Back-to-School Shopping: Do They Really NEED All that Stuff?

Image via Flickr/stevendepolo

Have you looked at your little student's supply list yet?  If so, have you considered back to school shopping with some disdain and then wondered if they really need all that stuff?  

Depending on your school system – the things that your child is expected to bring to school on the first day can range from a book bag full of sharp pencils and crayons to a cart load of supplies that includes soap, batteries, and paper towels.  If the latter is true for you then back to school shopping can definitely be costly, which for many of us with multiple children or on tight budgets can cause a great deal of stress.  

After years of back to school shopping, I have learned a few things!  

The first is that NO, they don't need all that stuff. And even if teachers ask for “Expo” brand dry erase makers only – they will accept the cheaper and just as effective “Rose Art” brand.  Additionally, your first priority needs to be to provide your child with what they (individually) will actually need to be prepared in school.  If you are having trouble affording the other things like hand sanitizer, paper towels, Ziploc bags, paper towels etc. then just let the teacher know that you will donate these items during another time of the school year when the supplies run low.  Or, you can offer to provide them with a gift card they can use for classroom supplies since so many elementary school teachers put in their own money to create nice projects for our children.

Another tip – before you buy something that is expensive but ‘oh so adorable' remember that there is a pretty good chance it is going to get lost.  Will you be okay if your child loses an $80 Vera Bradley book bag?  If they come home without their $10 monogrammed pencil box, will you be seething and wishing you stuck to the one that cost a dollar?  My  motto is never send anything to school that you would be mad about if it didn't return to you.  

Another word to the wise – especially if your children are older – is to wait and buy school supplies (aside from the basics) after the first day of school. Often times, the generic list generated either leaves things off completely, or causes you to buy unnecessary things.  If your child is in a grade where he or she has multiple teachers, this is especially true.  Registration and the first few days of school are often the best times to find out what your child REALLY needs to be school-ready, and waiting can save you much wasted money in things that your child doesn't need.

What have you learned about shopping for school supplies? 

What do you think?

Back-to-School Shopping: Do They Really NEED All that Stuff?

Stef Daniel is the 40ish year old, experienced (meaning crazy already) mother of count ‘em…4 daughters (yes, she takes prayers) who have taught her nearly E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G she needs to know about raising kids and staying sane. She hails from a small town in Georgia where she lives with her family in a red tin roofed house (with just ONE bathroom mind you) on a farm - with tons of animals of course. One day, due to her sheer aversion to shoes and her immense lov ... More

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  1. Jessica says:

    I am a middle school teacher and I have to say that this article is not at all accurate. The school supply list that is sent home at the end of the year is a collaborative effort by all members of our grade level. The list is weaned down to the bare minimum required by a child in our grade level. There are absolutely no “extras” on the list whatsoever. We cannot even require a student to bring paper towels or tissues, but then we are reprimanded when there are no tissues available for student use. Parents complain every year about how much they have to spend on school supplies and I just roll my eyes. I would love for them to come with me as buy supplies for my own children as well as supplies for my classroom. I easily quadruple the price of my own children’s classroom supplies with what I need for students that walk into my classroom without supplies (pens, pencils, notebooks, binders, glue sticks, coloring supplies, etc). I do agree with buying the cheaper non-brand name items though. They do the exact same thing at a cheaper price. However, RoseArt dry erase markers are no where near as good as Expo brand markers and leave stains on your board that require you to clean it after each class or in between each use in the classroom = counterproductive. Supplies that get added to a collective bin for the year does not happen as often as you think it does either. Most of the time, teachers collect all of your children’s things, keep them separate from everyone else’s and then replace it for them instead of materials being lost in lockers, book-bags, or at home.

    Teachers do not ask for more than is required at the elementary and middle school levels. High school is a bit different given scheduling and what not. At the high school level, waiting until the first week for more concrete/expensive items is a good idea but NEVER send your child to school without paper and something to write with on the first day of school. In this day in age, class begins on day 1 and if your child does not have the basic supplies then they are already behind.

  2. After spending the last couple years watching everything I purchased on my children’s lists go to a collective class box or closet-I buy for MY kids and that’s it. I’m not buying anything for anyone else’s kids, I have 6 of my own to worry about.

  3. Ellamiek says:

    I am a Kindergarten teacher, and I do not agree with this article for my classroom personally. However, I have seen some pretty crazy things on supply lists and I even wonder what the teacher needs some things for. However, in the younger grades, like K-2, I believe it is important to buy the things on the list because the teachers are trying to teacher your child how to organize their things. However, older children should have a pretty good understanding on how to do so, even though we do question some children’s abilities on this. Furthermore, especially in Kindergarten, I am still teaching some students their colors so it is important for me to have crayons and markers that are the same for each child. Therefore, I ask for a specific brand and crayon amount in the box because it is important for my teaching. Keep in mind that my opinion is more from a younger grade stand point than older grades.

  4. Amanda Augur says:

    From my experience, you never need to buy as much as they say on school supply lists. I learned to wait until the first few days of school to find out what I really needed. I came to find out that my list got cut in half. When my son starts school i’m going to remember my experiences.

  5. Phammom says:

    Good advice. Our kids will have what’s on sale. I will spend more on the backpack if its built well to last longer but everything else’s does not matter. also if they say to bring pens (or anything multiple) don’t send it all in at once. Most of the time you can save them at home and if not needed threw the school year you have some for the next year.

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