Cool mornings and uncomfortably hot afternoons indicate that, yup, it’s back-to-school season. As supply seekers hurry from store to store and attempt to buy items listed on schools or universities’ "suggested items" list, they rarely think of the simple ways to save cash (and cut down on supply waste). With a little planning (and rummaging around forgotten drawers and cabinets) you can reduce back-to-school expenses and waste.
What do you have?
Chances are you went a bit overboard when buying supplies last year. Raid drawers, closest and cabinets for pens, pencils, binders, bags, erasers, and Post-Its. Have backpacks from your family’s last camping trip? Totally viable containers for books and supplies. If your kid balks at the idea of using slightly used stuff, take an afternoon and let them customize supplies with drawings, stickers or paint splatters.
At the store
Make a list, edit it and stick to the list! Try not to get distracted by that totally cute, color swirled lunchbox just because it’s there, and, well, cute. Opt for biodegradable pencils, refillable pens and recycled paper. For university students: buy all books used and consider buying textbooks online.
Pack it up
No brainer: packing lunch saves cash. Also: what you pack is most likely much healthier than what’s offered at the cafeteria. Make a meal from leftovers, or a creative sandwich with a fruit side. Pack lunch in a clean insulated tote bag, a PVC-free thermal insulated bag, or a bag made from recycled or organic materials. Freeze containers filled with water to keep food cool.
If your kid’s passed a bicycle safety class, encourage her to bike to school with friends. Another option: set up a carpool. If your kid is headed off to university, buy him a bus pass or encourage him to bike to school. Another great option for older students is living on or near campus with multiple people to save money.
Hit up local thrift stores before buying anything new. Or set up a neighborhood clothing swap!
Change the school
Ask school administrators to consider creating a recycling program. Or propose the creation of a garden and compost project. If your kid is starting to apply at various colleges, consider these schools. Or if she is really interested in the environment, tell her to consider majoring in environmental studies, environmental law or sustainable agriculture.