How much do you plan to spend on back-to-school items?
The National Retail Federation predicts parents will spend $30.3 billion dollars getting their kids ready for this school year–that’s about $688 for the average family with children in kindergarten through grades 12.
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(As a note, a couple of states still have tax-free weekends slated for 2012, meaning you could save some cash on all that back-to-school stuff. Check here to see if your state has one coming soon.)
Although the majority of back-to-school spending will go toward purchases for clothing and electronics, according to the Federation, nearly $100 will be spent on pencils and Trapper Keepers and all the things your kids need. (By the way, we talked more about back-to-school budgeting here.)
Unless this is their first year in school (congrats!), you know that $100 is just the beginning. As the year progresses, you’ll probably have to reach into your wallet time and again to replace this, buy more of that.
Or, maybe not.
We’ve come up with a few tips to help make school supplies last longer–and your money go further.
1. Know When to Skimp, and When to Splurge
You’ll be tempted to save by not going overboard purchasing all the hottest trends–and that’s good. Just make sure you’re not saving at the expense of good quality. A super cheap backpack could ultimately cost you more when you have to replace it in two months.
Things you can cheap out on: Supplies like pencils, paper and markers, plus wardrobe staples like socks. You will want to look for quality when it comes to items that will get a lot of wear and tear, like backpacks, lunch boxes and sneakers.
Speaking of backpacks, you’ll get far more wear for your money if they’re plain and non-trendy. That “cool” superstar may be replaced by the next big thing in six months, and your son may declare his favorite character is “for babies” by next year.
2. Bag It
Unless you want your kid’s backpack to become riddled with small holes and ink markings, he will need something to hold his pens, pencils, markers and colored pencils. The extra couple of dollars you’ll shell out for a pencil bag will be worth its weight in lost writing instruments and other small supplies, like erasers, protractors and compasses.
3. Become a Storing Expert
If you can’t find your extra school supplies when you need them, or they become wet (and therefore useless) when the basement floods, you’ve wasted money. “To store supplies properly, keep the extras in one container so you’ll always know where they are when you need them,” says Stacey Agin Murray, a professional organizer in New Jersey. “Label the outside of the container and keep it away from water or elements that could destroy the supplies,” she adds. Not sure where to store them? A shelf at the top of the closet, a high kitchen cabinet (not above the stove) or even a dresser drawer will work.
4. Get Crafty
For the most part, folders and binders can be used year after year, as long as they’re in good condition and your child hasn’t doodled all over them. “I buy plastic folders instead of those made with paper,” says San Antonio, Texas mom of three Leslie Komet Ausburn. “They can be used for several years because they don’t rip.”
The other secret to making school supplies last? Instead of purchasing products with specific decorations or themes, have your kid add her own DIY personality to plain folders and binders by using removable Washi tape, or by taping on photos of friends or from vacation.
5. Have Extras, but Keep Them Hidden
For items you know will need replenishing (notebook paper, pens, pencils, etc.), buy a little more than your child needs while shopping the sales, then keep them to yourself. When kids see they have more of something, they’re less inclined to take care of it or make it last.
6. Keep Their Stuff Clean
It’s frustrating to have to purchase a new lunch box just because the old one has an odor that won’t go away. Even worse is replacing your child’s backpack because, three months into the school year, it has a big, unidentified stain that won’t budge. To keep odors and stains at bay, make it a habit (for you and your child) to remove old food and other trash from lunch boxes and backpacks every day. A good scrubbing with a baking soda and water mix once a month should help keep lunch boxes odor-free and clean, too. (If you’re looking for more cleaning tricks, check out the five items that will help you tackle over 40 household tasks!)
For backpacks, follow the cleaning instructions on the tag once a month as well. If there are none, vacuum the interior, pockets and crevices to remove crumbs and debris. Then, using a sponge or rag, hand wash the backpack with warm water and a teaspoon or two of dishwashing liquid. Hang the backpack to dry, and you’re done. The same method will work for canvas pencil bags.
Those few minutes spent on cleaning may preserve your child’s lunch box, backpack and other school items for years.
Tell us–what are some ways you make your kid’s school supplies last?