Combine crayon stubs and melt them in a muffin tin to create your own crayon rocks. Enlist a kid helper to test markers and make a “keep” pile of the juicy ones. (I toss the boxes crayons and markers come in and use small baskets for everything to make clean up easy.)
Back to School Bargain Hunt
Grab the sale papers and compare prices at the back-to-school sales. Look for the store that has the best prices on the majority of items you need. Unless you will save substantially by visiting several stores, it might be best to plan one trip to one store. The time and gas you’ll save, as well as dealing with tired kids, might be worth spending a few pennies more.
Check Out Consignment
Consignment stores and thrift shops are a gold mine for kids’ clothes. Find out which day they have specials, and take your list with you to shop. (Keep a note of sizes in your phone so you can find what you’re looking for easily.) Be realistic about climate, play-ability, and comfort before splurging on that cute 2-piece suit. Let kids be kids–granted they can be stylish and presentable, but you want them to be comfortable so they can focus on math and not scratching and squirming. Plus, you don’t want to worry about playground dirt ruining that pristine white blouse. I look for bright colors, soft fabrics like cotton, machine wash and dry, and pieces that mix and match easily.
I don’t know about you, but school day lunches are a challenge for me. After a certain number of sandwiches, we just want a hot meal. Sitting down and making a list of meal ideas not only saves money, but it also saves time on busy school days. If you can find a few things that all your kids like and can be prepared ahead of time, it makes lunchtime a breeze. Pinterest is a good source for lunch ideas.
Think outside the box, too:
- If you’re making chili for supper, scoop out some and serve it over corn chips with a little cheese on top for chili pie.
- Scrambled eggs and pre-cooked bacon are delicious with some salsa rolled into a tortilla.
- A big batch of pasta salad stays fresh in the fridge for a few days and is a great way to sneak in some diced veggies.
- For a fun pizza wrap, spread a little tomato sauce on a pita, add some cheese and pepperoni, and roll it up, secured with a toothpick. These are good warm or cold.