Across Johnson County, thousands of families have prepared their students to go back to school.

They spent hundreds — and sometimes thousands — of dollars to get their students ready for when that first school bell rings.

The large money items, school supplies, book rental fees and new clothes, to start the school year add up.

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And then come the other costs: a physical for their athlete, required vaccinations, glasses, special clothing and supplies for specialty high school classes.

We asked five families from across the county, from elementary school and to high school, to give us a peek into their back to school budgets.

The Wilsons

Stockpiling is the key to making back to school affordable for a Franklin couple.

Brittany and Ray Wilson spend the summer searching out sales and stocking up when they see a good deal for school supplies or clothing or whatever else is needed when sending their three children back to school.

Other tricks, such as buying sturdy backpacks that can last three or four years, has helped the couple save money on back-to-school expenses, Brittany Wilson said.

“We buy a little at a time,” she said. “When I find it on sale, I buy it.”

Costs associated with going back to school have added up, including $300 just for school supplies, the couple said.

One child runs cross-country. Their physical exam to clear them for competition was $25.

Another child wears glasses, and getting their annual eye exam and buying new frames cost the couple $250.

New haircuts for two of their children cost about $15. New clothes were about $150.

They have also found that spending a little more now can help save money in the long run, such as by buying higher-quality backpacks that cost them $75 for three kids.

Those backpacks have held up years later and have saved the cost of buying three new backpacks every school year, Ray Wilson said.

“It seems to work so far,” he said.

They weren’t sure how much book rental would be but expected to spread that out in payments.

Spreading out their back-to-school costs has helped them afford the more than $700 in expenses, Brittany Wilson said.

“We split it between multiple checks,” she said.

{related_content}{related_content_item}{related_content_style}By the numbers{/related_content_style}{related_content_title}By the numbers{/related_content_title}{related_content_content}Here is a look at how much Ray and Brittany Wilson spent to send their three children back to Franklin schools:

School supplies: About $300

Clothes: $150

Physical/well visit: $25

Glasses: $250

Haircuts: $15{/related_content_content}{/related_content_item}{/related_content}

Jessica Cody

Budgeting is the key for a Franklin mother to get ready to send her daughter back to school.

This year, Jessica Cody estimated that she is spending about $200 for school supplies and book rental for her daughter at Franklin Community Middle School.

That amount is cheaper than in past years, when she has spent $600 or $800, she said.

“It’s dirt cheap compared to last year,” she said.

Her daughter hasn’t grown out of her clothes as quickly as in past years, allowing her to save money there, and expecting to spend about $100 on a few items, she said.

And middle school students have a shorter school supply list than she had seen in elementary school, Cody said.

Her total to send her middle school daughter to school with clothes, school supplies, a new haircut and book rental was about $300.

“That is close to $300 cheaper than I have spent in past years,” she said.

When her daughter started kindergarten, she wondered how parents were able to scrape the money together to get their kids ready for school, she said.

“I thought, ‘how in the world did my parents do it,” she said.

She has learned that the key is to start budgeting before school even lets out, Cody said.

She puts aside money from each paycheck and starts shopping a few weeks before the school year starts, she said.

{related_content}{related_content_item}{related_content_style}By the numbers{/related_content_style}{related_content_title}By the numbers{/related_content_title}{related_content_content}Here is a look at what Jessica Cody spent to send her daughter to school at Franklin Community Middle School:

Book rental and supplies: $200

Clothes: $100

Haircut: $10{/related_content_content}{/related_content_item}{/related_content}

Darlene Greathouse

With medical expenses, specialized classes and the typical school supplies, one family’s back-to-school costs are nearly $1,000.

On the list of items Darlene Greathouse had to buy this year: steel-toed boots for her son taking shop class and EpiPens for her other son with a peanut allergy.

“There is no such thing as a free education,” she said.

Greathouse and her husband have a total of four children, with two that are school-aged. The Nineveh family’s key to get ready for going back to school each year is following a budget and being thrifty, she said.

“I budget a lot, I have four kids, two are special needs,” she said.

Some costs can’t be trimmed, such as the rental of tablets for her two sons at Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools, she said.

So she looks to other places to save money and keep her back to school costs in check, she said.

For example, both her sons got a haircut for $15, a deal she found at a local salon.

She and her husband also think about those costs long before the summer. Part of their tax return every spring goes into a savings account for back to school costs, Greathouse said.

“I just know it is coming, so I budget,” she said. “You really have to be able to budget.”

{related_content}{related_content_item}{related_content_style}By the numbers{/related_content_style}{related_content_title}By the numbers{/related_content_title}{related_content_content}Here is a look at how much Darlene Greathouse spends on back to school costs for her two sons at Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson Schools:

School supplies: $154

Book rental/tablet rental: $300

Clothes: $400

Haircuts: $15

Doctor’s visits: $90{/related_content_content}{/related_content_item}{/related_content}

Kara Baker

Every year, when Kara Baker spends about $350 to get her kids ready to go back to school, she looks at it as an investment.

Baker has two children at Southwest Elementary School in Greenwood.

And when they go back to school shopping, she is OK with spending a little more to get them the items they really want, she said.

“I always let them get special binders and notebooks, I want them to be excited about school,” she said.

And when book rental fees go up, Baker assumes that the quality of the curriculum is going up as well, she said.

“I don’t mind spending money on back to school stuff, I don’t think you can put a value on education,” she said.

She spent about $100 on school supplies for her two children, and helped cut that cost by looking for deals on supplies.

She also buys more durable supplies that she doesn’t have to replace every year, she said. Backpacks, lunch boxes and water bottles are replaced about every other year, cutting down her long-term costs, she said.

They don’t make a special trip to buy new clothes, since she buys them as needed throughout the year, Baker said.

“I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes,” she said. “I don’t go shopping a huge amount.”

Getting her students ready to go back to school is cheaper than paying for child care and camps while they are out of school, she said.

{related_content}{related_content_item}{related_content_style}By the numbers{/related_content_style}{related_content_title}By the numbers{/related_content_title}{related_content_content}Here is a look at how much Kara Baker spends to get her two children ready to go back to school at Southwest Elementary School in Greenwood:

Book rental: About $250

School supplies: About $100{/related_content_content}{/related_content_item}{/related_content}

April Brandon

Every year, the costs to go back to school go up.

April Brandon spent $150 for pencils, paper, folders and other school supplies for her three children.

The Franklin mom then spent $300 on new back to school wardrobes for her two daughters in sixth and second grade. She expected to shell out a few hundred more to get her high school son new clothes after school starts.

Just for school supplies and new clothes, Brandon spent almost $700 getting her three kids ready to go back to school.

And bills for each of their school fees hadn’t arrived yet.

Brandon starts looking for sales on school supplies in May. She stocks up over the summer when she sees a deal, she said.

“It’s not realistic for me to go and drop $150 in supplies before school starts,” she said. “We start as early as we can.”

She also spends a few months over the summer looking for deals on clothing.

“I can spread the clothes out over a three-month period or more,” she said.

But some expenses, such as shoes for her growing daughters, have to wait until the last minute, Brandon said. Shoes bought in May or June will be outgrown before school starts, she said.

School costs increase almost every year that children are in school, she said. Getting a high school student ready can be the most expensive.

For example, book rental for her two daughters will likely be $200, or about $100 each. Her son’s book rental will likely cost about $200 once he finalizes his classes, she said.

“High school is just crazy,” she said.

{related_content}{related_content_item}{related_content_style}By the numbers{/related_content_style}{related_content_title}By the numbers{/related_content_title}{related_content_content}Here is a look at what April Brandon spent to get her three children ready to go back to school:

Book rental: $400

School supplies: $150

Physicals and immunizations: About $40 in copays

Clothing: About $500{/related_content_content}{/related_content_item}{/related_content}

Author photo
Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2770.