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Back-to-School Supply List Doubles Estimate


WOODBRIDGE, Va. — As the back-to-school time approaches children start to feel their free summer days creeping to a close. At the same time, many parents see the money creeping out of their wallets.

Prince William County Schools released supply lists for the 2012-13 school year, and parents are gearing up to find the lowest prices possible when it comes to getting what their children need for back-to-school. Schools like Ashland Elementary off Va. 234 near Manassas even provide parents with an estimated cost for their supplies

But finding the right supplies at the listed prices can be a difficult task.

On a recent trip to Walmart with two shopping lists in hand – one from Ashland elementary and the other from Antietam Elementary School in Lake Ridge — we shopped for a student who is entering first grade.

The list from Ashland offered $15.25 as their estimate for supplies, while Antietam’s list offered no estimate. On the Ashland list, we spent $29.34 before tax for basic supplies (supply products with no logos on them), and on the Antietam list we spent $29.33 before tax. Adding supplies with team logos or favorite cartoon characters can almost double the cost of listed items.

These lists don’t include uniforms, school clothing, backpacks, lunch boxes, or other costs assoticated with the classroom. After visiting a Dollar Tree store, we did find many of the items available for the $1 cost listed on the Ashland website, but unusual brands and package counts were common.

Former Fairfax County school teacher Sheri Suess cautions that while she was always “just happy to have a healthy supply of crayons in her classroom.”

“There’s something ’off’ about off-brand supplies which may mean they break, don’t work, or need to be replaced sooner than their brand-name counterparts,” said Suess.

She says Crayola brand crayons usually outlast the competition.

Blogger Laura Harders who writes suggests parents can keep their costs down on school supplies by shopping for the basics now and then looking for special sales later on.

“Back-to-School shopping can be stressful and expensive, but I want to encourage others that it doesn’t have to be that way.” said Harders.

Her tips to save money when heading back to school include shopping sales at multiple stores rather than getting everything done at one store, using coupons and loyalty rewards cards for companies such as Office Depot, Staples, and Office Max. She also encourages children to buy generic items and decorate them with stickers or craft items already found around the house.

School supplies are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to school spending. Parents also have to figure in class projects, field trips, additional supplies midyear, and special events and fundraisers that happen several times a semester.

The National Retail Federation reported that in 2012 parents would spend over $600 before they even send their children through the school room doors in September.

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