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The Backyard Blog

Unique take on popular topics, useful resources and financial advice by renowned writers, specialized experts and experienced bloggers.

back to school shopping
By:

August 13th, 2016

Back To School Shopping Master Guide

The end of summer means warm afternoons, bountiful gardens, and getting ready to go back to school. While kids may be soaking up the last of their sunny days and free time, parents are focused on getting everything their kids need to be successful for the upcoming academic year.

Whether your child is getting ready to head off to kindergarten or college, he or she needs a lot more than just a notebook and a pencil. And for older students who are preparing for graduate study, the checklist of necessary items is even more diverse. No matter what stage your child (or you) may be in for this coming school year, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a comprehensive shopping list for every step of the way, from school supplies to the clothes they’ll need to the assorted miscellany that make student life that much easier.

KINDERGARTEN

When your child heads off to kindergarten, it’s a big step for him or her, but it feels like an even bigger step for you. Packing up your little one’s back pack, putting him or her on the school bus for the first time, witnessing all the challenges and triumphs — it all takes a huge emotional toll on the whole family. You can help ease some of the stress by making sure your child is well equipped to handle all the rigors of this first year in school. Here’s what you’ll want to get.

School And Classroom Supplies

While individual kindergarten teachers may have their own detailed supply lists, here are the school supplies that you can expect to purchase:

  • 1 box of No. 2 pencils (pre-sharpened, if available)

  • 1 box of colored pencils

  • 1 large box of crayons

  • 1 large box of washable markers

  • 1 pencil box

  • 6-12 glue sticks

  • 1 bottle white glue

  • 1 pair safety scissors

  • 1 wide ruled spiral notebook

  • 2 heavy duty pocket folders

  • 2 boxes tissues

  • 1 box wet wipes

  • 1 bottle of hand sanitizer

  • 1 box large zip top plastic bags

  • 1 box small zip top plastic bags

 

Where To Shop

School supplies like these are often available at big box retailers like Target (http://www.target.com/), Walmart (http://www.walmart.com/), and even drug stores like CVS (http://www.cvs.com/) and Walgreens (http://www.walgreens.com/). Office supply stores like Office Depot (http://www.officedepot.com/) and Staples (http://www.staples.com/) also carry all of these items. If you’re shopping online, check the websites for these stores, or consider looking on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/).

Clothes and Shoes

If your child’s kindergarten requires students to wear uniforms, you’ve got a lot of the legwork done for you. Most schools with uniform requirements will direct you to the retailer that carries the right pieces, and you can purchase what you need directly from them. However, most public schools have no uniform requirements, and parents need to choose the right school clothes for their children. All parents, though, will need to pay attention to the outerwear, footwear, and clothing accessories on this list:

  • Uniform tops and bottoms, if needed

  • Comfortable pants and jeans

  • Shorts, if the weather is warm

  • Comfortable tshirts, both short sleeve and long sleeve.

  • Several sweaters and sweatshirts for cold weather

  • Sweatpants and other extra comfortable clothing for PE days

  • Comfortable everyday shoes with non-slip soles

  • Sneakers

  • Sandals for warm weather (not flip flops)

  • Warm winter coat

  • Rain jacket

  • Light jacket or hooded sweatshirt

  • Winter hat

  • Gloves or mittens, with clips if your child tends to lose things

  • Small umbrella that your child can open and close

 

Where To Shop

Kindergarteners are typically still small and can fit into the larger sizes in the toddler department. You’ll find great new stuff at affordable prices at stores like Carter’s (http://www.carters.com/) , Target (http://www.target.com/), Old Navy (http://oldnavy.gap.com/), and Children’s Place (https://www.childrensplace.com/). Or, for better brands at better prices, check out the pre-owned clothes at sites like ThredUp (https://www.thredup.com/) and Schoola (https://www.schoola.com/); these sites exclusively select consignment clothes that are in excellent condition, and Schoola even donates 40% of their proceeds to benefit public schools.

Other Things You’ll Need

Beyond school supplies and clothes, your kindergartener will need a few other items for his or her day:

  • 1 backpack that fits comfortably

  • 1 lunchbox

  • 1 or 2 reusable ice packs for lunchbox

  • 1 or 2 reusable snack containers

  • 1 reusable water bottle

 

Where To Shop

Any large retailer near you should carry all of these items. For high quality backpacks and lunch bags, look at the offerings at LL Bean (http://www.llbean.com/) or Lands’ End (http://www.landsend.com/); for a nominal fee, you can even have your child’s name or initials embroidered on one. For great reusable metal bento boxes and snack containers, check out LunchBots (http://www.lunchbots.com/) or PlanetBox (http://www.planetbox.com/).

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

The elementary school years bring with them lots of learning, lots of intellectual growth, and lots of homework. While there’s still a fair amount of time dedicated to recess, social activities, and character building exercises, the things that students learn in the early grades lay the foundation for the more advanced academics of high school and college. Get your grade school student off to a fantastic start by making sure you have everything necessary to ensure his or her success.

School And Classroom Supplies

Check with your child’s teacher for specific required supplies, but here are the items you can safely expect to need:

  • 2 boxes of No. 2 pencils (pre-sharpened, if available)

  • 1 box of colored pencils

  • 1 large box of crayons

  • 1 large box of washable markers

  • 1 12-inch ruler

  • 1 large pencil box

  • 6 glue sticks

  • 1 bottle white glue

  • 1 pair blunt tip scissors

  • 2 packs index cards

  • 1 wide ruled spiral notebook

  • 1 marble composition notebook

  • 2 heavy duty pocket folders

  • 2 boxes tissues

  • 1 box wet wipes

  • 1 bottle of hand sanitizer

  • 1 box large zip top plastic bags

  • 1 box small zip top plastic bags

  • Musical instrument (if your child plays one and has a music class at school)

 

Where To Shop

Check prices at Target (http://www.target.com/), Walmart (http://www.walmart.com/), Office Depot (http://www.officedepot.com/), Staples (http://www.staples.com/), CVS (http://www.cvs.com/), Walgreens (http://www.walgreens.com/), and Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/).

Clothes and Shoes

As your child enters elementary school, you’ll begin to frequent the children’s departments of major retailers. Kids grow a lot during these years, so don’t be surprised if you need to go up a size in both apparel and shoes at least once during the school year. Here’s what you’ll need to get started in September, though:

  • Uniform tops and bottoms, if needed

  • Comfortable pants and jeans

  • Shorts, if the weather is warm

  • Comfortable tshirts, both short sleeve and long sleeve.

  • Several sweaters and sweatshirts for cold weather

  • Sweatpants and other extra comfortable clothing for PE days

  • Comfortable everyday shoes with non-slip soles

  • Sneakers

  • Sandals for warm weather (not flip flops)

  • Warm winter coat

  • Rain jacket

  • Light jacket or hooded sweatshirt

  • Winter hat

  • Gloves or mittens

  • Umbrella that your child can open and close

 

Where To Shop

As with kindergarten clothes, Target (http://www.target.com/) and Old Navy (http://oldnavy.gap.com/) carry great kids stuff. Also check out the children’s department in stores like Kohl’s (http://www.kohls.com/), Macy’s (http://www.macys.com/), and JC Penney(http://www.jcpenney.com/).

Other Things You’ll Need

The backpack and lunchbox that you buy your son or daughter for kindergarten should last through the early elementary years. However, some kindergarten backpacks may be too small once the homework load of the later grades start, and some students will want a newer, more “grown up” model. Either way, here’s what you’ll want to make sure your child has for first through fourth grades:

  • 1 backpack that fits comfortably

  • 1 lunchbox

  • 1 or 2 reusable ice packs for lunchbox

  • 1 or 2 reusable snack containers

  • 1 reusable water bottle

 

Where To Shop

Again, LL Bean (http://www.llbean.com/) and Lands’ End (http://www.landsend.com/) are great places to shop for durable, long lasting backpacks and lunchbags. And we highly recommend investing in a reusable metal lunch box (and snack containers) from PlanetBox (http://www.planetbox.com/) or LunchBots (http://www.lunchbots.com/).

MIDDLE SCHOOL & HIGH SCHOOL

As kids get older, they often feel like they’re more grown up and independent. The middle and high school years are the ideal time to really get them involved in back to school shopping. You can take your child with you, or you might choose to give him or her some money to spend and encourage careful budgeting. However you choose to pick up what your middle school or high school student will need for the upcoming, here’s what you’ll want to get.

School And Classroom Supplies

Heavily divided schedules mean lots of teachers and lots of required supplies. While you’ll definitely want to check the supply list for each of your child’s classes, this master list should get you started:

  • 1 box No. 2 pencils (pre-sharpened, if available)

  • 1 box ballpoint pens (black or blue)

  • 2-4 red ballpoint pens

  • 1 box multicolored highlighters

  • 2 large binders

  • 3 packages of loose leaf paper

  • 1 package binder dividers

  • Folders (with holes to fit in binders)

  • 1 package graphing paper

  • Compact scissors

  • 1 12-inch ruler

  • 1 calculator

  • 1 compass

  • 1 protractor

  • 2 packs index cards

  • 1 pencil case

  • 1 stapler

  • 1 staple remover

  • 1 planner (for recording assignments)

  • Small foreign language dictionary

  • Musical instrument (if your child plays one and has a music class at school)

 

Where to shop:

School supplies for middle school and high school students can often be found at office supply stores like Office Depot (http://www.officedepot.com/) and Staples (http://www.staples.com/). Or, you might try an online office supply retailer like Quill (http://www.quill.com/) or WB Mason (http://www.wbmason.com/).

Clothes and Shoes

When it comes to choosing clothes for school, kids tend to have a lot of opinions. The desire to “fit in” is strong, and it’s important for many students to feel like they’re fashionable without looking like they’re trying too hard to be trendy. What’s more, many children in this age range are still growing, so the clothes and shoes you buy in September may no longer fit by March or April. Here are the clothing and footwear items that your middle school or high school student will need for the upcoming academic year:

  • Uniform tops and bottoms, if needed

  • Several pairs of pants or jeans

  • Skirts and leggings for girls, if they prefer this look

  • Several tshirts, both long and short sleeve

  • Sweatshirts or sweaters

  • A bag with a change of clothes for PE (with clean socks and deodorant)

  • Comfortable sneakers

  • Comfortable shoes (such as loafers)

  • Sandals for warm weather (not flip flops)

  • Warm winter coat

  • Light jacket or hooded sweatshirt

  • Winter hat

  • Gloves or mittens

  • Umbrella

 

Where To Shop

As your child gets older and develops a personal sense of style, it’s often a good idea to sit down with your child and find out where he or she would prefer to shop. While Target (http://www.target.com/) remains a favorite with many pre-teens and teens, bigger stores and mall outposts like Abercrombie and Fitch (https://www.abercrombie.com/), Gap (http://www.gap.com/), Old Navy (http://oldnavy.gap.com/), Aeropostale (http://www.aeropostale.com/), Forever 21 (http://www.forever21.com/), and others. Some teens who prefer a more unique and vintage look may even want to shop at thrift stores. Having a conversation about where you’ll do your back to school clothes shopping can help your child feel more in control of his or her clothing choices, and it can help you understand the kind of look he or she is after.

Other Things You’ll Need

As kids get older and get up in grades, the amount of craft-related school supplies that they need may diminish, but the list of other assorted necessary things seems to grow. Here are the additional items your middle school or high school student will need.

  • Backpack or messenger bag

  • Lunchbox

  • Reusable water bottle

  • 2 combination locks

  • Flash drive (large capacity)

  • Small tube of hand sanitizer

  • Small pack of tissues

  • Small first aid kit (with Band-Aids, pain relief medication, etc.)

  • Feminine hygiene products

 

Where To Shop

While most of the smaller items on this list can be purchased or ordered along with your child’s school supplies, the more personal items (like the bag and the lunchbox) should be handled like your child’s wardrobe: ask what he or she would like and where the item should be purchased. While retailers like LL Bean (http://www.llbean.com/) and Lands’ End (http://www.landsend.com/) will still be popular with some teens, others will prefer something like a customized messenger bag from Timbuk2 (http://www.timbuk2.com/), something more rugged from Swiss Gear (https://www.swissgear.com/) or The North Face (https://www.thenorthface.com/), or a school bag from another favorite company. Online retailer Sierra Trading Post (http://www.sierratradingpost.com/) also carries a wide selection of rugged backpacks and supplies from a variety of different brands.

COLLEGE

Heading off to college is more than just heading off to school. For many new college students, it’s heading off to a whole new and different lifestyle. It’s the first time that your child has lived on his or her own, and while the initial college living experience is often in a dorm, there’s still a slew of responsibility and change to contend with. College life is always made easier, though, when your child has the right things close at hand. Here’s a long list of basics that your college student will need as he or she embarks on this new endeavor.

Materials and Supplies

  • Textbooks (specific to each class)

  • Laptop or desktop computer

  • Printer

  • 2 packages printer paper

  • Replacement toner or ink cartridges

  • 2-4 packages college ruled paper or legal pads

  • 1 durable pocket folder for each class

  • 2 boxes ballpoint pens (blue or black ink)

  • 1 box No. 2 pencils (pre-sharpened, if available)

  • 2-4 ballpoint pens (red ink)

  • 1 box highlighters (assorted colors)

  • 2 packages index cards

  • Scissors

  • Scotch tape

  • Stapler

  • 1 box staples

  • Staple remover

 

Where To Shop

While it’s true that textbooks can be purchased at your college bookstore, it’s also true that their prices are astronomically high. Look into renting textbooks for the semester from Chegg (http://www.chegg.com/), TextbookRentals (http://www.textbookrentals.com/), and even Amazon Textbook Rentals (https://www.amazon.com/Rent-Textbooks/b?ie=UTF8&node=5657188011). Or, to buy used textbooks at a deep discount, check the listings on Half.com (http://www.half.ebay.com/) or Chegg (http://www.chegg.com/), which sells as well as rents. For supplies like pens and paper, office supply shops like Office Depot (http://www.officedepot.com/) and Staples (http://www.staples.com/) are still your best bet. Avoid buying these things at your college bookstore, which charges a premium for the basics. Finally, for computer equipment, electronics stores do carry many options, but it’s often best to go right to the manufacturer’s site. Not only will you get a low price, but you can often take advantage of back-to-school deals. For example, Apple (http://www.apple.com/us-hed/shop) is running a promotion through September 5 that will get you a free pair of wireless Beats headphones when you purchase a new Mac, iPad, or iPhone for college.

Clothes and Shoes

Buying clothes for college is more extensive than buying clothes for high school, especially if you’ll be living in a dorm or apartment away from home. You’ll need to have a more complete wardrobe with you. Here are the staples:

  • Several pairs of pants or jeans

  • Skirts and leggings for girls, if they prefer this look

  • Several tshirts, both long and short sleeve

  • Sweatshirts or sweaters

  • At least one professional outfit

  • At least once outfit you can wear to a semi-formal event

  • Socks and undergarments

  • Pajamas

  • Bathrobe

  • Slippers

  • Bathing suit

  • Athletic clothes for exercise

  • Comfortable sneakers

  • Comfortable shoes (such as loafers)

  • Sandals for warm weather (not flip flops)

  • Warm winter coat

  • Light jacket or hooded sweatshirt

  • Winter hat

  • Gloves or mittens

  • Umbrella

 

Where To Shop

As with high school students, college students are very much interested in developing their own personal style and aesthetic. Department stores like Macy’s (http://www.macys.com/), JC Penney (http://www.jcpenney.com/), and Kohl’s (http://www.kohls.com/) may be good for basics, as might Target (http://www.target.com/), and mall mainstays like Gap (http://www.gap.com/), Old Navy (http://oldnavy.gap.com/), Forever 21 (http://www.forever21.com/), Abercrombie and Fitch (https://www.abercrombie.com/), and others are the stores of choice of many young adults. However, many college students will have their own preferred stores and retailers. Have a talk with your son or daughter about where you’ll shop for his or her college clothes.

Other Things You’ll Need

Beyond school supplies and clothing, the list of must-haves for a college dorm room is quite large. Dorm rooms often come with a few basics — a bed and mattress, a dresser, and a desk — but are sorely lacking when it comes to anything else. If you’re living in a dorm for the upcoming academic year, here’s a list of items to pick up before classes start; if you’ll be living in an apartment, you’ll want to add on some furniture items as well.

  • Backpack or messenger bag

  • Reusable water bottle

  • An initial supply of snacks

  • Storage bins (various sizes)

  • Minifridge

  • Snacks and easy foods to prepare

  • A few dishes and pieces of cutlery

  • A few cups or glasses

  • Pillows and sheets (typically for XL size bed)

  • Large blanket or comforter

  • Towels

  • Laundry bag

  • Laundry detergent

  • Quarters for washers and dryers

  • Shower shoes (such as flip flops)

  • Toiletries

  • Tissues

  • Shower caddy

  • Adhesive hooks

  • Alarm clock

  • Surge protector

  • Extension cords

  • Any decorations or wall furnishings to make your space feel like home

 

Where to shop:

As most of these items are small housewares, a store like Bed Bath & Beyond (http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/) is fantastic, as are the housewares departments at chains like Target (http://www.target.com/) and Kohl’s (http://www.kohls.com/). Or, if you’d rather shop online, the websites of those retailers as well as Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/) should have everything you’ll need.

GRAD & POST GRAD

For most graduate students, grad school is more like a full time job than anything else. Sure, you’re getting an education, and you’re getting paid less than most full time employees, and your hours are more or less nonstop, but the living arrangements are often more akin to just living in an apartment. For this reason, you’ll notice that our list for grad and post grad students is much lower on the school supplies and much higher on the list of other things you’ll need to live comfortably.

School And Classroom Supplies

You can probably dispense with a lot of the usual school supplies. Just a few basics for taking notes, doing research, and writing papers should be all you need.

  • Textbooks (specific to each class)

  • Laptop or desktop computer

  • Printer

  • 2 packages printer paper

  • Replacement toner or ink cartridges

  • 2-4 packages college ruled paper or legal pads

  • 1 durable pocket folder for each class

  • 2 boxes ballpoint pens (blue or black ink)

  • 2-4 ballpoint pens (red ink)

  • 1 box highlighters (assorted colors)

  • 2 packages index cards

  • Scissors

  • Scotch tape

  • Stapler

  • 1 box staples

  • Staple remover

 

Where To Shop

As with the college school supply list, you’ll want to rent your textbooks from places like Chegg (http://www.chegg.com/), TextbookRentals (http://www.textbookrentals.com/), and Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Rent-Textbooks/b?ie=UTF8&node=5657188011), or buy them used at Half.com (http://www.half.ebay.com/). Pens and paper can be ordered from office supply stores, and computer equipment is often most affordable when you buy it directly from the manufacturer.

Clothes and Shoes

Dressing for graduate and post grad studies is like dressing for a very casual job. However, individuals who have teaching and professional research assignments may want to dress a bit more formally than students who don’t. Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Several pairs of pants or jeans

  • Skirts and leggings for girls, if they prefer this look

  • Several tshirts, both long and short sleeve

  • Sweatshirts or sweaters

  • At least two professional outfits

  • At least once outfit you can wear to a semi-formal event

  • Socks and undergarments

  • Pajamas

  • Bathrobe

  • Slippers

  • Bathing suit

  • Athletic clothes for exercise

  • Comfortable sneakers

  • Comfortable shoes (such as loafers)

  • Sandals for warm weather (not flip flops)

  • Warm winter coat

  • Light jacket or hooded sweatshirt

  • Winter hat

  • Gloves or mittens

  • Umbrella

 

Where To Shop

Big name department stores like Macy’s (http://www.macys.com/) and JC Penney (http://www.jcpenney.com/) are ideal for finding both casual and more professional clothing. However, graduate students should feel comfortable purchasing clothes individual retailers that they prefer, whether it’s a designer label, a big national brand, or a thrift shop.

Other Things You’ll Need

As a grad or post grad student, you probably won’t qualify for student housing, nor would you want to, given the vast age gap between you and the undergrads. Most students at this point in their academic careers need to furnish an apartment. While specific necessities will vary based on your personal preferences, here is a good list to get you started:

  • Backpack or messenger bag

  • Reusable water bottle

  • An initial supply of snacks

  • Bed and mattress

  • Dresser or armoire

  • Nightstand

  • Desk and chair

  • Dining room table

  • One or more couches

  • Coffee maker

  • Toaster or toaster oven

  • Bookshelf

  • Storage bins (various sizes)

  • Snacks and easy foods to prepare

  • A few dishes and pieces of cutlery

  • A few cups or glasses

  • Pillows and sheets (typically for XL size bed)

  • Large blanket or comforter

  • Towels

  • Laundry bag

  • Laundry detergent

  • Toiletries

  • Tissues

  • Adhesive hooks

  • Alarm clock

  • Surge protector

  • Extension cords

  • Any decorations or wall furnishings to make your space feel like home

 

Where To Shop

For affordable home furnishings, IKEA (http://www.ikea.com/) is immensely popular. You’ll have to do the hauling and assembling yourself, but if you can rent a truck or borrow one, moving items from the store to your place should be simple enough. Plus, their furniture comes with easy to follow instructions. Online retailers like Overstock (http://www.overstock.com/) carry an impressive selection of discounted home furnishings, as do big box retailers like Target (http://www.target.com/), Big Lots (http://www.biglots.com/), and Home Goods (http://www.homegoods.com/). Finally, for smaller items, including small appliances, check out Bed Bath & Beyond (http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/).

 

One Response to “Back To School Shopping Master Guide”

  • MSVCP140 February 1, 2017 8:33 am

    :-) OK !

 
 

One Response to "Back To School Shopping Master Guide"