Get wise about school supplies

Making Ends Meet

Making Ends Meet


"Once the Fourth of July hits, summer's half over."

"Yup. They'll be back in school before you know it."

So went the annual exchange between my mother and my next-door neighbor, Joan, when I was a child. Right around Independence Day, they'd cluck their fatalistic mantra like two pessimistic hens.

I had nothing against school. In fact, I was rather fond of it. But hearing this dialogue play out on the sunny poolside still struck me as a rather dreary banter.

And yet, they were right. If not in terms of math, then in sentiment.

When I was a child, I lived in northwestern Pennsylvania and the school year did not begin until after Labor Day. There were certainly more school-free days after July 4 than before it.


But practically speaking, especially as a parent, summer days following the Fourth of July do seem to whip by. Even more so now that I've moved down to Maryland, where school seems to start earlier and earlier each year.

This year, Washington County Public School students will return to class on Wednesday, Aug. 19. Though it pains me to be the pessimistic hen, that's just more than three weeks away.

It's time to ease into scheduling and transportation routes, and to start gathering school supplies. Some schools have sent out newsletters with supply lists. Most others have lists available.

Pick one up at your child's school, or print it from the Internet, and check it out.

Now stop.

Do not go buy everything on the list.

Take stock before you spend a penny. Most households have at least some surplus pens, pencils, glue sticks, markers, scissors and the like. Check off what you already have.

Now, get your hands on store fliers. Just this week, I've found rebate offers for free writing utensils, memo books and loose-leaf paper. Glue, paper, notebooks and folders are on sale for two-, four-, and five-for-a-dollar at various stores. Markers are buy-one-get-one free.

Last week, an office supply store offered several items for 1 cent. I am watching for my favorite notebook deal that hits one store every year - 10 spiral-bound notebooks for $1.

At these prices, a full range of supplies totals less than $ 10. At full price, you could easily pay $30 and up for the same group of items.

For slightly larger ticket items like binder organizers, again, see what you have around. If you do need to buy, don't skimp. Many secondary students rely on three-ring binder organizers to keep track of work from multiple teachers. A small or cheap one will just break, so look for a reasonable price on a decent one. You should be able to find one for around $30.

As for backpacks, look for deals. An area office supply store is offering buy one backpack, get 100 percent back in-store credit.

Sometimes supply lists are a standard form dispersed from the school's main office. When students get to school, individual teachers require some items and don't require others. When in doubt, buy the basics for the first day, then ask for more information on the rest.

And finally, even for savvy shoppers, supplies add up. If you have some to spare and you know someone who is struggling financially, pass them on. Now that's some feel-good clucking.

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and features writer for The Herald-Mail.

The Herald-Mail Articles