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The back to school season is upon us again. Maybe it’s your first time doing this. Then again, you may be a pro when it comes to back to school activities. Either way, you know some preparation must go into preparing for school. This is especially true for my children. They were super lazy this summer.
My oldest daughter is entering her Sophomore year in high school. My youngest daughter is starting 1st grade. Huge age gap. I must say, I am thankful I’ve had the opportunity to already experience most of the process. Because, so much has changed since my oldest started school. So, while some of it is new to me. Much of it I’ve already lived through. As a result, I feel somewhat prepared for it.
There is one thing in particular that caught my eye with my girls going back to school this year. The supplies on the supply list just didn’t seem like enough. Alright, parents, you all can stop laughing at me. I mean, who DOESN’T want a smaller school supply list?!
Let me defend myself. Since my oldest began school, her supply list has grown every single freakin’ year. Prior to school and during school. So, I was a little shocked when youngest received her back to school supply list. It is about half the size of her previous kindergarten supply list.
At her recent open house, I even questioned her new teacher. Thankfully, my questions didn’t seem to have an impact on how she felt about my daughter. Because, I guess, in a way, I am THAT crazy mom. But, lo’ and behold, her short supply list WAS all she needed.
So, her kindergarten year, last year, she needed 3-ring binders. We even had to buy an agenda from the school with the school’s logo on it. I was a MUST PURCHASE. It was required. But, this year, these things weren’t on the list. Not even the 3-ring binders.
Here’s a comparison of my girls’ back to school supply lists.
School Supply List
1 pack of #2 pencils (no plastic coated pencils)
2 boxes of 24 count Crayola crayons
1 Pink Pearl eraser
1 bottle of 4 ounce glue
5 Spiral notebooks (wide ruled, 1-subject)
2 packs of wide ruled paper
plastic pencil box
white unlined paper
Ziploc bags – quart (boys) and gallon size (girls)
4–pack dry erase markers
headphones – to be used at school
10th Grade Supply List
School Year 2017-2018
a. Two- three large boxes of tissues
b. Four rolls of paper towels
c. Two containers of antibacterial wipes
d. Homework Assignment Book
e. Two boxes of No. 2 pencils
f. Two 3-Subject Notebooks
g. One 5-Subject Spiral Bound Notebook
h. One 2-Subject Notebook
i. One box of highlighters
j. Scientific Calculator
k. Two packs index cards
l. Spanish/English Dictionary
m. Erasable blue and black pens
n. Red Pens
o. 5 Composition Notebooks
p. One pad of canvas paper
q. USB Flash Drive
r. One bottle of cement glue
Lengthwise, the list may seem close in comparison. But, in reality, the items needed for 10th grade cost more. Now, I’m not sure of your current financial situation. Our finances aren’t in the best shape at the moment. Already, in this year alone, we have experienced job loss, bankruptcy, loss of health insurance, and increased medical expenses.
If my parents struggled with buying back to school supplies for me, I never knew it. I wish I was able to hide my frustration about school supply prices as well as they did. Because, my kids are very familiar with any phrase that contains the words “too expensive”.
Every year I used new school supplies. I looked forward to going back to school shopping every year. Especially when I got older. I loved following trends, regardless of how expensive they were. Someway, somehow my parents were always able to provide that for me, too. Each new school year brought new clothes, shoes, supplies, bookbags, and accessories. Plus, I always went back to school with a fresh haircut.
When I first became a parent, I wanted to strive to give my kids the same. Before they began their school years, I’d already made up my mind. They would get everything “new” when they went back to school each year. But, you know what? Life doesn’t always go as planed.
When my oldest was younger, there were MANY school years she went back with maybe one or two new things. In fact, we’re still in that situation. They will need new clothes, but most we will bargain shop for. (I actually added a few great offers available below if you have little ones. All links are affiliate links.)
My daughter has reused book bags. We’ve dug up old supplies that were salvageable for the next school year. I’ve had to count change to purchase school supplies. We’ve visited back to school school supply giveaways. Family and friends have donated school supplies and clothing to us.
As of now, our bargain shopping ways have not had an impact on how our girls feel or how they are treated. I think parents worry about that. I know we do. We worry if the kid with all the “new” stuff is a bully. Will they recognize my kid is using old supplies and pick on them? I mean, we’re parents, we worry. It’s in our DNA or something.
I’ve learned another thing during all of our back to school seasons. It’s possible for your kids to be cool on a budget. You will also remain the cool ‘rents. All it takes is a little time and planning.
How hard are you laughing right now? When do PARENTS have extra time? Well, it isn’t very often. Believe me, in the past, I was NOT a planner. Everything was on a whim. When I say everything, I mean everything. Vacations, purchases, and even babies. But, I wouldn’t trade those babies for anything in the whole wide world.
Finally, I realized my life was slowly spiraling out of control. In the beginning, I couldn’t put my finger on what was causing it. Until I realized it was how impulse and unorganized I was. All mornings were rushed. There was no planning on our part. As a result, the power would get cut off. We’d end up with nothing for dinner because nobody was keeping up with the groceries. Needless to say, in the beginning, our life was pure crazy.
Now, I’m not saying it’s perfect now. We still slip up and we do it often. But, now that I have gave planning a chance, I’m becoming more comfortable in my surroundings. Things are beginning to get organized. Life is beginning to feel “real” again. Whereas, before it was blurry due to how disorganized I was. Being organized has also helped with being able to afford back to school necessities for our girls. Which is super helpful.
According to neaToday, parents will spend as much as $300+ on back to school supplies every year. I don’t know about you. But, for our family, $300 is a LOT of money. That’s just the supplies. That doesn’t include the shoes, clothes, and haircuts.
Huffington Post actually states that an astonishing 80% of children will lose expensive back to school items. We break our backs providing for our kids. We sure don’t want them losing what we get them. Although, I’m aware that it’s bound to happen.
Back to School: The Frugal Guide
My oldest daughter was in 4th grade when we began our “frugal journey”. Her tastes were becoming a little more expensive. Unfortunately, our wallets weren’t getting bigger. Before this point, we didn’t set a limit when it came to preparing or the back to school season.
I’ll be honest with you. The plan I’ve composed for budgeting back to school isn’t what I imagined. But, it helps us save quite a bit of money. In the past, we have spent over the $300 mark on one child. Now, I can say we spend about $100 each year. Plus, that’s not for one kid. That’s for both of them – one in elementary school and one in high school.
In order to follow the plan I follow, you’ll have to be okay with a few things. For example, some years you will have to salvage what you’ve used during previous years. You’ll also need to be comfortable with asking for help once in a while. We give you a few great tips on that below.
Honestly, I hate asking for help. It’s a total pride thing. But, when things get tough, you do things for your children. But, in order to ask for help less, I made my plan for 3-year increments. As a result, there will be a year where I DON’T have to ask for help.
Here’s my frugal guide to back to school shopping. I hope it helps you!
1. Do research ALL year long on back to school deals.
If you’re good at keeping things organized until they’re needed, start your research early. In fact, for the best results, do a simple search for deals at least once a week, if possible.
How I find deals for awesome back to school savings
* I’ve joined tons of groups on Facebook that focus on deals, price glitches, and savings. I try to check these groups at least once a week for deals. Many times people will find ways to use coupons to get items free. Quite often these items on school supply lists.
Many of the Facebook groups are private. Simply put, you have to request to join them. In most cases, you’ll have no problem getting approved.
Some of the Facebook groups I’m a member of include:
* Sometimes I clip coupons. I usually clip them when we receive the junk mail in the mailbox. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I don’t. It just depends. But, if they are school related I try to do a quick internet search to see if there’s any way I can get a great deal on the item.
I also clip digital coupons, too. Coupons.com is a great start. They have hundreds of great coupons available.
2. Shop at different stores for the best results. Offline and online.
Thankfully, in my area all of the places where you buy back to school supplies are pretty close in the same vicinity. If that’s the same for you, I’d suggest visiting different stores. Mainly because different places are going to offer different prices on different items. But, remember, many stores price match.
As long as shipping isn’t insane, I also recommend shopping online and offline. Sometimes a store will have a sale that is specific to online orders. The same goes for in-store deals.
3. Make a list.
When you’re attempting to budget, making a list is pretty important. In fact, you should probably make a few lists during and after the research process.
Here’s examples of the types of lists I use when budgeting back to school shopping:
– Supplies needed and what we have on hand.
– Price of each supply at different stores. (For example: A list of supplies and their individual price for each item at a specific store.) This will help you compare cheaper options at each store.
– A list of current deal and sales available online and offline when I am planning on buying supplies.
– If clothes and shoes are needed: a list of places currently having deals on clothing and shoes.
4. Join “blessing” groups on Facebook.
Regardless of where you live, I’m positive there’s a “blessings” group on Facebook dedicated to an area near you. Blessing groups are groups where people can go and ask for help with specific items. It’s also a place where people can list items for others. All items are free and given as “blessings”. During the back to school season, you’ll often see people offering book bags filled with school supplies.
The best part is, in most cases, these groups are heavily moderated. Meaning that you won’t have to deal with any backlash for needing help or receiving help.
5. Salvage supplies used from prior years.
Every other year we salvage supplies we used from previous years. Well, sometimes, we do this every year. So, when the school year is over, check your kid’s book bag good. Put away anything that can be used in the upcoming years in containers (pencils in good condition, unused paper, binders still in good condition, etc.). You’ll have them available for next year. One less thing you have to purchase.
6. Stop replacing the book bag every single year.
I’m really bad at remembering to wash my kid’s book bags. So, if you’re like me, you may not be able to save their book bag often. But, if you can, it’s worth it. Just check it out for any holes, tearing, stains, etc. once school is out. Maybe all it needs is a good wash.
7. Visit back to school events near you.
This is usually my last option. I mean, I’d love to go to back to school events every year. Even with salving supplies, it would help me save money every year. But, my pride gets in the way. I don’t want to look greedy. But, when it comes to your kids.. you do what you have to. So, we’ve been to quite a few of these.
In most cases, these events hand out book bags filled with school supplies. The book bag and supplies are free. In most cases, all of the items are nice and always on the supply list.
Just do a Google search for “back to school events + [your area]”. I’m sure you’ll find something near you.
8. Reach out to friends and family for help.
Not everyone has this option. For example, we’re sort of the black sheep in our families. So, asking isn’t always an option when it comes to family. On the other hands, my friends and I have came together more than once to help each other with school supplies. See if any of your parent friends have any leftover supplies if they have school-aged kids.
9. Visit thrift stores.
Many people can’t believe what you can find at thrift and consignment shops. Usually, there’s many name brand options available for kid’s clothing and shoes. They are also, usually, in awesome condition. If the store offers it, you may be also able to exchange some clothes that no longer fit for credit to shop at the store.
I Said Goodbye to $300+ Back to School Shopping
After taking all of these steps, some only every other year, my back to school cost have been cut. The most I spend each year is $100 for both girls. In most cases, it’s much lower than that.
Always remember to start with a set budget, too. Even if you have to put pocket change away to save for the next year. If you’re going to make your budget $100 – stick to it. If your total cost of items (with tax, shipping, etc.) exceeds your budget – find cuts somewhere. Don’t exceed your budget. Unless you have planned in advanced and already have the money available for back to school use.
Now, remember, depending on where you live and the size of your family — your spending may exceed what I may spend.
In addition, here are some online resources for saving money during back to school season.
Recently, Moms Uncut reached out to their promotion squad about their back-to-school saving tips. Here’s what a few of them had to say.
Our family saves everything. We have labeled containers for scissors to pencils. We haven’t bought new school supplies in FOUR years!
It gets crowded. But, I shop for back to school supplies right at the deadline. That’s when supplies really get marked down to low prices.
Never underestimate the dollar store! I buy all my kids school supplies there. They last, too!
Coupons are a girls best friend when it comes to back to school shopping. That’s all I can say about that.
My mom friends and I swap school supplies and clothes. Kids grow out of stuff fast. No reason to keep it around forever. Unless you want to star on an episode of Hoarders.
I do a lot of planning. Back to school feels so much easier when you feel at least kinda “put together”.
If you’re still looking for back to school clothes — Gymboree and Crazy 8’s are having a great deals right now! Check out the links below. *affiliate links
Here are also some of the cute, affordable outfits you’ll find at Crazy 8’s and Gymboree!
How do you save on back to school shopping? Let’s hear you in the comment section below.