Each year we're given a list from our schools of what they want us to buy for our student that year. If you were to buy everything on the list at full price it will cost you around $100 per child. We just can't afford to do that this year. Here are some tips that we have used to get the supplies we need.
1- Set your budget and stick to it. We decided we could spare $20 each month of the summer to save for school supplies come fall. Including $20 for the first month of school, that gave us $60 total to spend on 3 kids. This is for everything- clothes, backpacks, and all the supplies they need. Take what you have, prioritize what you actually truly need, and spend it on that first. Once it is gone it is gone.
2- Check the list for what you have already. Honestly you do not need to get a new backpack every year or a new pair of scissors every year. Our school requires the kids to each have their own pair of headphones for the computers and class stations. (They can't share because it spreads lice). I found a good sturdy pair for each kid a few years ago on Amazon. I don't let them play with them over the summer, and they keep them in good condition in the class. They are going on 3 years now. Save the items that can be reused.
3- Identify the items that are necessities. Know what you must have. What folders or notebooks are required for the classes? Does that backpack need replacing this year? Do your kids have underwear that fits? Get those items first before picking up the millions of items on the teachers' wishlist. There are times when you just have to recognize that you can only get so much of what is needed. New clothes are popsicle sticks are fun but not always necessities.
4- On the items you can get the best deals buy an extra. So when it comes to the items on the list, when I find a deal that I can pick up at an awesome price- ie coupons, door busters, rebates, especially deals that I doubt many others are picking up, I get the max number or an extra one. For example, finding a box of a dozen pencils for 50cents a box is great. Even though each teacher requests 2 doz per child, it is a great deal and I pick up an extra box for each class. I may not have the money to buy one of everything on the list, but I can help out where it is a deal that I can afford. No teacher is going to say we have plenty of pencils.
5- Buy all year round or Save all year round. So putting a small amount in your budget all year to spend when those deals come is a great idea. But also watching the sales all year. In addition, things like paper, glue, crayons, cleaning wipes, and tissues are needed all year and teachers will accept donations whenever. I use coupons to pick up tissue boxes throughout the year and sent the box to class. Especially as supplies get low in the classroom the teacher will be grateful for resupplies. Also around the Holidays there are awesome door busters- like crayons for 25 cents a box. Buy then and save till September of restock your teachers. Not all the best deals are during back to school. It is also another way of looking at it if you don't have the money all at once to contribute to the class supplies. Teachers are happy to get donations any time.
6- Coupons. Yes they can be a pain but digital coupons are helping make life easier. Watch of $ off of total purchases. Or store coupons for non-sale items. when you're signed up for Staples deals, they send $10 off coupons every few months that are only good on non-sale items. You must purchase $10 or more to use it. There are lots of items that are needed that are rarely on sale-colored paper, tissues, and cleaning wipes are great examples. I also look at the grocery store coupons of $5 off when you buy $50 worth of groceries. I'm going to spend $50 easily with a family of 6 and that money is already in my budget. When I have one of those coupons I will pick up $5 worth of school supplies. Hey that is $5 of supplies not coming out of my school supply budget. There are always the normal coupons too. As a side note, a lot of school nurses will accept donations of personal hygiene items for students who can't afford those simple necessities. If you are super stocked from all your coupon deals consider donating them to the school nurse.
Looking at the list the teacher says you need to send to class is always frustrating when you are trying to put every extra cent toward paying off debt. I am grateful and need to remind myself that even though it is hard on us and that is money not going toward our debt snowball, but I know that we are better off than some. There are some families out there that aren't just in debt but they don't have enough to buy any supplies let alone actual day to day needs. The things we can afford to buy help everyone in the class, not just my kids.
I know some of my friend have vented about having to buy supplies at all. That is what taxes for for, right? Personally I would rather buy what I can or if we donated money to the schools directly to let the schools buy in bulk. But taxes go to the State or County levels. I have seen that money shrink down before it gets down to the schools and getting those supplies. At least if I am spending the money myself, I know it was spend wisely and went toward what it was suppose to. No detours to another purpose here. Just school supplies.