How I Spent My Last Cent on School Supplies

School starts next Monday for us, so I’ve been doing all the registration forms and final shopping for supplies.  Our PTAs sell all the school supplies in a shrink-wrapped kit for each grade. I highly recommend them.  Here are a few things I love about these gems:

  • Convenient (This is self explanatory. Really.)
  • Everyone who buys them has the same thing as the next student (colors may vary).
  • I don’t have to go on a wild-goose chase to find the extra-ginormous white paper that none of the stores sell (even though it’s on the supply list).
  • It’s less expensive, especially if you factor in the stress of searching for that mythical white paper, the gas used, and the torture of listening to your child debate over which color scissors or ruler or pencil bag–Just pick one already!
  • It helps the PTA (every penny counts).

Two folders plus tax: $1.08.
(No, I didn’t shop on the tax-free weekend. My sanity is worth the tax.)

In elementary school, there are plenty of people out there who let their kids be individuals and pick out what they want.  *rolling eyes*  Check to be sure those supplies aren’t going to be used collectively.

Flash forward to middle school–no fantasical white paper that was only a figment of some list maker’s imagination.  *happy dance*

However, the math, music, and Spanish teachers don’t include the items they want to use, which means another shopping trip after school starts.

“What do you mean you need two more binders, five more spirals, six boxes of tissue, and graph paper? Those weren’t on the list.”  Yep, eighth-grade additions last year.

After several years of buying the kits, there are certain things that we’ll never run out of:

  • Safety scissors (Yes, 6 pairs of safety scissors from K through 5.)
  • Number 2 pencils (Who uses 12 pencils in a school year?  And don’t forget the decorated ones that come home as prizes and gifts.)
  • Pink erasers (There is nothing wrong with the inch-wide, gray stump that comes home in May.)
  • Black, blue, and red pens (It’s my husband’s fault and that’s an entirely different story.)
  • Highlighters in 4 different colors.  (Lots of them.  Eventually, the older ones dry out.)
  • Crayons (I know these are multiplying in the crayon drawer. It could also be because I have a weakness for fancy Crayola crayons. *shhhh* Don’t tell my husband.)
  • Colored pencils.  (If I ever have to buy another set of these, it’s because–there isn’t a good reason.)

And yet, I’ll be buying the first grade kit for my little one this year.  Sigh.

On the other hand, preparing for high school was easy.  We have so much stuff on hand that we didn’t need to add pencils, pens, paper, and highlighters to our overstocked office supply store house.  Our shopping list was short.  A binder, spirals, and folders.  Should be easy.

Um, no.

We went to Target and spent about a minute picking out a binder and the spiral notebooks in the acceptable colors.  Then we spent another 10 minutes searching for folders with brads (or prongs, as Target called them).  Finally, a very helpful employee said that they were completely out and wouldn’t get in any more, but the store on the other side of town had over 100 in stock.

I had flashbacks from the year when we changed schools and missed ordering the supply kit.  I went to three or four different stores to find the white paper that was big enough for a giant to use for origami folding.

I didn’t want to drive across town to another store.  So I whispered the “W” word (Walmart).  Then I cringed, because I knew my daughter’s reaction won’t be pretty.  “I hate that store.”   (She stands on her principles that they don’t take care of the environment.  That’s yet another story.)

So, I appealed to her that it was silly to waste gas for two folders.  She relented.  When we arrived, I remembered that I disliked the store, too.  Two folders were chosen in record time.

While we waited in the slowest express line ever (no self-serve registers at this store), I realized that I had no cash.  There was no way that I was going to put $1 on the credit card.

I dug through my purse bottomless pit until I found every last coin.  I had exactly $1.12.  One was an old wheat penny, and that went into my daughter’s pocket for safe keeping.  All I needed was $1.08, and I was officially finished shopping for high school supplies. Woohoo!  I even had a few coins left to my name.

At least until the math, music, and Spanish teachers send their lists home.

Here’s some link love for some school-ish posts that I think you’ll like, too:

How do you handle shopping for school supplies?  Was there ever a wild-goose-chase item on your child’s supply list?  Do you blog and have a post about school you want to share?  I love to hear from you.  🙂

13 thoughts on “How I Spent My Last Cent on School Supplies

  1. Julie Glover

    Thanks for the shout-out, Diana! (By the way, I love your name–same as the goddess and, more importantly, Wonder Woman.) I used to buy the shrink-wrapped supplies too, until I got to the point of feeling like I could open my own store with leftover school supplies. By junior high, I learned that the teachers at that level don’t necessarily want the supplies as determined by administration, so now I wait until the first day of school to find out what the boys REALLY need. I do get frustrated with how specific the request can be (12×18 white sulphite paper is a pain to find), but many of the necessary items are found by combing through our stash.

    P.S. I hate Walmart too, even though I shop there fairly often.

    1. Diana Beebe Post author

      Hi, Julie! Thanks for your awesome post so I could link to it. Wonder Woman was always one of my favorites because of her name (and her very cool invisible plane). I have a thing for the moon, and I was born in the month of the moon (June)–I don’t think my mom planned that one. 😉 My high schooler gives anyone in the family a tongue-lashing for mentioning the “W” store. I feel sneaky if I have to go into one to get something that I can’t find somewhere else.

  2. Gilliad Stern

    As someone who doesn’t have a little one in school yet, I dread this day. I am just wondering what happened to the day when the SCHOOL provided the SCHOOL supplies? I know when I was growing up we also had to fill the list up but shouldn’t the school be doing that? As a business manager, I don’t expect my employees to bring in their own paper and pens to work everyday, why should my daughter have to bring supplies to learn at the place where they teach? Oh well, I’m sure I’m hitting a nerve for most people that have to shop for the list, it just doesn’t make any sense to me.

    P.S. I hate Walmart too! I try to avoid it when I can but it’s like a monster that keeps pulling you in. No matter what you do.

    1. Diana Beebe Post author

      I understand what you are saying about office supplies vs. school supplies. It really boils down to the bottom line. Schools don’t create revenue; businesses do (at least they should).

      The monster is easy to avoid when you have a very serious 14-year-old staring you down. She’s scarier than the monster. 😉

    2. Pauline Baird Jones

      Gilliad, I started first grade in 1961 and even back then we had to have crayons with at least the primary colors, a huge, thick pencil and a lined notebook so we could learn to make our letters properly. And I think a pencil box of some sort? No back packs then. We kept our stuff in a bin with our name on it, or it might have been a slot on a shelf? Graduated to desks in with lids in second grade. I used to covet the huge boxes with rows and rows of colors because my parents had six kids and not a lot of money, so we only got the basics.

  3. Jordan L. Hawk

    Great post. They have kits now? My mom would have loved that.

    For me, the phrase “shopping for school supplies” makes me think of those awesome Trapper Keeper notebooks from the 80s. My favorite of the ones I owned showed a METAL UNICORN FLYING THROUGH SPACE. How awesome is that?

    1. Diana Beebe Post author

      Oh, Jordan, the metal flying unicorn! I remember that one because I’m pretty sure that I longed to have it, but didn’t. That is awesome! I did have mismatched neon Converse high tops. (So they weren’t mismatched until I switched them out.)

  4. Piper Bayard

    Great point about the collective supplies for the younger grades. The reason my son hated his first day so much is because the teacher took all of their supplies away to put in a common bin. For weeks, he was afraid she was going to come to our house and take his things away.

    I found that over the years, we collected quite a few items that were never actually needed, even though they were on the list. Now when school starts, we refer our kids to the box in the basement for their new folders, binders, pencils, etc.

    Thanks so much for the shout out. Much appreciated.

    1. Diana Beebe Post author

      How traumatic for your son, Piper! I can imagine how he thought that. At 5 years old, little ones are just figuring out what sharing means.

      Thanks for writing such a lovely post. It is comforting to know there are moms everywhere doing this, too. 🙂


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