The Girlfriend’s Guide to Back to School Shopping

I’ve done back to school shopping a few times. Several times. Okay – 10, to be exact – not including shopping for myself. 10 times makes me a seasoned expert, right? Let’s go with that.

My friend has a soon-to-be kindergartener on her hands. She’s feeling a tad overwhelmed by the whole prospect of school supply shopping. Sure, she’s shopped for preschool, but kindergarten? That’s the big leagues. They’re not just eating glue anymore. My friend will assuredly have this under control – but there are things we learn only from experience – knowledge I can impart on her as to what is a necessity and what is not.

First things first – the backpack. “Do you get the nice, sturdy kind that will last a few years or the fun one she wants?” my friend asked. “The fun one,” I replied instantly. Now, those who know me may be surprised by this response. Typically, I am much more in the camp of “function over fashion.” However, I’m also a mother of three kids under the age of 12 and I know when to pick my battles. A fun backpack serves dual purposes: it gets your kid off your back, because, believe you me, they will want every cool school supply on the planet – you know, the ones that cost at least 10 times more than the perfectly good plain one – and this is one big area you can let them make their own statement, and, despite the fact that the fun backpacks are typically pieces of junk you will end up having to replace mid-year (especially when your kids drag them across the freaking playground!) they serve as great memory keepers. Your kiddo will bring home dozens of pieces of cherished artwork and assignments and projects that he/she can’t ever part with. And you’ll need a place to store all those memories. Insert now-trashed well-loved backpack.  Fill it at the end of each school year. This will be your storing-house for all those mementos. Each year, you get a new backpack for a year’s worth of memories. It’s actually very sweet.

Next, we move onto the rest of the supplies. Here’s an average kindergarten supply list:

Kindergarten Class:

___ Pencil/school supply box for desk

___  Sharp, pointed school scissors

___ 6 – No. 2 pencils w/pink erasers

___ Crayons, 2 boxes of 8 basic colors (for math)

___ Crayons, 1 box for art

___ Wide point washable markers (8 basic colors, only)

___ Small 8-10 watercolor paint set with brush

___ Change of clothes


As I mentioned before, there will be varying levels of each item. Lets take the pencil box, for example. One year, on a shoestring budget, I found the $.33 version. It was yellow. Basic. Plastic. It worked. My daughter, however, found the $14 Hannah Montana version. It was essentially the same product, but with Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus (pre-twerking days) face plastered all over it, and an accompanying 42 times increase in price. Get the cheap yellow box. Or, get the fashionable one. But, this is where you need to take your stand. Let your child choose one fancy item and stick with that. Otherwise, what could be a $20 shopping trip will turn into an excursion equivalent to a car payment.

Scissors, pencils, erasers, watercolors – go cheap. Crayons/markers – look through your stuff at home. Did Grandma give you multiple boxes over the last few years? Take those. Save yourself some money, now. You have years of this ahead of you. The same applies for older kids. Make them take an inventory of the supplies they still have from last year before you do any shopping. And, keep in mind, if you find great stuff on sale – think of the kids that don’t have any supplies. There are always donation boxes at stores and churches.

Parents of school age kids – what other advice would you give to the first-timers?






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