As of this back-to-school year I have officially made it through prepping for every grade. I’ve done Kindergarten – Grade 8 three times over and as my oldest gets thing organized for his final year of high school I feel like we’ve learned a thing or two (or 40!)
If I could go back in time, of course, I would do things a bit differently from the start. But I didn’t know. Now that I do, I thought I’d share a few of the things that were my biggest learns and how we implement them from year to year.
Back to school does NOT have to be expensive. It just doesn’t. Think about the fact that every single family, from the highest of incomes to the lowest, are all sending their kids back and with that in mind – there’s no way it has to be hundreds of dollars per child (which I feel like we were once spending!)
- Buy a GREAT Backpack – Yes, your child is going to want the Spiderman or the Paw Patrol or the [insert whatever kids are into these days] backpack if you let them choose. They just are. However, if you don’t let them choose – you can save a ton of cash over the years. A good backpack is expensive to start out with but your kids will end up using it for years and the savings in the long run is huge! El Cheapo backpacks will still cost you $20 per kid and most of them barely survive the year. Purchase a good backpack and it’ll be paid off by year 3 and they’ll still be using it 5-6 if not 8 years from now. The backpacks we’ve found to last the best are from MEC. Plus, they stand behind their products. Zipper breaks – return it and get a new one. Try THAT with your Spiderman backpack. Not gonna happen. We also learned that Dakine has a lifetime warranty on their backpacks which means essentially for $70 or so you could only purchase your child one pack for all 13 years of school. That’s a savings of $190 per kid. Plus, there’s no reason my son can’t still use his (that he’s already had for 5 years) well into his college/travel/whatever years. It’s still perfect. And we haven’t even taken advantage of the warranty yet!
- Reuse School Supplies – In a generation that is taught to reduce, reuse and recycle, I find it ludicrous that we were buying brand new pencil crayons each year. Sure, in the younger years they may wear them down but we found ours could easily get 2 years use. Never mind all of those pens, fine liners, and what goes wrong with a ruler? There’s simply no way our kids need a new one every year. At the end of each year we go through everything they bring home and toss the little nubs of pencils and keep anything that’s of decent size in a reusable grocery bag and pop it into the closet. The week before school starts again, we grab the bag, go through the supply list and reload backpacks. This year for all 3 children the only thing we need to rebuy is one ruler (because it was lost), a few erasers and one binder (these don’t last forever so after 3 years of use, it was time for a new one for one boy!) Not only does this save money but it also helps teach our kids the things we want them to know. Like, if something is still good – we don’t toss it and buy new just because. We use what we have. We steward it well. We certainly have to fight their consumeristic tendencies (and mine!) and this is just one more way to do it!
- Buy Clothes Throughout the Year – One thing is for certain, stores know that we’re going to be stocking up for ‘back-to-school’ clothes and they do everything they can to capitalize on it. Of course, it’s tempting not to cave to the newest in fall fashions, but you can save way more money by purchasing clothes that your kids actually NEED throughout the year as they need it. It means you aren’t shopping solely for the purpose of shopping and getting caught up in a ton of wants instead of needs. When my kids need jeans – we buy them. There’s no way they all suddenly need jeans in September! Shopping throughout the year also helps you take advantage of stocking up when things are on sale and purchasing at better times. January is the best time to buy shoes and buying things like jackets and shorts off-season can help save a lot. As we took stock of closets this week we found that 2 boys could use a few t-shirts and one boy needs a hoodie or two. That’s it!
So back to school for us isn’t something we have to save for or even something that’s a big deal. Back when we were purchasing everyone’s shoes (indoor/outdoor/athletic) and everyone backpacks and lunch bags plus school supplies all new and fresh it was costing hundreds and hundreds for all three boys – and that’s before clothes.
Now, it’s not even a big deal. The final total is smaller than a quick trip to the grocery store for a few staples. Plus, our kids are learning the two steps that are way more important before we get to the recycle one – they’re reducing and reusing and those are the things that are going to make a bigger impact on our planet, lives and budget than recycling will!