Just Say No to Unnecessary Brand New School Supplies!

by Katy on July 25, 2016 · 53 comments

School supplies

It’s school supply time and despite the glossy ads featuring pretty new pens, pencils, binders, scissors and whatnot, it’s actually okay to *gasp* reuse the stuff you already have. That’s right, fellow non-consumers, last year’s scissors will still work this year, and that slightly used pencil can be resharpened. And that grubby binder? Try giving it a scrub and laying it out in the sun to dry. You’ll be surprised how fresh it can look.

Sure, there are some school supplies that have to be bought new such as 3-ring notebook paper and boxes of Kleenex, (umm . . .  not sure how you would buy used Kleenex.) But I’m usually able to get away with only buying a couple of things for back-to-school.

So dump out and organize your pens, pencils, scissors and general office-y mayhem; scrub out your binders, backpacks and winter coats and make do with what you already have. You’ve already paid for it, it’s already been manufactured and any excessive packaging has already happened.

It’s one of those win-win situations. It’s sustainable and will save you money. And you don’t have to be a member of The buy-nothing-new Compact to make these decisions.

So happy shopping . . . from your own stash!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

Betty Winslow July 25, 2016 at 11:51 am

YES!! Wow, it amazes me the amount of stuff that kids throw away at the end of each school year when they clean out their lockers…. our school started putting out boxes to collect it and keep, for kids who needed it, classroom use, etc. I always made my kids reuse stuff that was still good. Why buy more, just to have “new”?


Mariana July 25, 2016 at 12:10 pm

I literally do not need to buy another pencil or pen again.
Not to mention that some of the nicer Pentel pens do last literally forever. Unless you lose it, that is.
This is also the time when staples will start their crazy 1 penny deals so beware. Too easy not to pick up all that stuff, I usually still do and ship it all to my sister to Poland for her kids and their friends. Nothing goes to waste.


Gina July 25, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Funny, I just unearthed a box from the attic circa 1980s…what long lost treasures did I find? NEW, unused school supplies from my college days in pristine condition! I was surprised- no yellowing at all! They have the university name & logo on almost all. I was a sucker for the campus store and always over-purchased. I had no idea this supply had been packed away all these years. I wonder if I could post them on CL as “vintage”? lol! They have been put in my home office for daily use. It will most likely be 30 more years before I use it up!


Gina July 25, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Also, growing up in the 80’s (the pinnacle of consumerism) my parents always let me buy new not only each school year but each semester. Even if I only used a few sheets out of a notebook, instead of tearing the pages out and continuing to use it for the next subject, it went to the home office and chose a cute new one. Same with pens, pencils, whatever. We were so wasteful back then – but apparently people thought of that time as the days of plenty.


WilliamB July 25, 2016 at 5:58 pm

When my former company/employer mostly shut down, I did most of the actual work, such as cleaning up and arranging the equipment sale. I used my Executor Privilege to keep all the money I found[1] and to take my pick of the office supplies. 10 years later and I haven’t bought a binder clip or file folder since. This despite giving away a van-load of the supplies to my neighborhood school.

[1] People just leave money behind. Not just pennies, either. I found a $5 bill, and tons of quarters.


Katy July 26, 2016 at 6:21 am

What’s not to love about free money?


Nicole July 25, 2016 at 12:51 pm

I got my nine year old on board last year with this deal: buy the basic 12 pack of pencil crayons or take from home a set of xx slightly used pencil crayons. She had a beautiful rainbow of I think ~30!


Kayleigh July 25, 2016 at 1:11 pm

I know this will sound horrible. I’m usually pretty thrifty, but there are certain kids who are mortified when they have used school supplies on the first day of school. I teach elementary school. Last year 24 students had all new everything. Student 25 came to school with gently used stuff. He refused to unpack his backpack and cried and cried and begged to go to school nurse. He was totally convinced all the other kids would make fun of him and it was interfering with his ability to learn and he just wanted no part of grade 3 with used supplies. I actually had to dip into my teacher stash and give him all new stuff to help out this little kid. I’m just saying, know your kid and his/ her personality. He was actually a very wealthy kid, but 8 year olds know very little about finances.


Kay July 25, 2016 at 4:08 pm

This was actually my first thought as well. It’s a shame that this is the society we live in, but for the kids who are very sensitive to it, it’s a touchy issue. I used to compromise with my daughter. One, and only one new shirt or dress for the first day of school. Everything else she wore from an existing wardrobe. Backpacks were purchased every few years, either due to wearing out (rarely), or to accommodate her growing frame and school load.

I don’t recall much in the way of school supplies, but we always had a stock of notebooks, pens, and pencils anyway. It was no big deal to pull out a few new pencils for the first few days of school. They all got used up in the end.


jennifer July 26, 2016 at 7:30 am

I understand this to some extent. I do the same as Kay, mostly. I buy my daughter a shirt or two to go with stuff she has already and I usually do buy a new pair of shoes. I am washing her pencil pouch and binder and we are reusing those. This will be the third year we have used that pencil pouch as it is heavy canvas material and has held up so well. I think when you blend some brand new stuff in with some gently used stuff others don’t really notice too much. I do usually buy a new backpack but I don’t spend over $5 on it. My daughter is going into 2nd grade so she doesn’t have a heavy load in her backpack yet and when she does we may upgrade to a higher quality one. My friend spent $60 on a new backpack for her daughter in 2nd grade! I just can’t justify that kind of spending. If she was going to use it for 2 or more years I could understand but she won’t. I’m not trying to be judgey but that’s just not what we do. My daughter doesn’t seem to mind taking previously used stuff right now but she is still young so this may change.


Katy July 26, 2016 at 8:27 am

The thing about an annual new cheap backpack is that you’re supporting an economy of low quality items that are destined for the landfill. We bought a Jansport backpack for my older son in 4th grade and he’s still using it despite being close to his 21st birthday. It had two busted zippers, but I recently mailed it to Jansport and they fixed it for free and then mailed it back to him. It’s a solid color, so there’s no cartoon character to outgrow, and I expect that it’ll last at least another decade.

Yes, it was expensive when first purchased, but the long term cost, (both monetarily and environmentally) is better. And if the initial price point is difficult to handle, they can certainly be found used, as can Land’s End and LL Bean backpacks with similar quality and warranty.


Andrea July 26, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Timbuk2 backpacks are another extremely durable brand, have a similar lifetime guarantee for repairs, and have great little pockets so smaller items don’t wind up at the bottom. I especially like that mine has a separate pocket for my tablet. If you see one at a thrift shop, SNAG IT!

I wasn’t paid for that or anything, I just love mine. However, if they sent me a messenger bag, I wouldn’t return it 😀

cathy July 26, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Sadly, Lands’ End backpacks have declined in quality. When my younger son outgrew his LE backpack, I didn’t hesitate to order another one from them. They’ve cut back on pockets and the cording on the zipper pulls is too short and the ends to hold that cording together pulls off. As much as I like Lands’ End products, they seem to be cutting corners on everything from backpacks to snow boots to pants. It’s a shame.

Karen July 27, 2016 at 10:48 am

I have noticed this also about the quality declined of Lands End products. Also Eddie Bauer, which I order online, since I am tall.

Erin August 5, 2016 at 7:31 pm

LL BEAN backpacks are great. My parents purchased a $50.00 backpack for me when I was 14. I’m going to be 31 this year and that bag is still going strong. It has seen a lot of use as well.

Melissa July 30, 2016 at 11:06 pm

I have 4 kids and as they get older a little higher quality backpack is important, especially if you have a kid thst is hard on them. My girls weren’t so bad with theirs, but my son tortures them to the point I usually had to get him 2 backpacks each year, usually the $20 ones. Last year (6th grade) he begged me to go the mall to look at backpacks. I told him we could go look with our eyes but NOT my bank account. Well, we left the mall with a $75 backpack!!!! I know it sounds crazy, but here is why I caved. His backpack is a skater pack and is built tough. He felt super special which made me feel good (despite the minor panic attack). But what sold me … it has a lifetime warranty!!! It even so much as gets a lose stitch and I walk in with my receipt and walk out with a brand new pack. I will never buy him another back pack!! He used thst pack the whole year and it literally looks like we just walked out of the store with it.


Katy July 30, 2016 at 11:15 pm

I know it’s painful at the buy, but it’s so worth it. My older son’s backpack has two newly mended zippers thanks to Jansport’s lifetime warranty. Yes, I paid to ship the backpack to California, but investing in a high quality functional item saves money in the end.

Laura's Last Ditch Vintage Kitchenwares August 9, 2016 at 9:31 am

What you could do if this is a problem, is make a school supplies budget (figure regular price, or close to it), and let the child either keep the money or buy her own new school supplies. You don’t need to point out that you can get crayons for $.08.


Alexia July 25, 2016 at 1:12 pm

You know, my daughter’s school always requests new items that are pooled and then parceled out to the students. I believe this is to prevent lower income students from feeling self-conscious about having lower quality or insufficient supplies.

However, after years of getting back composition books and other supplies that were barely used, I decided that this year we are just going to reuse what we had (which was everything on the list except glue sticks and folders). I plan to let the teacher know that I am happy to send along supplies if they come up short on anything, but I’m not buying new stuff for my daughter ’til the old stuff is used up. We’ll see how that goes over, I guess.


jennifer July 26, 2016 at 7:40 am

I really don’t like when they pool all the new items. Last year, I purchased 4 of the 3 prong plastic primary color folders that the school list required. They put all the folders in the “pool” and somehow my daughter came home with paper folders in her binder that didn’t last but a few short months! I ended up having to buy more. I put her name on hers with a sharpie this year to hopefully prevent that. I don’t mind helping others kids but not to the detriment of my own child.


Michele Hoyt July 25, 2016 at 1:18 pm

My children often go to school with binders, pens, and backpacks that the students at the college I work for throw out. Ok, because the binders all have Elmira College emblazoned on them, everyone knew where I work, and sometimes my kids griped, but they survived lol.


Jennifer July 25, 2016 at 1:21 pm

Sadly, it took me much too long to figure this out. I finally wised up a few years ago, but I’m still swimming in a sea of colored pencils.


Katy July 25, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Sounds pokey. 😉


Kristin July 25, 2016 at 1:52 pm

I was just thinking the other day that we probably won’t need to get any supplies for our young one, who will be a sophomore this year. We bought him three, three-ring binders last year, as “required” but he ended up only using one. We have tons of pens and pencils and paper. The one thing I may have to get are pocket folders. I get him the plastic ones, but I think he’s been using the ones he has for a couple of years now, so I need to check their condition.


tonya parham July 25, 2016 at 2:30 pm

I have no kids and was an only child who used all the supplies given from one year to the next.

That being said, as a writer, there is nothing I love more than pens and notebooks. They are like crack. I can’t throw them out till they are used up and I can’t not buy them if they are on sale.

Something to my nerdy little heart always seemed so promising about fresh new notebooks, pens and the like. I’m all for using up, but I think I’d have to get a few fresh things for the first day and sneak in the used later as the year went on.


Bee July 25, 2016 at 3:19 pm

I understand this completely. When I was a little girl, my Christmas stocking often were filled with special school supplies including pencils with my name on them. My SIL gave me some for my 50th birthday. I was so happy!

But seriously as a mother of 3 grown children, I was always careful to keep my supply cupboard stocked, but not overstocked. I purchased often from downsizing, estate sales and auctions. Almost every household has at least one stapler or pair of scissors.


Bonnie The Part Time Smallholder July 26, 2016 at 12:37 am

Great post – good lesson for kids to learn.

I used to relish the annual trip to the stationary shop and the brand new pens for the new school year, but looking back I recon this was just the start of what turned out to be a hideous addiction to ‘new things’ that resulted in bankruptcy at 30!


JD July 26, 2016 at 6:19 am

Oh, I’m another addict! The start of the school year always found us shopping happily at our local drugstore and dime store for what we needed for the new year, but I have to say, we bought only what we would use, and by the end of the school year, our notebooks were filled, our pencils worn short, our erasers worn down, and our pens (when they were allowed) and glue were dry. Things like rulers, scissors, protractors, and crayons got used over and over, however.
My kids are grown now, but when they started school, I was shocked to see a page-long list of school supplies, and some were marked “New only”, as in, don’t dare bring used. Most supplies in lower grades, even spiral notebooks, were all dumped together and doled out by the teacher. The leftovers weren’t returned at the end of the year, so we were stuck supplying each child over and over again each year. In middle school and up, some teachers would only allow ring binders while some only allowed spirals with perforated tear-out edges. Most teachers allowed mechanical pencils, but one teacher would give a zero to any student using a mechanical pencil in her class (totally true). Some allowed ink pens, some did not, and some required ink pens in certain colors, such as red for markups. It was a real hassle trying to fit out for each class, so even though we could re-use some items by middle and high school, we never knew until the start of school what my kids would actually need, and it seemed as if it was never the same as the previous year.
When I was a kid in school, we provided our own tissues or hankies if needed, but these days, a child is required to bring in boxes of tissues, bottles of hand sanitizers, and even (this was memorable), when one of my kids was in middle school, toilet paper.
One of the problems we had with ring binders was that the backs split from the covers before the year was out, the metal spine pulled away, or the rings stopped fastening. I bought expensive-ish and I bought cheap, but they rarely made it two years. That always aggravated me so much! I tried my best to re-use what I could, but sometimes there was very little that could be re-used. I agree that most homes have a bounty of office supplies, but our house is chronically short of pens and pencils, for some odd reason I haven’t figured out. I’ve solved that somewhat by buying a fountain pen a few years back. It is easy to refill, and it’s too expensive for me to lay it down and lose it! Plus, I love, love, love it.


Karen July 26, 2016 at 7:15 am

I bought one large box of pencil crayons for my two who were home schooled using the same curriculum as the public school. Both finished several years ago and none of the pencils are even half used. I’m using them now making patterns for quilts etc, and doubt I will ever run out. They’re all used supplies after the second day anyway, nuts to buy new every year if they will be used to colour three maps.

I second JD about the toilet paper !?! Seriously, maybe if we get over spending so much on things that don’t need to be bought new, we could maybe afford to go to the toilet? That one boggles the mind.


Patty P July 26, 2016 at 11:29 am

When my son came home from school this year with his supplies from second grade, I sorted through them and reorganized what was needed for the next year (from the sent home school shopping list) right then and there. The amazing part is that he had one folder that he “needed” in first grade, and another second folder that was “needed” for second grade and both have never used…so they went back into the mix for the two folders that he “needs” for third grade. Backpack from this year I did have to discard (it lasted three years), so we are back to the backpack that he used in pre-k which is plenty large enough.

As a teacher in the middle school I try to keep my list for kids as small as possible…pens/pencils (shared of course with other classes) and a single subject notebook. Hopefully this year will be the last year that I will even require a notebook, as I’m hoping to get most assignments digital.


MW July 26, 2016 at 12:37 pm

My father was HORRIFIED when I said that we would be buying my kindergartner’s clothes at thrift stores and “shopping” for school supplies around our house. On the plus side, he has offered to buy my son a “back to school” outfit. I’m rooting for jeans- it’s hard to find used jeans that have the knees in good shape. Dress pants, on the other hand, are easy to find.


Andrea July 26, 2016 at 1:04 pm

Garage sale season still has some time yet. I’ve noticed far better deals there, and much better clothes!


Karen July 27, 2016 at 11:13 am

I think that is because around here things that do not sell at garage sales are then taken to thrift store. So in reality the thrift store items are garage sales 2nd hand items.


Katy July 27, 2016 at 11:35 am

Our thrift stores are mostly pretty ordinary.


Jenny Chang July 26, 2016 at 1:41 pm

I wish I could do that, but our elementary school asks for new supplies each year. They split up all the supplies. I wish kids can just use what they bring in. That way, my child can reuse many of the supplies from last year.


Laura's Last Ditch Vintage Kitchenwares August 9, 2016 at 9:36 am

I’d tell them you’re a non-consumer and explain what it is, and say you’ll be providing supplies for your own child because it’s more environmentally friendly. It’s not like they’ll kick your kid out.


Karen B July 26, 2016 at 2:05 pm

We’re reusing what we can with my son’s approval–at 11 he’s pretty practical and doesn’t mind, I asked. We’re reusing his backpack (purchased secondhand but after a year STILL looks new), lunch sack, a binder, leftover spirals, and the highlighters I accidentally bought duplicates of last year. Supplies we’re buying are picked for durability and meeting requirements of next few years (more advanced calculator than what’s required this year). Buying new jeans and shoes, because both are very worn out and no luck finding good used, but won’t buy more than 1 or 2 t-shirts because most still fit.

I was irritated first semester at how unreasonably fast he was running out of pencils first semester (not a pooled supply) and after asking him about it, he thought someone was borrowing without asking and forgetting to return them. So I hand wrote his name with permanent marker on each pencil in the next box. Came home with nearly every one!

When I was a kid, I really, really wanted the box of 64 name brand crayons, but my mom, watching budget, wanted the store brand (horrifying!). She offered me the choice of a big box of store brand or smaller box of name brand for about the same price. This or offering to let the child pay the difference may reduce unnecessary purchases.


realBKW August 9, 2016 at 9:34 am

My sisters set budgets for the kids when they were old enough to understand. If they wanted extras, they bought them. If they wanted the big box of crayons, they paid the difference. Sports team t-shirts or hoodies? They paid the difference in cost over a basic graphic t-shirt. Air Jordans? Forget it, unless you were on the basketball team, and then only wore them in the gym. And STILL paid the extra cost. Usually they chose not to, but if they did buy them, they knew they could wear them anytime, anywhere, once basketball season was over. If they got stolen because they weren’t put in a locked locker, they got the cheaper shoes as replacements. And learned a hard lesson. Sometimes you can recover the shoes by writing your kid’s name inside the shoe. BOTH shoes. Cuz kids who steal are just dumb enough to show up the next day in “his” new Jordans! Do the same with jackets. Make sure the name is marked where it can’t just be cut out.

If your child rides his bike to school, engrave his name on the bottom of the down tube, slide is piece of paper with your info on it (or a business card) inside the handlebars, in the tube under the seat. Engrave initials or otherwise permanently mark the wheels and seat. That way you can identify the bike if it’s stolen. The thief won’t be able to explain away the IDs.


realBKW August 9, 2016 at 9:42 am

Also, take good, clear photos of bikes, maybe with your kid on or next to it. Wearing his new Jordans! )(Just for the photo, though. Then the sneakers go back in the box til basketball season!)

I should have mentioned in prior post that if the kid wants to buy the Jordans for regular wear, let him know he’ll have to pay the difference but the same will go for his new shoes for basketball season. Or maybe your child doesn’t play basketball. If so, just let him wear the sneakers, IF he pays the difference! And if he doesn’t have the money, make an agreement that the difference can come out of his school clothes budget, so he might have to do with fewer new t-shirts or pants!


cathy July 26, 2016 at 4:07 pm

I’m not sure if I’m fortunate or oblivious. Some years, my kids have come home with requests for specific school supplies, but I’ve never seen a “must be new” requirement. Even if that had been a request, what’s the difference between a composition book/spiral notebook/box of pencils you bought last year that never got used and buying the same thing the day after your child comes home with this year’s supply list? Or maybe I’m missing the point? If my kid brings home a supply list, the first thing I do is go to our office supply cupboard to see how much of that list can be met from supplies on hand. Then, I’ll fill in the rest. Teachers often indicate which supplies are needed to start the school year, and which ones won’t be needed for a few months.

I also don’t do back-to-school clothes shopping. This is partly because I have boys who don’t care about fashion, but partly because school starts here in late August and it’s still HOT. For the first several weeks (at least), they’re going to school in shorts and t-shirts, so…summer clothes. We replace clothes as needed, though I do try to plan ahead.

I tend to geek out over beautiful stationery, journals, and paper products, so I can appreciate that there are kids who truly love getting a new notebook or pens or crayons for the beginning of school. But I don’t get buying new things just because the stores have declared it “Back-t0-School” (unless that ends up being a good time of year to buy certain items).


Isabelle July 27, 2016 at 4:01 am

It’s that time of the year already?
My daughter is entering Grade 1 and we have to pay the school for the supplies. 75$. Not sure I like this, I could get all of it for so much cheaper (we still have to provide some stuff like Kleenex, pencils cases, etc). Oh well….


Fi July 27, 2016 at 6:18 am

How about handkerchiefs if you truly want to reduce waste!


realBKW August 9, 2016 at 9:18 am

I would think that would be frowned upon, especially in lower grades. Kids will use it and just put it on the work table, contaminating the table with germs. Or another kid might “borrow it”, just adding more germs. The purpose of having, and teaching kids to use and toss, the box of tissues is to reduce the spread of germs when kids sneeze or cough into the air, or wipe runny noses on sleeves. Another drawback is if your child leaves a hankie out, another kid might think it’s a cleaning cloth!


Heather G. July 27, 2016 at 6:19 am

I pretty much do the same as everyone else. We inventory at the end of the school year and our school we are lucky enough that they send next years lists with the end of year report card. I go ahead and magic erase any scuffs off of plastic folders and binders..etc. We always purchase a box of new crayons because with my boys most are broken or missing and new glue sticks as they are always dried out. And a box of Ticondaroga(sp?) pencils. They are pricey but my oldest two will go cheap on everything else , use up any used supplies as long as they get those pencils. Both agree that the leads don’t break off in the sharpeners so you use more pencil. I woulda never noticed myself.


jeanie July 27, 2016 at 7:40 am

It’s really bad when Staples throws out perfectly good school supplies. We once found boxes of perfectly good coloured markers in Staples’ bin.

My son still uses his backpack from 7th grade. He’s now 29. Buy quality. We buy from Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC). They have a forever return policy.

We told our kids that from fourth grade onward, if they wanted new school supplies, when they already had perfectly good ones from the previous year, they were welcome to buy them themselves, from their own allowance, and we would use their school supplies ourselves.

People, even children, tend to make changes when it hurts them in the pocketbook.


Solarman July 27, 2016 at 11:38 am

I haven’t bought paper, pens or pencils in Years ! I have collected so many of them over the years, I doubt I will need to ever again. Some pens do dry out, so I’ve been keeping them in air tight recycled Peanut Butter jars. Even if half of them are duds when I need them, I’ll still have plenty. I use recycled junk mail in my inkjet printer – paper that has a blank side, even for official documents. If someone doesn’t like the stuff on the back side of my documents, well, that’s just too bad… I do refill my inkjet cartridges.


Caroline July 29, 2016 at 1:35 am

when my 31 yr olddaughter was at school she always had sharp pencils and a good range of colours as I am artsy – other kids from much more affluent homes had little and would borrrow and steal hers til I fixed it. They started off with the set but parents did not replace them as worn out. Maybe things have changed….


Melissa July 31, 2016 at 9:39 pm

I had to laugh at this as I just realised I am still using my pencil case from the beginning of high school. I finished high school 28 years ago!! It still works and it’s the right size so why throw it out! Frugaleers all the way! Lol!


Mary W August 5, 2016 at 4:44 pm

For those of you that find your old pens won’t write. Quite often the ink isn’t totally dried out, but only the ink around the ball of a ball point pen. If you heat the point (I use an electric stove burner), and then scribble on scratch paper (junk mail envelopes work well), quite a few of the pens will work again. Sometimes you have to repeat the heat and scribble a few times before they break loose. My last child is 24 and I STILL have a lifetime supply of school supplies. My grandkids love coming to Gramma’s house because I have so many craft and school supplies, all bought on back to school sales or at garage sales.


Nicole August 8, 2016 at 12:44 pm

At my daughters school, at the end of the school year, you can elect to donate all leftover school supplies to a charity that gives to children in need. Perfect solution for me. I don’t have to take them home, my children get new supplies for the new year and someone is very happy to have the gently used ones.


realBKW August 9, 2016 at 9:09 am

The new “three Rs of schooling” Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” offers great teachable moments. Challenge your kids to make up sets of supplies from all the old stuff. If they are missing, say, a red crayon, buy a small pack of crayons, get the red from it, then put it away for the next time they need a color. If you just dump the new box in with the old stuff, they’ll pick all the new ones! If your child objects to using old crayons, teach them how to make a new, clean label. For instance, they can write MAISY’S PURPLE, cut out the label, and glue or tape it to the old label (try and leave the old label on because that will stay on the crayon better). They can also decorate their new label, or mark it as MAISY’S SUPPLY RECYCLING, giving them ownership of the project.

You can buy paints with replaceable paint pans. So if the black is almost gone, get a spare black pan your child can pop in when the black is all gone. If your local school supply or craft store doesn’t have these, ask if they will order some. Or check out your local art supply store. Some of their school supplies are less expensive than you might think. And most offer student discounts. They are happy to order what you need. Or order online. There are lots of reputable sites, aside from Amazon try Dick Blick’s or Cheap Joe’s.

Teach or help them to clean other supplies, like plastic rulers, protractors, etc. Mom or Dad can clean scissors and, if appropriate, sharpen them. Clean the covers of three ring binders. Cover them with Contac paper. Plain colors can be doodled on during the year, and then the Contac paper can be removed and replaced with clean covers next year. Put it on in three pieces, front cover, spine, back cover. That way it won’t interfere with the “hinges” when opening and closing the binder. You can put white Contac paper on the inside covers for special notes.

There are so many more creative ways to make reusing items fun. Yes, you’ll still have to buy some new things, and yeah, you’ll have to buy a roll of contact paper, but you can use more of it next year!

These projects, made at home, helps you have more time with your kids, maybe talking about what they can expect in their new grade or school! And it beats worrying about your budget, saying no and having your kid arguing or melting down in the middle of the art supplies aisle.


Allison August 9, 2016 at 11:55 am

If anyone has a recommendation of a lunch bag (preferably black or gender neutral for a 10 yo boy) that will last more than one year, please post it here. Drives me nuts to have them fall apart by spring break!


Julie August 6, 2017 at 5:01 am

Amen! I live in Denver and the prepackaged school supply companies are raking it in. I love the idea of the convenience but really wish people would think twice about them. Because the schools expect them, they just throw out EVERYTHING at the end of the year!!! Giant boxes full of binders, pencils, markers–all potentially reusable items. I’m so appalled by this. Sorry, but my kids do not need a brand new ruler, or pencil sharpener EVERY year! Great post.


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