Saving on School Supplies

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Thanks to Stefany Pratt, Saving With Seven for this Guest Post.
School Supplies 3

The time for saving on school supplies starts the last week of school. No, I didn’t mean the last week of summer. I really mean the last week of school. You know, when the kids bring home all of their leftover supplies.

Our school participates in the SchoolPak program, which is a fundraiser for the PTO. Yes, it brings money into the school. Yes, it saves you time shopping for school items. But, with a family as big as mine, it is just too costly. Plus, I feel like I’m wasting so much!

When the kids bring home school supplies, I have them bring them directly to me. If I don’t remember to do this, they hold on to them and they end up all over the house. Perfectly good sets of markers get separated from each other. Barely-touched colored pencils end up getting stepped on and broken on a bedroom floor. Scissors end up in the wrong hands, cutting things they aren’t supposed to (I still haven’t replaced my living room curtains from that mishap last year). However, if they bring them to me, I can have a good portion of my school supplies prepared for the next school year before vacation even starts.

First, I label a bag for each of my children, pull out my plastic storage tub of office supplies (things that were from past school years, extra items, etc.). Then, I go to the school websites and print supply lists. If you need a copy of your child’s supply list, you can normally find it online at your school’s web site under their Office category.

Once that is taken care of, I go through what has been brought home. I compare items to the list, and place items that are reusable as-is in each child’s bag, such asrulers, scissors, calculators and pencil cases, checking them off the school supplies lists as I go.

Many moms think new markers each year are a must. Not I. I test each marker on a scrap paper, and if they are still writing like new, I keep them in the pencil case. If they aren’t quite up to making it through another year of school, I put them in a pile to take to our children’s craft area. I then go through the extra new markers in my tub from last year and replace as many as I can. I put complete sets in as many children’s pencil cases as possible, then check them off the school supply lists. If I have to buy a box, I replace missing markers, and keep the new leftover markers in my tub for next year.

I do nearly the same thing with colored pencils. As long as they are still longer than half-gone, I keep them, sharpening them if necessary. I replace any missing colors that I can from my tub, and hopefully won’t need to purchase more than one complete package.

Crayons are another story. If a box comes home complete, which is rare, I will recycle it the next year. However, I find that crayons go on sale each year for such a low price that it isn’t really worth the hours it takes to go through a tub full of crayons and try to find the right colors. If you don’t mind Rose Art crayons, Office Max almost always sells them for $.01 during their school supplies sale. Crayola is the only brand I will send with my kids to school, though, due to their much superior quality. I found them for $.10 a box last year at Target for two of my boys, who just needed the smaller boxes of crayons. They have already been seen for $.25 at Target this year.

Folders often come home in good condition, especially if you purchase the sturdy kind, rather than the flimsy paper kind. I have some that I’m putting to their third year of use this fall. If there is just a slight tear at the bottom of a folder, you can take a little packing tape to the inside of it to reinforce it, and nobody will be the wiser. If your children need specific colors for their classes, check off which colors you have as you go, and if you are like me, with so many kids, you might want to list all the colors you need at the bottom of your list to make it a little easier when you shop.

Binders can be reused, as well. Check to make sure they are still opening and closing properly. If the school wants a particular color of binder, and you have the right size, but just a plain white one, you can always stick some construction paper in it to make it the necessary color. It isn’t like these are for show. They just want to be able to tell everyone to take out their red/orange/blue/whatever binder. I find it nearly impossible to find the requested color binder in the exact size when they do this, so I feel no guilt in saving myself the headache, as well as the cost, by recycling a binder this way. I’ve never taken any flack from it, and my kids haven’t complained, either.

Glue bottles rarely get more than half-way used. I combine bottles to create full bottles, and buy more, if needed. Used glue sticks probably won’t make it through the summer without drying out, so I put them in our craft area. New glue sticks get reallocated.

Leftover red pens, Expo markers, pencils, Post-Its, index cards, etc., all get reassigned to whoever needs them. Anything not on the list goes back into the tub for next year (my kids happen to be mostly every other grade, so if noone needs something this year, it will probably be needed the next year). I check everything off the list as I go, and when I’m done, I three-hole-punch my list and stick it in my coupon binder! Okay, this is new this year. I have always put my list in my purse previously, but now that I have a coupon binder, what better place to put it? I’ll always have it at my fingertips now, and won’t succumb to buying school supplies I don’t actually need because there’s a great sale and I think it might have been on my kids’ lists.

Supply shopping is the next step. Watch for sales and coupons, and get supplies when they’re cheap. Keep Target receipts in your binder for an extra week, and if you find the price has dropped, bring it to the customer service desk for a price adjustment. Don’t forget to check out the coupon section of their website!

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