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Mom of the House: Moms weigh in with back-to-school money-saving tips

Learn how the smart moms avoid the end-of-summer shopping hype

On Tuesday, September 6, many Guelph parents will be dropping their kids off for their first day back to school. I’m sure most parents are feeling a mixture of emotions – excitement, relief, trepidation, and even fear – and I’m sure the kids are feeling the same way too.

This is my first year venturing into the world of packed lunches, perfectly sharpened pencils, and back-to-school outfits. My oldest daughter is four, and will be starting junior kindergarten this year. I have been looking forward to September for a long time, but now that the day has nearly arrived I am nervous to send my child into a huge classroom without her mom to watch over and protect her.

Beyond the emotional side of sending my kids to school is the financial. 

One of my biggest questions lately has been how to save money on school supplies and back-to-school shopping. I have never done this before, and it seems that purchasing school supplies can turn into a very expensive endeavour – one that I would love to avoid.

I turned to some trusted Guelph moms for advice, and here’s what they had to say:

“Label everything you send in with your child. That way it’s likely to be returned to you, and you won’t have to spend money on a replacement. 

Invest in a good backpack and lunch system from the start, sure the character ones are cute and cheap, but we found they broke easily and we had to re-purchase multiple times.

Stockpile muffins in the freezer for quick lunch items and always prep your fruit and veggies as soon as you get them to make lunch assembly super quick and easy. Price match groceries and school supplies.” – Lisa K. 

“Don't go crazy with supplies; most kids only need a pencil, sharpener, back pack and lunch system.” – Karen A. 

"Buy a plain-coloured, good quality backpack. It will last through the years. Also get one their size and not one that goes down to their knees!” – Jodi. M

“Staples has lots of stuff on sale, and if they are out of stock we price match at Walmart. There are also some fantastic bags from Mountain Warehouse that are small for younger students, but durable and cheap.” – Belinda G. 

It seems that most moms have realized that overspending in September is useless. I remember going back-to-school shopping with my mom, who was a single mother, and feeling the stress of how expensive the routine was. If I’m being honest, I really didn’t need all those coloured pencils and thick binders. I really didn’t need a new backpack every year. 

It’s been more than two decades since I started school, and a lot has changed. Schools and teachers know it’s an expensive time of year for families, and supply lists going home to parents are shrinking. 

The idea that everything has to be squeaky clean and brand new is also going out of style. In the 1990s I would have felt embarrassed if my clothes weren’t brand new and my backpack didn’t sparkle (literally). Even though we didn’t have much money, we felt the squeeze to fit in, and there was little compassion for lower income families. 

It’s an awesome time for thrifting and saving money, because not only is it smart, but it’s also something that most parents are doing. 

I’ll be taking other moms’ advice and spending money on a quality backpack and lunchbox, and skipping the extras. 

Chime in! How do you save money on back-to-school shopping?