Frugal Back to School shopping

Last week on Tuesday Jr went back to school. Not only that, I also realized I’m getting old¬†he’s getting old. I mean he’s in 2nd grade!

( inhale ,exhale, inhale, exhale)

What happened to the surprise baby. ūüôĀ

After the initial shock I had a thought. And it went like this.

“Oh yeah, wasn’t there a shopping thing I was supposed to do to get ready for today”

I didn’t prepare at all. I didn’t even really think about preparing for it at all. Other then ¬†“oh Jr starts school next week “.

Instead of think about it in regards to money and purchases. I thought about it in regards to time.

How are our schedules going to change? Adjust?

But wait a minute

I want to go back to this money and back to school shopping thing.

We all know that there is an endless barrage to buy. That is no different when it comes to kids and school. Actually my research showed its the 2nd most consumeristic time of the year. The message to buy was rampant. Even so I hardly noticed it myself.

The truth is I didn’t get a list so I wasn’t worried about having to check items off that list. Still, I got curious about this back to school shopping practice so I did ¬†some research.

How much are parents spending on their back to school shopping sprees? And on what?

A standard list of items for back to school shopping even for young 2nd grade students is pretty extensive.

Back to school list

Writing utensils,¬†Art stuff,¬†Paper. But this list didn’t even include clothes.

Checking off all the items on the box + clothes will leave you $630 poorer says NRF’s study.

As an aspiring minimalist I have to say the list ¬†I found looked a bit much. I recall my days in school and a few back to school shopping trips. (I don’t think it was as popular a thing back then.) ¬†You know what else I recall having plenty of left overs at the end of the year.

It’s not over yet

After checking the last items off your list, walking around with a lighter wallet, you are finally ready to say good bye to the school related spending.

Phew!

While it sounds like most parents (American parents?) spend a lot of time thinking about the initial cost of school few discuss all the other costs.

Yup that’s right closing your wallet after picking up the last 3 ringed binder on the list is not the end of your school related spending. Oh no.

Whether you plan to pay for them or abstain its a good idea to at least acknowledge all the other costs.

$5-10 PTA membership. We receive the little envelope the first week of ¬†school. ¬†We pass on this because I don’t have time to participate.

$20- $60 Class pictures. Okay these are kind of nice special since we don’t go take professional pictures as a family every single year ( actually never do this).But the costs can get up there.

Growing up we always got full picture packages. You know how much good it did us?

Zero good, well zero to buy so many. Being the only family to live in the USA, it would have been nice to send them to family outside the country. But we ¬†never did, instead we end up with hundreds of paid pictures that we didn’t need.

Maybe that was just my family but I’m using it as a lesson. We do buy them but only exactly how many we need. Which usually is the smallest package or 1-2 sheets. Usually $20-$27. Though still ridiculously over priced in my opinion much better then the $60 or more you spend if you want everything.

$5-$10 Field trips, ~2 per year.¬†If you really like experiences, don’t forget to account for these later in the year. But the older your kid gets the more expensive. I was in marching band growing up and we had 3 field trips a year at about $45 each.

$20-$60 Spring pictures. The class pictures twin brother is the spring pictures. If your going to buy Ask yourself the same question. How many do I need exactly? We did not purchase these last year.

$????? Team fees, gear, and uniforms. We actually don’t have to worry about this, this year, but I know its a cost many parents place upon themselves. So make sure you account for it.

Also expect to get plenty of solicitations for, PTA garage sales, cookie sales, valentines day grams , mothers day grams, father’s day grams… Well you get my point. There’s a lot more spending to be done if you don’t keep your priorities straight.

Finally Hidden Costs

In my family and maybe yours too I know we will see Increased car usage. I recognized it right away that we would be using the car much more  frequently. Doing 2 round trips every day to school. This is going to cost more in gas usage. I am keeping an eye out to see it reflected in my monthly accounting.

Destroyed clothing. I don’t know what it is but during the summer break Jr did not put any holes in his clothing. However during school last year he was putting holes in his knees non stop and part of the dress code is no ripped clothing. So not only is there clothes shopping at the beginning of the school year ¬†there is potential for it during the year too.

His Dad ended up purchasing him new jeans(multiples) more then once and we even did too. So I am expecting this cost this year as well. Though I am not scared of patching holes in knees for Mr. Roamer and myself. Jr’s tiny leg holes made the whole process much more labor intensive and time consuming. So I am thinking just purchasing replacements. Through thrift stores of course.

After all that bad news.

Tips for saving

  1. Wait to actually get a list from a teacher.

If you Google your child’s grade level there are plenty of lists of must haves available and the lists can be very inclusive.

Instead of doing this wait to get a list of items from the actual teacher. Then question the validity of them all. Every single item on the list. After all they are only suggestions so identify the real and true must haves, then move on to step number 2.

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We still have lots of pencils and erasers at home.

2.Check at home first. A cluttered house can make it difficult to find items but you should try anyways. Likely you have at least pencils, pens, eraser, glue and crayons already at home.

3. Realize they don’t need it new every year if it works fine still. School is not a fashion show. ¬†Back pack, lunch box? You don’t need a new one every year.

Finally we are going to address the excess driving by increasing my biking.

So far we have spent zero dollars on our back to school shopping. But I know that will change as school term progresses.

Alright all you parents or students. Did you go back to school shopping? How did you save? If you didn’t cause you don’t have any kids what would you do with the extra $630 you might have spent?

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7 thoughts on “Frugal Back to School shopping”

  1. Also something not mentioned, as a follow-up to seeing what is really needed (such as going to class the first day in college and having the balls to ask the professor if the $300 book is truly needed for their class) recall that waiting for a couple days/weeks after school starts will bring on the clearance sales at most stores for all the must have stuff. And if your not a super minimalist, theres even the potential to stock up on the essentials for future use if you don‚Äôt mind a little more ‚Äúclutter‚ÄĚ. Extra colored pencils, crayons. ‚Ķ..

    1. Exactly we did the same thing. We used what we had. Plus I’d really like to know what happens to all the perfectly good backpacks do they just accumulate at home?

      Buys new stuff when its not needed is a great way to drown yourself in clutter.

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