Back to School Pt 1: Shopping & Saving

brown pencil on black and green book
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As I prepare for my 22nd year of school, I realize how much the meaning of ‘back to school shopping’ has evolved for me.  When I was younger, it meant a new outfit, a hard cover binder and my mom’s money.  Now, I’m far more selective when deciding on what I actually need because back to school shopping money comes from the same pot as rent and food.  So, in all of my years of back to school season, the most effective tips I’ve learned for saving money are:

  1. Keep your old notebooks.  Instead of buying new notebooks, tear out the used pages and store them in a folder with the course syllabus and other relevant handouts.  Use the older and lighter notebook for the new semester.  This helps with reducing clutter too.
  2. Stock up on supplies at new student programming.  Be humble, take the free pens, post it notes, water bottles, etc. and save your coins.
  3. Try to find a digital copy online or buy it used.  Half of the books I bought in undergrad and a quarter of the ones I bought in grad school are probably sitting in a box somewhere collecting dust.  You don’t have to buy it new.  I actually really enjoy buying gently used books especially when other people leave their (light) comments so I can get a sense of how other people interpreted the text.
  4. Thrift stores and consignment shops for clothes.  This can be time consuming, but if you find some good pieces, it’s totally be worth it.   I don’t buy used workout clothes, but I am a fan of places like Ross and TJ Maxx, which usually have pretty good prices on their athletic clothes and equipment.

When I taught high school, ‘back to school shopping’ had very little to do with me and everything to do with my classroom.  I had a frequent buyer account at Office Max, and I would literally just buy entire boxes of spiral notebooks and binders.  I wore out my FedExKinkos discount like no other.  I loved my kids.

Now that I’m a  graduate student, I’m not making nearly as much money, and I don’t have to decorate and provide supplies for my own classroom–teachers don’t get enough credit (literally and figuratively).  This time around, what I’m buying is more about me, which is nice.  I’m teaching 3 days out of the week, and I’m not taking any classes, so I didn’t have very much time to shop.  Here are the few things I did pick up:

  1. Work attire. 3 new shirts from Express, 1 pair of pants from Old Navy, 2 pairs of flats from DSW
  2. 2 folders. the one I repurposed was falling apart.
  3. A nice thermos. I’ve found that having tea or something warm to drink when I have to do public speaking helps calm me down.  I already have one that I keep in my office.
  4. Dance classes. as an act of pre-emptive self care, I signed up for a salsa performance team.  The ten week commitment is a little daunting because I can’t always anticipate my workload even though I’ve tried to plan as much as possible. I think having  forced exercise that I actually enjoy will be a great stress reliever.  If nothing else, I already payed for it, so I plan to be there.
  5. Spanish classes. This is the only way I’ve found to really hold myself accountable for maintaining and improving my fluency.

All of that pretty much took my first paycheck before I even got it #adulting; however, I trust that the return will be far greater.  I’m proud that I made these purchases with my overall well-being in mind. So, ‘back to school shopping’ is back to being about me, but I definitely have a better understanding of what, as an almost- ABD-grad-student, is going to help me feel confident and comfortable.

Are you purchasing anything new for the semester?  Are you recycling anything? Is back to school shopping just another capitalist gimmick to get us to spend our coins? Let me know.

4 Responses

  1. What a great take on responsible spending. I wasn’t a big spender as a student but I wish I’d had some of these tips…when I think about all the half filled notebooks that were sitting around my brain implodes. Nice post!

    • Thanks so much Laura! It’s so easy to just buy a new notebook for a new project, but sometimes we can create a new start just by tearing out a few pages. Voila! I also hated not being able to buy the same type of notebook year after year, especially if I liked the design, so I found this helpful.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed this post partly because I got to see you make all the purchases in action. It’s cool to see how you translate everyday activities into a concise blog post. 🙂

    While I don’t have any back to school purchases, I am in the process of decluttering my space and recycling clothes. I hosted a clothing swap where some friends took a few clothes off my hands. I somehow still have about 30 pieces left, so I plan to take some to H&M. Did you know that H&M will give you a 15% off coupon when you bring 3-4 pieces of clothing to recycle? I’m also taking the more fashionable clothes to Buffalo Exchange to see if I can get some cash for them. Also, if you’re looking for a few new pieces, please let me know because I’d be happy to bring some to NYC the next time I’m in town.

    • Thanks Krystalthebaker!!!
      Yes to the clothing swap. It seems like a great way to declutter and touch base with friends. I’ve always seen the sign for H&M, but I’ve never tried it myself. I definitely have stuff from them that deserves to be recycled. Have you tried them before. I was thinking about Buffalo Exchange today looking for a light coat. 25% of my closet is from you, so you know I will gladly take more. No questions asked.

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