10 back-to-school items to skimp on

Woman's Day
Photo: Jupiterimages/Thinkstock

Find out which classroom supplies and dorm-room buys you don't need to spend a fortune on.

While it may feel like summer just got into full swing, the new school year is right around the corner—and that means lots of expensive back-to-school shopping. But before you invest in every item on your kid's "recommended" list, take a few minutes to figure out how many new supplies you actually need to purchase this year. Whether your kid is in grade school, high school or off to college, read on to see which items you can "shop" for at your own house, reuse from last year and, best of all, don't need to buy at all.

More from Woman's Day:  

Secrets of Back-to-School Savings

10 Hairstyles That Make You Look Younger

1. Crayons, Markers, Pens, Pencils…and More

Unless your child was quite prolific when it came to art projects last year, she probably didn't use up her entire supply of crayons, markers and colored pencils. So, instead of buying new sets of each, check out the family art closet first for any leftovers. "One of my Facebook readers even suggested having a scavenger hunt, including at Grandma's house," says Joanie Demer, co-owner of TheKrazyCouponLady.com, as a way to save on school supplies. The same holds true for pens and pencils. "Unless you have a kindergartener that's starting for the first time, you've likely accumulated so much of that stuff," says Jeanette Pavini, Coupons.com household savings expert. If you do end up needing a few pens to send to school, resist the urge to buy colors other than black and blue. "It's more likely that the kids want to get [uncommon pen colors]; most teachers will give you a list of what they need and if it's not on the list, sometimes they won't accept it," Pavini says. Other items you may find around the house: rulers, scissors, basic calculators and, the mother lode, backpacks!

Photo: Thinkstock

2. A New Wardrobe

While buying a few, new seasonal items may be essential for growing kids, the myth of the "back-to-school wardrobe" is a very unnecessary one, according to Janet Bodnar, author of Kiplinger's "Money Smart Kids" column. In fact, shopping for kids shouldn’t be any different than what you do when it's time to revamp your own wardrobe: Start by searching their closet first. "Put everything on the bed and categorize it, which makes things more palatable for kids since they often have stacks of shirts they forgot about." With the clothes laid out like this, Bodnar notes that kids might also find a different way to wear something, which makes it "new" to them. Once you've sorted through everything and tried things on to make sure they still fit, then go shopping with a list of the specific things you need—whether it’s new jeans because they've grown a few inches or a couple of fun accessories to spruce up their existing outfits.

Photo: Thinkstock

3. Pencil Case

While it is important for your child to keep all his writing utensils in one container, that doesn't mean you have to buy anything special (read: expensive) to contain them in. For one thing, a zip-top bag works great, and it's easy (and cheap) to replace if it gets damaged. An old makeup case also does the job since eyeliner pencils are roughly the same size as No. 2 pencils. Better yet, next time you get a free case with a beauty purchase, store it away until your kids need a new pencil container. And, if all else fails, there's nothing like a sturdy rubber band to keep pens and pencils organized.

Photo: Thinkstock

4. Pencil Sharpener

Pencil sharpeners can be cute and colorful, but do your kids really need one? It's probably safe to assume that every classroom has a pencil sharpener. Not only that, rooms are usually equipped with heavy-duty sharpeners—even electric ones—that work way better than any small, portable one ever could. Bonus: No messy pencil shavings to clean up when the portable sharpener accidentally comes apart in her backpack.

Photo: Thinkstock

5. Book Covers

School supply stores offer all sorts of fun, colorful book covers, but if paper shopping bags were good enough for you back in the day, then they're still good enough for your kids. "Every year we just made book covers out of paper bags," Demer says. "The kids like them; they can decorate them any way they want and store-bought book covers can cost up to $4 to $5 apiece." If your kids are younger, go ahead and make a crafty weekend out of decorating book covers. Gather up supplies from around the house (stickers, construction paper, rubber stamps, glitter, markers, etc.) and, after covering their textbooks, let kids decorate them however they want—just make sure they include the subject matter somewhere on the cover.

Photo: Thinkstock

6. Lunch Box

Your child's lunchbox is definitely not something they'll grow out of year after year, but you can make it feel "new" to them. One way Pavini likes to refresh plastic lunchboxes is with stickers: "Just peel them off and replace with new ones a few months later." Another, more permanent option is to decorate them with markers or paint pens. For soft lunchboxes with straps, try adding some fun pins that can be changed up throughout the year. Of course, none of these tips will help if you've purchased a box with trendy graphics or characters on the front. "It won't even last a year. Their interest in a particular cartoon character will be gone within two months, so it's much better to go basic because that really is going to add up," Pavini says. Avoid this costly mistake by purchasing simple plastic containers, like the Klip-It Lunch Cube, which works for any age group and can be easily personalized. Another smart option that Pavini recommends is a thermos: "It saves money because you can prepare a hot lunch for them and it stays warm." Bonus: Both containers can be used around the house when school is out.

Photo: Thinkstock

7. Alarm Clock

Though you may be so concerned about your son getting up in time for classes that you're tempted to pay a marching band to walk through his room, it's time to face the fact that an alarm clock has become an obsolete purchase in this age of smartphones and interactive MP3 players. Instead of buying a new alarm clock for your sleepy high schooler or your staying-up-too-late college student, tell them "there's an app for that." Most cell phones come equipped with a standard alarm clock function, but there are also a ton of different alarm-clock apps that he can choose from, whether he wants to wake up to the radio, a video or the sound of your voice yelling at him. Kids are likely to find just what they need to get out of bed for a fraction of the price.

Photo: Thinkstock

8. Dorm-Room Television

Though your college-bound daughter will do all she can to convince you she needs a television in her dorm room, the truth is she'll likely be spending more time making new friends than watching TV. Plus, she can always catch up on her favorite shows by watching them on her computer by going to websites that stream video, like Hulu.com and most network websites, or by renting DVDs from a local store or through a mail-order service such as Netflix. If she does somehow convince you to buy a TV for her room, don't do it right away, suggests Graham Jones, general manager of PriceGrabber.com. "Figure out a price limit and set a price alert on a site, like PriceGrabber.com, then just wait for the right time to buy," he says.

Photo: Thinkstock

9. New College Textbooks

While college kids can buy many of their required reading books used from the school's bookstore, even that can set them back a pretty penny. Instead, they should go online to rent them from textbook rental companies. BookRenter.com, for example, has over five million books that they ship anywhere in the country with free return shipping. The website has even partnered with over 500 university and college bookstores, so your freshman may be able to pick up his books in person—while you revel in the savings (75% to 80% off, according to BookRenter.com). Chegg.com offers a similar service and will also plant a tree for every book your child rents. And, if your super students decide they want to buy the book when their class is over, all they have to pay is the difference between the rental and purchase price. Many other sites, including Amazon.com and Half.com (an eBay-affiliated site), allow students to buy and sell used textbooks to one another for much less than campus bookstores.

Photo: Thinkstock

10. Dorm-Room Printer

Despite the glut of electronics on most college campuses, many professors still insist that students turn in a hard copy of their assignment. However, that doesn't mean your college kid needs his own printer. Most colleges have computer labs and printing bays all over campus—including in many dorm buildings. In fact, Bodnar says that when her own son went to college, the school allotted for this cost by tacking on a fee for 1000 sheets of printed material. Also, keep in mind that each dorm room really only needs one big-ticket item, like a printer as well as a mini-fridge, microwave and standing fan. If your son is convinced he needs one (or more!) of these things to survive freshman year, have him compare notes with his future roommate before you hit the stores. "If one of them is going to bring something, the other one does not have to," says Bodnar.

More from Woman's Day:

The REAL Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight

10 Easy Chicken Recipes in 20 Minutes or Less

8 Ways to Conquer Back to School Chaos

Fun Ways to Put the Spark Back into Your Marriage – At Any Age!

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Mariah Carey’s Rep Confirms Star’s Split From Billionaire Fiance James Packer After Fight in Greece: Read the Statement

      Mariah Carey’s rep confirmed that the star split from her billionaire fiance, James Packer, after a fight in Greece — see the statement

      Us Weekly
    • This photo of a dog with a mouthful of ladybugs is freaking out pet owners

      The photo that Kansas veterinarian Lindsay Mitchell posted to Facebook looked so unreal and disturbing that some who saw it went right to the hoax-busting website Snopes to verify it. But that didn’t stop the photo from being shared more than 53,000 times since it went up last week. Mitchell, of Hoisington, Kan., posted a graphic picture of a dog with a mouthful of Asian lady beetles. Ladybugs aren’t so cute when 30 to 40 of them are stuck to the roof of a dog’s mouth. “This is the second pup I have seen like this today. If your pet is drooling or foaming at the mouth look for these lady bugs. They cause ulcers on the tongue and mouth and have a very painful bite,” she wrote on the Hoisington

      The Charlotte Observer q
    • Blac Chyna Speaks Out on Reports She Cheated on Rob Kardashian With Pilot Jones

      LAPD confirmed to ET on Thursday that Kardashian was being investigated for allegedly threatening Jones.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Russell Wilson's injuries are even worse than we thought

      First, on the knee injury, Wilson told Seattle media he wasn’t supposed to play for four weeks. Wilson, with the help of a live-in therapist, never missed a game. Wilson has a pectoral injury he’s dealing with.

      Shutdown Corner
    • VIDEO: Man pistol whips scary clown prankster in California

      A video showing a man dressed as a clown scaring random people in Northern California has gone viral after one man pistol whipped the prankster.

      KABC – Los Angeles
    • The Best Gifts for Adventure Travelers (15 photos)

      Whether youre hiking up Everest or through the local national park , there is so much to experience while venturing through unknown terraina pointyour beloved summit-seeking friend has reminded you a million times. This holiday season givethe adventurers in your lifesomething they can use on their journeybackpacks, sleeping bags, and growlersand a promise to jointhem on an adventure later in the year. This year, Travel + Leisure is offering its most comprehensive gift guide ever. The goal? Make sure you can find the perfect present for everyone (yes, evenyour mother-in-law ) on your list. Below, our picks for outdoor enthusiasts:

    • Donald Trump’s March to Loserland Is Only Beginning

      Donald Trump’s march to Loserland is only just beginning. His real pain starts the day after Election Day. As they say in his native Queens, what goes around comes around. And come it will. Accelerated business losses. A continent-wide clamoring to remove his miasmic moniker from buildings. Multiple looming lawsuits, two of them fraud actions arising from Trump University, one of those before federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego, whom he suggested was biased because of his ethnicity. Trump will also face revelatory depositions should he follow through on threats to sue the 11 women who have recently accused him of sexual transgressions. He might remember his deposition during his 1990 divorce

      The Daily Beast q
    • Uber and Lyft drivers share the 17 things they wish passengers would stop doing

      Driving for a ride-hailing app like Uber or Lyft is a bit of a gamble. Earnings can vary significantly from one hour to the next, and then there's the question of who exactly is getting into their car. On some occasions, drivers can have genuine conversations with complete strangers. But, then, of course, they also come across their fair share of stinkers. To find out which passenger behaviors rub drivers the wrong way, we asked them to chime in. Here are 17 annoying things you should probably stop doing right now: Leaving one-star reviews for no reason "One thing that might surprise people about the job is that even a four-star rating is bad. The whole system is set up so anything less than

      Business Insider q
    • Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen predicted the election 15 years ago

      It’s a little-known fact, but once upon a time 15 years ago, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen had a lifestyle magazine. The publication,…

      Hello Giggles
    • What Will Happen to Mariah Carey’s Ring from James Packer?

      If the news of Mariah Carey’s split from James Packer is permanent, there are some very important custody arrangements to work out. Who gets to take the jet to her children’s sports games and performances?

    • You Won’t Believe How Excited Dreadlock is When He Learns He’s Adopted

      10/26/2016 Posted by When almost 10-year-old Dreadlock came to the Soi Dog Foundation  four years ago, with horrible skin problems and a matted, filthy coat that rendered his moniker, he probably never imagined his life could get any better than being safe at the rescue. Known for being a cuddler, the typically laid-back dog was usually quiet, but surprised everyone when a volunteer shared with Dreadlock he would soon be on the way to his new forever home in the United Kingdom. The Soi Dog Foundation does remarkable work, saving  Thailand’s dogs and cats that have been neglected or abused.  While many of the animals stories will never be known, in coming to Soi Dog, they are given hope, love,

      Life With Dogs q
    • Kim Kardashian Concierge Reveals New Robbery Details: ‘They Weren’t There for Jewels’

      ET sits down exclusively with the concierge during Kim Kardashian's robbery, who recalls the terrifying events of Oct. 3.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Transgender Model Stuns in Bathing Suit on the Cover of ELLE Brazil

      Models getting their own magazine cover these days is rare (Karlie Kloss might be pretty but the Kardashians sell copies), but Valentina Sampaio fronts ELLE Brazil’s November issue. Sampaio, who wears a blue bathing suit and a Burberry coat in the shot, made waves when she came out as a trans woman on International Women’s Day through a video for L’Oreal Paris for which she is an ambassador. “It comes from the soul.” She goes 2016’s Women’s Day was officially her first, Sampaio’s cover is not without precedent.

      Yahoo Style
    • An Illinois GOP senator sniped at his Democratic opponent's heritage during a debate

      Republican Sen. Mark Kirk sniped at his Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth by...

      Business Insider
    • Tim Tebow answered Stephen A. Smith's dumb question with a riveting inspirational speech

      Hate on Tim Tebow all you want, but there’s no denying he’s one of the most motivational guys in sports — period. On Tuesday he appeared with Stephen A. Smith on First Take and dropped the best speech you’ll hear all week. When he was criticized for taking a long shot at making an MLB roster, Tebow dropped the hammer.

      SB Nation q
    • Trump Suggests Canceling Election

      "What are we having it for?" he asked a crowd in Ohio.

      ABC News q
    • The new MacBook Pro looks and feels so good it's unreal

      The new MacBook Pro is here — literally available for preorder today — and I’ve just tried it. The best thing I can say about is simple: everything about it looks and feels so good I almost didn’t believe it.We’ll start with the marquee feature, the Touch Bar. What you might not have gathered from the keynote is that it has a matte finish, which makes the buttons on it somehow feel a little more physical. It’s bright, but not so bright that it distracts — it seems to be about on par with the brightness of the backlit keyboard.

      The Verge q
    • Tomb of Christ opened for the first time in centuries

      Researchers have uncovered the original surface of what is traditionally considered the tomb of Jesus Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The tomb's surface had been covered by a thick layer of marble, according to an exclusive by National Geographic. "The marble covering of the tomb has been pulled back, and we were surprised by the amount of fill material beneath it," said Fredrik Hiebert, archaeologist-in-residence at the National Geographic Society working at the site.

      International Business Times UK q
    • Mariah Carey 'dumped' by billionaire fiance James Packer but keeping $10m engagement ring

      The fairytale may be over for Mariah Carey and her fiance James Packer with reports claiming the couple have split. The Australian businessman is alleged to have ended his 10-month engagement to the US pop star due to her extravagant spending in the midst of their wedding preparations. Packer, 48, proposed to Carey, 46, in January 2016 after almost a year of dating and presented the Grammy-winning singer with a $10m (£8.1m) engagement ring which he is reportedly allowing her to keep.

      International Business Times ONC UK q
    • Mariah Carey and James Packer Have Split

      “They are not together right now. They split a couple of weeks ago,” a source close to Packer confirms to PEOPLE