A Guide for Buying Back-to-School Supplies

Clothing isn’t the only thing on the minds of parents shopping for back-to-school items, back-to-school supplies rank high on the list. Most families know just how expensive school supplies can be, Esselte Americas has donated over 24 truckloads of school supplies to the international relief agency Feed the Children in Oklahoma, the estimated value is around 4 million. Good news is you don’t have to spend 4 million and if you shop wisely and budget, you’ll still have some money left in your wallet to treat yourself to a much needed massage after shopping.

This is just another time of the year that most parents do not look forward to but we find ways to get through it. Most children hate trying on clothes and bouncing from one store to another… assured they want to go with you to buy school supplies! (I think the supply aisle really draws everyone in to want the latest gadgets) Whatever you do, don’t take the kids with you. If you take the kids with you, they will break you and your budget will be out the window in a blink of an eye, gone!

Don’t let the kids fool you! They’ll tell you horrifying stories of how a loose paper binder ruined Jimmy Bowmans entire year. How the kids banished him from every circle. How others in school will tease them if you buy folders that cost 10 cents instead of the $3 ones. Thankfully, school supplies are one of the few things people can’t tell how much you spent on them. As long as you don’t have a tag that says “Dollar Store” on there, you’ll be fine.

You see, I know these things because I’m a mom and I often shop with other moms, the entire group of us has vowed we will not take the children this year. Last year we did and it was horrible. My husband took the check book away from me, he said I must have had a brain attack and the results cleaned out our bank account. I blame it on my kids of course, after all it was their fault.

Last year, my friend and I were both victims. We had already went to a couple of stores that didn’t have anything we liked, that’s mistake number one. You don’t have to necessarily like a pencil. A pencil’s primary use is writing and I’m yet to see anyone take one back to a store for being defective, they all work the same. My children however, like pencils that flash, have liquid in them or a big cartoon character on top.

We found a nice department store that must have just gotten all the new shipments of school supplies, it was comparable to school supply heaven if there is such a place. They had everything! I believe all of our eyes lit up like it was Christmas, we began playing with cool looking items like battery operated staplers, 3-D folders, and automatic pencil sharpeners. Of course all the prices were a tad bit higher than what we would normally pay and to make a long story short, my friend and I ended up spending on average……..$89 per child. We’re talking about pencils and paper here! We knew the moment we walked out of the store that we had made a mistake.

Backpacks did contribute to a large majority of the amount spent. Normally the top price my family would pay for a back pack is $10 or less. On the day in question my friend and I both purchased $30 backpacks, which I must say were ultimately a poor investment because my oldest son’s ripped after one month of use. My friend’s daughter didn’t have much luck with her backpack either, it was ready for the dump after only five months of use. If anything this just goes to show that high price doesn’t always mean you get what you pay for.

Here’s some valuable advice to stay within the limits of your budget. Look around in the months before school starts to get an idea of how much things cost. Go home, total up what those amounts may be and take anywhere from 30-50% off, the total, well that’s your budget. When you get those circulars in the mail advertising school supplies, pay attention and get what’s on sale if it’s a good price. Set a rule, if it’s not on sale, don’t buy it. If you’re anything like me, once you buy it and pay the normal price, next week you’ll see it on sale. Trust me, the sale will happen and you’ll feel good when you save the money.

Don’t forget the first rule, don’t take the kids. You can’t take the kids because it’s just an invitation for destruction. If you take the kids, they want a zillion things they don’t need, you don’t buy it, you may as well say you are screwed for the rest of the year! Every time your child gets mad at you for anything this school year, it all will rotate around what you didn’t buy for them at the beginning. You’ll have dreams about your child sleeping on a park bench being interviewed by CBS news. When the reporter asks, “what brought you to this point in your life?” Your child replies, “I think I’m here because in 5th grade I wanted a gold plated pencil for $100 and my parents told me NO”.

Along with watching for sales, checking out sale circulars, look for online wholesale suppliers too if it would save you money. I know a group of moms, these moms had 7 children in college and went through a lot of notebooks. One of the moms found a supplier with a good price on bulk notebooks, so these three moms each payed a third to get a huge shipment of notebooks. The total saving were said to be in excess of slightly more than $100 and saved them a lot of money in the long run.

Another rule of thumb, make a list of what you need and stick to it. This is simple, if it’s not needed then don’t buy it. If you’re child needs markers for school, buy the cheap markers. Just because the markers aren’t branded by “Crayola” doesn’t mean they don’t work. Think about it, if you could write your name with a higher priced Crayola marker, then do the same with a cheap marker, they both do the same right.

I shop a lot and take a lot of pride in saving money. Most of the moms I know, love to go on shopping trips with me because I’m good at finding good value for the right price. As you can imagine, my house is about to bust at the seams full of a little bit of everything. You’d truly be amazed at the money you too can save by following a budget and a few simple rules. I hope these tips have given you some insight and a good start in saving money on your school supplies.