School supplies you shouldn't buy

School shopping can be more expensive than the holidays. And the stores are getting into it full force, practically since summer vacation began! With the major push for back-to-school sales at the stores, it’s possible you’ll actually spend more than you save. But while your child will need to fill their supply lists in preparation for the start of school, there are some things you should cross off your list before you even buy them.

Crayons, markers, pencils
If you’re like me, you have a whole box full of art supplies. So why are you buying brand new crayons, markers, or other desk supplies? Before heading to the local office supply store, check through your art supplies. Pens that still have ink, unbroken crayons, and anything else that seems decent enough for everyday use are perfectly acceptable as part of your child’s back-to-school package.

Book covers
My personal opinion is that book covers are a huge waste of money. I can never get them to fit properly. But more than that, why spend money on a decorated book cover when you can make your own? In our house we repurpose all those paper shopping bags we get at the store by wrapping our books with them. Then the kids can decorate them on their own to showcase their style and character. And if they have a need to doodle while in class, these book covers create the perfect outlet.

New clothes
If you didn’t already know, let me be the one to tell you: Your child does not need a brand new wardrobe just because school is starting. Sure, they probably need a few new items here and there. But in no way are you expected to go broke so your child’s closet is filled to the max with new duds. Check through their clothing and replace only the items they’ve outgrown or are getting threadbare. Another way our family has saved money on school shopping? We shop the secondhand stores like Plato’s Closet (1914 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa) that hold trendy but gently-used clothing for much less than the department stores.

Lunch box or backpack
These are two items your kid won’t grow out of. So why do they need a new one ever year? Do the zippers still work on the backpack, and is it free from holes? Is the lunchbox still capable of closing and free from last year’s lunch? Then it’s totally acceptable for this year as well. Of course, it might be harder to convince your 4th grader to take last year’s backpack or lunchbox if they’re covered in the cartoon characters they loved in 3rd grade. So if you must buy new, go for something a little plainer that can be carried around even as their tastes in style and interest changes.

Alarm clock
Yes, your child needs to wake up. But in this age of technology, the alarm clock is going the way of the Dodo Bird and the wristwatch. Why do they need a separate alarm clock if they already have an MP3 player or cell phone that does the same thing?

Be sure to check out some of the tips in the forums on DEALS we’ve discovered in the stores during Back-to-School shopping. And if you’ve discovered some deals of your own, pass them along!


5 thoughts on “School supplies you shouldn't buy

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  1. When I first read this, I immediately thought “paper bags for book covers,” which is what I did in junior high/high school. Glad to see you beat me to it. They wear better and last longer than anything you can purchase and you can write on them all you want.

  2. Beck – Plato’s Closet is located at 1914 Mendocino Ave (I’ll add that to the post), almost directly across from Big Lots. They just moved to a new location that’s bigger, though their parking is tricky. But nonetheless, we love shopping there.

    Bennett – I think paper bags RULE over anything you could buy at a store.

  3. One way to avoid the lunch box problem is to not cave to your kid’s temporary interest in a branded box.

    The trend in japanese style Bento boxes has resulted in a nice variety of lunch containers. Do some looking around and invest a tab more money into a small selection of containers and carry bags and you can know that your kid will always be able to use them.

    Another type of branded supply to avoid is binders and large notebooks. These items should be reused (if not filled), but many of the ones marketed to kids are branded with characters which may be too embarrassing for next year’s use. Avoid them! Pick stuff out in colors which you believe suit your kid’s taste, even if he or she is unhappy with how plain they are.

    If your kid really really wants some character branded supplies and you’d like to indulge a little, paper folders and small notebooks usually only last a year and are cheap. Stickers are also cheap; they can be covered over when they aren’t wanted anymore or they can be peeled off and the sticky removed with a goo-remover.

  4. For a parent trying to convince their kid to re-use an out of style lunchbox, it may be possible to turn it into a creative project.

    There are craft glues which will adhere to plastics; there are decorative papers and other flat things which can be used to cover and individualize an old box.

    Parents need to either supervise or do the gluing, however. There are also clear sealants which can protect the new surface.

    A thermos can be harder to change due to frequent washing, but it’s possible to make or repurpose something into a removable thermos sleeve.

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