School Supply Time Already?

by Katy on July 15, 2009 · 29 comments

The following is a reprint of an previsouly published post from last Summer. Enjoy!

I adore the pace of summertime. The sleeping in, not having to nag about homework, leisurely days spent splashing in the pool. Ahh. . . summer.

Did I mention the sleeping in?

Tragically, summer is winding down.

The first sign?

Advertisements for school supplies.

Paper, pens, glue. Somehow never all sold at the same store.


My ten-year-old came home on the last day of school with a little pink half-sheet of paper, outlining all the supplies I needed to send with him for fifth-grade.

(I have no idea where it is now, but that’s an entirely different issue.)

I’m dreading the drive from store to store, an entire day wasted on this unwelcome and depressing task.

One year, the teacher just asked for a check, so she could buy the what sheneeded. This way, all the supplies would be the same, and she would have precisely what she wanted.


And if my memory stands correct, it was less money than if I’d bought everything on my own.

One person running one errand instead of 30.

One car on the road instead of 30.

It is highly wasteful to have 30 sets of parents run these errands individually. Thirty cars driving around town, everyone buying a slightly different variety of supplies.

Gasoline. Time. Effort.

Alas, the other fifth-grade parents have probably already started their school supply shopping, so it may be too late for this year.

Just thinking about all this makes me want to sleep in a little extra tomorrow.

How does your community deal with the school supplies issue? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Loretta July 15, 2009 at 4:06 am

Fortunately my kids’ primary school does it for us! They send out a detailed list at the end of each school year, the parents pay the up-front cost, and voila, the supplies are delivered to the school for the beginning of the new year. I have a feeling that it MAY be a bit more expensive this way, but who cares! Everyone has the same items, there is no competition over who has the fancier pens/rulers and best of all, one less thing for me to worry about.
PS I’m in Melbourne, AUS.


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl July 15, 2009 at 5:29 am

Thankfully, I don’t really have to buy a bunch of supplies for school, since we homeschool (not that homeschooling is a time-saving device! lol). Usually the only supplies I need to pick up are composition notebooks, notebook paper, and some pencils, and those can usually be had for REALLY cheap at Staples. My husband just stops by there on the way home from work.


Nancy from Mass July 15, 2009 at 6:05 am

My son goes to a charter school and they mail a list home during the summer. It list what he absolutely needs, and the ‘nice-to-haves’. (He is also going into 5th grade.) Last year, he needed 3 ring binders for each subject, but no paper. It was also requested that we find the paper reinforcements that fix a torn hole punched paper. I had the HARDEST time finding those things, and he only used 2 reinforcements. I like that they send it during the summer, because I can watch for special sales or even yard sales for his supplies. If we can’t get/afford a supply, it’s usually no big deal and sometimes parents send in extras for the kids who really need them.


Cheryl Liane July 15, 2009 at 6:17 am

I *hate* the school supply demand. What was a fun one place outing for me as a kid that only took 20 minutes and not much money has turned into a racket. My son is a good student and only uses about 25% of what they request each year.

I have no problem contributing to classroom kleenex and cleaning supplies each year. Nor do I have a problem contributing extra supplies for those who may not have the resources themselves. But who needs 120 pencils??? That is what they always request…

Every year the schools want a new complete set of markers…At the end of the year they come home unused in a beat up package with 1 or 2 missing.

So now we throw all school supplies into plastic bins at the end of the year and then “shop” from there before going to the store before the start of the next year.



Lisa July 15, 2009 at 6:31 am

We don’t get the supply list until school has actually started. Then we only have a few days to get everything. I try to buy ahead — hitting the sales for pencils, paper, etc. (I use a lot of those in my class, too.) Before school they shop at home first and then we see what else we have to get.

One thing I do is buy 6 or 8 sheets of poster board and store it behind the bookcase. That way I have poster board on hand for those “I have a poster due tomorrow” moments.


Lisa July 15, 2009 at 6:34 am

Instead of

Before school they shop at home first ….

I meant

Before shopping…


niki July 15, 2009 at 8:42 am

My son goes to a Christian school and they ask for a particular supply here and there. The 1st week of school they ask for a box of tissues and a roll of paper towels. Another month they might ask for wet wipes. Another month they ask for a craft item.

I love that I don’t have to run out and get it all at once when everyone else on earth is searching for the same item. Just an extra item to toss in the basket when I am grocery shopping.



Jeanine July 15, 2009 at 9:06 am

I remeber reading this article when it was first posted, and suggested it to some parents, and you would not believe the negativity that spewed forth.

**there is NO amount of money that could pay me to be a teacher…and it has NOTHING to do with the kids**

I then suggested it to the a couple of teachers, who loved the idea, with the exception of wanting cash or money order. They then suggested it to the school board, and there it was tabled.

After buying the first set of school selected supplies, I buy what I think is necessary, and the teacher can send home a note. My oldest informed me that all her markers and crayons were dumped into a bin for the whole class to use, and when I questioned the teacher, I was told that it made the less fortunate kids feel not so left out if they didn’t have what they needed.

I thought that was a great concept until I realized only about 5 of the kids had brought in what was on the list and the other 20 had not.

It’s not my job to supply the whole class with supplies. Even though I am not currently working, I will make sure that my kids have what they need to succeed in class. I feel the other parents should make a way as well.


Sandy July 15, 2009 at 10:36 am

18 dollars is what the school asked me for. I will gladly pay it and hope this trend continues throughout elementary school!


BarbS July 15, 2009 at 11:21 am

I couldn’t agree with you more, Katy. One year the teacher asked for $15 per student, and I was thrilled! Unfortunately, it seems to be each teacher making his or her own plans, which I find very frustrating.

The worst is my middle-schooler. We get the list on a Thursday or Friday, and they need the materials by Monday. And the list varies a bit depending on the specific “team” that he’s placed in. The result is that every parent in town is trying to buy similar items during the same weekend — a total madhouse. Each year, I dread it more and more.

Now that he’s been in middle-school for a few years, we have built up a fair amount of notebooks and other supplies. So this year I intend to use items from previous years exclusively — at least for the first few weeks of school. Once the furor dies down (and the sales start), I’ll fill in anything that is missing. But really, it could be managed so much more efficiently.


Kristie-ND July 15, 2009 at 11:53 am

My kids are homeschooled(well, one, as my oldest graduated and is off to college 🙂 ) but I still have to buy supplies.

All of the stores that sell school supplies in my small town, and the bigger city closest to me, post the lists for every grade at every school right in teh school supply aisles.

For example, when I was in Walmart the other day to buy some supplies, you could look at the sheets put up for every class, and they carried everything on the lists for each class in each school and it was pretty organized in order of the lists, so, like an assembly line, you grab a copy of the list from the section and go up and down the aisles picking up what you need.

They keep supplies on sale, but not necessarily on the school lists on either side of the main section, so you know you know which aisles you should hit first.

I like that route, makes it MUCH easier for all of us, including me, as what I look for is often not what is on the official lists, so I like knowing where I need to go and where I can avoid the

Of course, small states mean this is possible. I don’t think it would work in bigger cities with too many schools to count


Melissa July 15, 2009 at 3:19 pm

All my fond memories of back-to-school supply shopping from childhood (new pencils – yay!) were quickly replaced with bad memories of driving from store to store desperately trying to find the items on the list for my son’s kindergarten class (which all just got dumped together anyway). Seriously, it wasn’t enjoyable at all. One store would have the right box of crayons, but the wrong box of markers, etc. His first grade teachers have asked for $40 to cover all supplies and field trips for the year. Sounds good to me!


Cherry-Lee Ward July 15, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Our elementary school has done a fund raiser for years. Depending on the needs of the teachers and grade it’s $28-41 each year. And everything shows up. That was fine for my oldest – and a noble donation.

My youngest is going into 3rd grade and has decided she wants ‘cute’ things. That combined with the unspecified random middle school list of my older child … this is the first year that I hit the summer sale at Staples. I was impressed at how cost conscious my kids were. Mind you it did cost more than had we purchased from the school. Not a lot more though.

I run my own business and find that if I plan ahead, school sales time is a great time to get some pens and 10 cent folders to use with clients and yellow note pads. I buy a years worth of business materials for very little money. Works brilliantly!


teri July 15, 2009 at 6:17 pm

I see that I am in the minority, but I would not just hand over money to a teacher to buy supplies. We homeschooled, but the kids liked picking their own folders, pencils, etc. And I could go to a dollar store for most of the things. We could easily buy supplies for less than fifteen dollars per child.


Sierra July 15, 2009 at 8:46 pm

My daughter is starting kindergarten in the fall. As far as I know, we don’t have to buy supplies for her this year, but I did give her a handmade kit of art/school supplies for her birthday in May:


Sue July 15, 2009 at 11:00 pm

As a Brit this whole concept is completely alien to me. Here in the UK the school supplies all the children will need. Of course kids can take their own pens and markers etc but they are not a requirement. We do have to provide school uniforms for our kids though which can get expensive. Although for you guys I suspect the peer pressure on kids to wear the right clothes can make it as expensive not to wear uniform.


Skwurlee July 15, 2009 at 11:34 pm

I am teacher and this whole talk is very interesting.

I teach high school (grades 8-12) which also impacts things.

Where I teach students go through 4 classes a day, mine being one of them.

All I request of them is a binder (to put their work/handouts in), paper in that binder, and writing utensils (pen, pencils, eraser, white out if they want it). Sometimes dividers for said binder are also asked for.

You have no idea how many students cannot/will not/don’t get these few basic things.

Having recently taught in a lower income are I supplied lined paper to some students along with a communal pen/pencil box on my desk. Like someone posted these basic items can be found for cheap at a local dollar store, and while it did come out of my own pocket, it was cheap and I felt if the kids were using them to learn it was worth it.

Kleenex on the other hand it a chore! Kids go through it like stink, school does not remburse you and you seem like an evil tyrant if you don’t provide it!

If students need an item for a project (poster board, cue cards etc) I try to give them at least a week to procure them and then I do offer some for students that have no way of getting them.

From my standpoint it is a fine line between people that cannot get supplies due to economic reasons and kids parents who chose not to get them in order to make me or the school pay for them.

Wow I’ve rambled, that’s all for now.


Kathy July 16, 2009 at 6:39 am

My son is grown now, but I always enjoyed the back-to-school shopping trip to Staples each year. We made an event of it… We would create a list, I’d set a budget, and we would scour the store, looking for Just the Right Thing. Afterwards, the two of us would go out to eat together at Friendly’s.

It was a way of establishing a fresh start and helping him get excited about going back to school.


Linda July 16, 2009 at 12:12 pm

When My daughter finished her last semester of 1st grade, she brought home a whole bag school supplies from the class. It included the pencil box filled with unused crayons and markers, some note books etc. If the school can’t use the supplies they requested, why they still request the same items every year? It seems not nice to send back those unused supplies for next semester since they don’t come with the original package or looks not new. However, it’s a huge waste to the get the new one.

I really doubt how the school use the supplies. It’s not “bring your supply” or “send me a check” solution. It’s how the school use supplies wisely and teach our kids not wasting anything.


WilderMiss July 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Can’t you just order all the supplies online? Obvioiusly only if you’re buying them new (which I’m assuming you are b/c of the mention of flyers). I can’t imagine it’d take more than 15 minutes.


WilderMiss July 16, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Sorry, point of clarification for (childless) me: are you guys saying that you buy your kid a new set of crayons when they just brought home a perfectly good set from last year? That’s the vibe I’m getting from the comments.

I mustn’t be understanding this correctly. When I was in school we would always kind of inventory what was needed based on the list given – first from what we already had then buy the rest. I know I used the same pencil crayons/markers/fine liners/sissors/etc for several years until they were worn out.

Of course you have to buy more loose leaf paper and other things that get used up.


calimama July 16, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Katy, obviously a hot topic! I have to say I love the idea of the teachers buying bulk supplies so everyone has the same and it is one person/trip instead of 30. I will definitely mention this to the few teachers I know.
My boys aren’t in school yet so I have some time before this is my issue. I’m curious where you stand regarding the Compact and school supplies. I know you’ve said your husband and boys aren’t following the Compact with you, do you consider these purchases theirs even though you have to do the driving and paying? Just wondering!


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