Back-to-School…Ready, Set, GO

Posted by on Aug 25, 2014 in Do-It-Yourself, Frugal For Everyone | 34 comments

back-to-school Frugalforeveryone.

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Back-to-school…..those words bring back a host of memories, most of them good. It was our tradition to take the last two weeks of August to prepare for back-to-school. There was always so much to do….clothes to sort and new ones to buy; school supplies checked, topped-up or replaced; haircuts to get and annual medical/dental checkups completed. To get everything done for all our boys, took quite a bit of planning and coordination. But with a lot of goodwill and use of a checklist, we always got them ready to go back-to-school in plenty of time.

Back-To-School To-Do List:

1. Back-to-School – Clothes:

back-to-school Frugalforeveryone

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Clothes are a hugely important part of a school-child’s life, so it always made sense to start there. We followed a checklist to perform the following chores:

  • All clothes were removed from closets and dressers;
  • Their condition was checked – the ones still wearable where put in piles according to size; anything no longer good enough was discarded;
  • To freshen everything, the whole lot was washed and line-dried;
  • Everything was checked for loose seams and hems, missing buttons, etc. and all needed repairs made;
  • The clothes were tried on to see which ones fit what child;
  • Finally the clothes were returned to the appropriate closet/dresser.

Once all that was completed we knew exactly what clothes we needed to buy to fill gaps, which prevented over-spending. We didn’t even consider shoes – it was just an accepted fact that they needed to be replaced every year before going back-to-school. 

2. Back-to-School – Supplies:

back-to-school Frugalforeveryone

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It always amazed me how school-bags, crammed with school supplies at the end of the school-year, always ended up empty at the beginning of a new school-year. With all the boys in different grades, outfitting them with the correct supplies was interesting – the higher the grade, the more specialized the need. However, getting those supplies was definitely made easier by our practice of taking one child at a time for their back-to-school shopping – they always knew exactly what to get and where to get it.

3. Back-to-School – Keeping Track:

These last couple of weeks before school were also used for haircuts and the annual medical/dental checkups. To avoid a lot of waiting around, this took a huge amount of planning and proper scheduling. A large calendar to keep track of all the appointments was invaluable, not only at this time, but throughout the school year. 

  • A large family calendar made it easier to schedule all the activities, appointments, and school events and kept us on track;
  • Everyone could add their own notes and scheduled events, which simplified things and made scheduling easier;
  • To show the kind of really neat calendars that are available, I’ve included this link:

Back-to-School – GO

1. Back-to-school – Storage:

In order to keep all the school stuff in one area, my husband built individual lockers in the back porch for each of our boys. This was an incredible time and mess saver. There were hooks for hanging coats and backpacks, shelves for books and sports equipment, plus the shoes and boots went on the bottom. Not everyone has the back-to-school Frugalforeveryonespace or the handy husband, but here are a couple of suggestions for other simple ways to control clutter:

  1. One of our boys asked my husband to build a ‘kid-size’ coat rack. They hung this child-height, right inside the door, with a boot tray placed underneath to hold shoes and wet boots. That has been a big success – because it’s so handy and easy to use, the children do use it all the time. I found a really practical one at  a Prepac Entryway Cubbie Shelf. It is a bit pricy, but nicely shows what type of product is available.
  2. Option two is to buy a pantry unit from a DIY store and fit it out locker style, with hooks for coats and backpacks plus shelves and baskets to hold everything else. These units are relatively inexpensive, come in a range of sizes and stand-up surprisingly well.
  3. The unit shown above is one of those DIY pantrys that I normally use for bath-towels. It took all of fifteen minutes to convert it to a ‘locker style’ unit, just by adding hooks and drilling some holes so the shelves could be moved. A small, removable mat (I used an old bathtub mat) was placed on the bottom for shoes and boots. Once the picture was taken, it was quickly changed back to its original use.

 2. Back-to-school – Homework:

Children, as early as grade one, now receive homework. Having lots of experience with homework, I know you have to be prepared to hand over poster-boards, construction paper, markers, etc.,  without notice. I don’t know how many times I heard, “I have to do a project tonight that needs to be turned in tomorrow. Do we have any……?” (This last-minute thing happens more often the older they get). By keeping extra supplies like markers, crayons, poster board, paper, and other craft supplies on hand, you will prevent many last minute trips to the store, saving time, money and your sanity.

back-to-school FrugalforeveryoneIt’s a really good idea for children to do their homework in the family living area. Not only does this make it easy for them to ask their homework questions as they crop up, but since they’re working on school work it also helps them open up and talk about what happened at school that day, the good and the bad.

Keeping a bright, labeled catchall box in the homework area will remind them to place school notices, permission slips, newsletters, etc. in the box. It later only takes a minute for the parent to deal with whatever is there.

3. Back-to-School – Cyber Safety:

Going back-to-school should be a good experience for all children. Unfortunately, with all we hear about bullying, both at school and on the Internet, that is not always the case. It’s vital that parents keep an eye on their children’s use of electronic equipment in order to protect them. Placing the computer in the family room allows for unobtrusive parental monitoring of their children’s online activities. Discussing safe use of cell phones and other electronic devices with the children, along with setting guidelines as to their use, will also go a long way towards protecting them.

4. Back-to-School – Some other issues:

  • Today’s parents are very busy, but they don’t need to do it all. Most children actually enjoy helping with age-appropriate chores – other than doing dishes – if it means working alongside the parent.
  • School-age children, of all ages, are quite capable of placing their own dirty laundry in the laundry room if things are made easy enough for them. Coloured and/or labeled laundry baskets – white for whites, a dark colour for darks and a labeled one for those ‘I don’t know where this goes’ type of clothes – helps them get it right. 
  • A huge time and temper-saver – have the children get in the habit of laying out their clothes the night before. This prevents those early mornings “I have nothing to wear“ tantrums.

Back-to-School Wrap-Up:

When the boys were still at home I did enjoy the summers. Quite often, to give the boys and my husband a break, I would take them with me if I had to make out of town trips and their tagging along was appropriate. That was good for everyone. But I really used to love back-to-school time. Life became so much easier and more organized for all of us. I hope these back-to-school suggestions will inspire you to come up with your own organizational practices to make the school year enjoyable for all.

Talk to you again next week,



  1. Hello,

    Wonderful blog post indeed 🙂

    I love and miss my school days. Thanks for providing this informative detailed information.

    ~Dr. Diana Hardy

  2. My kiddos are back in school now but I’ve been wanting to do the mudroom locker thing. I’m hoping I can come up with something when we move next year.

  3. These are wonderful ideas for organizing for the year ahead and staying on track. I did not need to worry about internet bullying when my children were in school, so it is interesting to see how you approach this directly – it sounds like a great solution. Great article, Lenie!

  4. That is a very detailed list. I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about cyber safety when I was coming up.

  5. I remember all of the various things my mom went through to get us ready for school. It was much like you described. With my kids I didn’t want to go through the same stress so I would make sure that they got their check up before the end of the prior school year only leaving physicals for their school athletics. Living in Texas it is hot when school starts so they could wear their summer clothes and but the time it cooled off all of the regular clothes where on sale. There are still some stresses but not not like before thank goodness.

  6. Oh the times of school! I always loved the school supply shopping as much as I enjoyed getting new school clothes…but my mom and I are crazy for fun office supplies! It’s a new world than it was when I was going to school like that. There was no cyber-saftey to even consider. Just…safety. Interesting how much has changed yet a lot remains the same!

  7. I love back to school! We try to save money by buying the “back to school” clothes a few weeks into the school year. The kids always have plenty of clothes they can wear to school because the season’s haven’t changed yet. Then when the sales start, we load up for fall and winter.

  8. Hi Lenie,

    I’m so glad that’s behind us now, aren’t you? It seems like the two week run-up to the start of the school year is always crazy. Now that I’ve got one who graduated hs that makes it much easier.

    My youngest is in middle school and the drama, well lets just say I would rather be shopping for his clothes than listening to all the stuff that could happen, lol…

    Who hasn’t been there, right?

    I hope you have a great weekend Lenie!

    ~ Don Purdum

  9. My children are long grown up but this brings back memories. We usually went camping for a week before school resumed. My daughter and I had done her shopping before that and my son really wasn’t interested in shopping. So we did more of a pre-back-to-school celebration. Lots of fun.

    • Beth, your way sounds like so much fun and great timing. Just before going back to school everyone seems to get bored. We didn’t have that option – there was always to much to do.

  10. I hated school so much, even today years later, when I hear the words “back to school” I get shivers down my back.
    I did like your article, but not having children I do not need to go through school supply shopping. Thanks for sharing your article.

  11. Hi Lenie; this was probably your best post yet. I know lots of parents here in th u s who wish it had come about two weeks ago. 🙂 which is why when I shared it I told people to save it for next year’s back to school season. as for saving money these tips are very important. they say that now because of everything the kids need for school and college or university that the back to school shopping season is the second most profitable behind only christmas. here’s hoping they don’t come up with a black whatever for august. by the way when i was a kid summer didn’t end until the day after labor day. You got that one last long weekend before having to hit the books again. thanks for sharing. You did a great job my friend, max

  12. Lenie you are so organised! It sounds like your home is a well-oiled machine! I love the idea of having individual lockers out the back, very smart!
    I always wore a uniform so at least we never had nothing to wear tantrums, Im sure they would have taken place daily otherwise!

  13. This if the fourth year I haven’t had to get a classroom ready for new students. I always loved the start of a new year, though the high school students who wouldn’t so much as bring paper and pen to class could get on one’s nerves after awhile 😉

  14. Great tips for getting ready to back to school. My daughter is off to university this year. I am checking and rechecking my list. It is a bittersweet time for us.

  15. Lenie, like you my kids are grown up. BUT, I now have grand kids and the fun begins all over again! Are you a grandmother yet? 😉

    My granddaughter (the oldest of this new generation in our family) is still 2 years old and will be going into preschool within a couple of weeks. I can hardly believe it! (She’ll be three in late November.) My daughter has shopped for her school supplies: a lunch box, little food containers (the school allows no disposable bags, wrappers, etc.), new clothes, etc. I’ll be walking her to preschool most days so that’ll be fun.

    To me the new year always starts in early September, not January! A true transition time. I was a student for lots of years then became a teacher for almost as many years. As wonderful as it was, I am glad to be retired from the scene now.

    Thanks for the memory lane blog post. 🙂

    • Ramona, I am a grandmother of eight, with the oldest one 13 and the youngest one just turned one. Unfortunately, none of them live close enough for me to send them off to school in the morning, but grandkids are so special that any time shared with them is great. I am a little bit envious of you.

  16. Jimmy Fallon made a joke on the Tonight Show the other night about how back to school was the time of year when parents’ and children’s expressions switched…the parents are happy now – kids not so much. However, with all the work it takes to get them ready to go back to school, keep them up on the homework, etc. summer seems almost easier and more relaxed. That is if you can tolerate a really messy house! 🙂

    • That’s funny you should say that about summer almost being easier. At the end of the school year I look forward to summer as much as the kids because it is so much more relaxed but then about midway I really, really start looking forward to school starting up again.

  17. Back to school cyber safety…how things have changed. I still remember when when we were first allowed to use calculators in an exam at high school. Prior to that it had all been done long hand. Am I dating myself?!

    • Tim, compared to me you’re just a young thing. I don’t think the calculator was invented When I went to school. Even at my first job in the bank I had to use a hand-cranked adding machine.

  18. Hello
    Now a days when I go to market , every mall is full with Back-to-school stuff. Many are doing shopping as by start of next month, summer vacation will end. When I watch children doing shopping I remember my days ( few years back) when we( bro,sis n me, we are 4) were rushing in last week for all shopping.
    My daughter is still not in that age but she has everything like iPad , iPod etc that we can not even imagine. Time has changed very quickly. I will remember this post and will try to get such self for storage.

    • Shelf … typing mistake
      Thanks for great tips.

    • Hi Andleeb – did you check out the shelf at Amazon – it’s a beauty. I don’t know if they ship to your part of the world or not, but if they do, check it out. Time has changed and so have the needed school supplies. But we just go along with the flow and do what needs to be done.

  19. It’s amazing that every year retail makes such a lot of money when school starts again. My parents were very wealthy but the amount of gadgets that kids are given today makes what we got every year seem next to nothing. My 10 and 12 year old nephews each have their own computer, iPad, android phone, iPod and everything else you can think of.

    Sometimes wonder if it’s a bad idea that kids get used to getting such expensive items when they are that young. What we were given were not that expensive. With employment becoming a thing of the past and a masters degree being necessary for even medium level positions, many of todays spoilt kids will not be able to afford the standard their parents are making them get used to.

    • Catarina, I think what you’re saying is tremendously interesting and not something many consider. I’m afraid you’re right about the employment picture – it has already started with many jobs replaced by technology. I do hope, however, that there will be other income earning alternatives and although the standard of living (or buying) may be reduced, I believe we will adapt as we have throughout all of history.

  20. I was in a store last week that was very busy with back-to-school shopping. At the same time as I felt relief I no longer had that chore, it also made me a bit nostalgic for the days of getting my daughter ready for back to school. There is something exciting about starting a new school year. Good tips for getting ready for it.

    • Hi Donna – you’re right about the combination of relief and nostalgia. I felt the same way. Relief I no longer had to deal with all of that but the nostalgia part is what motivated me to write the post. Starting a new school year always made it seem like a new beginning, more so than New Year’s ever did.

  21. I no longer have children at home so I haven’t really thought about back to school. My children did help out with chores. When all their friends were going to summer camp, my children were at home so we would find adventures to do during the day. I actually missed them when they went back to school. Time flies by so fast.

    • Hi Arleen, at the time it doesn’t seem like time goes that fast but when you look back you wonder where it went. The good thing is we can now not only be happy with our children but have the added pleasure of grandchildren. Our boys didn’t go to camp either but we had a marvelous swimming hole a mile up the road where the entire neighbourhood gathered. After chores, just like yours, they were allowed to go there.

  22. My have things changed since I went to school! Ha! We didn’t even have book bags back then, and my new school clothes were mostly the hand me downs from my sister! The only new thing I got was shoes:) Back then, a lot of our supplies were provided by the public schools, too! Not having children, I never did go through a routine but you’ve outlined a very concise map for today’s parent. I’m crazy about that kid size coat rack!

    • Hi Jacquie – I know what you mean about when we went to school – life was simple because we couldn’t afford more but then everyone was pretty well in the same boat. With seven boys we had no choice but to keep things as organized as possible, hence the lockers. having them really did keep life neater.

  23. Oh I remember those Back to school days -rushing in the last week to buy their uniforms and PE kits, hair cuts, new shoes etc. etc… So glad my kids have grown up. I wish I had one of those storage cupboards – as often our dining room and dining table used to get cluttered with school stuff.

    • Hi Mina – I’m glad I don’t have to deal with all the back to school stuff anymore, yet at the same time I kind of miss it. It was such a real transfer of the seasons.