It’s that time of the year again! Yes – school supply shopping time!
Wait – isn’t it only July? The kids aren’t back to school for another month!
True, but when it comes to buying school supplies, right now is the smart time to do so. It’s the most wonderful time of the year – for school supply shopping that is.
Why? Three big reasons to get out there and school supply shop in July:
- No crowds – If you, like many of us, have waited until the first week of school to purchase school supplies, then you know this scenario! It seems like everyone is out shopping for supplies. Stores are packed and everyone is jostling for the same items. Just not a leisurely shopping experience.
- Inventory – The stores are fully stocked with all the latest and greatest “must have” designs and colors, loads of pens and pencils of all styles. Not mention those select items offered at a ridiculously low price, just get you in the door. Wait until September and that “must have” item in the “must have color” might just not be there, and those super discounted items are out of stock.
- Sales – Stores are having weekly sales on select items right now. Stock up on school supplies that are on sale over the next few weeks – get the best inventory – and avoid the crowds the first week of school!
Tips to school supply shopping in July: Yeah, I know, shopping in July for school supplies may not be as high on your “to-do” list as hitting the pool. But a few moments shopping now can save you $$$ down the road. Face it – if you’ve got kids in school, you are going to have to school supply shop sooner or later. So why not now, when sales abound and the crowds are minimal?
To help simplify this sometimes onerous task, here’s some ideas and tips to cut down your time, get what your kids need, and save you money!
Before You Shop:
1. Get Organized – The most important detail to successful July back-to-school shopping is to get organized before you shop. If you already have kids in school, the odds are you have lots of supplies laying around the house. Taking the time now to organize and possibly re-use some of these supplies can save you loads of money on this year’s school supplies. Here’s a roadmap to a successful review of supplies you already have.
- Gather – Spend 20 minutes to an hour gathering into one location, the previous years’ school supplies.
- Sort – Supplies gathered, now sort through and determine what can be re-used this year. You may not need as many packs of pencils and pens as you might think you do. Pen/pencil holders, rulers, scissors, 3-hole punches and 3-ring binders are also often re-usable the next year.
- Recycle – Check those gently used erasers and pens, folders and notebooks. If only a few pages in a notebook have been used, rip them out and you now have a “new-used” notebook.
- Divide and Conquer – If you have kids at different levels of school divide re-usable supplies into “school level” (High – Middle – Elementary). Middle and high schoolers don’t typically use crayons or erasable markers, while elementary kids don’t typically need 3-subject notebooks.
- Separate – Once the pile has been sorted, recycled, divided and conquered, decide which supplies can be re-used at school and which supplies should remain at home for “at-home” school work.
- Reorganize – Use inexpensive baskets or cardboard boxes to place these newly sorted supplies into. Pens and pencils in one container – crayons, another – you get the idea.
2. Compile a list of basic school supplies needed for each child. Check your school website as they might have lists posted. Don’t have a school-supplied list or don’t know where to start? No biggie – there are basics that practically every child will need to start the school year. Here’s a list of basic school supplies from Great Schools that you can use for your own shopping needs. They also have lists specific to grade level: Elementary School Basic Supply List – Middle School Basic Supply list – High School Basic Supply List.
3. Go “shopping” in the re-useable supplies you now have neatly organized. Have a container for each child, complete with the list of school supplies needed for that child. Get the kids involved. It can help prevent lots of headaches in the long run.
Be considerate of their likes and dislikes – remember that they are ever growing, ever changing. A Justin Bieber folder might have been last year’s fifth-grader’s “to die for” item. Now, one year later, that same, still-in-good-shape folder, might just be the “kiss of death” for your budding middle schooler!
Have several kids eyeing that same hot pink highlighter? Minimize arguments by taking turns picking from the recylced supplies containers.
4. Cross check those re-usable supplies now in each child’s container with their school supplies lists. Cross off anything you already have, and you are good to go with a list of only those supplies you really need.
5. Create a shopping list – Also known as making a list and checking it twice. Then keep this shopping list with you so you are always ready to shop a school supply sale. This will not only ensure you get the necessary supplies, it will also reduce the likelihood of over-shopping.
You didn’t spend the last two hours organizing all those school supplies for nothing!
Existing Supplies Exhausted and Time to Shop!
1. Got list, will shop. First and foremost, keep that shopping list handy. And stick to it! Cross items off as you buy them.
2. Leave the kids home. You will get out of stores faster – and for less money if you can leave them behind. And you will be more likely to stick with your list.
3. Buy basics in bulk. You know the kids will need pens, pencils, glue sticks and paper, no matter what grade they are in. If the price is good, stock up. You can always use them next year!
4. Quality vs. Quantity. Sometimes quality does matter, other times you can simply pick the cheapest one there. Pens – probably a good idea to stick with quality. Nobody wants a leaking pen inside a backpack. Pencils – going for the lowest price is probably just fine.
5. Brand Now – Or Later. Don’t buy trendy items before school starts. Back to Justin Bieber – he may be cool now, but in September, so “not” the item. If you have a child who really wants “that oh-so-cool” Superman folder, save purchasing it until the first week of school. Branded items tend to be more costly than basics so you don’t want to regret that purchase when Junior comes home from school saying Superman is out, Batman is in!
Favorite Stores for July School Supply Shopping:
Ready to hit the pavement? Again, for July shopping, stick to sale items and those items sold at absurdly low cost. Stock up now on these before they – and their crazy low prices – are gone. Don’t forget to check online before you go for additional coupons.
2. Walmart – Walmart’s Shop By Grade Level is a handy tool for quickly picking up a bundled pack of supplies.
3. Your Local Office Supply Store – Most office supply stores like Staples and Office Depot are loaded with back to school supplies. It’s exactly what they are in business for! And they each are advertising weekly sales right now.
4. Your local Dollar stores – Whether it’s Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Dollar General or The Dollar Store, if it has the word, “dollar” in it, the odds are it’s a plethora of low priced, discounted items. That includes school supplies! So if you have one in your neighborhood, don’t forget to look here for basic supplies. Another similar store to check for back to school inventory is Five-Below.
5. Your local Bulk Warehouse Stores – Giants like Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s are also good sources for discount school supplies. You might want to stick to the basics though, as you will most likely be purchasing items in bulk. However, if you have a friend, you can split the purchases and share the savings!
So where are you shopping this week? Any chance you will be school supply shopping?
Are you an “ahead of the game” school supply shopper? Or do you wait until that last possible moment? Share you favorite back to school shopping tips in the Comments section below.
First image from Dollar General.
Back To School image from Costco.
Pencil image from Target.