It’s back to school season. Some of you are excited for a change of pace due to having to find ways to keep our kids entertained and occupied. Some of you are stunned that the time flew by so quickly and are sad to see the relaxed “homework free” days draw toward an end. Whichever camp you’re in( and I’ve been in both) back to school time is upon us. I like to use a back to school checklist to help me organize and get ready for the school year.
Over the course of my kids’ school years, my back to school checklist has gone through phases and come in two different flavors. I would either:
- Create a checklist of all the things I could think of that my children might use or find one online or in a supply store. I would then use coupons or different frugal methods of getting everything on that list before school started. The downside: I ended up buying supplies that I did not need. To find the best deals, involved more time and shopping at multiple stores. Sometimes I ended up needing something I didn’t have on my checklist and would have to buy it later when pricing was not the best.
- Or wait to get a checklist from my children’s teachers outlining what was needed for the school year and buy only what was on their lists. The downside: the supplies and deals would be harder to find or gone and I felt rushed to get everything right away.
I don’t know about you but every year, I would be determined to conquer the school year. I would say to myself, this will be the year I will be on top of everything. I think I was setting myself up for disappointment. Before the kids ever had their first school lunch period, I would feel like I was falling behind – failing. Enough is enough.
Here I outline my tips for a saner kinder back to school season.
Back to School Checklist for your Peace of Mind
- Figure out what’s going on in my head – the first thing is to get a hold of what is going on with me mentally. Why am I doing this to myself? Who am I trying to please or impress? Why? Maybe I am trying to keep up with the other moms at my kids’ school. Maybe I’m trying to make sure my kids don’t feel embarrassed if they don’t have the same or better than some other kids at school. Maybe I just want them to have something I felt I was missing growing up. Whatever is going on, if I’m trying to “keep up with the Jones” or falling into a “comparison trap”, I need to stop myself.
- Recognize that I do not have to have it all together by the first day of school. The world will not fall off its axis if I don’t get it all done right now. I’ll talk about how I consider my budget and schedule and the role they can play in what can be done now and what can wait. Sometimes there are benefits to doing it all now and sometimes it makes more sense to spread things out.
- Think about the what works for me. There are a ton of resources for making sure I have what I need. I may make your own list, obtain a list from the school, find them online, or find them in most school supply stores. This is where I remind myself, never feel like you must follow one system because it seems to work for other people. Remember that we are all in different situations and have different personalities. Be willing to try anything but don’t feel like something is wrong if something you try didn’t work out for you.
- Consider talking about the comparison trap with the kids. All this pressure might not just be affecting me. My kids might also be feeling the pressure of perfectionism or peer pressure. It would be good to talk to the kids if they are old enough about dealing with these feelings. I think it’s helpful for kids to know that adults struggle here sometimes too. Sharing how I’m coping might help them too.
Back to School Checklist for Your Home
- Create a budget for back to school shopping. Figure out how much can I spend on school supplies, clothes, and don’t forget to include miscellaneous expenses like school lab fees or field trip donation requests. School supply sales start as early as July, long before school starts for most people, so if I can, I try to think about adding school shopping in July and seeing if I can afford to set aside some funds at this time. On the other hand, if my budget is tight, a reminder here that I can continue school shopping after the school year starts and I’m not limited to the funds I have available just right now is like finding money. I do not have to go into debt for Crayola, I can wait for the next paycheck and avoid interest payments. Another bonus is some sales give you an incentive like cash off during a window of time in the future.
- Think about the organizational flow at home. Where are we going to keep all the incoming paperwork? What about backpacks and shoes? Where will homework be done this year? If these gave us any problems last school year, let’s see if we can tackle those things with a little thought ahead of time.
Back to School Checklist for Your Schedule
- Determine how much time I realistically have for shopping. Sometimes there is more on our plates than others, right? One year things will be slow at work and there aren’t many extracurricular activities or summer activities to plan around. Another year, there will be greater demands on our time. It’s a fact of life so seriously think about whether shopping this year will involve extreme couponing every week, shopping online during off hours, or if it will involve just grabbing a few essential items to start.
- Get school info. Find out when the school opens, when schedules and resources will be available. Some schools mail information home, some do not. Find out what your school does. Make a point to visit the school or school district website and call if necessary to obtain the details. Add any important dates and special events like open house and orientations to the calendar. Find out how soon a supply list and contact information for the kids’ teachers will be available.
- Think about routines for the morning after school and evening. If possible start implementing routines early so we can adjust.
Back to School Checklist for Clothes and School Supplies
Now that we’ve done a mental check, thought about our budgets, and schedules, it’s finally time settle on checklists for clothes and school supplies. The biggest takeaway is doing what is best for us and our family so this will look different for everyone. Here are a few more tips:
- Consider weather – where we live it is still warm for a few months but the stores sell cooler weather clothing during back to school season. Warm weather clothing is starting to go on clearance. Sometimes I’m reluctant to buy cooler weather clothing that the kids can grow out of before they can wear. I’m also reluctant to buy the warm weather clothes for the following year because I don’t know how much they may grow.
- Consider continuing sales – sometimes we can get more bang for the buck when stores offer an incentive by giving a coupon for later use. One strategy I’ve used in the past is to only buy enough to qualify for the incentive and come back later with the coupon. But I’ll pass on this strategy if I know that my schedule means it’s unlikely I’ll return to the store during the window the coupon is good.
- What’s in their closet now – there’s an idea that we all only wear 20% of what’s in our closet. I try to go through our closets to find out what we are wearing. Is there anything they have outgrown or do not like wearing. Can we find a new home for these clothes if they are in good shape, it feels good to donate.
- What do we have already – do we need a 20th pair of jeans or a 5th white t-shirt? Maybe we are ok in the clothing department but we really need shoes and a backpack. Maybe we have pencils and paper but we really need notebooks. If we buy extras now do we have the intention to donate or to use later? That’s awesome, we just have to make sure we have the space and budget for doing so.
- Consider their personal tastes – I think about whether the things on our lists need input from the kids. Nothing is worse than buying clothes and they hate them. When can they start participating in the decisions and to what extent? My experience has been that younger kids care less but as they get older it becomes more important and it matters because it can influence where you shop.
That’s my process
I’d love to hear yours. What has worked well for your back to school checklist? Do you find you are consistent every year or do you change it up? I hope you’ve found something helpful through my checklist. Most importantly be kind to yourself in what can be a bit of a stressful season. I wish you and your family a fantastic school year!