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Back to school checklist

Categories: Tips and Tricks


Back to school has snuck up on me as my older kids started last week while I was out of town.

I usually pride myself on getting supplies and routines ready ahead of time (and making futile promises that things are going to stay that way all year), but this year I’m not quite there.

So, I’ll tell you the things I usually do to get ready for back to school and you can pretend I’ve finished them.

1. Physicals and immunization records - Get the sports forms filled out early. Our school doesn’t ask for them until right before the sport begins and they act like you should have had it in 3 weeks before that.

I’ve finally learned to send those and immunization records at the beginning of each year whether or not anyone asks for them, because by the time they ask it’s with some sort of urgency on their part.

2. Backpacks and lunch boxes - Always check backpacks before school begins. Even when they look like they’re in good shape, you don’t know what lurks within.

In fact, right before I wrote this, I dumped about a 1/2 inch of dirt and scraped old, melted cough drops out of my 15 year old’s backpack.

The same goes for lunch boxes. Go check now. You know it’s possible there’s an uneaten lunch from back in May in there.

3. School supplies. This one is easy for me. I LOVE shopping for school supplies. I take a picture of my youngest child’s supply list that’s issued before summer begins. I keep it on my phone so it’s with me all the time .

Over the years, I’ve learned that there’s a few items that run out quickly (jumbo book covers, 1″ binders, red pencils), are hard to find or cost to0 much at certain stores, so I’ve learned to get these things as I see them if they’re in stock or on sale.

4. Shoes and clothes/uniforms. We’ve had one too many years where we’ve discovered the night before school starts that somebody didn’t have uniforms that fit or shoes.

I get a particular style of school uniform khakis for the boys at Target, and have learned the hard way that they only carry them for a short time, so I visit several stores frequently and buy my supply all at once when I see them.

Also, do not fall for the line, “Mom, they fiiiiit….” when they don’t want to try on clothes and shoes. Everyone tries on everything a couple of weeks before school. Period.

5. Lunch items and money - I keep a box in the pantry with single serve items for lunch boxes, etc. and the grocery usually has sales on these items for back to school, so I try to stock up.

It makes me sound efficient, but I really just dislike having to think about all that stuff. I get a load of it so I don’t have to think about it for a while.

I also put money on lunch cards because I like to start out doing it right, but I know full well it will devolve into adding it 3 bucks at a time when we forget to re-load the cards and it’s not quite payday. (What? That’s just us? Never mind, then.)

I’ve also finally learned to keep a stack of dollar bills, five and tens for the beginning of the school year because every paper that comes home from school wants to be returned to school with money. I spent many years being surprised by this Every. Year. and then I got wise.

What kinds of things do you to to get ready for the school year? Do share your ideas and inspirations because school is either here or it’s just around the corner for most of us!

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3 comments so far...

  • We don’t have uniforms here but I only buy my kids one outfit for the first day of school. The tradition started with my girl, now 20, because she would inevitably buy something that she wouldn’t wear because no one else was wearing it. Now, the boys get lots of new shorts at the beginning of summer when they need them and wear them through the beginning of school. Sames me money for the jeans-buying frenzy that will hit around October 1st when they realize they have grown out of all of last years jeans.

    Headless Mom  |  August 9th, 2011 at 3:28 pm

  • I second the uniform comment!

    It is so much easier and usually cheaper to buy what you like in the fall when it is abundant and frequently on sale. Possibly even buy a couple of pieces one size up.

    I wish all the articles on saving money on back-to-school would point this out instead of having the blanket suggestion not to buy an entire years worth of school clothes now. With uniform basics, you really can save money by buying mostly in the fall.

    Shannon W.  |  August 11th, 2011 at 12:21 pm

  • My child has grown several inches over the summer so we’ll have to buy more than one outfit out of necessity. Luckily, “fashion” is not a big thing for her. And she’s not at all adverse to taking the beloved dress from last year, throwing on leggings and calling it a tunic (the variety of fashion is one of the nice things of having a girl I will say).

    Because she was in camp all summer (backpack/packed lunch required) I know we have no hidden items - now if they would just send out the blankety-blank school supplies list so I can get them while there are still sales!

    Mich  |  August 12th, 2011 at 10:40 am