Back-to-school time can also indicate 'clear the wallet' time for parents and guardians. But it doesn't have to when it comes to school supplies. I know what you're thinking: "My child's list is huge! Can we really spend less than $25?" I have four kids that I purchase school supplies for every year. Our family is unique from some in that we have experienced purchasing school supplies both for traditional school and homeschool. Because I am a stickler for budgeting, I have always been able to stay under $25 for each kid. One of my kids is going into first grade this year. The school supply list below is a pretty standard list for first-graders. Some may vary slightly.
First Grade School Supply List
1 backpack - $9.99 at Ross
2 (24 count) boxes of pencils - $0.99 each at Dollar Tree
2 tissue boxes - $0.99 each at Dollar Tree
4 loose leaf folders - $.10 each at Wal-Mart
2 composition notebooks - $0.99 at Dollar Tree
1 pair safety scissors - $0.99 at Dollar Tree
2 bottles school glue - $0.20 each at Target or Wal-Mart
2 (24 count) boxes of crayons - $0.20 each at Target or Wal-Mart
1 (12 count) box of wide-tipped markers - $0.99 at Target, Wal-mart, or Dollar Tree
1 (12 count) box of colored pencils - $0.99 at Target, Wal-Mart, or Dollar Tree
1 pkg of loose leaf paper - $0.50 at Wal-Mart
Total = $20.20
Which items should you avoid? Many kids would like to have the heavily decorated supplies and the special Velcro binders. But the fact is that most teachers honestly prefer the plain ones for several reasons. Some teachers ask for enough supplies to last year-round and store the items in a locker for later use. Even when there is not supply-sharing going on, it's easier for the teachers to know which folders (and other items) are for which purpose if everyone has matching supplies. Besides, fancy designs also come with a price that will likely not fit into a budget of under $25. Also, avoid items your child may enjoy, but that are not on the school supply list.
Is it worth it to shop around? That depends on how far apart the stores are, how much gas it costs you, and a few other factors. Our family is dedicated to being green. Therefore, we generally walk to most stores, unless they are too far away. Because of this, the cost of the school supplies is all we would spend. To get the most savings, it's best to shop at stores that have back-to-school sales and are near each other. The stores we used in our list above are all near our house and all within walking distance of each other. There's also a benefit to that if you are driving because it means less gas is spent. If you spend an extra $5-$10 on gas running across town, you really haven't saved on the school supplies.
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