Going Greene

Saving Money on Back to School

Amy GreeneCan you believe summer is almost over? Before you know it – if it hasn't started already where you are – buses will be rolling, new blue jeans will replace shorts, and tennis shoes will replace flip flops as the children head back to school. It is a time for new clothes and shoes, new pencils and erasers, fresh crayons and notebooks … and money to be spent. But there are ways – easy and quick – you can keep more money in your pocket while still getting all the supplies you need for your students. Here are a few ideas on how to save money on back to school supplies.

1. USE FEWER: We've all seen the lists sent out by the schools for the supplies needed in each grade. Is it just me, or do those lists seem to grow every year? When my first child started school (we had homeschooled for years, then decided to allow her to attend the last year of public middle school), we followed the list to the letter, buying exactly what was on the list, not deviating an inch. And boy did we spend the money – what a mistake! We quickly learned that those lists should be followed as a guideline, not a playbook! When my oldest started school, we saw that more than half of what we had purchased either did not get used, or did not get used until MUCH later into the year. Check the lists carefully. Decide from experience – what is a must have for the first day/week/month of school? What can wait?

notebooks and pencils | Fotolia/Vitalina Rybakov

Do your kids need more than just notebooks and pencils the first days?  Photo: Fotolia/Vitalina Rybakov

2. GO FURTHER: We have four children. When buying for more than one child, we discovered there can be quite a bit of leftovers in many areas, whether it's food, clothing or school supplies. We soon learned that having our children clean out their rooms before school started led to amazing discoveries of stacks of notebooks, reams of filler paper, multiple binders, boxes of colored pencils, crayons and markers, and even extras such as glue sticks, highlighters and scissors. I soon learned that, if I was going to save money, I had to use these items again. I found a central location and started stashing extras items where everyone could find them. At the end of a semester, or a year, we would put any excess items in our designated spot. We always "shop" our shelves FIRST whether at the start of the year or halfway through the year – so we don't buy too much or duplicate something we already have.

3. MAKE FRESHER: We have had some fun with this one over the years. It is interesting how different each child's taste in supplies can be. What one child thinks is amazing, the next child will most definitely turn up a nose. But – there is always a way to make something old look new. That old white binder? Use various colors of duct tape in interesting designs to make an original new binder. That practically new notebook with only a few sheets used, but it has a sibling's name on it? Markers work wonders to make that name into a crazy design. Pencils that are barely used? Use yarn or rubber bands to wrap them like a finger grip. Between your imagination and Pinterest – there are a HUGE number of ideas to make old supplies new.

add yarn to pencils for a fresh look | Fotolia/Jerome Romme

Pencils wrapped with yarn look new again. Photo: Fotolia/Jerome Romme

4. FIND GREAT DEALS: If, after doing all of the above, there are still items you need to purchase, do your homework. This time of year can be like Black Friday for school supplies. Make a list each week of where all the best deals are and then hit each store quickly. Buy the loss leaders at each place, and save money. Also, be sure to take advantage of rainchecks if you happen to get to a store too late for their deals. That way, later in the year when you might need more notebooks, you can use the raincheck and get them for the 25 cents each price. My first time school shopping, I thought it was foolish to buy anywhere other than one store. That was a huge, and very costly, mistake, as I realized too late how much I could have saved by bargain shopping several stores for school supplies the same way I do for groceries. It was a lesson quickly learned and never forgotten.

In short, being creative, and savvy can have a positive effect not only on your wallet, but even the environment, as you reuse items, use less of them, and recycle things that might otherwise have been thrown out.

What ideas do you have for saving money on school supplies? Leave them in the comments below.

'Til next time,
Amy Greene

My Crochet Teacher

Amy GreeneMy husband and I have been married almost 30 years. As I type that number I look at it in something akin to shock to realize I have been a part of his family for that long – and survived! However, one of the best parts of his family that I was able to experience was his grandmother – or as she was lovingly called, Mamaw. She adopted me as one of her own when all of my grandparents were gone much too soon.

My beautiful adopted  

My beautiful adopted "Mamaw."

Mamaw was someone who was "green" before it was cool to be. She planted a garden, canned the resulting produce, made clothes for her children, and crocheted gifts for everyone, including grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even several great-great-grandchildren! By the time I joined the family, Mamaw wasn't sewing clothes or canning food any more (she was far too busy mowing grass and helping out her siblings, as well as helping to care for my father-in-law who was terminally ill). However, she was still crocheting constantly. During the few times she was sitting down, she immediately picked up her crochet work to finish the current afghan, the current Christmas ornament, the current dishcloth, etc.

Mamaw was kind enough to help me learn how to improve my crochet skills. My godmother, who was a kind and patient woman, taught a less than excited 9-year-old girl how to crochet. I did a few things, but then it fell by the wayside when high school, college and boys entered the picture. But, when I got married, and met Mamaw, I realized how much I would enjoy being able to make beautiful gifts for people on our newly married limited budget.

The latest crochet project. 

The latest crochet project.

Mamaw showed me many new stitches – a triple crochet, a half-double crochet, a chevron, and more. She never tired of my many questions, or at least she never showed me any frustration. She was always willing to look at my work, exclaim with pride over its beauty, and encourage me to continue working on whatever new project I had.

Because of Mamaw's encouragement, both my daughters also learned how to crochet and have since used those skills to make gorgeous, lovingly handcrafted gifts when their wallets were empty. I believe this is one of the best testimonies to loving, close, connected families – watching each generation being taught by previous generations and moving forward to use those skills.

The double crochet stitch Mamaw helped me perfect. 

The double crochet stitch Mamaw helped me perfect.

Mamaw passed away a few weeks ago, and she leaves a huge hole in our family. We all miss her greatly – but all I need to do is look at my latest crochet project in my bag, or any of the many that my daughters are working on, to know that her spirit and her gifts will live on in our family forever. I just wish I could tell her "thank you" one more time!