A few steps can ease your way back to school

Each year I scratch my head in disbelief and mumble, “How is this possible?”

How did I seem to blink and the summer weeks disappear? It is truly possible that the store has placed the pens and pencils, crayons and backpacks on sale already? Where did the time go?

With most students in Johnson County returning to the classroom in late July and early August, the days of summer have indeed fluttered by. Mornings of sleeping in will be replaced with waiting for the bus, and most parents will welcome the regular routine even if it takes a week or two to get used to the schedule.

What some parents might not welcome are the regular expenses that partner with a new academic year. However, you’ll save yourself a whole lot of worry and money if you take a few quick steps to ease your way back into school.

Take an inventory

It might not be the most fun way to spend a final day of summer, but take an afternoon to refine your child’s wardrobe and school supplies. Before you even think about hitting the stores, take note of what you already have. Have your child try on jeans, shorts, and t-shirts to determine what fits and how many items you can begin the school year with now.

It’s probably buried in the hall closet, but look for the backpack retired in late May or early June. See what you already have that can be used again. Items such as scissors, rulers, pencil pouches, lunch boxes and backpacks can be (and should be) used multiple years.

You may even have some school supplies hidden away in a cabinet or drawer. Be sure you know what you already have before you purchase anything.

Print your list

Every school is different, but many have a list of required items for each grade level on their website. Do yourself a favor and print that list out before you head to the store.

Compare and contrast what’s on the list with what you already have (see above inventory strategy) to begin building a supply “hit list.”

You may even want to make a copy to keep at home and one to take with you to the store.

Look for coupons, ads

Office supply stores, big box retailers and department stores all want your back-to-school business. To lure you in, many have already begun sending out valuable coupons.

Pair the coupons to the best sales in the store to maximize your dollar. Watch the ads to see what this week’s best deals are.

Each store will have a bottom dollar item designed to get you in the door, so be sure you know what’s on sale where by scanning the physical ads.

Go through school section

Whether you’re doing your weekly grocery shopping or running a quick errand, take the time to quickly bounce through the back-to-school section and nab only those low-priced weekly deals.

Breaking up the shopping experience will keep you from being overwhelmed by the crowds. Plus, the shorter amount of time you spend, the less money you will spend, too.

Buy extras

Everybody stop what you’re doing, because I’m about to ruin my style and image that you’re used to. I’m going to tell you to actually spend money.


School supplies will never be as affordable as they are during late July through August. So if your budget allows, be sure to go ahead and pick up multiple packs of crayons, markers and notebooks.

Throw in a few folders to put back when the others rip. Pick up another packet of erasers because learning happens when we make mistakes.

Whether you store these items for your child and break them out mid-academic year or donate them to your school for kids who can’t afford the basics, you’ll be glad that you purchased them at such an affordable price.

Regardless of if we want to acknowledge it, the days of summer are zooming to a close. It’s time to get serious about back to school shopping strategies.

Spend a bit of time and legwork prepping for the new year, and this year, your budget will thank you.