Ten tips for smart back-to-school shopping
The best strategy for back-to-school shopping? Get organized, stock up on the basics, and look for sales and promotions.
Best back-to-school gifts
Your grandparents might have brought an apple to the teacher on the first day of school. Jane Ann Robertson, Arizona's 2004 Teacher of the Year, has a more timely suggestion: "If you really want to make a good impression, add a packet of stickers or a ream of colored copy paper for your child's new teacher."
Nikki Salvatico, Pennsylvania's 2005 Teacher of the Year, adds that the key to helping your child succeed in school is not something you can buy at your local office supply store. It's time — time spent reading stories, rhymes, poems, and plays with your kids. And it's being a role model for the behavior you want to see in your child.
"Parents spending time with their children — modeling reading, writing daily — is priceless," Salvatico says. "When children see a parent reading the newspaper, a magazine, or a good book or writing a letter, a paper, or a report for work, they can connect why they are learning [those skills] in school."
By GreatSchools Staff
Start your back-to-school shopping with a game plan. Even if your child's teacher hasn't provided a list of school supplies, you can't go wrong by sticking with the basics and taking advantage of back-to-school sales (many states offer “tax-free days” during this season). Here's how:
Make a list and get your child involved.
Use the recommended or required supplies from your child's school or teacher as a starting point. If you don't have a list yet, check with parents at your school who have older kids. They might have good advice about what is required in your child's grade. Or check our recommendations for elementary, middle, and high school. Sit down with your child and go over your list together. You'll be teaching her how to get organized, a skill that applies to more than shopping.
Separate wants from needs.
Most school supplies don't go out of style, and your child will happily use the unsharpened pencils his older sister didn't use. But as any parent with last year's superhero notebook knows, beware the power of trends. Rather than getting into an argument with your older child about whether a backpack with headphones is essential because "everybody is getting one," try setting a budget for supplies. It will help your child set priorities, learn how to manage money, and start saving his allowance for the items your budget won't allow.
A note from the teacher: You'll be doing your child's teacher a favor if you stick to supplies without gimmicks. Pencil sharpeners that light up are distractions in class, says Jane Ann Robertson, Arizona's 2004 Teacher of the Year and a GreatSchools consultant. "Keep supplies to the necessary and useful versus fancy and fun."
Sort through last year's supplies to see what is left over or can be reused. (Having trouble finding last year's stuff? Resolve to set up a place to keep your school supplies together this year.)
Start early and look for bargains throughout the summer.
The best bargains are often available at back-to-school sales. Keeping your supply list in your car or purse or on your PDA will help you shop for supplies as you do your other errands.
Buy basics in bulk.
You know you'll need paper, pencils, glue sticks and notebooks. Dollar stores, warehouse stores and even eBay are sources for buying these and other basics in bulk. You and a group of other parents might be able to negotiate a group discount from an office supply store.
Then set up a supply shelf or storage container in your home that you can use all year long. You'll be able to avoid late-night shopping trips to buy notebook paper when you run out. And you'll know where to find unused notebooks and pencils when it comes time to shop for back-to-school supplies next year.
If you set up this storage area near the place your child will do homework, you'll be modeling good organizational skills and he'll have what he needs nearby.
Nikki Salvatico, Pennsylvania's 2005 Teacher of the Year and a GreatSchools consultant, advises parents to send to school only what is needed. If you buy four dozen pencils, send in three at a time. This will help your child manage her supplies and help the teacher who has scant storage space in the classroom.