Teacher Tips: Shopping for School Supplies

Every year, July rolls around and I start watching for sales at my favorite local discount stores on supplies for my classroom. Most every store that you can buy school supplies at has some sort of sale during the summer to take advantage of, with a lot of them taking place during July. Since July has come and gone though, I’m going to give you some tips so that you don’t waste your hard earned money when it comes time for you to head out and buy your child’s supplies.

Choosing a Brand

Believe it or not, there is a HUGE difference between store brand and generic school supplies versus the more-well known brands. As a teacher, I completely 100% understand that supplies are expensive, especially if you have multiple children to buy for. We all understand that, but when you buy a cheaper brand or version of what is on your school’s supply list, you essentially can be wasting a lot of money. Sometimes the name brand may be a few cents more, but believe me, it is SO worth the extra pennies. More often than not, the more well-known popular brands will last your child twice as long and continue to have high quality, while the cheaper brands will not. 

School Supplies 1

Now I am definitely not telling you what to buy, but if a school’s list of supplies actually says a specific brand to purchase (as some do), please as often as you can, stick to their request. I guarantee you that the teachers are requesting a certain brand, not because they want you to spend more money, but because they want you to get your money’s worth. As teachers, we are thrifty in nature, so not only do we want you to get the most for your money, but we also want you to spend your money wisely. That’s why brand names are often included on our supply lists.

Optional Items

Some items may be listed as optional on your child’s supply list. Of course, you don’t have to purchase those things, but they are on there for a reason. We have many things in our classroom that are very consumable. Meaning, we use them everyday and run out pretty quickly. Things like hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes, and Kleenex are things that all of the students will use and our school budgets just don’t have enough money in them for us to continue to purchase them over and over all year long.

 School Supplies 2

In years past, I have seen items on lists that teachers would like donated. These items might include highlighters, Ziploc baggies, dry erase markers, or notebooks. Those types of things are supplies that we probably have also ordered using our school budget, but we may need to replenish them as the year goes on.

Extra Sets

In some classrooms, teachers may ask for two sets of things, like markers or crayons. This is often because by winter break, your child’s markers no longer work or their crayons are too broken up to use. That’s when the second set that was brought on Back to School Night comes out of the cupboard. When my students come back from winter break and have a brand new set of supplies to use, they get so excited!

Wish List

It never fails, every year I get asked by parents what else my classroom needs. I love that parents want to help our classroom and are willing to spend more money to do that! I have a wish list outside my classroom door with all sorts of items written on sticky notes. If a parent wants to donate something, they take a sticky note of their choice, purchase the item written on it, and then send it to school with their child. On my wish lists over the years, I’ve asked for all sorts of things. From cardstock, plastic spoons, and playdoh to batteries, board games, and paper plates . . . I’ve asked for it all! I’ve been super lucky over the years to have parents donate so many wonderful supplies to my classroom.

The best part about it is that these small donations make a HUGE impact on all of the children in the class!

I encourage you to keep in mind all of this information while shopping for school supplies. You don’t have to buy the most expensive things, but be selective about purchasing generic brands for certain supplies. Also, don’t be shy about buying more than the amount asked for on the list either. Things like glue sticks, notebooks, markers, or folders are ALWAYS needed! There is always a child that will need them and teachers work hard to make sure that all of our students have everything they need to get the school year off to a great start.

As the end of summer nears, I hope you enjoy shopping for school supplies. It is a rite of passage and in some families is a true yearly tradition. Anytime you can, purchase extra supplies or donate items to your child’s classroom. It will bring a smile to your child’s face to know that they are helping others AND your child’s teacher will thank you from the bottom of their heart.


Melissa was born and raised right here in Iowa. Although she grew up in southwest Iowa (about as close to Missouri and Nebraska as you can get!), she has called eastern Iowa home for 15 years. She and her husband Eric live in North Liberty, along with their 4 year-old daughter Kennedy. Melissa attended the University of Northern Iowa where she earned her BA in Early Childhood Special Education and her MAE in K-6 Learning Disabilities. She currently teaches kindergarten for the Clear Creek Amana School District, where she has taught for 14 years. In her spare time, Melissa loves to be outside playing or working on projects in their yard, spending time with family and friends, and baking up goodies for her family. She also enjoys taking walks with their two dogs, plump beagle Lenny and shy dachshund-beagle mix Cooper. Life as a full-time working mommy keeps her very busy, but Melissa wouldn't have it any other way!



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