Back to school to-do list: Start thinking about school supplies now

Oh, we know. The school year just ended. Is it really time to go back-to-school shopping already?

Probably not, but here’s what you can do.

  1. Find the school supply list. Look on your school's website. Can't find it there? Ask a fellow parent in your grade or in the grade ahead of your child for the list.
  2. Take a picture of the school supply list and put it on your phone.
  3. If you happen to be in a store during the summer and see a good price on something, you can grab it.

Why do it now?

  • Back-to-school sales are fabulous and amazing, but not always on every product.
  • Tax-free weekend also doesn't equal good deals on everything. Often, you're really only saving the tax (0.825 percent) verses another sale that is 10 percent, 20 percent, half off, etc.
  • Once everyone starts looking for the same common school supplies, store shelves get depleted. Let me tell you about the year we couldn't find graph paper. It wasn't pretty. I might have sat in the middle of a Walmart at 10 p.m. on a school night and cried, only to realize I was being ridiculous.

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What if I can’t find a list because there is no list because my kid is in high school or middle school?

  • Ask parents (or kids) in the grade ahead of your kid what they needed.
  • Go ahead and stock up on items you know your child might need: composition books, binders, pencils, pens, notebook paper, printer paper, etc.

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What we didn’t do was test how much we would have spent if we went online to a place like Amazon instead of hitting stores. So, we did. We took the same list from last year and found these results:

For the third-grader, we would have spent $110.71 to complete his list on Amazon, compared with $61.15 at Walmart for the same list.

For the eighth-grader, $85.04 on Amazon, compared with $28.20 at H-E-B.

Was it easier to shop online? Well, it wasn’t as hot and there weren’t people in our way, but many of the specific items were hard to find. You had to scroll through a lot and there were way too many options. We also would have had to buy a lot of extra stuff to get the specific things we needed because often things were packaged deal.

Find more back-to-school columns we're written this summer and look for at least one a week at

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