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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Shopping school supplies for the home office and small Christmas gifts, as well

My two daughters have this week off from work. We're using the time to do a couple of fun things, but also to get some basic errands taken care of.

Yesterday, we went to Target for spiral-bound notebooks for both of them. While there, we bought some office supplies for home, and some small gifts to fill a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.

Whether you're shopping at Staples, Target or the dollar store, this is an excellent time of year to buy not only the school supplies needed, but also to refill some office supplies and to buy some small gifts and stocking stuffers.

For all of this, I paid $10!! We got enough notebooks to get through all 3 quarters, and likely have a few left over for next year, 18 notebooks in total. And those notebooks were just 17 cents each at Target this week. We were trying to see if we could spend $25 on school supplies. Target's current deal is spend $25 on school supplies and get a $5 Target gift card. Well, we couldn't find enough items to stretch much beyond $10, let alone $25.

If you have young children in your life, you can purchase a couple of these well-priced items for a very small amount of money, and put together a fun little gift. The crayons were 40 cents, the markers were 74 cents, a package of glue sticks was 30 cents, and the package of 2 mini-notebooks was just 50 cents. Watercolor paints are also a nice little gift, combined with a pad of paper. All of these would make nice stocking stuffers, as well.

While out and about, we were passing Five Guys. I suggested we have hamburgers for lunch. One daughter exclaimed, "are we going to Five Guys?" I said "no, but I have burger patties and buns in the freezer at home. And we have homemade dill pickles, plus lettuce and tomatoes in the garden." I estimated that we spent $2 on our burgers, yesterday. We couldn't buy even one burger at Five Guys for that price, and I think ours tasted much fresher, too!

We came home, quickly put together our lunch, and enjoyed the quiet of our own backyard.


  1. My daughter just started working at Staples this summer and apparently there is a "family discount" that we get to use. We haven't shopped yet for school supplies. I have two kids in college and what they need is very different from elementary and high school. They can get their own stuff. The oldest has graduated from college but will teach this year so she wants a few things to use as rewards in the classroom. I will tag along when they go shopping just in case I find something I need for my work in the office.

    I am so much like you--after shopping I'm ready to eat but we also run home and put something together there. And I agree, eating at home tastes so much better than eating out!

    Last night all three kids came home from work within about 40 minutes of each other which gave me time to put together poor man's steak and home-made baked French fries. It was better than spending money to go out to eat!

    Like usual, I made no plans for tonight's dinner but by the time I get home I probably will have it all figured out! Not a problem for me to put something together at the last minute.


    1. Hi Alice,
      Oh, that's great! A family discount could be very useful, not just for office supplies, but also things like bath tissue/facial tissue. Walgreen's ad this week also had some good school deals, some that I may pick up as stocking stuffers (tiny notebooks, that sort of thing) for my daughters.

      I haven't come up with tonight's dinner plans. What I had planned won't work after all, as I forgot to do something yesterday, so I've yet to figure something out. It may be breakfast for dinner -- always a favorite.

  2. I am finding that it gets less expensive to go "back to school" the older the kids get. My two in middle and high school this year need very little in the way of school supplies (pens, pencils, binders-using last year's, and paper). The three elementary children, on the other hand, have quite the lists, as well as uniforms. And while I shopped the sales for the supplies (Target and Staples, as well as Academy for uniforms), it was still quite a bit of money. :( My youngest can at least wear his older brother's uniform shirts this year, but needed shorts. The 7 yo son needed all uniforms, as well as my 8 yo daughter who isn't big enough to wear what my 11 yo wore last year. This being just our second year in public school, we don't have several previous years' of uniforms to draw from yet. I only get 2-3 bottoms and 3-4 shirts apiece. Last year I tried to get by with less but it didn't always work out well (this age is not good about ensuring it is all in the laundry in a timely manner, so things weren't always washed on time though that was my plan).

    We did do something quite differently this year that cost a bit upfront but that I'm hoping will save us long-term. Last year's inexpensive lunch boxes and backpacks did not hold up well at all. So this year, I got three of the kids quality backpacks from companies with a great lifetime guarantee on these products. They were still all $30 or less, but should last a good many years. Also, as a "real food" lunch packer, we never had enough room in the small kid's lunchboxes, so I bought small lunch "coolers" to use instead. These should easily hold a thermos container for a hot food as well as a plastic container for fruit, crackers, etc... .

    1. Dear Cat,

      Ebags has a wonderful replacement policy on their backpacks and messenger bags! Zippers have broken on backpacks and they either have it fixed or replace the bag. The messenger bag ripped at the seam and so they let me get a whole new bag and they didn't even need the old one back. And their bags aren't terribly expensive either. My kids used them during middle school, high school, and even in college!


    2. Good to know! I've never heard of it a brand or a website? We've already ordered a mix of Jansport and LL Bean, but could keep it in mind in case the other two kids need a new bag at some point.

  3. I don't think I will shop this year for more school/office supplies, since I already have more than I need for the rest of my life??? I've been bugged with this thought lately, that I have done such a good job buying coupon and sales that now I may have more than I would ever need. Time to stop and take inventory. However, I have developed another weak spot...looking for arts and craft supplies at thrift stores. I am thrilled when I find an unusual yarn especially vintage. Today was Senior Discount day too...and one of the yarns was stamped 35c on the wrapper!! How neat. I just have to store them properly in airtight plastic bags and bins, so bugs don't feast on the yarn before I can accumulate enough to make something.

    Isn't it amazing how cheap school supplies can be during this time of the year!!


    1. I should clarify, that 35c was the price stamped on the manufacturer's wrapper. I googled the manufacturer, S. S. Kresge Co. and it was the original Kmart before 1977, in fact judging by the price my guess is it may date back to the 60s. 100% wool with no evidence of deterioration too. So another color to add to my rug making stash.


  4. I love to shop the bargains at back-to-school time. We usually don't really need anything, so I donate them to a school supply drive and get a couple of things as gifts. Adult coloring books are popular these days, so I will buy some markers, crayons and colored pencils to go with one. Last year, my husband made wooden pencil boxes to put them in. I watched for sales on the coloring books and had a quite nice gift for not too much that people really liked.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I've seen mention of adult coloring books. There are several websites where you can download free pages. I've heard this is a great de-stressing activity, and have thought about it for myself.

      I think donating supplies is a great way to "give back" to the community. Some of those supply lists are so extensive that I wonder how a struggling family can even afford to buy the required items.

  5. Back to school shopping is pricey because my son needs indoor and outdoor shoes and my daughter needs uniform items (cha ching!!!). This year she is switching back to public high school for grade 12 so will need more clothes. Starting to think uniforms are cheaper (and look so much nicer) in the long.

    1. Hi Theresa,
      With my own daughters (who never wore uniforms) we have always, I mean always, shopped the thrift stores for back to school clothing, for basics like jeans, shirts and jackets. We have a thrift store that has all clothing items priced at 99cents each, on Sundays. That's when we shop. I've never had to shop a "regular" retail store for jeans or shirts, for them.

      And even now, in university, I still drive them to the thrift shop for clothes, a couple of times per year. I'll buy an occasional item for them, but they earn their own money for the rest of their wardrobe, now. And they prefer to spend their hard-earned cash at the thrift shop.

      Shoes are trickier, as a lot of teens simply wear out their shoes, so second-hand isn't a good option for shoes for us. We've bought winter jackets/parkas at thrift shops, too. But for the last parka, each, my daughters received them as a Christmas gift (I bought each at a great price on Black Friday). Socks and underwear are always bought new, often with a Kohl's or Penney's $10 coupon, or at Wal-Mart in the fall. And socks and undies are used as Easter Basket and Christmas stocking gifts in our house. And everyone is okay with that. (I'd be thrilled to get a nice pair of undies in my Christmas stocking!) We go to a discount department store for bras about once per year, and they add/replace one bra per year.

      My daughters use facebook to buy clothing from other girls at their university. They have found several items that they love, love, love for a small price this way.

      When my daughters were in middle school and high school, our church sponsored a clothing swap, twice per year. They got so much of their wardrobe this way, in those years, including several pairs of tights and panty hose. I helped sort and organize clothing, and one of the perks for my work was I could take home anything I wanted for the girls to try on, on the day before the actual swap, so first pick!

      Back to school shopping for clothes can be REALLY expensive, or not so much, depending on how and where you shop, if you use some items as gifts for birthdays/holidays, and how much of this you want your teenager to be responsible for (babysitting money? a summer job?).

      I personally think it's a good idea for older teens to earn some of their clothing money. It doesn't have to be everything they might need, but it gives them some control over what they get to have, as well as takes the burden off of the parents, for providing money every time they turn around. For my own daughters, the "line" was their 18th birthday. After that, it was their responsibility to buy their own clothes. I occasionally "splurge" and buy a pair of 99 cent jeans for each of them. And they receive things like a dollar amount to go towards a new pair of shoes for their birthday, or the gift of a parka at Christmas, but otherwise, they now understand that there are some things in their own lives that they are responsible for paying for.

      Oh, also for shoes, new, we've shopped in retail stores, found the exact shoe and size that we like, then shopped online for a better price on that exact shoe. We've done this with dress shoes as well as running shoes, and always save about 25-30% over retail stores.

      Good luck, Theresa, in finding good deals within your budget.


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