School Supply Stress: Buying Supplies Intelligently
It happens to the best of us. One day you’re enjoying a day at the pool with your favorite drink and the next thing you know, the stores are filled with crayons, backpacks, and bright yellow cardboard boxes looking like school busses. Then comes the dread of having to budget for everything your child needs for their first day of school. Worse yet, you’ll need to do battle with other parents also looking for the best deals and the very last box of crayons on the shelf.
Of course, School Supply Boxes has essentially changed the way parents and teachers shop for school supplies. You can order a pre-filled box based on your child’s grade level and get it delivered straight to your door. It’s probably by far the easiest way to make sure your kids get everything they need for day one and make sure the items in your child’s school bag are name brand and high quality.
“Joey, the dog hates my mailman, I’m really horrible with computers, and I love shopping in stores!”
I understand. Admittedly, I still prefer to shop in brick and mortar stores when it means I can get what I want on the same day. With the postal service in a bit of an overload, you might want to brave the stores and get everything you need quickly.
For younger kids, parents are lucky enough to get a school supply list with everything your child’s teachers have requested for the year. If your child is a bit older and is either in middle school, junior high, or high school, you’re probably not so lucky. If you’re one of those parents, this blog is for you. You don’t need to break the bank or pull out your hair to figure out what school supplies your older kid needs.
Plan Like a Well-Organized Nerd
That’s right: a nerd! The best way to fill up a backpack with everything your young student needs is to think logically. What do all kids need for school and then what would an organized person need to stay organized?
This might be a bit difficult if your organizational skills aren’t the best in the world. But if you stop and think about what organized people use to keep themselves together, your child’s supply list is pretty simple to put together.
For example, people who deal with a lot of paperwork also make sure to keep a good supply of folders. So, plenty of folders should be on your child’s list.
Now here’s where people go wrong. Should you go in search of the world’s most expensive folders the world has ever created? No, absolutely not. In all the years I was in school and the years I mentored teenagers, I never saw kids with expensive brand name folders that cost more than 50 cents. They were good quality folders with brads and that’s all kids need. Don’t waste your money on folders from Disney, Nike, Marvel, or anything fancy. Chances are these folders are not going to survive the year and it’s money down the drain. There are going to be things on your list that you won’t want to skimp on, but folders there are some that definitely shouldn’t cost more than a dollar.
Stuff the Backpack
Luckily for you, I was once a well-organized nerd. Now, I’m just a nerd, but I still know a thing or two about school supplies.
This list of school supplies is based on a few things: my personal experience working as a professional and School Supply Boxes’ extensive research when it comes to providing the most appropriate school supplies for each grade level. With that in mind, here is what every backpack for your older student needs for the first day of school.
- Red, Blue and Black Pens: These things become gold towards the end of the school year so make sure you buy plenty of them. Don’t be tempted to buy fancy pens with comfortable grips, gel ink, or ones that write in colors that are impossible for any normal person to read. One pack of each color will be just fine.
- Pencils: I’m pretty picky about my pencils, but that doesn’t mean they should be expensive. Pencils should be made out of wood and don’t need to have any fancy pictures of superheroes or pink unicorns. Yellow pencils are the standard and while pre-sharpened pencils are nice, make sure you're not paying over-inflated price just for a little convenience. School Supply Boxes pencils do come pre-sharpened because we know few things are more boring than sharpening a pencil.
- Pencil Sharpener: If you’re going to buy the pencils, you need a good quality sharpener to go along with them.
- Folders: Folders tend to be one of the cheapest things on a school supply list. One folder per class is usually good enough, but if they’re cheap buy two. That way if a folder falls apart at some point during the year, you have a backup. Also, don’t just buy folders with pockets. Always buy folders with the three-pronged brads in the middle and use one color for one subject for better organization.
- Loose leaf paper: If your student is in middle school or high school, the only paper they’ll need is college ruled. Elementary students only use wide-ruled unless their teacher says differently. If the paper is priced like it’s made of gold, don’t buy it. Of course, it should always have the classic 3-hole punched side for easy organization. And be on the lookout for paper that is priced suspiciously low. The paper is probably thinner than normal paper and will have horrible durability.
- Spiral Notebooks: Full disclosure: I have a spiral notebook addiction. When they’re cheap during school supply season, I buy a ton of them for usually about ten to twenty cents. Your child’s notebooks should also be ruled correctly for their grade level and have perforated edges to make tearing out pages easy. Do your best to buy one color for one class to avoid mixing up assignments and notes. Again, avoid spirals with covers that have fancy artwork or big brand names that sound expensive. What matters is the paper, not the cover.
- Pink Erasers: There’s nothing worse than a pencil with a worn eraser head. A classic pink eraser is a must have if you’re writing in pencil.
- Pencil Pouch: This is a fantastic way to keep all of those pens and pencils organized. Again, keep them simple and cheap.
- Ruler: I prefer wooden rulers, but go with whatever seems the most durable to you and is easily readable. Don’t buy some fancy ruler made for drafting or architecture. Keep it simple.
- Markers and Colored Pencils: This is where you don’t skimp on quality. Crayola is king for a reason. The quality of their colored pencils and markers is top notch and many teachers ask parents to avoid other brands. A box of colored pencils, thin tip markers, and broad tip markers in standard colors are all your child needs. If they’re taking an art class, they may need something extra, but wait until your child has spoken to their teacher first.
- Flash Drive: Because kids are depending more and more on computers to complete their assignments, it’s critical to have a place to save them safely. Kids need to learn to always have backup copies of their work in a safe place they can get to easily.
- Glue Sticks: Sticks are far better than regular liquid glue and there’s less of a chance of an accident in a backpack. Stick to the regular sticks as a lot of teachers aren’t fans of purple glue sticks.
- Highlighters: Again, keep it simple. Buy traditional yellow or standard colors. No one needs a massive rainbow of highlighters. No more than two colors at most.
- Calculators: Unless a teacher specifically mentions it, a basic calculator is all your child will need at the start of the school year. Once they get into complex algebra and trigonometry, then it’s time to consider a scientific calculator.
- Tissues: Few things are more embarrassing than having to take the walk of shame to grab a tissue when you’re under the weather. Keep a few travel packs of tissues in your child’s backpack so they aren’t spreading their germs everywhere.
The Things I Left Out
Things like sticky notes, paper clips, and other office supplies are very nice to have, but they aren’t critical for the first day of school. Chances are, your student isn’t going to have to keep track of a massive amount of paperwork on day one. Down the road, having these supplies would definitely be handy to keep things more organized, especially around exam season.
I tend to avoid supplies like mechanical pencils and multi color pens. While I don’t have a problem with mechanical pencils persay, I much prefer a pencil. Mechanical pencil leads tend to be too weak for me and I break them quite easily. Multi-colored pens are just unnecessary. Red, blue, and black pens are all you need and there’s no need to buy one of these just to save yourself a few seconds of looking for the right pen.
The rule of thumb: if it’s not absolutely necessary on day one, you can probably wait to buy it after the first week of school when your child has a better sense of what they’ll need beyond what they already have.
Where School Supply Boxes Gets it Right
There are a ton of imitators out there trying to do what School Supply Boxes is doing, but the proof is in the pudding, or in this case the box. Many other companies that create school supply bundles save money by using off or lesser quality supplies. You’ll definitely save a few pennies when you buy them, but you’ll definitely be spending them later when you realize you bought lesser quality items.
Furthermore, many of these companies assemble boxes based on their best guess on what your child needs. Their purpose is to sell you a box of supplies, not to research if what you’re buying is useful.
School Supply Boxes is different. Not only do they include brand name products you’ve heard of, they also include their own products they’ve tried and tested to make sure you’re getting great quality supplies.
Beyond quality, the company did plenty of research to create pre-designed boxes filled with all the school supplies your child will need and more for day one. They even include items your school may not ask for but are incredibly helpful for keeping them organized.
If that wasn’t enough, you can order everything you need right from the website, order individual items, and have it all shipped to your door before the school bell rings at the end of summer break.