SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks

I tell you what, if you like to read my blog, you owe a big old “thank you” to the Realest Chick I Know.  Every time I turn around, I’m getting a text, “I have an idea for your blog….”  This lady is pretty smart, well-spoken, and creative, whether she wants to admit it or not, and I really think she could do this pretty handily herself.  Until she does, though, I’ll keep getting her blog requests!

Where I grew up, school won’t be starting until next month, but many schools in Louisiana are starting already.  For the past few weeks, mamas have been running from store to store, attempting to obtain the best deals on supplies and school clothes.  I, personally, haven’t been in such a big snit about it, which I’ll explain later on.  Real Chick knows how deep my cheaptitude runs, and suggested I post some back to school shopping tips.

Supply Lists

The schools my kids have attended have been ever so helpful by publishing mile-long “required” supply lists on their websites. When I’ve been pressed for time in the past, I’ve ordered supply packs through the schools. (In my experience, Kindergarten and 6th grade have actually been the most atrocious and expensive, but that’s another story.) Many of our local stores have copies of supply lists available, also.  Heaven help you if yours is one of those schools that doesn’t send a list until the first day of school!  However, as a mom and a teacher, there are a few things I suggest always keeping on hand:

  • filler paper – keep a good supply at home, also.  School supplies in the district my kids have attended become community property, which is why Monkey #1 goes through 5 packages of filler paper in the first two weeks of school.
  • pencils, pens (blue/black/red), and highlighters
  • calculator – you can get away with the cheapie $1 variety until upper elementary or middle school, I think, but I’d go on and buy the scientific calculator when the price is right.
  • ruler – I love the wooden ones, but there are also very destructo-kid-friendly bendable rulers that are well worth the cost.

Shopping the Sales

About a month before the start of school, the stores start running decent sales.  I will usually take the sales ads from all of the local stores and start price matching with my supply lists.  The stores I shop for school supplies include:

Notice I’ll shop all of the discount stores, grocery stores, drug stores, and office supply stores.  Some of the stores offer very similar deals, so I don’t go to every single one of them.  I also check the websites to see if I can get some good deals that way.


I love a good rebate on something I need to buy anyway.  Yesterday, CVS was offering Extrabucks on some of their school supplies.  SOmetimes it is worth it to spend a little more up front to save later on.  I’ll often use Extrabuck to purchase items that usually don’t offer coupons, or maybe to get an item free.

I also keep an active Paypal account.  Last year, I receved a great offer from them – spend $50 on and receive a $15 bill credit.  Did I spend more than I would have otherwise?  No.  I already planned to purchase 2 uniform bundles and a zipper binder and Walmart had the best price.  I used Paypal to make the purchase and then paid Paypal the next day.

Tax-Free Weekend

Louisiana is one of the states that holds a tax-free weekend before school starts.  You know when that weekend rolls around because Friday and Saturday, you can’t find a parking spot at Walmart, Target, Academy Sports, the malls, etc.

I actually try not to shop that weekend.

This is my thought process:  All you aren’t paying on Tax-Free Weekend is the state sales tax.  I think in Louisiana the state sales tax mght be 4%.  I have to spend $100 to save $4.  To me, it just isn’t worth the hassle.  It’s one of the rare occasions that my dislike of crowds is more important than my desire for ultimate cheaptitude.


Just like my grocery and cleaning needs, when I find a great deal on school stuff, I stockpile.  Last year, Kroger had composition books on four for a dollar and I purchased 12.  Office Max had free composition books for every $10 spent, with a limit of 3.  Not only do the monkeys use these for school, I require them for my students – and I know some families have problems getting everything, so I help when I can.  Besides being prepared for later in the year when the monkeys have used up their 60 #2 Made in the USA pencils (yes, Curtis Elementary had this on the 4th grade supply list!), I also have things on hand I won’t need to buy the next year.

Remember that some stores (i.e. Walmart) will price match. Carry your ads with you!

Shop All Year

I check the clearance sections and dollar bins wherever I go, whenever I go.  I’ve gotten pencil sharpeners, erasers, etc. nearly free by doing this.  You might be surprised at what you can find when it isn’t in “season.”


I cannot stress this enough.  Coupons are king in my school shoping strategy!  Just last weekend, there was a coupon for Georgia Pacific paper products (hello, I always need copy paper!)  Throughout the year, Bic and Sharpie have coupons.  And most school supply lists request Lysol, Clorox wipes, Ziploc Bags, paper towels, Kleenex, etc. – use your coupons!

Brand Name

I never understand the requests for specific brands.  As a teacher, I expect two particular novels, paper, and pens.  I’m not picky!  But I remember the year Monkey #1’s supply list specified brand name Play-Doh, Crayola (only) Crayons, and a specific red construction paper – that was only available at one store in Shreveport-Bossier.  If I can catch a great price on these items, I’ll send them.  Otherwise, the teachers need to get over themselves.  I will not eat Ramen Noodles in order to have name brand products in the community chest of supplies.

School Clothes

I consider myself blessed that we are in uniforms!  In the past I’ve gotten online, ordered a couple of “bundles” and been done.  When the monkeys were very little, up to size 6, I was able to go to the fake hair place and purchase 4 pairs of pants nd 4 polos for $50.

Again, you need to watch the ads.  $5 for a polo shirt is a good deal, shorts can go as low as $7, and I’ll buy pants around $10. I’ve bought uniforms from discount stores, department stores, uniform stores, sporting goods stores, etc. Last year was the Walmart bundle year in the House of Cheaptitude.

Another really good option? Hand-me-downs! For two or three years, Monkey #1 received really nice uniforms from my two younger cousins. When my sister was here, I passed our uniforms to her and she’d pass them back for Monkey #2. Now when Monkey #1 outgrows uniforms, I store them until they fit Monkey #2. Shopping that stash this week, she’s good to go for Friday Spirit shirts this year. Friends and family with same or similar dress codes are great options for school clothes.

Like so many other things, I stockpile school clothes throughout the year when I find good prices.

These tips can be applied even if you’re not in a uniform school.

Why is this year no big deal to me? A few weeks ago, Grizzly’s mom knocked out several items from Monkey #2’s list when Kroger had their big sale. I started sorting yesterday and then shopped my stockpiles. Between the two monkeys, I had to purchase maybe a half dozen items (pocket dividers, new binders, scientific calculator, art eraser), under $30.

What strategies do you use in back-to-school shopping?

~ Katie


et cetera
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