Oh, the Supplies!

Despite having a slightly unhealthy love affair with shiny new school supplies (just typing those words makes me float off to a happy daydream involving pointy crayons that reek of Crayola newness and perfectly-sharpened pencils with flawless little erasers), I despise the chaos that school supplies can evoke on the first day of school.

If you have been teaching awhile, you know what I mean.

If you are new to the classroom this year, you will thank me for sparing you the headache.

Here’s how it plays out: A classroom of kids enters, wearing their spiffy new duds, modeling their stylish new haircut, and sporting their brand-spanking new backpack full of the bounty you enlisted them to acquire via your annual “supply letter.”

They are excited and they can’t wait to force upon you said backpack. Those who elected not to adhere to the list that specifically said 24 yellow, #2 pencils are especially excited to show off their collection of Minecraft pencils with (gasp) scented erasers.

Yeah, I get it. I’m not so far removed from my own brand-spanking new Trapper Keeper excitement days to have forgotten the glee it brings. But, as ringmaster of this circus, it is important for you to have a plan.

A good plan.

The first day sets the tone and it is doubtful that you want that tone to be “crazed lunatic who breaks down on day one when the Cra-Z-Arts, Sharpies, and glue sticks start coming out. So I have the solution for you.

It is the efficient and organized, and teachers thank me every year for this tip.

Start by schmoozing with the bagger at your local grocery store. If you can’t butter them up, then just go straight to the head Honcho and play the teacher card with the store manager. However you go about it, you need to get a large paper grocery sack for each child in your class. If you aren’t in the business of begging for free goodies, then just answer “paper” to the “paper or plastic” question for the next few weeks and you should be all set when school starts.

Write the children’s names in big, bold letters on the front of the bags and then place them on their desks.

Make a copy of your supply list for each child and staple it to the back of the bag. Write their name on that as well.

When the students arrive, instruct them to put all of their supplies into the bag on their desk, hang their backpack on their chair and sit quietly. As part of my first day of school plans, I always have Play-Doh waiting for them. 

Collect the bags and put them out of the way. Go about your first day plans. Then, after the kiddos are on their way home (or if you are lucky enough to have an aide or a student teacher that can do this), sort through the supplies. Use the checklist on the bag to make sure that everything is accounted for.
If you are going to use community supplies, then put them where you want them.

If you are going to have them be responsible for their own supplies, then print out a sheet of labels with each child’s name on it and stick them on to each supply brought in.

I suggest recruiting a parent volunteer or a former student to help with this task.

I also print out a list of the supplies with each child's classroom number and check off each item as I organize.

Although this may seem a bit time consuming, the lack of chaos that it will bring to your first day of school will definitely make it all worth it.

Although mundane and over the top, I labeled all of my student supplies.

 I usually do individual supplies. One year, I did community supplies and I hated it.

Yes, I know "hate" is a strong word, but that's how much I loathed it. In fact, I didn't just hate it, I HATED it!!!! (See that. All caps, with bold font, AND a few exclamation points. That's how I felt about community supplies.)

My students just didn't take care of the supplies the way that they do when the supplies are their very own. Glue sticks were dried out. Crayons were peeled and broken. Colored pencils were sharpened down to a nub. It gave me hives.

After that, I went back to individual supply boxes. 

There are, however, downfalls that come with having individual supplies. One of which is the petty arguments over who owns what. You've seen it. Two friends bickering because they can't determine who owns the red colored pencil that is 3/8 of an inch longer than the other one. 

So to eliminate that problem, along with the problem of lost supplies, I label them.

I know what you are thinking...No brainer, right?

Well, I go a step further and label all parts. Instead of just writing a name/number on the box of markers, I write it on each marker AND cap. I also write it on the pencils AND the erasers. I write it on the watercolors AND the brushes. I label the base of the glue stick and the tube which it slides into.

I know what you are thinking. Go ahead and say it, "That is way over the top." or “Nobody has time for that!”

Anytime you can find a way to proactively make your classroom run more efficiently, I feel it is worth putting forth the effort. Our days are so short and we simply don't have time for distractions.

With my “thorough” labeling, I find that kids don't spend time off task mindlessly peeling crayons or doing that annoying drill a hole in the eraser with a pencil thing, because they are accountable for their belongings. It ensures that each child is prepared for each project and not waiting for a tablemate to finish up using a glue stick.

I realize it takes Type A to a whole new level, BUT there is never a second of time in class wasted mediating an argument over who a crayon belongs to. You’ll never have to pick up the cap of a marker and wonder who will be sobbing because their blue Crayola is all dried out the next time you do a project. It's definitely time well spent.

For some, it is the excitement of a new school year.

For others, it is the fact that having the summer off equates to a surplus of hours in which to shop.

For others, it is out of necessity because their school or the families they work with do not provide the materials needed to run a classroom.

Whatever the cause, teachers everywhere are filling carts with markers, glue sticks, and folders. Here are some tips, and a few freebies, that may help save you some time and money.

Summer is the time of year when a trip to Target means an internal struggle for me.

Part of me is so sad to see the summer fun on clearance, but another part of me is giddy over the rows and rows of unsharpened pencils, pristine composition notebooks, unbroken crayons, and shiny new glue sticks that do not yet have that dirty, grimy film on the outside.

It is so easy to get caught up in the allure of all those fabulous school supplies and walk out of the store with an abundance of Crayola products, binders, and looseleaf paper that you don't need. 

Let's face it. It’s hard to walk out of Target, or a similar store, empty-handed on a good day. When everything is being offered up for a quarter, you just don't stand a chance.

Or do you?

Here are my tips for not overstocking or overspending on school supplies.

#1 Make a List

So. very. important.  Decide what you'll need, write it down, think it through. 

And then shop around for the deals.

Make a master list of the supplies you need in your classroom. Inventory your current supply. Create a shopping list to get only the items you will truly need.

Great news. I have listed everything you need in this FREE resource:

#2 Stagger your Shopping
Stores tend to put a few items on sale each week. Cross items off your shopping list a few at a time as they are marked down. You don’t have to buy everything at once.


#3 Shop at Target or Walmart or other stores that have 30 day policies 

Basically, if you buy a product and it gets marked down within the next 30 days, you can bring in your receipt for a refund of the difference. The benefit to this is that you get all of your supplies before they get picked over. The downside is that you may forget to go back. Decide if it's worth the gamble.

#4 Using an App

Places like Walmart use apps to compare prices for you and pay you back the difference. For example, using the Walmart Savings Catcher app is as simple as scanning your receipt and Walmart finding lower prices for you. If a nearby competitor has that item at a cheaper advertised price, Walmart give you the money back (in the form of an electronic gift card for Walmart). It won’t work on products that are specific to that store though (ex: Cra-Z-Art is exclusive to Walmart, so you won’t be able to match that price). This saves you time instead of trying to visit multiple stores to get the best deals!

#5 Plan ahead as a time saver

 If you find yourself buying the same items year after year, it may be a great timesaver to buy in advance. For example, I always use composition books as writer's notebooks, binders to store each of the completed writing packets, and 3-prong folders as communication books. By buying them now for the following school year, I am able to work on them at school in the spring, so they are ready to go before school gets out. 

#6 Use your list to inventory what you have purchased 

Staple your receipts directly to it and file it for taxes. This list will also be handy next summer when you hit the stores again.

#7 Avoid impulse buys

Set a budget and stick to it. I know it’s easier said than done. Consider determining what you will spend, put that amount into an envelope, and work strictly within that budget.

Stay out of the stores. If you don’t actually need to go buy something specific, spend your days at the beach or pool instead. At this time of year, you are far more likely to make impulse purchases for your classroom. Target Dollar Spot anyone? Just avoid the temptation.

# 8 Be a high-tech shopper

In addition to the app tip I gave you as #4, there are other ways technology is your money-saving friend. Check for upcoming sales online.  A lot of stores put their circulars on their website well in advance.

Use your Smartphone to comparison shop while in the store or to pull up coupons.

Subscribe to Lakeshore’s texts or emails for weekly deals.

#9 Buddy up with colleagues. 
You can often save money by buying in bulk. Team up with a teacher pal and save by buying your supplies together.

#10 Take advantage of tax savings. 

Work with an accountant to use your school-related purchases as tax deductions. If your state offers a tax-free shopping weekend in August, take advantage of it. 


Organization Tip: Numbering Student Supplies

If you are using my printables, make a copy of your supply list on the other side of each and staple it to the bag. 

{click to access and print my Organizing Students' Supplies Packet}

Last year, as part of my ink-saving Blackline Design series, I added another freebie to my inventory.  The greyscale shopping lists come in a variety of patterns. The Blackline Design products were created to be printed in blacn and white and reproduced on a photocopier instead of needing to be printed over and over in color. You can see all of the products in that line on the related Pinterest page.

Free Ultimate Back to School Supply Shopping Guide

{Click to Access and Download this FREE Resource}

{Click here to access and download this FREE product}
I created a free printable to help you plan and manage your shopping trip(s). This product was designed as part of my versatile, ink-saving Blackline Design Collection.  

{Click here to access and download this FREE product}

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