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Save Money on School Supplies

Updated on September 27, 2020
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

In many ways, music saved my life, and I have the most famous director of the USMC bands to thank for it!

How safe is it for a student to use a heavy backpack daily? How many "school supplies" is too much?
How safe is it for a student to use a heavy backpack daily? How many "school supplies" is too much? | Source

Brand Names Can Be Expensive

So many Brand Name school supplies are required in American grades K-8 now that one might suspect kickbacks! Some families choose to home school their youngsters in part because of the expense of school supplies, additional school fees, and other related costs.

PTOs in Ohio and other US States are coming up with a two-edged solution: raise money for the PTO while lowering the costs of yearly school supplies with the help of local wholesalers.

Parent Teacher Organizations can acquire wholesale school supplies for the kids, mark them up a bit cost-wise, still undercutting retail prices, make money for the PTO, and save money for the school families. For many, it is a win-win.

For families that cannot afford school supplies, a yearly giveaway, like the event held at Veteran's Memorial Hall in Columbus Ohio, provides most of the supplies needed. along with a backpack. Unfortunately, more children exist than do giveaway school supply sets each year.


In addition to costs and total lack of ability to pay on the part of some school families, school systems in Ohio and elsewhere are requiring specific bands of supplies on their yearly lists for each grade. This causes raised eyebrows among some parents and grandparents, and cost concerns in many.

In an attempt to cut costs and save time for parents, full sets of school supplies on particular schools' lists are offered on eBay and other auction sites.

Another idea is to find coupons for the more expensive brand name items. Some libraries have coupon banks of coupons donated by patrons from newspapers and mailers.

Old school.
Old school. | Source

Smart Tips to Lower School Costs

  • Try to join with other families or the PTO to buy in bulk and/or use coupons. Look at websites like, Also look at local library coupon banks.
  • Use Twitter or Facebook to follow your local retailers, including supermarkets that carry school and office supplies. Sign up for e-mail alerts for early store hours for school supply shopping, coupons, and sales.
  • Look for student-only and teacher-only discounts on laptops, tablets, printers, and accessories.
  • Rent text books, if you can do so, and/or use eBooks for text books and books to read for literature classes (sometimes free!) whenever possible, because they can be less expensive.

Tax-Free and Free School Supplies


Another aide to cost cutting is found in local businesses holding Back-to-School Sales on school supplies and clothing that waive the city sales tax. Target Stores have held these special 1-day sales in some Ohio cities for several years running.


  • Call your local TV and radio stations and ask them about school supply giveaways scheduled in August and September. Watch the news for county, city and neighborhood giveaways.
  • Churches - Giveaways occur as free standing vents are as part of Fall Festivals
  • Recreation centers, community centers, and even senior centers
  • Community Service Clubs like Charity Newsies and women's groups
  • University Service Clubs, sororities and fraternities
  • Some libraries
  • Some book stores
  • Some local Health Departments
  • Some local grocery stores

Name Brand Supplies Required Around Central Ohio

The following items are Name Brand items that make up about 1/3 to 1/2 of the list for local 3rd graders in 2010.

  • Crayola® Crayons in 48-count box only. All boxes are put into a community a tub and used as needed in order to teach, I think, Community, Cooperation, and Communication. The rational is, if you have your own box of 1,000 crayons (haha), you don't need to talk to anybody. At the same time, some data exits that shows that population cohorts from Millennials to elementary school kids in 2010 are talking less and texting/emailing more. Will classrooms be full of Kindergartners with Blackberry technology soon? K-Berries?
  • Crayola® Markers - washable classic colors, eight-count only.
  • Prang® semi-moist watercolor paints.
  • Kleenex® or Puffs® tissues
  • Ticonderoga® No. 2 Pencils
  • Fiskars® scissors
  • Clorox® or Lysol® disinfecting wipes, depending on the school. This cuts down on paperwork, because all chemicals used in school required documentation. If all of the same brand, the wipes cut down on on documentation time.

Take the fun poll below and leave us your comments at the bottom of the page about your experiences with crayons.

The Status of Box Size in Crayola Crayons

What's the biggest size box Crayola or other crayons you have ever owned?

See results

Grade 3 School Supply List for a Local Parochial School

  • A Backpack without wheels (wheels are loud and distracting)
  • A Zippered flat pencil case
  • 4 Sharpened No.2 Pencils
  • 2 Large pink erasers
  • A 12-inch Ruler - Metric and English
  • A Plastic 3x5 index card file box
  • 100, 3x5 ruled index cards
  • 7, 2-pocket folders, all different colors for assigned uses
  • A Plastic shoe box for art class
  • A pair of Fiskars®-for-Kids pointed scissors (There is emphasis on pointed scissors!)
  • Crayola® washable watercolor paints - Pan of 8 colors.
  • Crayola® colored pencils, long - One 8-count
  • Classic Crayola® washable makers - One 8-count
  • Crayola® Washable crayons, 24 Count
  • 4 Elmer’s® glue sticks
  • 4-oz. Bottle of Elmer’s® glue
  • A 10-key calculator
  • 2 Highlighters®
  • 2 Red pens
  • 2 rolls of transparent Scotch® tape


  • 1 Box Ziploc® lunch baggies
  • 2 Boxes of Kleenex® tissues
  • 2 Rolls of paper towels
  • 2 Boxes of disinfectant wipes
  • 2 Reams of copy paper
  • 4 Black composition books
  • 1 NORCOM® 4x4 Quadrille 10 ½”x8” graph copybook


  • Toxic writing or art materials
  • Ring-binder notebooks (rings pinch and make noise)
  • Pencil sharpeners (distracting)
  • Mechanical pencils (distracting)
  • White Out® or any other correction fluid

Backpacks can hurt a child's back.
Backpacks can hurt a child's back. | Source

Excesses in School Supply Requirements

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Reams of paper? Abraham Lincoln used the back of a shovel and a piece of chalk.Why so many boxes of tissues?
Reams of paper? Abraham Lincoln used the back of a shovel and a piece of chalk.
Reams of paper? Abraham Lincoln used the back of a shovel and a piece of chalk. | Source
Why so many boxes of tissues?
Why so many boxes of tissues? | Source

A Local Grade 2 Public School Supply List

Here is the list of supplies requried by one of our local elementary schools for second graders.

  • 24 Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils, sharpened - Either pre-sharpened in the box, or sharpen them at home.
  • 2 Pink erasers
  • 1 Box Crayola Crayons, 16 count only.
  • 4 Dry erase markers - For students and teacher.
  • 1 Ream of white copy paper - For the school.
  • 1 Canister of Clorox disinfectant wipes - For the school offices and classrooms.
  • 2 Boxes of Kleenex tissues - For the school and classrooms.
  • 1 Pencil box
  • 2 Spiral notebooks, wide rule -- Kroger (grocery) has them for 15 cents this year. Last year, they were 25 cents, and the year before, no one had them discounted.
  • 3 Pocket folders
  • 1 Pair childrens' Fiskars scissors
  • 8 Glue sticks
  • 1 ruler - In both metric and English measurements, all wood or all plastic.

Does this sound like a lot of supplies to anyone else?

When I attended second grade, the school required a cigar box, a couple of No.2 pencils, an eraser, a bottle of white glue or paste, a ruler, scissors, an 8-count box of any crayons, wide ruled paper, and a 3-ring binder. We bought more supplies as needed and kept the bulk at home. Times change.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Patty Inglish MS


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