Growing up, there were few things I enjoyed as much as school supply shopping. Around the beginning of August, the greatly anticipated list would arrive in the mail and be stuck to the fridge in a place of honor. Office Max was my favorite store to shop at, probably because the only time I ever went there was to buy school supplies. The rows of binders, pens, folders, erasers, backpacks, crayons, and notebook paper felt brand new and promising. The beginning of every school year can feel like a fresh chance for every student, with the right supplies. Any insistence from my parents that last year’s notebooks were still in fine condition, or that the crayons still had pointed tips fell on deaf ears. I was bound and determined to have a fresh start, starting with my supply list.
As fun as I always found school supply shopping, I’m sure that for my parents and other students it wasn’t quite as enjoyable. Concerns about money and anxiety about starting a new school year can put a damper on the excitement for many students and their families. The following are a few ideas for how to have a successful school supply shopping trip.
Out With the Old
Some school supplies return home at the end of the year with minimal wear and tear. If you and your child decide to buy all new supplies anyways, make sure that you have a plan for the old supplies still in good condition. One option is to find storage space in your home and put all the old school supplies together. That way, you have extra supplies on hand in case of unexpected circumstances. Old school supplies can also easily be recycled into craft supplies. However, storage space may be at a premium, and as useful as those twenty-five wide-ruled notebooks may seem, they may become the victim of a future spring cleaning. Rather than throwing used supplies out, why not donate them to children in need? Make sure the supplies you want to donate are in like new condition, and find a local agency that might be able to put them to good use, such as your local food pantry, youth center, or school guidance counselor. After giving someone else school supplies, you and your child can feel better about shopping for new supplies.
Stick to the List
As tempting as it may be to load up on school supplies without a sense of direction, stick to a prepared list! If your school doesn’t provide you with a list, sit down with your child and discuss the classes he or she will be taking and make sure to get the necessary supplies for each. Without a list, you may end up with duplicate items in the checkout line. By having a list and using a pen to check off the items you’ve already gotten, you can prevent a lot of frantic running around. This is especially useful if you have more than one school-aged child. To help keep organized with multiple students, try using a separate cart for each, putting older children in charge of their own as you travel through the store as a family.
While it is a great idea to stick to the list, there may be some items you want to add to the list for organizational purposes. Dividers can help make notebooks neater, separating notes, homework, and worksheets. A pencil box, to stash extra pens, pencils, and erasers in a locker, is also a good investment. For emergencies, a pack of reinforcement tabs that hold together looseleaf notebook paper can also be useful. If your child’s school doesn’t provide a planner, make sure to purchase one! The benefits of a well-kept planner are priceless!
Form Follows Function
As lovely as many school supplies are, they need to be durable and practical before attractive. Children can always decorate their school supplies later, but patching together broken binders or folders is less fun and less attractive. Buying a plain, sturdy, cost-effective binder is better in the long run than a nicely decorated, flimsy, expensive one. To maximize decorating potential, buy binders with clear sleeves on the front so kids can insert a decorated piece of paper in the front. This can also help with quick binder identification.
What’s in a Name?
For some supplies, it doesn’t really matter if you buy a generic brand. For other supplies, you may want to spend the extra money to get real quality. Supplies such as crayons, colored pencils, notebook paper, and markers are a good bet for spending a little extra money.
Label, Label, Label!
Whether your child is just starting kindergarten or entering their senior year of high school, labels are important! That $137 graphing calculator should have your child’s first and last name printed clearly somewhere, or even etched into the back of the calculator. That 500-count Crayola box should be labeled in the same way. By having labels, you make it easier for your child to be sure that they have their item, and for it to be located if it should be picked up by another student or left behind in a classroom.
For binders, folders, or notebooks, make sure you put the name of the class somewhere so your child doesn’t end up with biology notes in her American history notebook.
What are some tips you have for mastering school supply shopping?