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1. Start with good backpacks and get them early
It’s easy to think that the cute, princess backpack might be the best choice for your daughter—especially because it is not too costly. However, your best bet is to spend more money on this important purchase and cut costs elsewhere. Teachers tell us that backpacks take a great deal of abuse. Unless you want to be replacing it before Christmas, get a name brand that will last. I like http://www.jansport.com// for their durability.
Once you have a good backpack for each child, clearly label it and place it in a central location so that school supplies can be dropped into it as they are purchased.
2. Skip the pencil boxes and go for something more durable
The traditional pencil boxes frequently break within the first few weeks of school, and this is how many precious school supplies are lost. A better way to go is to get something that holds up better. We like the 1.8 gallon Rubbermaid Snap Case Clear Storage Container (available at ShopWiki $5.15) because it’s easy for little fingers to open. You can also go to the Rubbermaid site at http://www.rubbermaid.com/Pages/Home.aspx for a huge selection of great storage containers. If the kids don’t like how plain it is, try decorating with puffy pens or stickers to make it original.
3. Begin shopping now and pay attention to sales
Many schools post school supply lists online or at the school sites. Call the school to find out the best way to get the list for each child’s individual teacher. Then, find out if your area has any “tax-free” days which will save significantly especially on big ticket items. Watch newspapers for great deals. Many big stores will offer terrific savings on notebook paper, crayons, pencils, markers, and other popular school supplies. A survey of major brands found that using sales on commonly-purchased items could save as much as 92%.
Drop the relevant supplies into each child’s backpack as you purchase them and mark them off of the lists. Keep the lists in your purse or organizer so that you have them whenever you might see a good sale.
Teacher’s Tip: Often, a teacher will require specific school supplies that differ from the items on the grade-level list. Teachers almost always have these lists weeks or even months ahead of time and would be more than happy to share them with parents. If you know the name of your child’s teacher, try asking the school for their email address. Then you can rest knowing that you have purchased the appropriate supplies!
4. Label everything and we do mean everything
Often, parents label the backpack, the pencil box, and maybe the crayon box. However, as a teacher, I am here to tell you that these things don’t stay put together for long! We know it takes some time, but spend a night of television and take an extra thin permanent Sharpie marker and label every crayon, pencil, marker, notebook, and colored pencil with your child’s name. Your child’s teacher—and your pocketbook—will thank you.
5. A picture is worth a thousand words when it comes to Back to School organizing
Once all of the supplies are purchased for each child, spread each child’s supplies out on the table one at a time and take a digital photo before packing them up. This way, there is a record of what was purchased. It saves hassles down the road with trying to remember who had what and also helps your child to know how much of everything was provided.
Print the pictures and create a Back to School file with the pictures and the completed supply lists.
Teacher’s Tip: To help your child with the morning getting ready routine, also take a picture of what should be in his or her school box and backpack each morning (for example: two pencils, one notebook, calculator, pen, lunchbox, etc.) . Print it out and place it in the area where he/she arranges these belongings. This will create greater self-sufficiency in the mornings.
States that offer a tax free weekend (courtesy of http://singleparents.about.com/od/cuttingcosts/qt/TaxFreeHoliday.htm )