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Shopping Budgets: Buying Tips for Back to School Supplies

Aug 24, 2020

Buying Tips for Back to School SuppliesFor Philadelphia public school students, the 2020-2021 school year is kicking off virtually this September. Since students will be learning from home for at least the first marking period, they’ll still need school supplies for classwork, homework, and creative projects, but they’ll need less of them, especially since some of their supplies were only lightly used last year. This can give parents who are used to receiving seemingly never-ending lists of school supplies from teachers a bit of breathing room, financially speaking.

Below, we’ve listed some tips designed to help you save on school supplies for your kids if they’re learning from home this marking period.

Hold off on purchasing certain items

Since the first marking period is being held virtually, and the remainder of the year is still pending, hold off on buying things like lunch boxes, bookbags, pencil cases, and other similar items, as your child won’t need them just yet.

You can reuse these items from last year if they’re still in good shape, or you can buy lunch boxes or bookbags secondhand from thrift stores. Parents whose students are required to wear school uniforms should also try to wait to purchase new uniforms, as the child could grow out of the new uniform before even returning to school.

Reuse lightly used supplies from the year prior

The 2019-2020 in-person school year was cut short due to COVID-19 and resulting stay-at-home orders, so supplies like folders should have less wear and tear due to the lack of travel to and from school. Similarly, notebooks will likely have more empty pages left than they typically would have if students were taking notes for the final few months of school.
Rather than rush to purchase fresh folders and notebooks, parents should start by using past supplies until they run out, and only purchase new when they have a clear path forward for the remainder of the school year.

Think of creative alternatives

Folders are used to keep papers together neatly when stored in a bookbag, so if your child is learning from home, consider alternative options like large butterfly or paper clips. You can also purchase one fan folder rather than a bunch of separate folders, as this will minimize the amount of space you’ll need to store your child’s supplies. Plus, it may even be easier to locate papers since they’ll all be in one place.

An alternative to individually-sold spiral notebooks could be loose leaf paper or legal pads, which are usually sold in bulk and could be of use to others in the home. Things like pens, pencils, markers, and crayons that are already laying around the house can also be used for schoolwork rather than buying a complete second set that can travel to and from school.

Buy supplies in bulk

Eventually, you will run out of these supplies, so consider shopping at wholesale retailers like Walmart, BJ’s, Sam’s Club, etc. to replenish pencils, paper, and other items your child will need in bulk. Buying these items in bulk will be mutually beneficial for all, as they can also be used around the house by other family members for months to come. If you buy in bulk and your child’s school holds classes in person for the remainder of the year, you’ll have enough supplies to get them through those months at a fraction of the price.

You should also cash in on any coupons you’ve racked up for stores like CVS or Walgreens so you can save on enough supplies to last your family the remainder of the school year. You can also shop at stores like Michael’s or Jo-Ann Fabrics when buying markers and other creative tools so you can take advantage of their many available coupons.

There is so much uncertainty surrounding the 2020-2021 school year, and as a result, priorities are shifting daily. Take a moment to pause and consider your child’s most immediate needs for the next 1-2 months, as this is all that has been planned so far. Once the school district makes its next announcement, you can continue to prepare yourself and your child for the next few months.


Erin Ellis
Accredited Financial Counselor
Philadelphia Federal Credit Union

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