The Dos and Don’ts of School Supplies

Mom and son shopping for school supplies

Every back-to-school season, students get long list of school supplies they need for their class and homework. But as parents we often wonder, are all these items essential for our kids success?

According to personal finance expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq, back-to-school supplies shopping doesn’t have to break the bank.

“Parents go a little bit crazy thinking that our kids won’t do well in school without the best of the best,” says Ahmed-Haq. “From a money perspective it’s a bad way to be and you’ll never get out of that cycle.”

She says, all it takes some careful consideration and little bit of planning. Here are Ahmed-Haq’s top dos and don’ts for back to school supplies shopping.


Get Everything at Once

In a couple of weeks you’ll know what they really need and benefit from mid-to-late September sales. When you do shop for school supplies and other items, go first thing in the morning when you’ll be focused and have more energy. 

Buy Top Band School Supplies

Sure you want your child to have all the right equipment, but they won’t be using their school supplies for a long time. Instead of getting top of the line, go medium. Most of the time, dollar store pencils are just fine.

Buy Expensive Electronics

Kids may need access to a laptop but it doesn’t have to be the latest, most expensive one on the market. Also, make a family decision if a cell phone is essential for your child. If you think it is necessary, you don’t need to buy a new smartphone—you can either use one of your old phones with only call and text abilities, or get a prepaid phone to keep the cost down.

Think Too Far Ahead

Leave winter clothing purchases for when the weather is getting cold and they really need it. Kids grow, sales happen and you may even get a great hand-me-down before the cold season starts.

Buy Everything Brand New

Parents often get rid of things that are nearly brand new. You can often snag good quality items at consignment stores and buy-and-sell sites. They are a great resource for backpacks and clothing.


Ask Them What They Need

You might be buying things they don’t even want! Get kids involved in the process.

Invest in Good Labels

Label everything they own because the last thing you want to do is go shopping for school supplies twice.

Take Inventory

Going through what you already have really puts things in perspective. There may be supplies left over from last year, or maybe they already have three pairs of jeans that fit and don’t need more.

Ask For Advice

Often the school supplies list you get from school is just a guideline. Check with parents at your school or also ask the teacher what your child really needs.

Save Receipts

Keep a box and fill it up with receipts from everything you bought. You never know what won’t get used and many stores will accept returns.

Rubina Ahmed-Haq is a personal finance expert based in Toronto, Ontario.

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