Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thrifty Thursday

Today's Thrifty Thursday Tip is:

First of all, I just want to scoop up that little boy and cuddle his 2 year old goodness! That's my son (who will start Kindergarten in the fall) helping my prepare for the new school year a couple of summers ago.  Gosh, he was cute...but I digress.

Today’s tip is about saving money.

Not only will this tip save you money, but will also save the parents money.

And it will make your life easier.

Well, sort of.

We used to send out “supply lists” by grade level or classroom.  The families would go to Target or Walmart on Labor Day weekend and fill up a cart with markers and watercolors and notebooks and such as they checked off items from the list.  They would go to the register and hand over $25-40.00 and be on their way.

Then the first day of school came.  And with with it came students dressed in their cute new outfits, carrying their spiffy new backpacks loaded with an array of brand-new supplies.  Then they would all act confused on where to put their lot of goodies.  They would compare eye who got the 64 pack of crayons even though the list clearly said to get the 24 pack.  They would become distracted by the Hello Kitty pencils and the pencil sharpener that also serves as a wind-up toy.  

And then there were the kids who came to school without supplies...carrying last years backpack...wearing hand-me down clothes.  They lacked the excitement of new supplies and scented markers (even though the list clearly said, “Crayola Washable 12 pack”).  They felt left out.

A few years back we sent home a note with the 2nd graders (I teach 3rd) that read “instead of sending home a supply list, we are requesting that each student send in $15.00.”  We collected it before the summer break, although some families paid the following fall.  We then bought all of the supplies ourselves.

During the summer most stores run weekly sales and offer great deals.  Typically, colored glue sticks and crayons are 20 cents a pack, colored pencils are 50 cents, markers are .88 cents and watercolors are $1.00.  Staples also runs weekly penny sales where we get folders, pencils, pencil sharpeners, hand sanitizer, erasers and more for 1 to 5 cents a pack.  The parents don’t typically do the “grazing” we do and end up spending so much more by buying everything at once.  By shopping the sales I average about $8.00 a child for a year’s worth of supplies.  I should add that I am picky about brands so it’s mainly Crayola.  Roseart and others can be found for even less money!

This leaves me with about $7.00 per child for the remainder of the year.  I use this money to buy the “special” things that I would normally spend my own money on.  Some examples include: T-shirts, photo processing, scrapbook papers for projects, cooking materials, modge Podge, special markers for the writing area, etc.

The added bonus is that I am able to organize the supplies before school starts which makes the first day of school much easier.  The children all have identical supplies so there in no bickering over who really owns the Star Wars pencil with the eraser shaped like yoda.  There is far less distractions throughout the year because a stand issue Ticonderoga number 2 yellow pencil is FAR less exciting than said Star Wars writing tool.  There is a sense of equality and community because the children are not able to define social status by who has the 64 pack of Crayolas with the built in sharpener and who came to school without crayons.

We weren’t sure how this would initially be received by the parents, but I can honestly say that we have received nothing but positive feedback.  We receive many thank you notes, emails and verbal gratitude from families each year and other grade levels have started to do the same thing.  The parents have all said that this method costs them much less money and that they really appreciate not having to take the time to go buy them. 

The only down-side is that you do need to take the time to stalk the sales and gather the supplies.  If you are like me however, you love a bargain and get giddy over shiny new things.  Since most teachers at my school have started to do this we usually send out emails or Facebook updates to let each other know when we find sales.  Also, you should note that Staples ads usually say, "limit one" but that they allow anyone with a teacher card to get 25 at a time.

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