Shopping for School Supplies in Spring

April 13, 2016

Photo credit: shironosov/istock/thinkstock

It’s school supply season!

OK. Not really.

What if you could avoid that nuisance at the end of the summer where you need to battle the masses at the stores to get the best price on a spiral notebook? For parents, shopping for school supplies borders on Black Friday shopping, but you don’t get the joy of giving. I’ve shopped at Target, Wal-Mart, AND Staples in the same week looking for the best prices and the “right” item that the teachers requested. One year, I even had to make my way to Lakeshore Learning (the only Colorado store is in Littleton) for one composition notebook for kindergarten. Yup. One item.

Schools are now jumping on the bandwagon of ordering school boxes. These are boxes of supplies specially catered to a teacher’s list and are available to purchase in the spring for the following school year. Best part? They deliver the boxes directly to the school.  school supplies

My son will be entering 3rd grade next year. His box of supplies (featured at the right) is $55. In addition to this cost, I will need to provide him with a backpack, hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes, and a water bottle.

I’m sure a lot of parents are saying, “I can get that stuff cheaper once the back-to-school sales start.” That might be true. However, have you calculated your gas costs into that total? Or your time spent researching and shopping around? And really, how much would you be saving on the receipt? I plugged this list into both Target’s and Wal-Mart’s websites and the cost was $3‒4 more before taxes. Granted, this is not sale time, but the items were still pretty cheap.

My son’s school started using School Tool Box. Last year, I ended up spending at least $75 on school supplies, some of which came home with him at the end of the school year.

Something I didn’t expect to find while looking at School Tool Box’s site is that a percentage of boxes purchased goes back into the school. In addition to raising money for your school, a meal is donated to a starving child for every box sold. It’s like a win-win-win situation: save time and money, donate to the school, and feed a kid.

There are a variety of companies that provide school supply boxes around Colorado. They are able to get supplies at a discount because they order straight from suppliers and then pass those savings on to you and the schools. Check out some of the other programs working with Colorado schools:

School Kidz
Run by Staples, School Kidz not only provides supplies for schools, but for fundraisers and individuals as well. If your school doesn’t have a school box program, you can build your own kit and have it sent to you. You still get the savings from the wholesale purchases, but you are saving yourself the time and gas costs of shopping in the fall. I built my son’s supply list and the cost, with shipping to my home, was $56.43 before taxes. It wasn’t all name brand, but it was all the correct products.

SchoolPak Inc.
At this point, School Pak Inc. only serves a few schools in the state, namely in Boulder and Centennial, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t growing. An advantage to this site is all of the extras that you can find for school. They have supplies for teachers and for students outside of the normal supply list like higher-end and more unique items that might be a draw for some families.

Prefer to shop locally? Not a problem! EduKit is based out of Colorado Springs and has been providing school supply boxes to schools and families since 1993. They also help schools in need and have flexible payment schedules. Rated an A+ by the Better Business Bureau, they focus on customer service and providing the best products for students.

You can check for your school at any of these sites or simply ask your school which one they use. So what can you do if your school isn’t signed up with a school supply box company? Suggest it! Some schools may not know of the fundraising benefits or ways they can save. Your teachers will be happy with the supplies they’ve requested and you will enjoy the end of your summer by the pool instead of in the stores.