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6 School supplies moms can reuse without the guilt

Rebecca Bracken is a news and views writer.

Save money: Don't bother buying these school supplies this year

It’s that time again. School supply lists as long as your arm are handed down from teachers, and you inevitably ask yourself, "Do I really need to buy all this stuff?"

Yes and no. With schools tightening their belts to waist-trainer proportions, more and more pressure is put on families to provide the stuff kids need to learn. And let’s face it — the back-to-school supply lists can get pretty crazy.

For instance, my kid’s kindergarten teacher wants me to buy No. 2 pencils. Seems reasonable. But she doesn’t want just any old run-of-the-mill No. 2 pencils — she wants the kids to have a particular brand because she says "these are the only pencils that sharpen well." All righty.

So although we have oodles of No. 2 pencils all over the house, they unfortunately won’t make the cut for kindergarten.

More: School supplies your kid actually needs

Also, I know that smart shoppers say a baggie full of crayons works just the same as a fresh box, but don’t make your kid stand out from the crowd just to save a few cents. Buy what’s on the list, and don’t skimp. Kids hate to stand out and be different from everyone else. You did too.

So what can we use from year to year rather than have to replace every August? Lots of stuff, particularly your kid’s personal items that won’t be shared among the whole class. Here’s a quick list.

1. Backpack

Unless your kid’s backpack is shredded, go ahead and use it for several years. Invest in a high-quality backpack, and it should make it through a couple of grades. The backpacks from Pottery Barn, for instance, are fairly expensive but built to last.

2. Lunchbox

A nice, insulated lunchbox should be sturdy enough to last through a couple of grades. The thermos and ice pack are usually the first to wear out, but they can be easily replaced separately, saving you from having to buy a whole new rig every year.

More: 5 Ways to get back-to-school supplies for free

3. Headphones

Kids are required for many classes to provide headphones for an iPad or other device. Unless they’ve stopped working for some reason, use them for several years.

4. Calculator

Dig up the one you bought at the dollar store that's stuffed in the back of the drawer. A calculator is a calculator is a calculator…

5. Folders and dividers

Folders with pockets and dividers are always handy. As long as they’re still in pretty good shape, recycle those babies from school year to school year. That’s why the dividers come with extra little white tabs! Binders tend to take a harder beating and get pretty banged up, doodled on and thrown around, so they are less likely to make it for multiple years.

More: How to buy school supplies without losing it

6. Pencil box

A plastic box for holding pencils does not need to be fresh at the start of the school year. Give your kiddos a fresh pack of stickers, and tell them to get busy making that old pencil box new again.

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