Last Minute Back-To-School Shopping Tips

If you’re in that final stretch before school and you’re feeling stress around acquiring supplies, fear not.

Procrastination is the new Planning.  Haven’t you heard?

Here are some tips on that last minute back-to-school shopping (as seen on CHCH Morning Live, August 30th):

(1) Shop online

Use shopping apps like to select and purchase back-to-school supplies from where ever you are.  A lot of families spend the last week of summer (and the long weekend) at a cottage, camping or at attractions.  The last thing they want to do is get stuck in long line-ups in stores.  If you shop online, you avoid the chaos and can still remain in summer vacation mode.   You can find everything from pens to e-readers (and much more) on these apps and can shop multiple sellers at once.

(2) Use “Deal” apps or websites to save money

Whether you’re shopping online or in stores, there are great savings destinations like  To use this site, simply go to the website, search for a product or store and browse the savings.  Retail Me Not (.ca) lists promo codes (to enter online), coupons (for use in store), flash sales, daily deals and more.  It’s that great first step before you start your shopping because you can see what stores offer the best savings and then plan from there.

If you sign up to these sites, they’ll keep you abreast of store savings and deals through their email newsletter.  So if you’re not into coupon clipping, but you love scoring savings, I’d recommend giving it a try for six months to see how much you save.

(3) Shop with your kids

No matter your kids’ ages, shopping with them (although it sounds stressful) can save money in the long run.  You’ll get exactly what they’re hoping for without the trial and error of mom/dad picking out the lunch bag etc.

Kids have quite discerning tastes and giving them some control over the purchasing process is that first step to independence.  In some cases, we even know of parents asking their kids to pay for a portion of school supplies to teach about budget.

No matter how you do it (online, in store, using kids’ money) it’s fun and beneficial to shop with your children.

(4) Double check school guidelines before you buy

Starting as early as Junior Kindergarten, school have specific guidelines when it comes to supplies.  For example, even if your child is small, schools still request that you send your kid to school with a full size back pack.  Kids need to be able to fit their lunch pack inside their bag, a change of clothes, large library books, their agenda and so on.  So, as tempting as those cute small-size bags are, leave those for day trips and sleep overs.

You’ll also want to check rules about shoes (indoor versus outdoor) and any specifications about marking soles in the gym etc.

Guidelines to consider:

  • Do kids use smart phones or tablet devices at school?
  • Do lunch/snacks need to be litter-less?
  • Can you child open his own lunch containers?
  • Did you label everything appropriately (our school requests that food be labeled 1, 2, 3 so kids know the order to eat their food)
  • Are there rules around the type of shoes kids wear in school?
  • Does your school have a uniform?  Do the clothes need to be specific brands or just the colours?
  • Is your child’s back pack the right size?  Is it too heavy to carry?

(5) Choose age appropriate supplies

There might not be a need to stock up your JK student’s knap sack with pens, a pencil sharpener, calculator etc.  Nowadays, kids learn different and require different things.

We found some “child-size” pencils that are thicker and sturdier than standard ones so we bought those for our first-time JKer.  We’re also holding off until we see what he will actually need for school (to avoid wasting money).

Then, when it comes to older students (we’re also shopping for a teenager), do they still require pencils, pens, a geometry set, a dictionary etc?  My step-son often talks about apps they’re supposed to use versus a real thesaurus or dictionary.  So be aware of the changing curriculum and shop accordingly.  Again, you’ll save money by shopping with your child because (especially the older ones) know what they use in class and what they don’t.

(7) Choose a bag wisely

It’s not just about size, pattern and price.  A student’s backpack is with them more than parents are once the school term starts so it’s important to make sure the chosen bag functions properly.

Does the lunch bag fit inside or attach to the outside?  Can you child open and close it easily (teachers don’t have time to open/close an entire class’s bags)?  Does your child enjoy the bag – does he love the pattern?  Does she like the pockets?  Did you let him personalize it?

Remember, your child is a KID.  Bags are meant to be bright, outrageous, coloured, decorated and personal.  Don’t fret about having a slick, stylish bag.  And, if your son chooses unicorns, so be it!  Enjoy their freedom.  Encourage their silliness.  Let their knap sack make a statement and speak loudly (especially if you’re sending kids to a uniform school).

(8)  Spend on lunch supplies

Although you may not know exactly what supplies (pens, pencils, erasers) are needed right out of the gate, one thing is certain: your child needs to take a lunch.  Most schools now encourage a litter-less lunch, which means you’ll need to arm them with the right containers.  There are a lot of great bento style options as well as the larger bags if you already have your own containers.

We recommend doing a trial run — pack a picnic BEFORE school starts and see if your child can open all of the containers and close them up at the end.  Do they understand how they work?

You’ll also want to make sure you send your child with a water bottle.  Now a days, kids drink a lot more than a sip from the water fountain.  So, an eco-friendly, reusable bottle is a key supply.  Make sure you choose a bottle size that is large enough for your child’s needs (our teen is a fish so we buy him the largest size) yet small enough that he/she can drink from it himself (our JK student is tiny so a big, heavy water bottle would be too much for him).

(9) Label everything!

We just got our teen a personalized Champion snap back hat for school, which got me thinking — not matter the age of your child, most key items should be labeled.  From water bottles and lunch bags to binders and sweat shirts, kids can be fickle and they often fight over belongings.  It ends up being a he said/she said type argument for teachers who often have no clue who the item actually belongs to.  So save them the hassle and headache and label the supplies, coats etc.

We use Mabel’s Labels.

(10) Celebrate it all!

No matter the age of your child or the stage of school they’re entering (pre-school, high-school or university), the beginning of a school year is always a milestone.  If your family makes a big deal out of it (in a positive way) it will set the tone for your child.  Make school-supply shopping a family activity…even if that means everyone huddles around a tablet to shop online.  Get dad involved too!

As parents, we’re battling a lot these days (with technology, social media, YouTube influences etc).  Encouraging academics is a necessity that we all still need to celebrate and embrace!


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