There’s an old joke that every impending school year elicits opposite responses from parents (glee at kids not being underfoot all the time) and their kids (groans of dismay).

There is truth to those polar-opposite views even though they are stereotypical but this year, one emotion surpasses all: relief.

Relief at thinning the cloud COVID cast on our lives by resuming normal activity, even if from behind a mask and from a safe distance.

And, so it is that, with greater-than-normal fervour, we scan emailed school supplies lists and comb through adverts to find the best bargains on backpacks, notebooks, pens and pencils… everything needed to start learning again.

Don’t hit the stores (or the ‘buy’ button on your fav shopping websites) just yet!

Superprof has outlined a strategy to save you money on everything school-related, from uniforms and gym clothes to maths and art tool kits.

What is Necessary?

The coronavirus did not just impact our health and quality of life; it sent shock waves through the economy, both global and local. Many suffered – and are still suffering from a loss of income all while trying to stay ahead of their basic living expenses.

Where will the money come from for anything extra?

Shop locally for better deals than you could find on amazon
With vouchers and tax breaks, you may find better deals in your local stationery store than amazon for the supplies your child’s teacher suggested. Image by rob791 from Pixabay

That is why parents all over the world view shopping for school clothes and supplies with trepidation. However, there is a bit of relief to be had.

For one, many locales offer tax-free weekends for school shopping. Others may present parents of school-aged children with vouchers to cover basic supplies: writing instruments and paper, for example.

If you are uncertain whether such incentives are available in your area, check your local government’s and your schools’ web pages and any local charities that might sponsor such deals.

Once you’ve assured yourself that you will have the means of providing those needed supplies, take a look around your house: what do you actually need?

When times were better, you may have stocked up on loose-leaf paper, bought bevies of pens and highlighters and perhaps even found good deals on calculators, protractors and paint sets for future art classes.

Whether you’ve been hard-hit financially or not, it is always a good idea to inventory the supplies you have on-hand before buying more.

Your child’s school supply list might include:

  • pens and pencils, and a sharpener
  • a rubber (eraser)
  • a set of markers and/or highlighters
  • coloured pencils
  • a notebook for each subject or a binder (organizer) with dividers for each subject
    • you may need filler paper and graph paper, too
  • see-thru pouches and/or pocket folders
  • scissors and glue
  • a box of tissues and a bottle of hand sanitizer

This is a basic list; should your child be a younger learner, you might need to buy a pack of crayons or watercolours for art lessons or, if s/he is a secondary school pupil, the school might require more specific supplies such as mechanical pencils, fountain pens with replacement cartridges and a stapler with staples.

Some of these items, like your child’s backpack, pencil case and lunchbox if s/he normally brings a packed lunch to school are quite durable so you may not need to replace them.

Once you know what you don’t have and what needs replacing, plan your shopping. Wholesale outlets and warehouse-type stores may offer lower prices than retail shops; a bit of price comparison before setting out might be in order.

Stinting on what you buy will not stimulate the economy and may even put a damper on the excitement of shopping but, for now, we all have to watch our pennies, don’t we?

Buying the Implements for Learning

Once you’ve determined exactly what you need to buy, instead of heading to big-name stores like Walmart (US), Tesco (UK) or Myer (AU), aim for Dollar stores, Poundworld or The Reject Shop.

Their products are not necessarily top quality or even name-brand but… really: do you need a fancy pen to take notes with?

Parents: pick up on more tips for how to get your kids ready to go back to school.

Having the right uniform is important for online and in-person classes
School uniforms are a great social leveller; worn in classrooms all over the world. Make sure that you buy the right size for your students. Image by Ewn123 from Pixabay

Shopping for School Clothes and Shoes

In some parts of the world, what you wear to school determines your place in the social hierarchy and judgement can be cruel – or deadly, as was the case in the US a few years ago, when students were killed for their jackets and shoes.

In many parts of the world, school uniforms are the norm. If your child will attend a school that requires them to wear a distinct set of clothing, don’t feel compelled to rush to your nearest school uniform shop just yet.

You might first check online; site like FreeAds, Gumtree and even Craigslist may have the uniforms you need at a substantially discounted rate.

If you can’t find your school’s emblem on any jackets there, you may try thrift stores, secondhand clothing shops or consignment shops, where people leave items of clothing to be sold, after which the store takes a small commission.

These outlets are a good place to shop for school clothes, too. Your child need not require a uniform to send you to such outlets; you may find fantastic bargains on everyday clothes suitable for school.

Another good place to look for school clothes and uniforms at a discounted price would be parenting websites such as NetMums in the UK, The Family Groove in the US or Kiddiepedia in Australia.

You may also check more general sites such as Facebook’s Marketplace or your school’s social media page to see if such a programme is in place. If not, you might suggest it!

A final word on school clothes/uniforms: if your learners will take lessons online, they should be dressed appropriately and, if your school requires a uniformed presence via webcam, your child will have to wear their uniform even while sitting at home.

Buying New Shoes for School

Experts recommend not wearing secondhand shoes if at all possible, so staying away from thrift stores’ footwear sections would be a good idea.

Instead, look for good deals on gym shoes and other footwear at discount shoe markets like Payless (US), Shoe Warehouse (Australia) and Soletrader (UK).

Find out how to get your kids ready to return to classroom learning in just a few easy steps.

Buying University Textbooks and Supplies

No matter how you slice it, a university education is expensive and a substantial part of that cost is textbooks and supplies – lab equipment or art supplies, for instance.

Fortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it), you may be absolved of paying dorm fees in this era of COVID and perhaps even lab or studio fees if your classes are held strictly online but you simply cannot get away from the expense of textbooks.

To make matters worse, some universities insist that students need the latest edition of a given textbook, meaning that you will have to pay the full price for a new textbook as opposed to buying a used textbook through the campus’ bookstore, student union book swap programme (if there is one) or message board.

Should that course’s previous-edition textbook be declared obsolete, ask your reader, lecturer or professor if you may still work from an older edition; the changes are usually minimal anyway and it never hurts to ask.

If s/he is adamant that only the latest version will do, you might see if you and a classmate or two would share the cost of a textbook. You could either study together (while wearing a mask, of course) or scan relevant pages into your computer and send them out.

You may have to purchase access to a virtual textbook
Teachers may direct you to use specific educational software to participate in their virtual classroom. Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Speaking of computers…

As more universities resort to online lessons, they are forced to make more learning materials available online, too. Oddly enough, there is not much of a price difference between print and online editions of university textbooks.

Should that be the case for your books, you might again see about sharing costs with other students, downloading pages and sending them out.

Are you returning to your university campus? You should read this advice for learning in the COVID era.

Which School Supplies Should You Buy for Online Classes?

It might seem that online learning yields a certain cost advantage; after all, you may already own a fast computer and have a stable internet connection. The kids are staying home so no new clothes are needed and you won’t need to shop for backpacks, either.

Not so fast! There are hidden costs even with online education. For one, you may have to pay for educational software.

Many school districts have either gone ‘low-budget’, using publicly-available utilities such as Zoom or Whiteboard. Others have partnered with companies specialising in educational technology, absorbing the cost and passing the knowledge on.

However, due to budget constraints, some locales have no choice but to pass the extra costs for learning software onto students’ families. Such costs may be a one-time fee to establish your membership or a monthly subscription.

Another hidden cost of online learning: protecting your computer and your kids.

You may have heard in the news recently that more than one class taught via Zoom has been hacked or ‘bombed’; the students were shown images that were not remotely related to class.

Protecting your child from such intrusions in their learning is well-nigh impossible but you should protect them and your computer from any malware they might inadvertently download. If you don’t already have a reliable virus protection plan in place, you should factor in the cost of protecting your computer into your school budget.

Don't forget to set up parental controls while you're at it! 

Care to share? Let us know how the coronavirus has impacted your 2020 return to school…

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Krishna