Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hunting for School Supplies...at Home

If you grew up like me, then school supply time was a ritual in your household too. It was always a big deal to get new school supplies and school clothes. Actually, I always wore a uniform, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t get a new plaid skirt or khaki shorts. My joy was really in getting new school shoes and accessories for my hair.

As another frugal note, school uniforms are a lifesaver for the pocket, as well as equalizers at school. Even if your child’s school doesn’t require uniforms, you could enforce a dress code for them. My old boss used to share stories about morning conversations between her and her three children. They all attended public school and though there was no dress code, she required them to wear dark pants or shorts and a polo top in white, yellow or blue. If they had a good week, she would occasionally let them wear their other clothes on Fridays.

In my opinion, she had the right idea because when you have children in elementary, junior or senior high schools, keeping them in clothes that fit them (and their personalities) can be sometimes be expensive. But, I digress…

I really wanted to challenge you in another area today: the beloved school supplies. If you can get your children’s supplies at one of the several back to school drives held in your area, by all means, take advantage of that opportunity!! In many areas, there are churches, community groups and even some businesses that make it their business to ensure children receive book bags, school uniforms and school supplies to begin a new year.

If you are not this lucky or you do not want to attend the school fairs, then simply set aside a day to complete this challenge. I will bet that you really tried, you could find most school supplies right in your own home. Try a school supply scavenger hunt at home or at the homes of your family and friends, if they are okay with it.

How many times have you opened a drawer to find 20 or more pens and pencils? If they still have ink in them, put them in your child’s book bag. They don’t all have to match; they just have to be black or blue. Does little Joey NEED a new book bag or can you just wash the $20 one you bought for him last year? My own daughter, who is a recent high school graduate, STILL has book bags in pretty good condition. Last summer she volunteered as a camp counselor and at the end of the summer, she donated uniforms, folders and book bags to some of the kids in her camp. It’s a great way to recycle.

Do you have a cosmetic bag you never use? Go find it because it will double as a pencil case. Look through your child’s folders from last year, there is probably notebook paper in them. Then think about those notebooks…If your household is anything like mine, then I KNOW you have plenty of slightly used notebooks in every nook. Check your basement, in your seasonal items box and under your children’s bed. Once you rip out the used pages, they are ready for class this year.

Unless you need a specialized calculator for a particular class, a basic Texas Instruments calc will work for a student for several years to come. Go find it. In fact, take a look at your school supply list and take a walk with your children around your home and look for all those items. Whatever you don’t cross off, see if you can find those items on sale or ask a friend or family to use theirs. You can even ask strangers. If you are a member of your local FREECYCLE, then ask them for the items you’re missing. The greatest thing about this hunt, everything is FREE!!

In fact, get your family and friends involved in a school supply swap. Bring all your items together at someone’s home and everyone give and take what they need in order to fill up their book bags. This is a great way to show unity in your community, save money and use your resources. They may like the look of new items every year, but you know it is not a requirement. Many parents spend up to and even exceed $100 for school supplies alone. Try the hunt this year and find a better place to invest the money you save.

Here’s to a frugaliciously successful school year!!

Frugalicious Diva

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