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Feature Articles: Budgeting & Saving


Reusing school supplies

Back pack with appleLucy Schrader, former Associate State Specialist, former Building Strong Families Program Coordinator, Personal Financial Planning, University of Missouri Extension


School starts soon for many communities and with the new school year there is the need for new school supplies. But do all of the supplies have to be new? For some families, the cost of buying new supplies can be difficult with an already tight budget. Putting together a mix of new and used supplies can help ease the cost. Oftentimes notebooks, colored pencils and other items are still in good shape from the previous school year, and some schools send supplies home at the end of the year.


Getting kids involved can help them understand how reusing supplies is resourceful and how it can be good for the family financially. You can also talk about trade-offs and how decisions impact the family in different ways. For example, if your child reuses a backpack from last year, what can the family do with the money that was saved? Can you use it for a fun activity during the year instead such as roller skating, going out to eat or buying something for another family who might have special needs? Going through this process can help youth get a better idea of costs and how they can be a part of the decision-making process.


With a push toward consuming less and making better use of the resources we already have, here are some ideas on reusing school supplies.


Spiral and composition notebooks
Tear out used pages. Some children only use a few pages out of several notebooks, which leaves a large part of the notebooks with good, useable pages. To spruce it up, decorate the cover with stickers and duct tape to create a “new” one-of-a-kind notebook.


Other supplies to reuse if they are in good condition:

  • scissors
  • school boxes
  • pink erasers (they still work even if partly used)
  • markers (test markers to see if they still work)
  • colored pencils (can be sharpened and reused)
  • folders
  • crayons


Backpacks and bags
If kids want a new design, think about adding a patch or beads or something to hang from the zipper pull to give last year’s pack a new look. Could siblings or friends trade backpacks for a year to get a different color or design without paying for a new bag? Some backpacks can be machine washed or wiped with a cloth to clean them from the previous year.


Talk to the teacher and purchase items at a later time
If the budget is tight, talk to your child’s teacher(s) to see if you can bring in some supplies later in the year. Classes use supplies such as tissues, baggies or antiseptic wipes throughout the entire year. Teachers may have enough to get started at the beginning of the year and will be OK if you bring items later.


Donate supplies you won’t be using
If you have crayons, markers, paints, paper or other supplies that you will not be using but are still in good shape, think about donating them to groups who can still get plenty of use from them. Groups might include after-school programs, other classrooms, day cares or summer camps. Many of them are glad to get these kinds of consumable supplies.


These are just a few ideas of ways to reuse school supplies. See if you and your children can come up with others. You might even decide to do this as a school project at the end of each year for the coming year, or do this as part of a neighborhood project to share and trade supplies.


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Last update: Monday, July 31, 2017