Does anyone out there have any ideas on reducing back-to- school expenses? I have a third grader and a kindergartner. Both need backpacks, notebooks, crayons, etc., not to mention shoes and clothes!
I have their supply lists, and things are coming on sale now. I also shop at the second hand store, which helps a lot. Any other help would be appreciated!
...first sort out needs from wants. I try to explain to the kids that the things that they want will go on sale when there is no longer such a demand. Since I buy on sale all through the year, I don't need to buy into the back to school philosopy. We just buy a few new clothes on sale and try to get lots of school supplies for the year because this is the best time to buy that. Also banana and carrot muffins don't take much time to prepare and big batches can be frozen. Also pudding can be made at home and put into snack size containers. Its worth buying small containers to give variety like raisins, apricots, chopper veggies and dip and your imagination is the limit.
Sometimes offices have many 3-ringed notebooks that go unused and are eventually thrown out to make way for new notebooks. My husband's office is like this. The notebooks have the name of a client on them and when the business with the client is finished they have no need for the notebooks any longer and they end up in the dumpster. DH takes them, with permission ofcourse, before they hit the trash. It wouldn't hurt to ask around and see if someone you know is in a similar situation. If youi find them and the kids rebell because they are just "too ugly" to use, a denim cover is easy to make. Pattern it after the kind of grocery bag book covers we used in the "old days". The kids could decorate the covers with fabric paint, patches or whatever.
If you find that your kids go through back packs yearly, an investment of high quality packs may save you money in the long run. Sure they won't be Space Jam or whatever is popular this year, but you're probably teaching your kids that this kind of thing isn't important anyway so that's not a big deal. I looked at the plastic packs on sale in some of the local department stores and was rather shocked at the poor quality. However, if they don't last because due to mistreatment (being dragged on the ground, written all over and poked with pencils and pens, etc.) I'd suggest making them earn the money for next year's pack and supplies.
First, on backpacks - I felt that my kids were just wanting to be trendy when requesting a certain brand of backpack [Jansport]. I refused to spend the $30 x 3 kids. When we moved and they had to change schools mid year I relented and bought them as a sort of consolation gift because I felt bad for them. Well, lo and behold - those backpacks take a beating!! They have been using the same ones for 2 1/2 years now. And not only for school, but for travel, sleepovers, going to the beach, etc. I've washed them in the machine, etc. and not had a problem at all. I just don't usually machine dry them. The only problems I've noticed as they get older are zipper problems. Since the packs come with a lifetime guarantee I guess I will contact the manufacturer and see how I should go about returning them for replacements if the zippers become too problematic. If you have a Costco in your area they had these packs priced at $19.99 two weeks ago! That is a 33% savings over the regular retail store price. I even offered my daughter a new one, [in a very unfrugal move]; she had written on hers and I thought it looked messy. I figured at that price, why not? But the frugality in her won out and she declined my offer. What a good kid!!
Also, this may not save during back to school season, but it will save all year long. During the back to school sales, stock up on supplies at very, very cheap prices. Local stores here are offering filler paper for .38/200 sheets, 1 subject notebooks 4/$1, etc. During the school year these items must be replenished, and you won't find yourself spending more than you wanted to for last minute replacements when there are no longer any sale prices.
All of the discount stores in our area are now running their back to school 'sales', but we pass them up. If you look closely at the supplies list, you will find that only a few of the items are needed at the start of school, most if not all of which you can supply from home (1 pencil, a note book, etc), as most real work doesn't start for a couple of days as they distribute books and such.
After school starts, go back to the discount stores and purchase during the clearance sale. You might not get first choice of colors and styles, but yellow pencils write just like florescent ones and paper is paper.
Garage sales are an excellent place to buy back-packs and other back-to-school items. Dollar Days-type sales are good for note books, crayons, etc.
Make sure everyone knows that you will accept ALL handmedowns. Don't complain if you get some trashy stuff or stuff you don't want. You can easily throw it away, donate it to Goodwill, or sell it at the consignment shop. Sometimes people are afraid you might be insulted to get used stuff. My daughters and I love it!
Burn in FL
As a parent, I have had many years of experience with the annual purchases of back-to-school supplies and clothes. I offer several suggestions to "S" and others readers who have similar concerns.
School Supply Purchase Tips:
As the items go on sale, purchase enough folders, markers, paper, crayons (2 boxes of crayons for each elementary school child is my recommendation), etc. to last for a school year. You will be amazed at the price difference (and the possible lack of availability) if you have to purchase replacement items during the year.
Clothing Purchase Tips:
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