I was rushing through Walmart just after the 4th of July when I literally ran into a display of school supplies blocking the aisle. Seriously? Summer just started! Flashbacks to past back-to-school shopping traumas hit me, and I glanced over to see if any of my teen boys had noticed the display.
Oh, they noticed. The older two groaned in protest, averting their eyes and dramatically rushing past the display. In contrast, the face of my youngest lit up with glee as he made a beeline for the Trapper Keepers: the Holy Grail of serious scholars with OCD tendencies.
“Hey mom, can I get a new Trapper this year? I can’t wait until school starts…does this mean school will be starting soon?” He leaned in close to ask me this, because he didn’t want his brothers to hear the excitement in his voice.
There are two types of kids: those who like shopping for school supplies, and those who would rather eat nails.
There are also two types of moms: those who hate shopping for school supplies, and those who haven’t done it yet. The only good thing about school supply shopping is that it means your kids are going back to school.
If you have a student in a Mankato elementary school, get the list of supplies here: Mankato Area Public Schools Elementary School Supply List 2016-17
Want to save money, time, and what little sanity you have left at the end of summer break? Read on.
SPEND TIME TO SAVE MONEY
There’s no way around this. To save money, you must spend time hunting for the best deals.
- Start early. You’ll find the best deals and the best selection as soon as the displays go up.
- Print the list and keep it in your purse so you can watch for deals during your regular shopping. Write them down and compare prices to other stores you frequent.
- If you have multiple kids in school, look for deals on bulk items. It’s less expensive to buy one box of 36 pencils than it is to buy 3 boxes of 12.
- Always buy a few extras of the essentials like pencils, notebooks and folders. They will need more later in the year, and they will never be as cheap as they are now. FYI: this is also the best time to stock up on your home office supplies.
- Watch the ads. Most stores will have a few “loss leaders.” These are crazy-good deals (usually on essentials) designed to get you in the door. Get in…get the deal…and get out. If you get distracted, you’ll spend more money than you save.
- Don’t skip the smaller stores. You can find awesome deals at Aldi, Walgreens, CVS, and the dollar stores. Also pay attention to places like Menards and Hy-Vee. They will carry these items seasonally at great prices.
- Leave the kids at home so they can’t talk you into the $3 licensed cartoon folder that will get lost or damaged just as quickly as the 49-cent one.
SPEND MONEY TO SAVE TIME
The key to saving time is one-stop-shopping. You might not get the best prices, but if your time is worth something, read on.
- Start early. If you wait until the last minute, every store will be out of something and you will be forced to visit multiple stores to complete the job. Trust me on this.
- Choose a big box store to ensure that you can get everything on the list in one stop.
- Walmart generally has the cheapest prices.
- Target generally has the trendiest stuff.
- Shopko generally has the least amount of people to deal with.
- Office Max has great stuff and a wonderful shopping experience, but you will pay extra for it.
SAVE YOUR SANITY
- Start early. There is nothing worse than the last-minute school supply shopping crowd. The aisles are crammed with crabby parents on their last nerve at the end of a very long summer. They will be arguing with whiny, sunburnt children with chlorine bleached hair and popsicle stained faces. They will be in desperate need of a nap. You will realize that you are one of these people and vow to never again wait until the last minute.
- Seriously, start early. I’ve had procrastinating shoppers take things out of my cart when I wasn’t looking because there were no more on the shelf.
- Consider leaving the kids at home. I understand the need for them to take ownership in their education, but I’m not sure it’s worth it here.
- Shop at weird hours. Many of the big box stores are open all night. If you’ve never strolled sleepily through the aisles late on a Friday or Saturday night, you are in for a quiet, blissfully peaceful treat.