Back To School Shopping: A Survival Guide

Good Enough Mother has just completed school supply shopping with the husband and the two kids who sprang forth from my womb and I am not exaggerating when I say I want to sharpen all those number 2 pencils and put my own eyes out. UGH! What a friggin’ WHIP! I don’t remember it being this harried when I was growing up, but of course, I was not on this end.  I may have driven my own mother to drink the way my kids are doing me (hey, guess what I’m doing right now!)

I feel such affinity for you my readers that I want to spare you the madness I was forced to endure today. To that end, I have compiled a very short list of things you might want to keep in mind as you get ready to undertake the unenviable task.


Look, we all want to save a buck or two and this is the first step toward making that happen. Make your kids find all the old binders, leftover paper, pencil cases and anything else that they threw in a corner of the room that’s now under a pile of dirty underwear and Butterfinger wrappers (this is exactly why YOU don’t want to have to do that).  Move it all to the “staging area” and spread it out so you can see what you have and what you need to buy to fill in the gaps.


Okay this is the part that literally drives me batshit crazy about school shopping: THE LIST! You know what I’m talking about. It’s the one you get for every child and it is frightening in its specificity:

“Three packs of 3×3 purple post it notes; A red binder with 17 pockets for Science; 3 pencil cases; In each one, 3 erasers, one bottle of white out, a stapler, blue pens, black pens, 3 number 2 pencils and an 8 inch ruler.”

Now what we do is take the list to the store and while we’re trying to find all this stuff, the kids are interrupting and tugging on us, fighting with one another and not focusing on the task at hand. All of that makes it impossible to tackle this in any sort of uniform manner and we will undoubtedly leave the store missing a critical part of the list.

So you need to make a simple grid, like this, and then combine all the items from the various lists that you have. That way you can use it as a master list and let the kids work off the originals. But everything will be checked against your list. Yes you will spend a little time in front of the computer but it will save you time on the backend.

(Yeah I came up with this idea AFTER today).


I have shopped the big office supply stores with their helpful salespeople, well-defined and well lit back-to-school sections (NOT CHEAP!) and the big discount retailers where they basically just opened the shipping boxes and shoved all the stuff onto the shelves (FREE FOR ALL).  But this year, I started at one of the dollar stores.  I had great luck finding composition notebooks, pencil cases, white out, mini staplers, book covers, folders and much more. And all of it was, you guessed it, a buck! From there I fleshed out my list at one of the discount merchants.


When will I learn, WHEN WILL I LEARN? For some strange reason, I thought this would be a “fun family outing.” I must have fallen on my head! At the big discount chain, crap was everywhere, every parent had the same tortured look on his or her face and the kids could barely contain their excitement. My own kids felt it necessary to talk to me at the same time, taking the list and giving it back to me more times than I can count. Where was Buff, you ask? He had the all important task of manning the cart, which somehow must have, on its own power, made its way over to the electronics department where I found him drooling over the big screens. Trust me, you will get more done, faster with less stress if you go alone!


Do I really need to expound upon this one? I am not advocating you sit on the floor amid the math books and mechanical pencils and throw one back. BUT, it might come in handy after you spend hundreds of dollars on paper, pencil and pens.

Hope this helps.

Do you have a tip? Well heck, don’t keep it to yourself; pass it along and help your fellow GEMs survive the world of Back to School shopping…