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Tips and tricks for going back to school on a budget

Ahh... nothing like the smell of fresh school supplies in the morning.

As I wrote about in my previous post, when I was a kid, I was ALL ABOUT new school supplies, every September. I mean, of course there were dozens of partially-used pencils and beat-up binders around for the taking, but somehow a fresh start with new, gleaming school supplies seemed SUPER IMPORTANT to me at the time.

It's been awhile since I was a kid, but from what I understand, this is still a pervading school of thought. What's a parent to do, when your kid turns up their nose at re-using last year's school supplies?


These a genuine journals I decorated with collages in my high school days!

1) Revamp/makeover last year's school supplies.

I mean, don't do it *for* them, but help them to do it themselves. Cover old binders or scribblers with stickers, collages (cut images from old magazines and cover with Mod Podge), use scrapbooking supplies, whatever. Turning their books into one-of-a-kind masterpieces (that the other kids won't notice are actually old) can help make them more appealing.

I'm not sure about pencils, though. Just sharpen last years' and hope for the best.

2) Bribery. 

Incentivize using last year's supplies by creating a scavenger hunt for your kids. For every old school supply they find in the house (use their list of items given from their teachers), offer them $1. Yes, you'll lose money on items like erasers, but you'll save money on binders, calculators, etc. Plus? Kids may be more psyched to use old school supplies if they have extra pocket change to buy... whatever kids buy these days. Tattoos or hair extensions or whatever.

3) Prey on their bleeding hearts. 

If your kids are into saving the earth and being green and stuff (and a lot of kids are!), just remind them that reusing older supplies is GOOD FOR THE PLANET.



1) Wait until after the first day of classes to buy textbooks. You never know if you'll be dropping or switching classes, so hold out until you know for sure. Also? Maybe you'll meet someone nice in your class with whom you can set up a TEXTBOOK TIME-SHARE: you each pay half the cost of the book, and share it.

2) Buy used! Look for textbooks on Amazon, Kijiji, and of course second-hand in both your university's bookstore or other second-hand stores. I know universities have that devious thing where you need the ABSOLUTE NEWEST EDITION of some book that gets changed every single year, but oftentimes the changes are minimal and last year's edition still works just as well.

3) Use the library! Borrow textbooks from the university library. This will require some advance planning, and you'll probably want to start this BEFORE classes begin (other people will have the same genius idea). That being said, oftentimes professors set aside a copy of the textbook on reserve in the library so you can read it *in* the library. Or just borrow it and photocopy the bits you need.

4) If you're in an English class where the textbook is a compilation of short stories? Look up the short stories in other anthologies, that you can get from the Library.

Sound off in the comments: do you have any tips or tricks to save money for back-to-school??

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