Sweet summer breezes, lazy afternoons on the beach, cool dips in the pool, and running to the store to load up on school supplies. Really? Yes!
Right now almost every store is jumping on the BTS (Back to School) bandwagon that begins with college kids, believe it or not, next month.
I get frustrated as much as every other parent with the way the BTS has developed into another excuse to have a sale and take advantage of shoppers. When I was little BTS involved my mom taking one day for just the two of us to buy clothes, new Hush Puppies (remember those?) and have lunch, enjoying one-on-one time. I looked forward to that day all summer. A week or so after, she'd do the same with my brother. The only supplies we were concerned with involved picking out a few folders of my choice (hello Trapper Keeper!), yellow pencils, BIC pens (that seemed to be all there was back then) and a package of lined paper at the grocery store. Our most difficult decisions were whether we wanted blue or black pens, and if we needed wide or college ruled paper.
Oh, how times have changed! There are now entire aisles devoted for just folders and whole rows for pens, almost year round. Districts are capitalizing on the early sales (finally!) by giving kids a generic list of supplies they should have, get this, WITH THEIR REPORT CARDS IN JUNE. The specific list from their assigned teachers will come home with them the first day of the new school year after all the sales are over. To make things complicated and more expensive, subsequent teachers (math, science, art, even gym) will have their own lists. I won't even mention the classroom needs and requirements of tissues, plastic wrap, napkins, monthly snacks, and other assorted oddities teachers need that the state won't supply.
I have found I am spending more on these supplies than on the clothes to keep my child covered, protected and comfortable for nine months. With that said, it's a challenge to get the best deal for my hard earned dollar. I comparison shop early and suggest starting with today's Sunday ads. If more than a handful of items are a good deal at a particular store, I’ll stop there. Make a list, one for each kid and keep them in your purse or car for easy reference.
Don't be overwhelmed and wait until you shop for clothes. If you decide to shop in August you'll be among the desperate masses. With crinkled lists in hand those parents will fight over the last SpongeBob lunch bag. Let me tell you, women with an agenda are piranhas (I have flashbacks of when my mother fought in the Great Cabbage Patch doll frenzy of December, 1983). If you wait until September all you'll find will be Halloween candy and costumes, if not Christmas lights and stockings.
A lot of items are at rock bottom prices right out of the gate. Being a savvy shopper is knowing how much is mark-up and what a good deal looks like. It's the only time of year you'll be able to buy anything for a quarter so bring a fat wallet and stock up for that mid-season letter from the teacher asking for more. In my yearly adventure in school supply treasure hunting, I've found these are reasonable.
For less than 50 cents: glue sticks, liquid glue, packages of 8 pencils, pencil sharpeners, packages of 18 crayons, pens, chunky erasers, index cards, 2 pocket folders (with or without prongs), 1 subject notebooks.
For less than two dollars: package of 12 colored pencils, package of 10 markers, scissors, binders, divider tabs, pencil cases, 500 sheet reams of paper, locker sized dry erase boards, correction fluid, highlighters.
The items above are the majority of what teachers will ask for. Buying extra now comes in handy for a quick birthday gift for the umpteenth 'best' friend party your child will be invited to. Buy more for your own supply at home or the office. Keep in mind some places will offer 'hooks', which to me are the extra-on-sale items to lure you into the store. Buy only what you've put on your list for that store. No-name or store-name glue or paper will be almost interchangeable but I'd personally never skimp on crayons.
Put all these goodies in a new backpack or hide them in a nice cardboard box; wherever the little ones don't snoop. In the next few weeks, concentrate only on taking each child out for school clothes, and the stress that brings. But enjoy the time with your child while you can. Before you know it your fisted list will be for computers and dorm sheets.