Organizing Theory & Artistry

School Supply Shopping – Fall 2013

School Supply Shopping – Fall 2013

shopping cart full of school supplies

The most organization-motivated shopping binges of the year are the purchase of school supplies in August and September. It’s so exciting to put fresh, clean boxes of crayons and unsharpened pencils in your cart and you can just feel your thoughts expanding and productivity increasing as you add new, blank notebooks and planners. It’s the time of year that we are convinced we can be more productive if we just have the right supplies.

The grocery store was selling these plants that promised to "Boost Creativity."  I was tempted to get one for my desk.
The grocery store was selling these plants that promised to “Boost Creativity.” I was tempted to get one for my desk.

This year, I purchased a 15% off school supply shopping pass from Staples. I had to pay something like $10 to get the pass but then I received 15% off all of your school supply shopping for about one month. I decided to use the pass for my shopping on our state’s sales tax-free shopping weekend. A double-discount is a good reason to go shopping.

We did some shopping not only for ourselves but also to help out our local school district with their “Stuff the Bus” school supply drive.

When we entered the Staples, we had a list of supplies that we needed for ourselves and figured we would look for the best bargains to give to the public school system. As I was studying the felt-tip pens, my children would come up to me with various finds, like a huge pack of cute mechanical pencils. “We’ll give that one to the kids in school,” I said to some of these impulse buys. (Turns out the school system prefers the classic wooden pencils to the mechanical kind.)

“Oh, do you homeschool too?” the lady next to me said.

We chatted briefly about homeschooling and it turned out that she homeschooled at least one child all the way through high school. She had a wonderful eye for coupons and was showing me all the bargains she had found. (Often you will find that homeschoolers have to be extra frugal because they have made a financial sacrifice to have one parent at home and have to pay for their curriculum and supplies as well.)

As my children and I went through the store, we found pencils and crayons on sale. Crayons were $1 a box for 24 ($0.85 with the shopping pass discount). At first, I thought we would buy one backpack and stuff it with great supplies for a needy child. I picked out a box of 64 Crayola crayons (for $3) which were my favorites as a kid. Then, I was reminded of my charity holiday shopping last year where the organizers suggested that rather than getting really nice things for one child that you get more of the standard stuff to benefit more children. So, the 64 crayons went back and 3 packs of the 24 crayons went into the cart.

We bought a ton of 3-prong folders for the school system because they were on sale for something like $0.15 each before the discount.

“Did you catch the sale on loose leaf paper?” my new homeschooling shopping friend asked as she passed by. “A penny a pack for up to 5 packs.”

We don’t use looseleaf paper generally but at that price, we tossed some into the cart for the school system. College rule or wide rule? We tossed in some of each. (Turns out the school system prefers wide rule generally.)

The school system had art supplies for high school students on their wish list so we picked up a small sketchbook, some drawing pencils and Prismacolor colored pencils. Art supplies can be one of the more expensive school supplies.

art pencils, sketchbook and Prismacolor pencils
Art supply basics.

After we checked out, it was interesting to see the difference between the school system supplies and the homeschool supplies for us. We spent about the same amount of money on each.

school supplies
The school supplies we bought for our homeschool classroom.
school supplies
Supplies we donated to our local public school system.
school bus
We made it just in time for the end of the Stuff the Bus event. A teacher said the community had responded generously.

Dizzying Discounts

Shopping for the best bargains when it comes to school supplies is a descent into madness. I thought these design-conscious composition notebooks were a fantastic deal for $1 ($0.85 with the discount card) . . .

School composition notebooks in bold graphic designs
Designer composition notebooks for added inspiration.

until I saw the exact same notebooks at Wal-Mart for $0.50.

I thought my 24-pack crayons at $1 a box ($0.85 with the discount) were a great bargain until I saw this display at Toys ‘R Us over Labor Day weekend offering the same crayons for $0.25.

crayon display
The cheapest price on crayons I have ever seen!

. . and backpacks for as low as $6.

backpacks on sale
Bargain backpacks.

You just can’t win this game. No matter how good a bargain you think you got, there is always a better deal to be had.


Penny Deals

But you can pat yourself on the back as a good discount shopper if you picked up at least one “penny deal.” I snagged two this year, the above-mentioned notebook paper and the spiral notebooks below. For both deals, I just got lucky and happened to see them in the store when I was there.

2013-10-18-pennyspirals

Dollar Deals

My favorite bargain purchases this year came from the dollar bins at various stores. There were a lot of great finds this year.

educational foam puzzles at Staples
Staples had these awesome educational foam puzzles. There were basics like numbers and letters but also models of the brain and digestive system and a map of the United States! Hope they add to these in future.
These wipe-off printing notebooks from Staples that work with dry-erase markers or crayons were a wonderful handwriting practice aid.  I picked some up for our school donation too.
These wipe-off printing notebooks from Staples that work with dry-erase markers or crayons were a wonderful handwriting practice aid. I picked some up for our school donation too.
These cute striped mini-journals at Staples have yet to find a use but seemed a good size to write down short thoughts.
These cute striped mini-journals at Staples have yet to find a use but seemed a good size to write down short thoughts.
Target had Teacher Grade Books and Teacher Planners for $1 perfect for homeschooling.
Target had Teacher Grade Books and Teacher Planners for $1 perfect for homeschooling.
The Dollar Store has these wonderful newsprint art pads for $1, an incredible buy!  I was shocked to read on the packaging that they are made in the USA too. I bought the 3 pads that were left.  The cashier said they are so popular they can't keep them in stock.
The Dollar Store has these wonderful newsprint art pads for $1, an incredible buy! I was shocked to read on the packaging that they are made in the USA too. I bought the 3 pads that were left. The cashier said they are so popular they can’t keep them in stock.
The Dollar Store is also the place to buy eraser caps.
The Dollar Store is also the place to buy eraser caps.

Art Supplies

As a side note, since I have an artist in residence and because I thought perhaps next year, we would just donate a bunch of art sketchpads to the school system, I went in search of the best art supply bargains.

Target has an inspiring section for Todd Oldham’s “Kid Made Modern” line that has terrific art supplies.

The Kid Made Modern display at Target.
The Kid Made Modern display at Target.

The art paper collection had pads with mixtures of weights of paper appropriate for different types of media (watercolor, sketching, etc.), which was awesome.

The Kid Made Modern art paper collection.
The Kid Made Modern art paper collection.

Target also offers its own line of sketchpads, affordably priced.

Target's brand of art pads.
Target’s brand of art pads.

Wal-Mart had some amazing deals.

Not surprisingly, Wal-Mart comes up with a rock-bottom price on art paper.
Not surprisingly, Wal-Mart comes up with a rock-bottom price on art paper.
Cheap sketchbooks are great for beginning artists who want to fill them up in one day.
Cheap sketchbooks are great for beginning artists who tend to be quite prolific in their sketches.


Last Chance Shopping

If you missed out on all the school supply shopping, you can still pick up some deals now on the clearance racks. It is a good time to look out for deals. Here are a few neat things I picked up last week at Wal-Mart..

Wal-Mart was clearing out these awesome zipper pockets for composition notebooks from Studio C.  The larger size can be reused with any composition book.  If I could just find blank (unlined) composition notebooks I would be perfectly happy.
Wal-Mart was clearing out these awesome zipper pockets for composition notebooks from Studio C. The larger size can be reused with any composition book. If I could just find blank (unlined) composition notebooks I would be perfectly happy.
Another innovative twist on the composition book from Studio C, a Mini composition book.  My daughters loved this small size.
Another innovative twist on the composition book from Studio C, a Mini composition book. My daughters loved this small size.

What were your favorite school supplies? Did you snag any great bargains this year? Please share in the comments.

*I am not affiliated with any store or product shown above.