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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

School Supplies the Parsimonious Way


My granddaughter, K, will be in the 6th grade in Brooklyn, NY. This is the third year I have bought and sent school supplies to her and her brother. My grandson, J, is in the 11th grade. He gets supplies, also. Their mother, my daughter, is too overwhelmed with being a single mother, working, and hauling kids about to actually get any deals there may be. Besides, I never drive more than three or four miles, but she would have to drive much further to reach sales.

K's supply list that must go to school with her was just now read to me by K. She gives me all sorts of instructions with the list so that I will get it right...cute I mostly buy sales from Office Max and sometimes from other stores. Last year, I over-bought, so this year I still have many items to send without purchasing. Some things I will have to buy, some I have, and some my daughter will buy with sales and coupons.

In my stash
Before you freak out at my stash, let me explain. When I did summer craft camps, I supplied art materials. Some of this is for those activities where I made money having fun. When I tutor, I always have pens, pencils, spiral notebooks, and loose leaf paper. Each tutee gets a  10 cent spiral notebook where I write examples of math problems and mnemonics for language and spelling. There are no excuses for not coming to my tutoring session. Yes, adult GED students have been known to lose things or procrastinate. There is no delay in finding material needed for teaching/learning. My pencils are all sharpened, and I have a closed pencil sharpener for sharpening right where we searching the library for a pencil sharpener. NO EXCUSES!

I already had these things on her list
20 #2 pencils
1 closed pencil sharpener
1 yellow highlighter
8 black and white composition books
2 glue sticks
1 child-safe scissors
24 pack of crayons--I have Crayola
colored pencils, I think
6 2-pocket folders
1 packet wide-ruled, lined paper
2 bottles of hand sanitizer
pack dry-erase markers
1 roll scotch tape
small calculator

I will buy these items also on her list
1 yellow legal pad
2 soft pencil cases
1 small dictionary (unless she can use the one from last year)

Daughter will buy these items on her list
1 pack baby wipes
3 boxes of tissue
1 roll paper towels
1 box gallon storage bags
1 box quart storage bags

My stash in the picture or part of it
These are not including the notebook paper, 9 reams of copy paper (free), and spiral notebooks.

pencils 15x10 pack=150
pens 14x10 pack=140
Elmer's glue sticks 5x2 pack= 10
Office Max glue sticks and bottle of glue--3 packs, each of which hold 2 glue sticks and a bottle of glue= 6 glue stick and 3 bottles of glue
covered pencil sharpener--5
safety scissors--3 pair
watercolor--1 pack
Pink Pearl erasers--1 3-pack= 3
70 page spiral notebooks--about 100 not all in picture
paper 2 pocket folders--about 50 not all in picture
plastic 2 picket folder--10 not all in picture
themed 2 pocket folders--25 none in picture
Crayola crayons--4 24-packs
3x5 index cards--50
half-sized pencil boxes--2

The yellow highlighter, protractor, and a few other items are in the file cabinet, but they did not make it to the photo shoot. If it did not hurt my back to handle all this, bend, and try to take a picture with a steady hand and body, all the supplies would have been out tonight, partying on the sofa.

I will send coupons to my daughter for all the things she will have to buy.

He always needs pens, pencils, markers of all sorts. I make sure he has a ruler, protractor and compass if he does not have the ones from last year. I don't know what kind of backpack or three-ring binder and calculator he needs or likes, so that is hers to buy. He may reuse what he had the year before. I did buy the el cheapo pens, ten to a pack, until I found some better ones on sale. Cheap pens are hard on the hands.   I have dozens of those, bought for ten cents a ten-pack of pens.

All Sharpies were marked at 25 cents at Office Max. Prices ranged from $1.49 to $2.49. Grandson uses these at school for projects in different classes. I bought about 50 of these in all widths and colors last year for a quarter.  I use these also. Plus, my daughter needed them for her second job that she no longer has. The quantity was not as outlandish as it seems at first glance. I suspect K uses them for fun at home.

I have $6 credit at Office Max because I only managed to turn in two cartridges the last quarter. (Last year, I had about $30 credit for free items.) I hope I can buy one yellow legal pad cheaply. Soft pencil cases are Hannah Montana or something my daughter does not want her child to have.  I go for generic flowers in girl colors when I look for pencil cases instead of movie or musical characters. The plastic ones smell so nasty! I never get those. I will sell something to manage the cost of the $10.95 flat-rate box.

Razzle dazzle
Daughter does not like heavy paper two-pocket folders because they tear up easily and must be replaced. Plastic ones last forever. G-son like the Mead, heavy cardboard ones. Walmart had school supplies on sale most of the winter and in the spring. I bought quarter folders that were marked down from about $1.98--Aerosmith (his favorite band), Yellow Submarine, Beatles, kittens, Hulk, Alice in Wonderland, guitars. All winter, I just bought one or two each trip. It seemed I was spending no money. Now, I can send plastic and heavy paper folders in solid colors, Mead folders in solid colors, and the fancy folders. They both are required to have an inordinate amount of these folders.

Sometimes I see people buying school supplies and can tell they are struggling. This year, because of my abundance, I will be donating some of the supplies to people I see in the stores. I like to know where my donations go. Besides, the plastic Rubbermaid box is overflowing.

I want to have just enough after sending her supplies to fit in the plastic box/bin. I have 75 spiral notebooks (70 sheets/pages), bought on sale at WM for ten cents apiece. Plus, I suppose I have 100 packs of notebook paper, bought at OM for ten cents and sometimes for just a penny. Yes, that is 150 sheets of wide-ruled or college-ruled loose leaf notebook paper, and I have about 100 packs. Both the notebooks and notebook paper are from two years buying. This year, I will buy no more of both of those...promise!

The boxes of spiral notebooks and the loose leaf paper reside under a table with a skirt. I forgot I had them when I bought more last year.

Made in the USA
Crayola crayons are made in the USA. Others are made overseas; they stink. I choose items without a strong chemical smell. Yes, I do buy items made in other countries.

Memaw's the Best!
My granddaughter, K, exclaimed this to her mother when I sent the first box three years ago. My daughter said, "Why don't you call her and tell her so?" So, I got a call from a sweet, excited little seven-year-old girl who exclaimed, "Memaw, you're the best!" Now, would you keep sending school supplies to that child? I didn't do it for the adoration, but that sure spurs me on School supplies are exciting, aren't they?

Art supplies and school supplies for home
My daughter has always kept plenty of water colors, paper, crayons and other items too numerous to mention for her children at home. I make sure I send two boxes of crayons, two water colors, etc.  However, if my daughter says there are plenty of leftover crayons, I don't send more. I know children would rather use from a new box than from a bin of half- or barely-used crayons.

Remember when I got a box with 10 reams of copy paper for free from Office Max? I sent one of those to daughter this spring with g-daughter's birthday gift in the flat rate box. I am using the others to trade when people have something I want and the people need copy paper. (I also bought two reams for $1.25 each, marked down because the wrapper was torn a bit.)

Ours is not to question why
I don't bother asking why anything is needed because it is on the list and my daughter will take it all to school. Most items are put in a cubby/box and belong only to K. These are not in a communal stash for the whole class to use. At the end of the year, she brings back items she purchased.

Edit Check out this blog post--Free School Supplies or Getting it Free from Office Max or Staples or Home Depot.  These chronicle other freebies I have gotten this year.

Your turn
Do you manage to hit all the specials to buy school supplies for children, grandchildren, students, or for donations? Or, are you like my daughter, struggling not only with money, but with finding the time and energy to fight the crowds and get everything you must at any price? Anyone know why my picture was in focus, words were clear, and now it looks horrible?


  1. All during high school, we struggled. The teachers refused to put out a supply list early so we could take advantage of sales. By the time we got the lists ( one for each teacher x 2 kids), the school supplies were off the shelves to make room for Halloween things. We'd end up at Staples paying the highest prices imaginable. Boy, that made me bitter!
    Yes, I'd stock up on some things but found that teachers wouldn't want some of those things. It was hard to read their minds.
    Your grandson must have one of the expensive calculators? Some schools rent them out and others sell used ones. We paid 150 x 2 again because that school didn't bother. We also had one stolen so had to replace it. Glad that this is all over for us. You are a gret grandmother Linda.

  2. LindaM, Wow, that must have been so frustrating. I tried to figure out the kind of calculator, back pack, and binder, so I could get exactly what he wanted. No use traumatizing a shy high school She was not clear on those three items, and said the Kleenex and things were too expensive to mail since I could probably not get them free. Still, it would have been too expensive for the value of the mailed items.

    His father either took him shopping or gave Lisa money for the more expensive things. She may have had to buy them herself. Not sure right now.

    I try to be the best long-distance parent and grandmother under a strained financial situation. They like getting the free deodorant and free soap, too.

    So far, I have not heard of anything being lost or stolen. This year, he will be a junior, so far, so good on keeping things together. Colleges are courting him, so maybe he will keep on track for I encourage more.

  3. Wow, you do have quite a lot! I actually miss school supply shopping, so fun! At least the hubby is going back to school soon so I can live vicariously through him, haha!

  4. Yesterday, I found more supplies here in the house. It is sort of fun, looking at all the colors of scissor handles, looking at all the types of pencils. Some are bare wood, no paint. Tomorrow, I go early to Office Max. It is amazing when you have not been in school for awhile or have not had little ones around how it all comes back--the fun. Plus, there is always a new gimmick, mostly not worth the money.Maybe you need a box of crayons.


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