20/20 Posts of the Week-$350 on School Supplies?

School suppliesThere was an article on the front page of our local newspaper this week about the Good Samaritan Center, which is a food pantry that distributes to the needy.The article said that right after school starts, they have a huge increase in demand because people spent their money on school supplies and can’t buy food.

There are about a million things wrong with this picture. I realize that most people want their children to show up on the first day of school with the recommended supplies, but I also heard another statistic on the radio this week that said the average amount spent on each child for back to school in the US is $350!

I did buy all the recommended school supplies for my daughter and spent less than $20. We didn’t buy a new backpack or any clothes other than a couple of pairs of pants at Target and a few headbands. Adding that to the supplies, we are still under $100. Even if your kids need new clothes, there are a ton of thrift stores or yard sale options. If you did buy new, all they really need is a few t-shirts and a couple pairs of pants. Where is the other $250 being spent?

I know for a fact that there were at least three local charities that were giving away school supplies. One even held a back to school bash at the rec center where low income families could receive a backpack full of school supplies, win prizes, and even get a free haircut. It might be embarrassing to ask for free stuff, but isn’t that what you do when you go to the food pantry? 

I think the real problem is that we get carried away when we see all the back to school displays at the store. Kids see the One Direction lunch box or the Hello Kitty day planner and want it all. Parents get caught up with all the cute clothes. Before you know it, you’ve spent $300 and now can’t buy groceries.

Public school is actually very cheap. You would never have to spend a dime if you didn’t want to, and sadly, there are many parents who don’t. I wouldn’t want my child showing up on the first day with too short jeans and no supplies, but you don’t have to blow all your cash and end up at the food bank either. It all comes down to those basic financial rules that will save your butt every time; budgeting, knowing wants vs needs, and spending less than you earn. If only they taught that in school…..


Debt Roundup is celebrating one year of blogging with $100 giveaway as well. Congratulations!


Thanks to these fine bloggers for sharing my posts this week. An extra box of #2 pencils to everyone!

Frugal Rules, Vanessa’s Money, Young Adult Money, The Frugal Farmer, Ready for Zero Blog, Make Money Your Way, Debt Roundup, and Streets Ahead Living

20/20 Posts of the Week

5 of My Small Business and Website Failures at Young Adult Money. Why is it fun to read about someone’s failures?

How to Change Your Life Forever at Krantcents. Success is a habit!

Why Won’t You Tweet My Post? at Luke 1428. Share the Twitter love, people!

When We Knowingly “Over Pay” at Planting Our Pennies. As a small business owner, I hope you over pay.

A Career in Sales Isn’t For Everyone at Club Thrifty. Here’s to admitting that before you were too invested to quit.

Have a good weekend! How much did you spend on school supplies? 

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/photomyart




Written By
Sydney White is a Texas-born stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her family, bargain hunting and, hiking.


  1. I only spent about $100 total…my oldest headed to kindergarten this year! We start in August and it will be warm in GA until October so she is still wearing her summer clothes. All her jeans still fit from last year so our biggest clothing expense will probably be shoes throughout the year.
    Not sure about the statement “public school is cheap”! In this month I have been asked every week to spend money on various things! There were field trip fees, headphones for computer lab, donations to the classroom (on top of the supplies that were requested…all supplies are for the class not the student). There has been a spirit night every week at local businesses, book fair, picture day AND next week they will have a “bucks for bulldogs” fundraiser where they want parents to write checks (they are trying to raise $27k!!!!!). Holy freaking moly!

    1. I certainly agree that it nickle and dimes you to death, but you can also choose not to do any of that stuff, although you might get the stink eye from the PTA. Even if we did buy all the stuff and participate in every event, it is still way cheaper than day care, and it is amazing how much they learn.

      We have teacher friends who took jobs at a very high end private school in Korea (think Samsung electronics’ kids). It costs $30K per year to attend, plus it is so competitive that they have to try and get the kids to relax and watch something on TV or play a video game. They go to school and then sign up for hours of extra tutoring or study until late in the evening. I do wish American schools had a little more of that drive, but there has to be a happy medium in there somewhere.

  2. I think that’s the effective lure of marketing at play right there. They do a good job, don’t they? It’s hard for me to say whether 350 is a lot or about average….but…if it’s that or eating, well then I think we have the answer.

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