Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
By Wendy Thomas
It's that time of year, meaning it’s time to start thinking about school supplies.
Anyone who has kids in school knows the drill -- the teacher sends home a list with absolutely every single item the child may or may not conceivably need for the upcoming year. As parents we're expected to buy notebooks, markers, pens, glue sticks, tissues, and even paper towels.
When you have a bunch of kids, things can get pretty expensive, which is why you need to have a plan of attack for getting all of the supplies you need.
If you watch the store ads you can catch the weekly school specials designed to get you in the store. When Walmart has their glue sticks on sale for 19 cents apiece, I pick up a few when I'm in there doing my other shopping. When Staples has pencil eraser packages for 1 cent each, you can bet that's the week I'll be getting my printer paper so that I can qualify for the purchase. If you move a rock at a time, eventually you'll be able to move the mountain.
I don't ever send my kids in with a completed supply list. I learned that the hard way one which were never used. Unless something is on a good sale and you know that your kids will use it (composition notebooks come to mind) it's often cheaper to wait and see if the supplies are even needed.
I don't tend to stock up on too many items, lined paper being the one exception. When I can get that for 50 cents a package I'll pick up five extra packages to use throughout the school year.
I also pay close attention to the coupons and flyers when school openings approach. With a sale and a coupon, you can get boxes of tissues and packages of paper towels at a reasonable cost. Look, the classrooms just aren't funded the way they used to be. It doesn't seem right that I have to send in paper products but it's the reality of the way things are. I'd rather send in tissues than have kids spread cold germs.
Another weapon in my school supply strategy? My kids understand that they don't need to have new supplies every year. At the end of each school year we empty the backpacks of their collected papers and flotsam and, once empty, repack them with the lunch boxes, rulers, good pens, pencils, notebooks, scissors, markers and crayons for the next school year. Our sturdy backpacks are from the L.L. Bean outlet store and the only time you get a new one is when you transition from middle school to high school when you usually need a larger size.
I let my kids know that I have no problem at all buying supplies they need but I will not, under any circumstances, buy supplies they already have. It's a waste of money, time and resources, I tell them. When it's phrased that way, I get very little resistance from the crew.
At home I keep a box with supplies for homework and projects; it's the kids’ responsibility to return the supplies to the box after using them. If they've lost the blue colored pencil because they “forgot” to put it back, they'll have to figure out a way to improvise. I'm not running out and buying a new box of pencils. Next time they'll remember.
With all the other things they learn at school, one very important lesson they can learn at home is that money just does not grow on trees.
Wendy Thomas lives in Merrimack with her husband and six children, and has been published in various regional magazines and newspapers. Check out her blog, Simple Thrift-Creative Living on Less, at http://simplethrift.wordpress.com.
Last updated by Morgen Thiboult Aug 29, 2011.