Our back to school expenses each year add up pretty fast between the lengthy school supply lists the teachers give us, new shoes, backpacks and clothes. That could be a big hit to the budget all at once if I didn’t plan ahead for each year’s expenses in advance. Check out the HUGE bags of back to school supplies my kids had to take last year! Altogether the cost of those five bags of supplies was less than $30!
Ever since my children started school I started buying school supplies for the following year, so that when the next year came all I had to do is fill in with a few things that may have been added to the list. Here is how this works:
Starting in early July everybody is doing school supply sales, and some stores, like Office Depot, do 1 cent sales on a few items, or 25 cent sales on a few items to get people into the store. As an example, last week Office Depot had 3-pack pink school erasers, reg. $2.49 for 1 cent each (limit 3), hand held pencil sharpener, reg. $1.00 for 1 cent each (limit 3) and bottles of school glue, reg. $1.49 for 25 cents each (limit 3). Because I have 5 children to buy for, this is the time for teamwork with my mom and me. We each get the limit of the 1 cent and 25 cent items, plus another item to make a total of $5.00 (must have $5.00 purchase to get the “next to free” items). That’s all we bought, because in next weeks’ paper there will be more of those type deals. In previous years we have gotten packs of notebook paper for 25 cents each, duo tang 3 prong/2 pocket folders for 8 cents each, composition notebooks for 25 cents each , spiral 1 subject notebooks for 25 cents, crayons for 10 cents, packs of pencils for 10 cents, B1G1 backpacks and so on.
About 6 weeks ago, Office Depot had a special “deal” – their 3 ream cases of copy paper were on sale for $10.01 – then if you had a “reward” card with them, you got $10 back in reward money, making the cost of the 3 reams of paper only ONE CENT! I bought 3 of the deals in June, then in July got my reward money of $30, so actually got 9 reams of copy paper for 3 cents. SCORE! Now I have enough copy paper to send a pack to school with each of the children, and have 4 left for me!
I figure the TOTAL cost of school supplies for my 5 children (4 elementary school and 1 middle school this year), is about $20-$25. Check one of those school supply lists provided by the school and see what the costs would be at retail price!
If this is the first time for you to do this, here is my suggestion. Keep the list of school supplies handy – check what your child needs THIS year, then look to see what will be needed NEXT year. Each week check the papers to see what the special deals are (1 cent, 10 cents, 25 cents), and get THOSE items for this year and next year. Find a shelf or cabinet to keep the ones for “next year” separate from what you need now. As you purchase the various discounted items each week, your “next year” shelf will get fuller and fuller, until the time when school starts, you can see that you are NOW prepared for next year. However, as it gets closer to school starting and you have a few items like hand soap, paper towels, and other items that you still need, you can usually get some deals on them at a grocery store.
HOT TIP: My children LOVE to make things, so I also try to get extra construction paper, glue, crayons, etc when they are super cheap to stock the “craft” shelf.
HOT TIP #2: My childrens’ elementary school each year has a school supply drive to collect school supplies that they give to children in need. This is a good cause that I collect additional items for at the “next to free” sales (if there are no limits on how many you can buy), so when the children bring home the papers that the school supply drive has started, I have a good number of items that I divide up between all the kids so they can each have a bag of school supplies for the needy kids. I figure this is a good lesson in “giving” for my children and they love to carry those bags of school supplies to their teachers!
HOT TIP #3: I just this minute got an email with a preview of next weeks’ ad for Office Depot. Guess what!!! Those bottles of school glue that I paid 25 cents for last week are one of the “get people into the store” deals next week for 1 CENT! That’s ok, we’ll still need more glue, so Mom and I will each be getting 3 more bottles of school glue! PLUS 3×5 index cards will be 1 cent (I need many packs of those, because I write the kids’ spelling words on them each week, so we can practice their words at home and in the car). Also they will have their 10 pack pens for 1 cent each (each of the kids need either a pack of red or a pack of blue). I noticed that there are also a number of 25 cent items. WHOOHOO!!! This is going to be a good week for school supplies!