Leslie Trosset, mom of four kids between the ages of 8 and 16, says the composition notebook is the number-one thing that her kids never use. She says, "I spend a small fortune on school supplies each year only to find some items are barely used. Composition notebooks rate the highest in terms of waste. I've never seen one completely used up. If anything, the average is 10 pages or so. So I don't buy them every year. I rip out the few used pages and make my kids re-use them the following year." Carolyn Starks, an Illinois mom of two, agrees. "Another mom and I were just talking about all the notebooks that came back at the end of the year with only a few pages written on. They literally look brand new. We reuse them!"
The name-brand stuff is twice as much as the generic brand, but it's exactly... the... same. So skip it, says former educator, current blogger and mom of two, Jennifer Dotson. "Often, schools are specific on getting certain brand names. You don't always have to stick with brand pencils or markers. There are a lot of great deals to be had for lesser-known brands."
Stuck with a tight budget? Skip the bottles and sticks of glue. Ann Marie Romancyk, a working mom with a 13-year-old son, says, "They rarely use them, and they can -- and like -- to share." She adds that you can skip new pencils, too. "How many can one kid really use? We still have them from elementary school!"
If you buy a less-than-quality backpack, you'll actually end up spending more because your child will need a new one halfway through the school year. Mom of two Paula Whidden says," Buy a solid backpack, like the ones from L.L. Bean, and you can reuse it. The Target and Walmart ones die annually." She also suggests purchasing a solid-color lunch bag/box instead of a themed one. Solids never go out of style.
Instead of buying books year after year (particularly for college kids), rent them with the help of a site such as Bookrenter.com. The average college undergrad spends around $1, 000 on books per year; renting textbooks cuts up to 80 percent of the cost. Nice save.
Before you head out on your shopping trip, check what you already have. Ann Marie offers this tip: "We always 'go shopping' in his room when he gets his supply list; usually he already has the majority of things. He's fine with this because he knows he can then go shopping for back-to-school clothes/shoes." Angela Gifford adds, "I've learned to grab all their supplies they bring home at the end of the year and save things like scissors and rulers that don't need replacing. Also, I don't take in Kleenex and Ziplocs, etc. at the very beginning of the year. There is no way they can use 30 in the first month. That helps space things out in the budget."