School supplies: Convenience is costly

Much to my daughter's dismay, it is time to start preparing for the upcoming school year.  Part of this ritual involves buying school supplies. This year, her school offered pre-packaged supply kits that were customized to her teacher's specifications.  The school receives $3 for every kit purchased.

Since I'm not a huge fan of fighting 10-year-olds for the last glue stick at the big box store, I was ready to take advantage of this offer – until I noticed that the cost of one kit was $80.  I was just certain I could properly supply her for school for much less.  So armed with the list, I headed to the store.

School Supply List

  • 3 dozen #2 pencils, sharpened
  • 6 blue ballpoint pens
  • 6 black ballpoint pens
  • 6 red ballpoint pens
  • 1 box markers, assorted colors (8 ct.)
  • Assorted markers and highlighters
  • 1 box colored pencils (8 ct.)
  • 1 box crayons (24 ct.)
  • 1 ream of white copy paper (500 ct.)
  • 10 pocket folders with 3 prongs, mixed colors
  • 2 packs wide-ruled lined notebook paper (200 sheets each)
  • 1 6" Big Kid Scissors, Ages 8+
  • 1 bottle of glue (4 oz.)
  • 1 washable glue stick
  • 2 packages Expo marker (4 ct.)
  • 1 foaming anti-bacterial soap
  • 1 box tissues
  • 5 Mead composition books
  • 1 zipper pencil pouch with 3 holes
  • 1 pack lined index cards (3 x 5)
  • Large binder (Optional)
  • 1 roll paper towels
  • 1 box plastic bags (either sandwich, quart or gallon size)

The result?  The total cost of my daughter's school supplies was $54.97 – 31 percent less than the cost of the prepackaged kit.  That's without comparison shopping or coupons. 

Now, instead of the $3 that was going to be donated to the school, I can donate the $25.03 I saved by spending a little bit of time to shop for supplies myself.  As a bonus, my daughter got to participate by choosing her favorite color notebooks and folders. 

What do you think?  Is the convenience of pre-packaged back-to-school supply kits worth the cost? 





You might also enjoy reading:

Back-to-school scavenging: Smart or a little sad?
Frugal back-to-school shopping tips
Frugal tips ease back-to-school expenses

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.