Buying Everything on the School Supply List


The Skinny on School Supply Lists

School Supplies

At back-to-school time, many parents are asking themselves, "So, how much of what’s on school supply lists do you really need to buy?"

And unfortunately for your wallet, the answer is: All of it, well, mostly.

With a few exceptions, doing your best to follow the school’s supply list will make it easier for your child, the teacher and you. It sets everyone off on the right foot for the new school year.

While parents can’t always see the logic of what is required and what is banned, your child’s teacher (or the school administration) has put a lot of effort into creating these lists, considering availability, price, and utility in the classroom.

When teachers put very specific items on the list or ask that something be a certain color, it is likely because they have a classroom organization plan that calls for such. And when they ask parents to avoid certain school supplies (e.g., character erasers, mechanical pencils), it’s likely because they cause distractions or are ineffective.

That said, there are some circumstances when you may need to wait to purchase items on the supply list. See first reason to hold back on buying school supplies.


Items Are Difficult to Find

School shopping

Sometimes teachers can be a little too specific, or items that were easily available last year aren’t stocked this year, making it nearly impossible to find everything exactly as listed. You shouldn’t have to go to the store after store to find something. And if you can’t find it, you’re probably not the only parent having trouble. If several children start the school year without a particular item, the teacher may need to suggest an alternative or the school administration may order it and allow students to purchase it from the school.


You Can’t Afford an Item

School supply costs

Some parents may struggle with the cost of school supplies in general, or they may have sticker shock at the price of an individual item, like a graphing calculator. Rather than not following the list and buying cheaper items, it is better to contact the teacher or school administration to discuss it. There may be assistance available.


The Item Is Not Practical for Your Child

School supplies

Part of what kids learn in school is how to adapt, so kids should, for the most part, follow the list even if they prefer different items. But with sometimes important items listed like homework books, your child’s organizational style might be better served with something else. Also, schools often ask students to buy paperback novels, when some children prefer e-readers.

You definitely want to check with your child’s teacher before purchasing something off the list or be sure it is returnable.


The List Is Unclear

school supplies
Getty/Jessica Peterson

Sometimes school supply lists are confusing. And if you are school shopping in the summer, you may not be able to contact the teacher or school for clarification. In these circumstances, it’s probably best to take your best guess and then save your receipts so you can return unneeded items. Just let your child know not to open the items in question until you are sure they are correct.

Many of your questions about school supply list will be answered simply by keeping in touch with the teacher and school and bringing concerns to them early.

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