Back-to-School Shopping: How to Spend Under $50—Backpack Included!

Back-to-School Shopping: How to Spend Under $50—Backpack Included!

There’s something about back-to-school shopping that I just love.

It’s hard to resist all those shiny scissors and razor-sharp pencils (although, luckily, my soon-to-be first-grader doesn't seem to feel the same pull).

But my appetite for crisp new school supplies leads down a slippery slope: When a rainbow of notebooks and folders and cute erasers is too appealing to resist, how do you stuff a child's backpack without racking up a $100 bill?


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Saving Money on Supplies

Kim Helseth, a third-grade teacher in central Montana, advises sticking to the list provided by your child's teacher. “We try to keep the lists as simple as possible so families won't have to spend a lot on supplies,” Helseth explains, "and we choose the supplies that are basic and get used up by the kids, or are used all year long, like scissors or composition books.”

To save money, Helseth suggests re-using items like scissors, folders and pencil boxes for multiple years and shopping the back-to-school sales in the next few weeks to fill in the gaps for cheap. She also recommends checking items off your list at the dollar store—depending on where you live, you can visit in person, or do your shopping online (most places have free delivery with a minimum order).

RELATED: Why School As Your Kid Knows It Is Over

What About the Backpack?

That takes care of the pencils and glue, but what about the backpack? Unlike other school supplies, a backpack can be used for many years (my daughter's is on its second year and was even used for summer camp), which makes choosing the right one even more important—not to mention the fact that kids are lugging loads of stuff around these days and need proper back, shoulder and neck support.

If you watch carefully, you can find great quality bags on clearance. Some companies, like Lands’ End and L.L. Bean, guarantee their products for life, which means you can get your child a new backpack if the bag is ever damaged. We even found a few great options that have been marked down from $45 to $15.

Back-to-school season doesn't have to be a money pit. With Helseth's actual list for the 2013-2014 school year as our guide, we’ve done some digging and collected a list of products that will keep your spending on supplies under $50 ... including the backpack!

RELATED: 6 Old-School Habits to Ensure You Raise a Successful Kid


Item Details
alt Backpack | $14.97 Lands' End
alt 1 Large Packet Loose Leaf Paper (Wide Rule) | $0.82 Target
alt 1 70-Sheet Spiral Notebook (Wide Rule) | $0.17 Target
alt 2-Pocket Folders | $1.00 Dollar Tree
alt 1 Composition Book | $1.00 Dollar Tree
alt 2 Boxes 24 #2 Pencils | $4.99 Staples
alt 1 4-oz Bottle Elmer’s Glue | $1.59 Office Depot
alt 2 Glue Sticks | $2.00 Dollar General
alt 1 Pencil Box | $1.99 Staples
alt 1 Box 24 Crayons | $1.79 Office Depot
alt 1 Box 10 Markers | $3.39 Office Depot
alt 1 Box 10 Colored Pencils | $1.00 Dollar Tree
alt 2 Dry Erase Markers | $1.24 Target
alt 3 Highlighters | $1.32 Target
alt 1 Sharpie Black Permanent Marker | $1.00 Dollar Tree
alt 1 Large Box of Kleenex | $1.00 Dollar Tree
alt 1 Pair Scissors | $1.99 Office Depot
alt 2 Large Pink Erasers | $1.00 Dollar General


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