What’s the best strategy for back-to-school shopping? Get organized, stock up on the basics, look for sales and promotions but don’t buy too much before school starts.
Don’t buy too many supplies ahead of time
“Typically teachers each send home a list of what they want students to bring to school,” says Kathy Glass, a California middle-school teacher, educational consultant and author focusing on curriculum and instruction. “I think it’s best to wait until the first day or week of school when the list is issued. Otherwise, you might find yourself purchasing items that your children do not need. I sometimes buy binder paper, highlighters and pencils and keep them for fall. But then what happens is that my child will be fickle about the type of highlighter or pencil he likes. To this point, it’s also best to wait to shop with your child and to have the teacher’s list in hand.”
Take inventory and make a list
Before you run out to shop, sit down with your child and make a list of what you need. Be sure to check what supplies are left over from last year.
Separate wants from needs
Beware the fashion trends in school supplies. 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 all of the 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.
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.