Returning to school this year, like last year, is going to look different than what we are used to. Schools in New York are kind of making it work like they did last year. Based on our experience during the last few months of in-person school, they are already equipped with a plan, kind of know what to expect as far as what supplies are required and barriers and cleaning teams are in place.
My kids did great academically last year, but it took A LOT of motivation from ME! I’ve never been a cheerleader before, but last year I should have won a trophy! (Me and every parent/grandparent that survived remote learning!). My kids did not do well socially and emotionally because learning and connecting with friends through a screen all day, was not helpful at all. We did our best with what we had and even signed them up for in-person outdoor events, but it didn’t help them get through the school day. So, this year the plan is to send them back in-person following whatever protocols the school wants us to follow. The alternative of keeping them home, just isn’t going to benefit them.
We are still waiting for the official plan from our school district about protocols and practices, but I anticipate we will need the same supplies as last year, namely masks and hand sanitizer, plus whatever classroom supplies our teachers request. This can vary with every grade, and with two kids in the same grade I am buying doubles of everything!
I’ve learned how to save a bit on back-to-school supplies and shopping. My biggest suggestion is, don’t stress over the brand names or the exact size. The supplies you send in will get used. Teachers tend to ask for specific brands because they know they work well, however, if it doesn’t fit in your budget that’s perfectly OK too.
This is what our 2021 back to school shopping looks like:
Masks. At some point the kids are going to be wearing masks. Whether it’s the first day of school, or during the predictable indoor season where flu bugs and respiratory viruses run free, I might as well have some on hand to be prepared. Now that the schools will be at full capacity, I am switching up to a 5 layer mask for my kids to wear on the bus. I also purchased this 10 pack of mask lanyards for the kids to keep their masks attached to themselves. Otherwise, they lay it down they will lose it. And of course, they will lose the lanyard too and I’ll need back ups.
Sanitizing handwipes. The gels are so messy and always have such a strong smell. Hand wipes work better for my kids. I always toss an extra pack in the kids back packs to have on hand. Who knows when they might need to wipe something icky off the seat on the bus, or wipe their hands clean before grabbing a snack?
New backpacks – I try to reuse these from year to year, but my kids’ have had the same backpack for nearly 3 years now and I have been informed they are no longer “cool.” So.. shopping we go!
Lunch boxes – we reuse our lunch boxes as long as we can. I try to get a solid color vs. a fun character that my kid will outgrow when they fall in love with the next character. I just upgraded our lunch boxes for the first time in years to these Bentgo Deluxe lunch boxes because they are so roomy and hold our Rubbermaid Lunch Blox containers perfectly.
New sneakers – this is always hard. Not only do I buy two pairs at once, but I have yet to find a brand that lasts. So, I usually end up buying more than one pair each school year. My most recent find of Reima waterproof / washable high tops seem to be holding up well so far. I am finding that buying the cheapest pair of shoes, just means I’ll be buying a second pair in a few months. So, it’s actually worth it to pay a bit more for a brand that is going to get you through 9 months of gym class.
New outfit – I only buy one new outfit for the first day of school. A fresh outfit sets the tone for the new year. I have tons of clothes already stored away in bins for each new size and season. This has been my system since my kids were little. It helps me avoid those sudden “I have nothing left to wear” growth spurts. Plus, now, it saves us a lot of money during back to school. I spend an hour on a weekend morning going through their dressers to find what fits and what to toss.
Classroom supplies – sometimes I’m lucky to get a supply list with the last report card of the year. And when I do, I start combing through last year’s supplies that come home in my kid’s backpack. I set aside like new colored pencils, markers, erasers, rulers, folders, crayons, etc. to reuse for the next year. This saves a bunch of money and shopping time. I fill in whatever is missing by ordering online and having it delivered to my doorstep or pick up at the store.
Having to shop for more than one kid adds up quick. This is just how my family tackles back-to-school shopping. What money saving tricks do you have for back-to-school shopping? I’d love to read them in the comments below!