Parents with several children often find themselves in a bind as late summer approaches. Images of soccer moms fighting to the death over the last pack of notebook paper and children begging for overpriced folders emblazoned with images of Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers come to mind with unrelenting fervor. At the end of it all, the only thing well-intentioned moms and dads are left with are empty bank accounts and at least one child going back to school short a supply or two. This year, let’s try a different approach. Take a glance at the following tips on saving money when buying back to school supplies for multiple children.
Tip #1: Skip the mechanical pencils. Traditional pencils last longer, don’t break as easily, and are much more economical for classes that require them on a constant basis (like math, for instance). Paying for a pack of refills that may get lost, inserted incorrectly, or broken repeatedly is more costly than purchasing a large pack of traditional pencils that will last all year. For the sake of avoiding arguments, let each child choose special designs and colors that will give their old fashioned writing pieces an edge.
Tip #2: Invest in more durable, plastic folders. Not only will plastic folders live longer than their flimsy paper counterparts, they can also be passed down to younger children for the next year (or reused by the same child the following year).
Tip #3: Use labels for identification, not markers or pens. While labeling each child’s school supplies is important, use labels that can be either removed or covered easily. This step makes passing down supplies such as folders, pencil boxes, calculators, etc., to the next child much simpler.
Tip #4: Write, call, or email large supply companies for free samples. Companies selling crayons, markers, and other artistic supplies often offer free samples through little-known methods. Check websites and ask teachers for more information.
Tip #5: Buy loose-leaf paper. Bound notebooks cannot be reused and are often more costly per page than packaged paper. Place loose-leaf sheets in each child’s plastic folders or binders instead.
Tip #6: Buy school supplies in bulk throughout the year. Take advantage of clubs, fairs, and other venues that sell school supplies at odd times throughout the year at cost. You can also simply make your purchases from traditional retailers when sales for school supplies are lowest to find the best deals. (Do avoid buying products with limited shelf lives too far ahead, such as glue).
Tip #7: Invest in maps, globes, calculators, flash cards, and resource materials that are not time sensitive for use by all children. Throughout their educational careers, each child will find use for certain tools that are not severely impacted by the passing of time. Purchase and store items that can be used for each child for many years to come. (Be sure to check the validity and accuracy of resource books every couple of years).
Tip #8: Purchase solar calculators. They aren’t expensive, they last longer, and don’t require battery replacements. Unless your children are taking night classes, they aren’t a bad investment.
Tip #9: Visit craft stores rather than major retailers. For crayons, marker, glue, tape, pens, pencils, paper, and other basic supplies, you may find better deals at craft stores. You may also be able to buy in bulk more easily, ensuring that each child benefits. (Arts and crafts stores are also a great resource for educational toys, inexpensive project supplies, etc.)
Tip #10: Refer to your library or your county’s department of family and children services for more resources. Both facilities often offer information on how families can better supply their children for the school year.