How Much Are You Spending on School Supplies This Year?

Photo credit: Robert Judge, CC BY 2.0.

It’s been a long time since I’ve purchased any school supplies—although I do keep my home office stocked with colorful inkpens and Post-Its—but I remember how exciting it used to feel to go to the Dollar General with my mom and my sister and the list that the school sent over, and pick everything out. (Would I be a unicorn notebook person this year, or a dolphin one?)

Now there’s less to pick out, but more to buy. As Slate writes:

One mother who has two kids in public school outside Dallas said she spent $180 fulfilling their “ridiculous” lists this year. Her third-grader’s extensive list includes six plastic pocket folders with brads (specifically: red, blue, yellow, orange, green, and purple), Fiskars-brand scissors (sharp point), a four-pack of Expo markers, and 48 No. 2 pencils. As the lists have become cumbersome to fulfill, PTAs and online services have stepped in to bundle supplies for a fee.

First, I gotta respect the PTA’s hustle. Second: forty-eight pencils? 

The truth is, of course, that students are frequently being asked to bring enough supplies to share with the entire class—and that was a thing that was happening back in my day too, we were always asked to buy a few boxes of tissues or other supplies for communal use. But we were never asked to buy this much:

One single working mother whose daughter is starting kindergarten on the Upper East Side of Manhattan estimates that fulfilling the detailed 38-item list will cost her $300. The list includes foaming hand-soap (Babyganics or Method brand), four rolls of Bounty Select-a-Size paper towels, and Staples white shipping labels (2”-by-4”). “I think it’s absurd,” the mother told me. No working parent “has this kind of money or leisure time to surf Amazon Prime for this crap.”

This is the kind of discussion that comes up every September; you might remember Ester writing about her daughter’s 24-item school supply list last fall. This year, I’ll ask the annual question: how much are you spending on school supplies? Is it more or less than you expected to spend?

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