Wednesday, July 24, 2013

School Supply Savings

Hello friends! In light of our recent tire explosion and the financial hole we're digging out of (that someone seems to be chucking handfuls of dirt back into), school supply shopping lost some of its appeal. You may think I'm borrowing trouble by thinking about school supplies so early, but here in Nebraska, school starts the middle of August, which makes it just three weeks away! 

So...I thought I'd share how I followed my favorite tip from this article on saving in the back-to-school season. 

Shop Yo House! 

Kids have crayons long before they go to school, but it's easy to grab a new box. I knew I had a few small boxes of crayons we'd set aside to take on trips or refill this bad boy. 

But when I went to get them, there were some colors missing and some were pretty used. I did like the idea of fresh crayons for school, rather than short, stubby ones you can't dig out of the box, so I got to sorting. I was able to find some pretty fresh ones in each color - twice!

After the crayons were conquered, I designated two pairs of our household scissors for the kids to use. They were kid-size that I'd let them cut with at home. We have more of these because I went a little crazy once at the back-to-school clearance sale. I felt having scissors in each room would stop me from ripping tags off clothes and leaving little holes. It has stopped me, but I've also found, the pair I use most is in my dresser drawer and a couple were superfluous. 

I checked our Elmer's glue and found I had a little bottle that was half-full. I bought a bigger bottle at the store and filled the little one back up. Now they have one each. 

Our list requested 12 pencils, but didn't specify that they be number two. So I picked from our pencils - some more boy colored and some more girl, sharpened and bundled them for each. This is Chandler's bundle.

Beyond that, we bought some brand new items, but for first grade, it was pretty inexpensive. To make it even cheaper, I used my Shopkicks rewards for a $5 gift card to Target. (It's usually saved up for a Starbucks indulgence...) 

The Backpack Investment

The most expensive item, by far, were backpacks. I decided new ones were in order because Cadence's was still a baby-sized My Little Pony bag. They only need it one day a week to tote their swimming stuff, but this one would never hold her towel and Chandler's would've been tight. They've talked a while about what kind they'd like and now with the selection MUCH bigger, I was feeling apprehensive about taking them into that aisle and letting them choose. Some have lunch boxes, some don't. Some are big enough for high school. Some have sculls and crossbones - not my favorite fashion trend. So I took pictures on my phone of several I thought they'd like - sans lunch boxes. (They had their hearts set on specific ones and I didn't want to buy them twice!) 

I couldn't wait til they woke up in the morning to ask which one they'd like. We all sat on the couch and paged through them on my phone. There was STILL some waffling, but not super painful, like it's been in the store. Cadence will sometimes just shut down with an, "I don't know. I can't decide." At home, she went back and forth briefly, and then decided with confidence. It reminded me of times I've taken my selections to a quiet corner of the store and thought hard about what I really want. Just feeling like people are watching me or a sales person might offer help, rattles me. Maybe my apple hasn't fallen far from the tree...

So there's my two cents about back-to-school saving. One other thing that saved us was using Kohl's cash ($10 off a purchase) from when Brian bought running shoes. They don't carry school supplies per-say, but they did have a lunchbox Cadence liked. After the Kohl's cash it cost $2. Back up about twelve hours and see me staring at my Kohl's cash, heartbroken because I'd let my it expire by ONE day. Ahh! I decided it was worth a try and went the next. Taking the lunchbox to customer service, I asked if they'd still honor it. Thanks to my excellent foreshadowing, you know they did. 

And if you're a big ball of stress and don't have the energy for any of the above, go to one store, buy everything and pat yo self on the back. This parenting gig gets hard sometimes and any way you do it, you're a hero. 


  1. Great back-to-school advice, Kendra. You are one smart shopper, or non-shopper, on a few of the items on the list. I work at a child development center and we take extra care not to ask the parents to purchase things that are unnecessary. I am always amazed how much the schools ask the parents to buy and many of the things are indulgent. I will definitely share this post with some of the parents at work.

    1. Thank Gail! I was relieved that our school's list was basic and the backpacks and lunch boxes were listed as optional. What was listed as "necessary" (after the supplies we already had) was under $10 for both of them! Yea for frugal teachers! :)

  2. How very smart to use technology to help your kids have an easier time making a choice! Great idea! Also, I love your crayon photos...I would have wanted to start coloring as soon as I saw all the colors together!!

  3. I LOVE the last phrase! You're soooo right ;-)

  4. Kendra,
    I thought you did home school for your kids? Or do I have that mixed up?

    1. I did homeschool them for kindergarten last year, but they are going to first grade. I was a little saddened that I struggled as much as I did with worrying about covering enough material and feeling like I wasn't-for kindergarten. This clues me in that I'll struggle even more with higher grades and that isn't what I want for any of us...