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Published: Tuesday, 8/4/2015

Readers Share Back-to-School Tips


I planned just one school-themed column, but my readers have sent so many great comments, ideas and thoughts on back-to-school that I wanted to share some of them:

“Dear Jill,

What are your thoughts on schools that ‘pool’ school supplies? Last year, my daughter’s class did this. She spent lots of time picking out folders with fuzzy cats on them, pink sparkly pencils and character notebooks. When the kids got to school, all of the supplies were mixed together in a cabinet. Needless to say, my daughter was devastated, and I was rather irked at spending more on the special supplies she wanted.

Irina P.”

I’ve heard similar sentiments from some of my blog readers, and this appears to be a somewhat common practice. The best advice I can give is to check with your child’s school to determine whether or not school supplies will be pooled in the classroom before you shop. I wouldn’t spend extra money on decorative folders and notebooks if those items ultimately go to a different child.

“Dear Jill,

Every year the list of supplies that my elementary school son needs to bring gets longer and longer. This year my son’s third grade class list requires 16 glue sticks. There are 26 kids in his class. That’s 416 glue sticks for one classroom. Is it even possible to use that many in nine months’ time? I brought this up at registration and I was told that not every kid could afford school supplies, so the list requires more supplies than the room needs. Yes, we can afford to buy some extra glue sticks, but his whole list is like that: 48 pencils, 12 dry erase markers, and 4 scissors. I don’t like feeling like I have to be responsible for the parents who won’t go buy these things for their children. And what happens to the extras? They never come home at the end of the year.

Morgan R.”

While no one wants to see children going without the supplies they need for school, it also doesn’t seem fair to “punish” the people who take the time to buy the required items on their children’s supply lists. The upside is that if you play the school supply game and shop the rock-bottom sales, you can cover the majority of your children’s supplies very cheaply. My children’s lists are almost complete, and I’ve spent less than $5 on each one so far. Many of their items were purchased in the 10-25-cent range by taking advantage of loss-leader sales at office supply stores.

You may consider addressing this issue at a school board meeting. Perhaps there are other resources in the community that struggling families could be pointed toward to help all children get ready for back-to-school. For example, the church I attend holds a backpack drive, filling hundreds of backpacks with donated supplies for each grade. I think this is a win-win, as children have an opportunity to get the supplies they need free of charge and other parents aren’t forced to over-purchase supplies. When penny-and-dime deals are abundant, it doesn’t cost much for many people to contribute to the cause, and it’s one to which I’m always happy to donate.

“Dear Jill,

Our public school got rid of textbooks last year and went to electronic tablets. Our children are also responsible for not breaking the tablets, or we will have to pay over $400 to replace each one if is dropped or something happens to it. Our kids are 5 and 8. Just a heads up as I’m sure we’re not alone, and now this is something else for which parents must budget.

Edward T.”

You’re not alone – my children’s school ditched textbooks for tablets two years ago. I’ve also noticed that as schools transition away from books, backpack and messenger bag manufacturers have kept up with the trend, offering models that feature padded, protected pockets to safely hold the tablets. Depending on your children’s ages, purchasing a bag specifically designed to protect electronics may be a worthwhile investment.

© CTW Features

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.



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