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Back to school on a budget

School supplies - back to school on a budgetIt’s the weekend before school starts and you’re off to find school supplies. Before you know it, your kids have filled your cart with the entire back to school section and a couple of items off the must have but don’t really need rack. By the time you make it up to the cashier people are wondering if you’re opening your own school. When you’re handed the $800 bill, you’re so exhausted, you take everything home where you will then sort through it all only to take half of it back.

If this has ever happened to you, you’ve most likely resolved never to let this happen again. With a little planning a couple tips from Maria Shapiro and Kelly Farrell’s five back-to-school shopping laws this resolution will be easy to keep!

The essentials for grade school

Grade school kids, especially children starting grade one, don’t need many supplies. It’s better to send them to school with a great backpack and lunch box than to spend money on things they don’t need. Generally schools will supply students with most of what they will need. Two things to note: Elementary school students do not need binders and notepads. If you’re going to send your kids to school with markers, it’s best to buy in bulk and buy name brand. This is one item you don’t want to cut corners on. Check out the TV spot with a comprehensive look at the list of supplies you’ll want to buy for elementary school!

The essentials for high school

Besides a great backpack, it’s important to find out how your children organize themselves. Do they prefer loose-leaf paper or notepads? Consider what they are comfortable with, and buy for that. All students, but especially high school kids are rough on their stuff. You don’t need to spend money on expensive math sets or binders. Often, basic supplies will do. Buy the basics, because chances are, they’ll need a new set next year! Take a look at the back-to school video from for a complete list of high school supplies.  

  1. A list is a lifeline. DO NOT set out without a list. Children themselves will be the experts in creating checklists, with some tips from the videos above.
  2. Take stock of existing essentials. If you take a good look around the house, you will most likely find a good supply of school supplies on hand. Things like pencil cases, sharpeners, binders and folders can probably be re-used.
  3. You get what you pay for. Certain supplies will have the same longevity no matter where you purchase them, for example: paper, scissors, folders, binders, pencil cases. While materials such as pencils will most definitely achieve a longer life if you buy better brands.
  4. Set a spending cap. After taking stock of supplies you already have around the house, and making a list, you should have a good idea of what the rest should cost. Involve kids in this process and give them a budget of what is reasonable to spend.
  5. Label everything! A label can mean the difference between buying new pencils every week, and making the September Shop last all year long. If you take the time to purchase labels, use a label maker, or even the ‘old fashioned’ way with a permanent marker, school supplies will find their way home.

Most of all, don’t forget to make it fun! While you are checking your list, maintaining a budget, keeping an eye out for deals and writing hundreds of labels, remember that it all comes together! The ‘First Day of School!!’ is the first day of the rest of your child’s life: a new school year is truly a new beginning.

Back to school on a budget was originally posted by Our Kids is Canada’s trusted source for information on private schools and summer camps.

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