Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Back to School--Supplies and Using What We Already Have

                                                                                          Source: familyfun.go.com via Beth on Pinterest

Unlike the school my kids used to attend (and many others out there), I feel lucky that this school system assigns teachers for the following year at the end of the previous year. This means that a couple of days before they were sent off for summer vacation, my kids attended "Step Up Day" in which they and future classmates were ushered into the classroom that they would share the following year, they got to see who was in their class, they met their new teachers, and they received welcome kits with fun summer activities to keep their skills fresh, as well as....drumroll...the list of what supplies they'd need to purchase for the new school year!

Can you tell that I was excited? Obviously it's great for the kids to have all summer to prepare with full knowledge of who their new teacher is and time to set up play-dates to get acquainted with new classmates, rather than waiting with a nervous stomach all summer for that letter to come in August telling them where they'd been placed. But, for me, the best part was knowing what supplies they'd need and having all summer to slowly gather them. There is no doubt that the fabulous sales that come about in the few weeks before school starts are a smart way to save money. 10 cents for a box of crayons? Sign me up! But when money is tight...or when you are trying to live a life with more peace and less of the "Rush! Rush! Rush!" and "Stress! Stress! Stress!" mentality that so many of us have come to accept as the norm, waiting until the last minute to buy the supplies needed all at once can still cause a financial strain (even with those great deals) and so much stress as you travel to the school supply aisle with your kids in tow, bumping and squeezing past other frazzled parents with their own kids in tow. I shudder just imagining the scene.

That's why at the end of last school year when my kids came home with backpacks full of completed art projects and workbooks, flyers galore about summer activities, and to my great pleasure loads of supplies from their desks that had only been partially used, I decided to take the opportunity to lessen the impending doom of school supply shopping. Instead of doing what I normally do and throwing the random crayons, colored pencils and partially used glue sticks into their art supplies box, I decided to put these items aside for use this school year.

These came back from only one child's classroom! 7 glue sticks!! All those crayons, barely used.

We set up the lists and gathered the rest of the supplies that had been slowly purchased over the summer. There were only a few items left to buy.

As the summer has gone on I have taken the time to check off the list those items we already had from last year and to slowly pick up an item or two here and there that we still needed. Then a couple of days ago I decided it was time to tally up and grab the last few items on the list. We laid out the lists for each class and organized everything that we had. We divided, double checked our lists and then went to the store (at the least busy time of day we could think of.) We were in and out of the school supply section within 10 minutes, with only a handful of supplies and no bumping or squeezing past other stressed-out shoppers. Easy peasy! Not to mention, this method was very friendly on my wallet and because I had only a few things to get I was able to splurge on a couple of "fun" notebooks for the kids, rather than the plain ones for 20 cents that I would usually insist on.


Isaac (the youngest of my school aged littles) will have the same teacher this year that his brother Otis had last year. They use white boards in that class, Otis had a leftover whiteboard marker in perfect working order. Why buy a new one yet? This one still works! You betcha', I plopped it from Otis's pile into Isaac's. Done and done.
One last note on saving money for back to school--and this is probably obvious to everyone else, but it was a bit of an epiphany for me this year: kids don't "need" a back to school wardrobe (necessarily) nor do they "need" a new backpack and lunch box every year.  When I first started having kids and when those kids first started going to school, I got so excited to buy them all of those new things every school year that they looked forward to getting. When I only had one or two in school it wasn't so bad...now I have three in school and four kids in total. I had set a potentially dangerous precedent that could easily put me in financial hardship...not to mention teaching my kids not to value and care for what they already had and which were still perfectly fine. I started a couple of years ago to insist that the kids take good care of their backpacks and lunch boxes so that they'd last at least a few years, I also made a point to invest in quality over character--character as in "Oh I have to have this one because it has my favorite character on it!" Because kids change who their favorite character is about every month, at least, and the ones that are sold based mostly on their commercialism are usually made to last.

Next, I made shoes a priority as the wardrobe was concerned because their feet have usually grown by the time a new school year rolls around. I realized that we have been given so many wonderful hand-me-down clothes that they truly weren't in "need" of any clothes at all, but I didn't want them to miss out on ALL the fun of getting ready for the new school year.  I told the kids that they could each purchase one new outfit to wear on the first day of school. When school starts it's usually still too hot for the "back to school" outfits that are in storefronts, so we hit the clearance racks and found great deals on clothes from the summer season and they each created their First Day of School outfits for under $20. Since we didn't spend hundreds on a new wardrobe, I have little extra cash to spend on quality shoes that will last! In the past I would buy the cheapest shoes possible and they would get worn out (we're talking holes and soles that were peeling off) before they even outgrew them...so how much money was I really saving when I had to replace them so often? Saving on clothes and spending on good quality shoes is a great trade!

Lastly, I'll remind you that we at Ladies Holiday LOVE LOVE LOVE reusable snack bags and food containers in lieu of the constant expense and waste of disposable plastic baggies. The initial investment is well worth the long term savings for your wallet and the planet. Check out the sidebar at the left for AgainBags, one of our favorite companies for reusable snack bags!

Next week I'll share with you how I stay organized after school begins--you know what I'm talking about: the plethora of paper that comes home in those backpacks every day. Last year I developed a helpful system and I can't wait to tell you about it.

What creative ways do you use to save money or stretch bulk expenses over a longer period of time? I'd love to hear. Until then, I'm feeling more ready for the new school year than in years past...

Ready and Waiting,
Tamar



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1 comment:

  1. I always spend the most on shoes, but they are the most important. Love this post seems like my exact approach to how to begin a school year.

    As for reusable snack bags I am loving those by Beneterre...I don't know if you've tried them or not.

    Have a great day Tamar!

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