For some parents, school supply lists are a blight on an otherwise happy time: back-to-school season.

It's not easy to gather up all of those verrrryyyy specific supplies. But because there's an important reason your kiddo has been asked to bring these things, we're doing what we've gotta do.


At the top of everyone's supply list? A rubber band ball, of course. Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images.

It can get pricey to purchase those essentials, especially for families with more than one student.

Believe it or not, it is possible to find your back-to-school joy again ... by saving money on back-to-school necessities.

To make sure I'm only giving you the best-of-the-best tips, I asked parents and teachers for some cash-saving ideas, plus I threw in a few of my own, to help you feel like you're scoring your own personal victories by saving money while buying school supplies this year.

1. Check to see if your state offers tax-free shopping days on back-to-school items.

2. You can also check retailers' websites for back-to-school sales.

Save time by using a website that aggregates the sales for you! Nicole Johansen, a mom of two and teacher for 12 years, recommends the website Surviving a Teacher's Salary. While geared toward teachers, the "hot deals" section will be useful for anyone buying back-to-school supplies.


Photo by Mike Mozart/Flickr.

3. Use money-saving apps.

Target's Cartwheel is just one example, but apps can let you look for items on your supply list that are also earmarked for additional discounts. If I'd have known about it before I bought my kids' supplies, I'd have saved another $15.

4. If you have an Amazon Prime membership, this is an excellent time to use it.

You'll find great deals on back-to-school items, and even better, you can sign up for Amazon Smile (and still use get Prime benefits). With Amazon Smile, an organization you choose will earn 0.5% of all of your purchases. Signing up is free — and may I suggest you designate your school (or school's PTO) as the recipient?

5. Buy a few extra essentials while they're on sale.

Many parents suggest buying a few extra "essentials," like pencils and erasers, during the back-to-school sales — you can get many items for 50% off regular prices — and hanging onto them for later in the school year when your child runs out.

Image by Thinkstock.

6. Coordinate bulk shopping with other parents if you can.

One friend suggested going in on bulk-item purchases with some other parents. Buying in bulk is often cheaper, and teaming up with other parents whose kids are in class with yours is a great way to save a little cash.

7. Ask the teacher what items are needed most urgently.

If your budget is tight, ask the teacher what items the kids will need right now and what you can purchase midway through the year. For example, they'll need pencils now but might have enough boxes of tissues, which means you can buy those later.

8. Look for products you can use year after year.

Some stores offer lifetime guarantees — seriously, lifetime! — on products your kids can use for school. Staples, for examples, sells binders that are guaranteed for life.

Beyond getting the absolute necessities, there are a few ways to spread some back-to-school kindness to teachers and other students if your budget allows.

Not all parents can afford to fulfill their students' supply list. There is nothing wrong with or shameful about that. But it's hard for kids, regardless of how much we adults understand life circumstances.

If you have a little wiggle room in your budget, you can pick up some extra supplies on the list and just bring 'em in.

Alternatively, you can ask the teacher specifically what supplies he or she could really use, shortly after the year begins and once they're able to take stock of what the classroom really needs.

Gifts cards for supplies are another way to help a teacher out.

I asked Katie Sluiter, a mom of three and a teacher of 13 years, what's most helpful for her — general Visa gift cards, retail store gift cards, or online gift cards.

"For me, I would welcome anything," she said. But your best bet? Ask the teacher which would be most helpful.


Not the actual gift cards teachers usually ask for, unless of course they're integrating movies and fishing into their lessons. Photo by 401(K)2012/Flickr.

Johansen gets excited when she talks about teacher specialty stores, like Lakeshore Learning. She says the supplies are more expensive, but the quality is much higher — and these are "everyday" items.

"For elementary school teachers, just walk into a teaching store with them and watch their eyes light up — it's like Christmas in August. Pretty much anything in there is what we don't request but would love," she says.

If you're more comfortable purchasing supplies instead of gift cards, there are other items teachers need but are reluctant to request. For Sluiter, it's poster board and presentation notepads. For her kindergarten teacher friends, it's plastic baggies. Just ask your student's teacher what they need that didn't make the class supply list.

Image by Thinkstock.

A friend of mine who's a teacher says that it's helpful to have a bag of packaged snacks in her desk for those students who come to school on empty stomaches. Whether the students were running late or didn't have breakfast because of financial limitations, teachers know it's hard for kids to learn when they're hungry. Check in with the teacher for any classroom allergy restrictions, then pick up some packaged snacks and drop 'em off!

There are a lot of suggestions here, but we're each only capable of so much and everybody understands that, especially your child's teacher. So don't worry; no one is looking at you, wondering why you didn't go above and beyond to bring in even more supplies.

"Any help is appreciated by teachers!" Johansen says. "Heck, a word of affirmation or acknowledgement that they spend their own money to better the education of all students would boost spirits!"

Teachers are teachers because they believe in what they're doing, not because they want a large glue stick collection.

"My favorite part of teaching is the personal relationships," Johansen says. "I adore getting to know my students — they are a part of my life forever, whether they know it or not."

"I love that my job makes a difference in the world," she says, "even if it's one person that is changed or helped. I love the laughter and love that comes with my job."

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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