“Optional” Back-to-School Supplies

Without a doubt, “optional” back-to-school supplies are my most favorite back-to-school supplies on the list.

I’ve got to buy for three kids here. Three kids in the same grade. I’m a very generous person: I offer myself the triplet discount every chance I get. The only thing that makes me suck it up and buy at least a few of those things on the lower half of the list is that I don’t want the teachers to get stuck buying them. But as much as I can, when an item is marked: “Optional”, I choose the “No” option. And, I’ll tell you a little secret: Sometimes,  I ignore the words “mandatory items” altogether thus making the entire list of back-to-school supplies “optional”. This is how it works:

long list

“Optional” Back-to-School Supplies = Do the New Math

Like I said, I have three kids in the same grade. So when the item on the list says: “3 packs of 3 jumbo glue sticks” – In the old math that would be: 3 kids x 3 packs each= 9 packs x 3 jumbo glue sticks each = 27 jumbo glue sticks.

But in Lori’s new math it’s:

1 pack of 3 jumbo glue sticks ÷ 3 kids = One jumbo glue stick each. Each glue stick is delivered to each child with a loving message from mommy: “If you run out of glue, go next door to your sister.”

From End of School to Back to School

“Optional” Back-to-School Supplies = I Shop in Reverse

I used to be one of those suckers who would do the scavenger hunt: Look at the list and yell out to the family:

“Notebook Paper! Wide-Ruled! Anybody see it?”

Now I search the price shelves first. If I like what I see, then and only then do I look up to see what the item is.

“Oooh $1.29. Is ‘manual can opener’ on the list? I’m pretty sure at least one of you needs a manual can opener.”

My Appreciative Children Make it all Worthwhile

Mind you, while I’m sweating it out for an hour under the blinding fluorescent lights, going up and down the same three aisles with my dreaded “optional” back-to-school supplies list and my husband is painstakingly inspecting the backpacks the kids have picked to make sure all the zippers work and assess whether or not they’ll make it to at least winter break, (not to mention making sure the pockets are empty so we don’t get accused of shoplifting at the register), my poor children are… “soooo bored.” My daughters ask if while dad and I finish the supply shopping can they go to the Shopkins aisle while my son searches on the other side of the store for Wimpy Kid books. What? Who are we doing this for? My husband and I graduated high school in 1982… so, it’s not us. And then… I see a deal: Spiral notebooks for 17 cents each. My daughter, for the first time since we entered this tomb, takes a sudden interest in the shopping cart and stares as I load a stack of the spirals into it.

“Mommy, spiral notebooks aren’t on the list.”

I said: “They’re for me. I’m spending $200 on you people. Is it okay with you if I spend $1.70 on myself?” To which she responds, and I quote:

“Do you really need ten of them?”  To which I respond, and I quote:

“Don’t worry. I’m a writer. I can write it off on my taxes.”

(And if you’d like more laughs at your child’s expense, please take a look at my latest little eBook: “Laughing IS Conceivable: From End of School to Back-to-School” by clicking on the book cover icon above or visiting my homepage: http://laughingisconceivable.com)- Thanks for stopping by!



13 thoughts on ““Optional” Back-to-School Supplies

  1. I never thought about how much all the school supplies cost my parents as a kid. And I still have a few more years before I need to think of it with my kid. I think I need to ask my friends how school supplies work here (Finland)…
    I just read a book where the teacher/author has changed to asking for a $20 donation per student and/or family for school supplies and then she would purchase the items she needed herself with that. It was said that being a teacher and buying in bulk, she could get things cheaper. And then all items were communal and it also saved families who truly couldn’t afford the stuff the need of buying them. I thought that was a brilliant way to do this.

    1. There are some schools here who do something similar to that. My friend’s kids’ school has a box that everybody can buy from this one company with everything in it. It’s a good price and it’s no-stop shopping.

  2. So happy to have shopping for school supplies over and done. Though, I love buying paper, pens, pencials, cases, and backpacks. I am happy “optional” over mandatory is the order of these days. 🙂

  3. As a kid I always loved picking new stuff for back to school, though I fear it was not nearly as fun for my mother. Now I see what I have to look forward to, though only x1! Ha ha

    1. It was the one upside to going back to school after every summer: That smell of new supplies. Picking out a looseleaf, a lunch box. I particularly loved those zipper pouches that came with a bunch of stuff in it like erasers, rulers. They’ve taken all the fun out of it now. Most of the items on the list for my kids are generic. You don’t get to keep most of what you pick out. They just want a bunch of supplies that the whole class can share. It probably does cut down on jealousies and the pressure to get nicer stuff whether or not you can afford it, but as a kid, it was the only thing I looked forward to at this time of year… They do get to choose a backpack. I’m not happy about those too much. My kids all weigh between 46 and 58 pounds… The backpacks empty feel like they already weigh half their body weights.

  4. No “optional” items on my son’s list. In fact, I was quite pleased with how short it seemed compared to last year. Before I get too pleased, however, I have to remind myself that we still have to pay the school fees.

  5. We are shopping around the house first. Box of crayons on the list? The 10.6 you found totally count! I miss paying a fee and buying no supplies. It was cheaper and reduced classroom drama about who had the “good” supplies.

    1. Great idea to shop around the house. There are so many things that I know we probably have five times already like crayons and glue sticks but I can’t be bothered to dig into the couch and look wherever else they most likely are: Anywhere ridiculous.

  6. My son’s school as a program where you can order school supplies for some ridiculous price and it gets delivered to the classroom. I swear next year, I’m going to just go to Staples just to see if I can get the stuff for cheaper.

    1. I agree with getting it yourself.. but I beg of you… not Staples… please not Staples… They had the token spiral notebooks (on nobody’s list by the way) for 17 cents each but everything else was like millions and millions of dollars more than everywhere else… xo

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