Finances

Purchasing Back to School Supplies

I was in Walmart the other day and noticed the shelves at the front of the store stocked with school supplies. Having worked in a school for many years, this “warning” was like seeing Christmas stuff in October. It seems so early and yet reality is that it’s coming up soon. 

Parents start to feel the panic to get everything together so they are prepared when school starts. Preparation is always important, but let’s slow things down a bit. 

Impulse buying can be quite common, especially around stuff like this. It’s handy. You’re already at the store getting groceries or other items. You walk in to see the school stuff and think that you should pick some of the supplies up now while you’re thinking about it because you’ll probably forget by the time you get home. You buy all new pencil crayons, paper, scissors, etc. 

Or even worse – You arrive at the store with your child. The latest fad is printed on everything they look at. This leads to them wanting new backpacks, lunch pails, binders, and clothes. They want everything they know their friends will have. You feel the urge to give in because you want your child to feel motivated and have a good start to the year. 

My question is, what is your wallet telling you? Before you start randomly buying things at the grocery, department, and Dollar stores, let’s take an inventory of what you already have at home. Take out all of the school supplies for your children. What do they have that’s still in good condition? Do they have enough pencil crayons, paper, and pencils? Do their shoes still fit? Make a list of what you need.

Once you receive your lists from their teachers, and you know what you need, then it’s time to scan through the flyers. Do you get your local coupons each week? Do you have an app like Flipp where you can quickly browse through all the sales in your area? Shop around. Getting quality items at a discounted price will save you. If you get the cheapest item, it’s likely that your child will probably break it early on in the year. If you get something of quality, it’ll have a better chance to last. Remember though, don’t buy something if you don’t need it. Those school supplies can certainly add up. 

One thing my Mom did every school year was get my brother and I one new outfit. We were allowed to wear it on the first day of school so we had something new and fun. Then she would wait until the clothes we needed went on sale. 

I realize this can be tricky. Kids hit growth spurts at random times and it can be hard to know how big they’ll be in a few months. If summer clothes go on sale in the fall, make sure to buy something one or two sizes bigger than what your child is right now. It’s not the end of the world if it’s a little big on them next year. Purchase the items on clearance and then tuck them away until they need them next spring or summer. If you can buy a few things here and there that they need ahead of time, and at good prices, it’ll help your clothing budget build up and stay balanced, rather than binge shopping multiple times a year. 

Number one importance, stick to your budget. Whatever you have set aside for school supplies and clothing is what you spend. Nothing more. Try not to spend it all at once either. Just because you have the money in that budget category, doesn’t mean you should spend it all. Keep some back so when your child(ren) runs out of or loses something throughout the school year, you can replenish it. 

Keep an inventory of your child’s belongings. Kids are notorious for forgetting or losing things at school. Our Lost and Found bin is constantly overflowing from the first month of school onward. Remind your children to visit there and thoroughly check through the items if they’ve lost something. Or pop in and check it yourself periodically if you have time. 

Another piece of advice would be to label ALL of your children’s belongings with a permanent marker. This includes ALL of their clothes, backpack, pencil case, lunch pail, shoes, computers, more expensive supplies, etc. This really makes a difference when teachers find things laying around. They are busy and may not have the time or think to check for the names. But it will be a lot quicker for anyone finding things to give it back to the appropriate person. Remember to check their belongings throughout the year to see if the names have faded over time as well. 

Hopefully this is a helpful reminder as you prepare for the new school year. 

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