It’s almost time for most kids to head back to school, and that means it’s time for parents to go shopping. According to the Huntington Backpack Index, the average cost of supplies for elementary public school students is close to $100, and that does not include fees for things like the school T-shirt, snack fees, uniforms, band instruments, field trip fees, uniforms, lunches, and a myriad of other costs.
If you have multiple kids in school, their supplies can alone cost hundreds of dollars, and that is just to start off the year in a public school. Back to school costs can be far too much for many families to bear. It is especially hard for those who earn enough to be disqualified from free lunches or school supply assistance programs, but not enough to have hundreds of extra dollars on hand. Here are some ways to soften the impact of back to school shopping if your family is on a budget.
Items you can reuse
As a homeschooler, I have discovered that school supplies often last much, much longer than a year. In fact, I wrote an article recently to help homeschoolers identify the supplies that last a long time so they can save money. Among these are common items from public school lists like scissors, rulers, backpacks, pencil boxes, lunch boxes and even binders.
I recommend buying a good pair of scissors once your kids are allowed to use scissors with a pointed end. They’ll likely be able to use a pair of 5″ pointed Fiskars scissors almost all the way through elementary school without ever having to replace them, especially if you also pick up a sharpener. Likewise a flexible ruler should last for many years, maybe even all the way through college.
Items you can buy later
Some of the items on school supply lists today have more to do with keeping the classroom clean and tidy than with learning. Items like cans of Lysol spray, Clorox wipes, paper towels, Ziploc bags, dry erase markers, etc. are not things kids used to have to supply for the classroom, but they do now.
The truth is, the teachers are not going to use all of these supplies in the first weeks of class. If your budget is tight, be frank with the teacher and tell her that you will be happy to bring in the non-academic items on the list later in the school year so that you can stagger some of the expenses. It’s public school; they can’t kick your kid out because you couldn’t afford your share of Germ-X on the first day of class.
Items you can find on sale
Many of the items on school supply lists can be found on sale, but sometimes not in the same places. Look closely at the advertisements for discount stores, drug stores and office supply stores to see which items are on sale in which places. You might pick up pocket folders for next to nothing at one store and #2 pencils at another. Also keep an eye out for coupons on the household goods listed above. You may be able to double coupon and save big at the grocery store. Back to school is one time it definitely pays to comparison shop.
More by Tavia:
School Supply Tips for Homeschoolers
College Gear Students Will Really Love
Why Public School Parents Should Be Friends with Homeschoolers