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August 07, 2017

Spend here, cut there. A Back-to-School Savings Strategy for Every Mom

When August hits, my “back-to-school prep work” shifts into high gear. Out come the lists: new school supplies, shirts, pants, jeans, socks, underwear, etc. (Seriously, how do these things disappear?) This year I’m looking to make a major investment for my boys: lunchboxes. Yes, you read that correctly, a lunchbox for each.

Since my boys take their lunch to school every day, having a reliable lunchbox is important. (I try to be environmentally conscious, so packing a brown bag every day filled with Ziploc bags is not ideal.) I’ve been looking at metal bento lunchboxes for quite some time. At around $60 each, they’re more expensive than your average lunchbox. But when you break down the price by cost per use, you realize they’re a reasonable investment.

$60 (lunchbox cost) divided by 180 (days in school) = .33 cents per use

The cost per use goes down significantly, obviously, if you’re able to use the lunchbox for a second school year. I decided the high sticker price was worth it, and then set out to determine ways to offset the cost of this large ticket item.

One way to get back-to-school ready is by shopping at Goodwill and taking advantage of its great prices. Also, I always consider whether or not my kids really need new clothes. They’re boys, after all, and care much more about which superhero book bag they have and the shoes to match than they do about new clothing. So, I look through all their clothes and decide which ones are still “school presentable.”

I keep in mind that both boys have birthdays later on in the school year (March and June), and they usually get clothes for gifts. I hold on to those pieces for the following school year. We even keep clothes from Easter Baskets on the hangers until the following school year, when they are really needed.


Clothes received for Easter ready for the new school year.


These are just a few ways to cut corners on certain back-to-school purchases so you can make room in your wallet for the major, necessary items. What strategies do you use to make school shopping more affordable?


  1. I now have children of my own who take their own lunch to school and preschool but there is no way I could say their lunch box will stand up as long as mine did. I had (and still use to store pens and markers in) the same lunch box right through ALL my years of schooling. That makes it over 30 years old. It’s a shame you can’t get this brand any more.

    • Aaah! I remember using my luncboxes for crayons and other odds and ends. I loved how the thermos was so huge and took up most of the space in the box! Unfortunately things are. I longer built to last which is why I’m still researching and trying to find the best one. Spending $30 a year on lunchboxes can add up so I want to find the “one and done.”

  2. My kids tend to lose their lunchboxes once or twice a year, so I’m not ready to buy expensive until they are more responsible. We did buy a nice Jansport backpack that has been through three years already, and that has worked well. Are the bento lunchboxes insulated? It seems like they wouldn’t stay cold.

    • There are some that come with iceboxes but good point on the insulation. My son had one that was silicone and worked great (but the outside part wasn’t built strong enough) and kept things warm/cold. Fortunately I haven’t had to deal with lost lunch boxes! Jansports are great bags. My boys like the ones with superheroes on them and unfortunately they are not built to last.

  3. I save by buying year round, rather than one time of the year and keep a supply drawer in my office. That way I take advantage of 25 cent crayons and marked down pencils. It is a good idea to have those on hand anyway, since generally around mid-year teachers start sending requests to replenish their in classroom supplies.
    I also only buy my girls one or two new outfits to start the year. And then wait until it actually gets cool to buy them new clothes. They are typically on sale by then, and they don’t sit in the back of the closet waiting to get used.

    • I need to get better with stocking up year round.

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