If manufacturers and retail stores had their way with back-to-school shopping, parents would need to take out a bank loan to outfit and supply kids for school. I’m a teacher and I’ll walk you through the real required school supply list.
First, when you go back to school shopping, ignore the ‘suggested lists’ printed by retail stores. Needless to say, mass merchandisers and retailers have a vested interest in getting you to buy all the items on their ‘school supplies’ list. There is big competition for your back-to-school dollar. Wal-mart, Target and big merchandisers would have you believe that they partner with local school districts, teachers and classrooms to compile a supplies list for each grade.
They don’t; retailers simple toss every school supply list ever invented by any teacher into a big pool and print out a compiled list. What your individual child’s teacher requires in any given school year, will doubtless be a greatly pared down version of the store list. It may also contain things not on the store list. Your child’s teacher’s list will definitely be honed down and personalized to what supplies she will actually use with her students.
Teachers are parents and taxpayers too. They know that your back-to-school dollar isn’t endless. Many of the school supplies included on the store list are already provided by the school budget. Other supplies are ‘wish list’ items, not must-haves. My advice is to do one of several things regarding school supplies and back-to-school shopping.
Unless the item is on sale for a terrific price and you know it will appear on the school supplies list, don’t buy it. Wait for the teacher to publish a list on her classroom website or send home a school supplies list with students. The school may also host an open house or ‘give and take’ where you can get an accurate school supplies list.
If your school PTA hosts a school supplies sale, do the math and make sure that you are getting as good or better prices on school supplies as you would on sale at the store. I opted not to buy the $4 ‘book socks’ (quantity of five needed- $20) that were required by the school to cover student textbooks. I was warned that I would not be able to find ‘the right size’ if I bought from Wal-Mart. Wrong. Not only did I find the correct sized book sock, I found them for $1 each (savings 75%).Last, don’t feel obliged to contribute large amounts of ‘classroom supplies’ that a normal school budget should cover. Kleenex, hand sanitizer, hand soap, disinfectant wipes, Expo Dry Erase markers, expensive permanent markers, pricey colored copy paper, sticky notes and any other classroom supply should come out of teacher’s budget. I have seen each of these items on charter school and public school ‘supplies’ list for classroom use. I have also seen, as a substitute teacher, all too often, kids play with these supplies and waste them. I refuse to buy supplies to share them when my children have their own personal supplies and don’t often use the classroom supplies. For more penny pincher and shopping tips, visit the blogs listed.