The first day of school will be here before you know it, but we’re all set in the school supply department.
With elementary kids and a middle-schooler, I know I have to get on top of the back-to-school supply list before summer disappears. My mission: To get the list done and to spend as little money as possible.
Make a master school supply list.
I started by merging all of the boys’ school supply lists into one master list. Rather than think about what I needed for each individual boy, I could see everything I needed to buy in one place. This was when I discovered that we needed 26 glue sticks. Yes, 26 glue sticks. Having a master list makes it much easier to bulk buy.
Keep the list with you.
A master list is great, but it doesn’t really help if you forget it at home. You can keep things “old school” by writing your list on a piece of paper you keep in your purse, but I found it too easy for it to get lost in the abyss of my bag. Instead, I opted to use Evernote for iPhone. It’s a free app, and I love it because I can keep track of everything from school supplies we need to what size shoes the kids wear. It’s easy to update when I buy things on the list, and I love that it can sync with our home computer.
Shop at home.
Before you head to the store, do an inventory to see what you already have. I discovered that I already had brand new boxes of crayons and colored pencils I got for cheap during last year’s sales, so I was able to cross those off the list. I was also able to pull Kleenex and Lysol Wipes from our stockpile. The boys already had backpacks and lunchboxes that are in great shape, so we didn’t have to worry about that.
Clip those coupons.
This time of year, you’ll find coupons on everything from dry erase boards to pens. Look for coupons before you shop so that you can save at the store.
Look for deals.
All of the big discount stores – Walmart, Target, Walgreens – have great deals on school supplies. But don’t forget Staples, Office Max, and Office Depot, too. Andrea at Savings Lifestyle has a great database of the hottest school supply deals. Be sure to check out the best deals before you head to the stores.
Simple is better.
My boys love Angry Birds, SpongeBob, and Phineas & Ferb, but notebooks and pencil boxes with licensed characters on them cost 10 times more than plain ones! Buy plain items and let the kids decorate them with stickers you already have.
When it comes to backpacks and lunchbags, think timeless and think quality. It always seems like the ones with fun characters on them either fall apart or fall out of favor with the kids. I splurged on Lands End backpacks last year, and I don’t regret it. They’re a great quality with classic designs and we’ll be able to use them for several years.
I’m pleased with how this strategy worked for us. I’m currently applying the same strategy to our back-to-school clothing shopping, and I’m almost done with that list.
It’s easy to get caught up in all of the Back-to-School marketing hype, but when you have a clear plan, it can really help you save money and your sanity.
How are you doing with your back-to-school shopping list?
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