Frugal Living » The Worst Back-To-School Buys

The Worst Back-To-School Buys

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As parents, we’re as excited as anyone about back to school time. What we’re not so pumped about is wasting our dollars on unnecessary gear for the kiddos. Here, our list of top money-wasters. Some are small-ticket items, but as anyone raising a kid these days knows, every expenditure adds up and every dollar counts.

Book Covers

We remember when brown grocery bags were used to cover books and students decorated them with good old-fashioned creativity (crayons, anyone?). So, investing in fancy store-bought covers to beautify your biology textbook seems like a waste of cash and fun.

Spiral Notebooks

Ugh, some of the most annoying things ever. Why? Because every time you rip out a page you end up covered in tiny white paper shreds! Stick with perforated journals or three-ring binders and we promise you won’t miss the mess. We love inexpensive three-ring binders with clear overlays on the front (from your local office supply store). Your child can print, draw, or stamp anything they want on a sheet of letter-sized paper then slip it into the cover.


Mechanical Pencils

While we love the idea of self-sharpening pencils, the tip is always too thin. It constantly breaks. Old-fashioned No. 2 is a better (and more cost-effective) choice.


Schools have a stash of rulers on hand for those rare instances when kids need one. Cross this off your list of necessities.


Unless your little mathematician needs a graphing calculator for a special course, you probably don’t need to purchase one. Many schools have basic calculators and every cell phone does, too.

Disposable Lunch Bags

If you haven’t jumped on the “eco” bandwagon yet, now’s the time! Forget those brown paper lunch bags and single-use plastic sandwich sacks. Search Etsy (a site featuring handmade goodies) for reusable, washable cloth snack bags. And invest in a cool, user-friendly lunchbox like the GOODBYN.

The Worst Back-To-School Buys


We fondly remember dragging our mothers all over the mall searching for the ideal pair of faded jeans, the perfect gauze blouse, and the quintessential sneakers to start the school year. Fashion is an essential part of school — whether you’re a sixth-grader or a Senior.

But overspending on clothes before the first day isn’t wise. Get what is needed (according to you, not your kid!). Then add as the school year goes on. Avoid the urge to get suckered into of-the-moment kitsch (jelly shoes, studded handbags, leg warmers, etc.).

Fashion trends come and go in a blink, so spend your budget wisely and teach your child the difference between “classics” and “trends.” We know they probably won’t listen but give it a try.

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1 thought on “The Worst Back-To-School Buys”

  1. i learned my lesson one year, purchased all the pants my daughter would need for the year by the time she needed them she had grown 3 inches. Had to save them back for the younger one. I now purchase a few shorts and capris.

    My kids lime the graphic tees and with the easy price at walmart or 5 and below I useally pick up 15 or so for them. We buy clothing like we buy household supplies. If someone needs socks I add them to the grocery list, same with a new pair of pants or bras.

    I am lucky my kids like walmart clothes so I get all my shopping done at once.


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