Joanna is a computer programmer by day, gardener by night in central Indiana where she lives with her husband and her dog. She writes about saving money & spending it ethically at It’s Just Change, and about everything else at Keeping Feet.
Full disclosure: I don’t have kids. I’m not pressured to buy the shiny new Transformer folders or the Hannah Montana stapler this summer. I do, however, see the need in my community for kids to get the school year started off right, stay in school, and have the tools to make learning possible. If their parents can’t afford simple things like new notebooks and pencils on top of the book rental fees and school clothes, the school year becomes something to dread rather than anticipate.
Each summer, my church sponsors a “Back-To-School Blast” program. Backpacks are sold for $10 to the congregation, and each backpack contains a school-supply list for an age group (elementary, middle, high school) Participants are instructed to fill the backpack with the list of supplies and return it to the church to be distributed to underprivileged kids. With the $10 backpacks and long lists including things like an alarm clock & calculator, you’d think this could end up being an expensive project- but it doesn’t have to be!
- Pick up supplies while shopping for your own kids – If scissors come in a 3-pack, or folders in a 10-pack, let your children take what they need and put the rest toward the backpack supply list. I plan on checking Costco to see if any of the supplies sold in bulk are on the supply lists, too.
- Shop sales – CVS has free-after-ECB deals going on this summer on school supplies. I got free-after-rebate calculators for the backpacks I filled last year from Office Depot. This strategy will require you to watch a variety of ads and make more stops at more stores, but will end up saving lots of money.
- Get everyone involved – Let your kids pick out their favorite colors or designs for the supplies, and talk about how these items will help a kid just like them. Turn the project into a learning moment for your kids, while helping other kids learn!
- Find other ways to support education – Don’t think you can afford to buy and fill an entire backpack for a kid in addition to your own? Know a teacher? We plan on giving some of the extra supplies to our sister-in-law who teaches at a low-income school. She’ll be able to use the items in her classroom, for kids who weren’t able to bring their own. Also check out DonorsChoose.org for local projects at schools in your area for some really cool projects teachers need help funding.
Helping these kids get off on the right foot for the school year will benefit their ability to learn for the year ahead- and for very little out-of-pocket expense for us. It’s worth it.
How do you save on school supplies, for your own kids or to give away?
One of the things that has always been a party of our mission is encouraging our community to get involved and share with others, even when they are on a tight budget themselves. It is often surprisingly easy to help others just by being aware of what is available to you. Thankful Thursday is our chance to share the opportunities, organizations and services we have found!