Author: Christina - Support Line Volunteer, Student, and Mother
There can be a lot of mixed feelings at the end of summer for both you and your kids. For you: there might be sadness that your babies are a year older and there can be now more fun adventures. There can also be the feeling of relief that the kids are heading back to a routine and structure, which might have become a bit lax during summer. For the kids: Well, do they ever really enjoy going back to school?
In an attempt to help you out, I sponsored a school-aged child in need (mine is still too young) and went back to school shopping in hopes of finding the best deals and steals so that the start of the school year will not break your budget.
I went to two stores, Dollar Tree and Wal-Mart, and I nearly broke even. I got everything required for my child per the school supply list. There was one exception though, I did NOT buy headphones at Walmart and if I had, Dollar Tree would have come out much further ahead. I did not go shopping at Target. Target is my usual preferred shopping location, but I decided to only use Wal-Mart and the Dollar Tree for this experiment. I cannot speak for the deals found at Target for this specific entry, however in the past I have done very well at Target and found everything I needed.
The main difference I noticed between Wal-Mart and the Dollar Tree was there were far more options at Wal-Mart. I could choose from a wide selection of options. The Dollar Tree had a very limited selection of what was available and I had to simply make do. The Dollar Tree I went to did seem to still be putting out supplies, so there might be more options by the time you read this post. I also found at Wal-Mart I was able to select a backpack and other necessities for my kiddo. I did not include those items on the post because those were extras. They were not technically required by the school, but Wal-Mart did have a selection of backpacks from $9.98 to over $100.
As I said before, I nearly broke even. At Dollar Tree I found every single item on the school list and my total was $32.18. At Wal-Mart I found everything except for the headphones and my total was $33.57. There was a pair of headphones priced at $5, so I had I picked those up, the total would have been approximately $38.57, give or take the taxes. Overall, you can get everything you need at affordable prices.
A Few More Tips:
• Buy store brand
• Look for sale items
• Consider the unit prices. A box of 24 crayons might be priced at $2.00, which looks like more than the box of 8 crayons for $1.00, but the 24 box is $0.08 per crayons versus $0.12 per crayon for the 8 count box.
• Do not go shopping with your kids. I repeat: DO NOT GO SHOPPING WITH THE KIDS! Sure, you want Suzie and Steve to pick out things they want, but they will kill your budget. Ask them what their favorite colors or characters are this year and find things within that theme for them.
If This is Still Beyond Your Income
School supplies are expensive! We know how hard it can be to not only get all the items the school requires, but to get clothing, shoes, backpacks, and all those little gadgets kids need. Please do not hesitate to ask for help. There are many places gathering school supplies donations throughout all of Colorado. In fact, there are so many places, it is too hard to list. Please call the Families First Support Line at 303-695-7996 and our wonderful team members will gladly help you find a site in your county and for your specific school.
My kiddo did not need a calculator for her grade. I know the Texas Instruments are expensive and a total budget killer. There are schools which will allow families to “rent” a calculator for the year. I would inquire with the school before dropping $100 on a calculator. There are also options online for used graphing calculators. People like me who needed it for that one math class in college are now looking to sell them, so see what might be available online if your school does not have a rental/borrow option.
In regard to back to school clothes, I personally prefer the thrift store. Kids grow at an alarming rate, not only does this mean they need an array of size options, but kid’s clothes are usually not worn for very long. A lot of times I find things which look brand new at the thrift store. Plus, think of it this way, you are helping the environment and saving money! It’s a win-win!
One other option out there: makes friends with parents whose kids are slightly older than yours! They might have all the things you need. I have a wonderful friend whose sons are older than my boy. After her children grow out of their clothes and toys, she passes them down to me. This helps me with my budget so much! Maybe start a clothing/toy/supplies swap with a group of friends. Everyone can pass items around as needed. I know there are some groups on Facebook and you can find one in your area.
And you can still find more deal ideas here!
For more great parenting tips, parenting resources, suggestions or support call the Families First Support Line at 1-877-695-7996 OR 1-866-527-3264 for Spanish-speaking parents. You can also e-mail SupportLine@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.