July/August is when we start to see back to school sales and we typically start to make our supply lists if we have kids attending school outside the home. Even if you homeschool you will still likely take advantage of this time of year to get good deals on supplies. How much do you typically spend for back to school supplies?
Well, according to the National Retail Foundation, the average family with students in grades Kindergarten through 12 is expected to spend $548.72 on school merchandise.
Here is the breakdown:
Electronics or computer-related equipment: $167.84
Clothing and accessories: $204.67
School supplies $82.62
Is this more or less than what you spend each year? Will it cost more or less to use greener and more eco friendly school supplies? How can we avoid falling into the consumer traps designed to get parents to spend a ton of money this time of the year?
Here are some of the ways we are tackling the back to school supplies scene this year.
School Clothes – We are buying nothing new except underwear and socks. Every other item will be second hand from thrift stores and I started shopping for items in early June. I made a list of what I think they will need and worked from that… I didn’t rely on guesswork that would ensure I buy more than they need. I kept in mind that there is only two months of shorts weather here after school begins so I made sure to think Fall/Winter. I think clothes for most of the school year for both of my older kids will be less than $75.
Shoes – School shoes I usually don’t buy second hand, it just depends. I tend to buy each child one pair of good quality shoes that are pricier initially but last the whole year. The cheap $20 shoes at WalMart… they don’t last more than a few months for my active kids so we don’t buy them. Since instituting a policy that my son reserve a pair of shoes for school ONLY I have been buying fewer new pairs. He can use worn or used shoes for play until they fall apart and the school ones stay nice. The $93.59 price estimation for shoes sounds realistic to me. You can buy “green” shoes for two kids for less than that.
Lunch – School is in session for around 180 days. Buying a school lunch is about $2 per day on average and that is without extra drinks or snacks from vending machines. You can expect to pay around $360 for a year’s worth of lunches. They are also not the most nutritious in my estimation and I can think of several other things I would rather put that $360 towards, including nifty lunchboxes. Check out my Bento Lunchbox site for some lunch inspiration! This year I plan on packing lunches for the most part but also allowing them to eat the school lunch when they want to. Because we invested in some good quality lunchboxes last year and the year before I have no need to buy more. We have 5 Laptop Lunchbox systems in various colors, a couple Tiffins, and various other bento boxes. They make packing a low cost, nutritious meal a snap, and the stylish boxes help with the “cool” factor.
Supplies – These can get pricey IMO. I remember two years ago I worked straight off the list the school sent to me and spent around $50. Plus I had to pay a supplies fee to the school of $150 so I wasn’t too happy. Most schools have a supplies sale about a week or so before school starts and you can usually get everything they need for their grade for around $20. Call and ask your school about this. Homeschoolers can also shop these sales. There are some really not-so green items that the schools request like petroleum, crayons, anti-bacterial soaps, and plastic bags. I have a sample letter you can send to the school with your supplies to explain why you didn’t follow their list to the letter if you made some changes. We stick to their list for some things and others we don’t.
I like to shop for school supplies ALONE. If I take my kids with me I will inevitable get pressured into buying a Hello Kitty folder instead of a plain one or the glitter glue instead of the regular glue. I can make savvier decisions when they are not around. ;)
Also make sure to scope of thrift stores for supplies. They often have folders and backpacks as well as clothes and household stuff.
Backpacks – These are relatively cheap at a place like Walmart where you can get one for $10-25 dollars. But I find that they are also CHEAPLY constructed most times and you may end up having to buy another one mid year. The zippers always go first in my experience. That is no savings. I would rather buy a handmade one on Etsy or make my own. Here is an awesome tutorial for making your own. Girls especially won’t mind a simple but pretty sack style backpack. Washable and no zippers!
Electronics – At 5 and 9 I don’t think any electronics are required for them to function in school although it would be nice for them to have their own computer! That is on our budgetary wish list.
What are you doing to keep the back to school season and cheaper and greener? I would love to hear!