Where to splurge (and save) on school essentials

Where to splurge (and save) on school essentials. What's actually worth the extra money? {Heather's Handmade Life}

It’s been almost two years since I became an “elementary-school parent,” and this fall I’ll have BOTH kids heading off to school each weekday!

I know, I know — I still have a few months to go. But I’ve already been thinking of what I’ll need to pick up for Miss C so she’s ready for her big year at Primary.

Based on what I’ve learned so far with D, here’s what I would recommend splurging on — and saving on — when it come to school essentials …

SAVE: A single set of lunch containers. 

I like the Rubbermaid LunchBlox ones (not sponsored at all) and we’ve been using the same set* for almost two full school years now.

I stuck name labels on every piece (even the lids) and I keep everything in its own little bin of “lunch-making supplies.” These are the ONLY containers I use in D’s lunch, and — as a result — we don’t misplace these and need to buy tons of the cheap throwaway containers or a bunch of baggies.

SPLURGE: A thermos your child can open.

We bought this easy-open Aladdin thermos (again, not sponsored) before D started Primary and we LOVE it. I’ve recommended it to lots of parents who discovered their kids couldn’t open the one they bought originally.

It’s used practically every school day since the kid is obsessed with bringing “dinner food” like pasta with meat sauce. It’s been through the dishwasher a million times and is still going strong.

SPLURGE: Name labels that won’t come off.

We LOVE Mabel’s Labels and have ordered them several times (nope, not sponsored). I like buying a multi-pack that has a combination of sizes, and they really STICK to everything — jackets, shoes, water bottles, etc.

I’m sure that’s why we’ve been able to keep the same lunch containers, thermos, etc. for almost two school years now. Even if D were to have misplaced something, it comes straight back to him (or is easy to pinpoint at the Lost and Found table).

SAVE: A crappy backpack-and-lunch bag set.

Yes, you heard me: a cheap, junky one that will probably cost $10-$15. It will have a huge photo of a cartoon character covering the entire back, and the lunch bag will have little straps so it can hang down from the bottom of the backpack.

I’m willing to bet C picks this one.

“But Heather,” you say. “Why buy a piece-of-crap backpack that will surely have holes in it by the end of the school year? Wouldn’t it be better to invest in a quality backpack my child can use year after year?”


Here’s the thing: my kids love character crap and I refuse to buy them character-printed clothes or room decor. They don’t even get a lot of character-y toys. I’m mean that way.

I’m willing to compromise on the hideous character backpacks because (A) it makes them excited for school, and (B) they’re going to want a new one every year, so why would I buy an expensive one and force them to carry it when they’re sick of it?

Backpacks and lunch boxes (or bags) were always something I got to pick out at the end of every summer, so I’m content to buy cheapies that will last just a single school year.

SPLURGE and SAVE: Outdoor shoes that you like more than the indoor shoes. 

Your child needs indoor sneakers, obvi. They need to be the non-marking-sole type and they’re only ever going to wear them indoors — at school — so go for something comfy with velcro so they don’t become a pain in their teacher’s butt. They don’t have to be expensive.

But chances are, they will also need a new pair of outdoor shoes. The sneakers they’ve been wearing all summer are likely grubby and very beat-up — possibly outgrown, too — but it’s going to be November before they’re wearing boots on a regular basis.

I bought D a fancier pair of outdoors this past fall (black leather American Eagle high-tops from Payless, almost exactly like these) and, let me tell you, they made me unreasonably happy. He’d be all dressed for school and throw those suckers on, and he looked like the cutest little hipster.

Much cooler than the dork (also him) wearing the grey and orange velcro numbers pictured above (his indoor shoes last year). But I don’t have to look at the indoor shoes, so … *shrugs*


What other essentials should I be thinking about for next year? Hit me up in the comments!

Where to splurge (and save) on school essentials. What's actually worth the extra money? {Heather's Handmade Life}
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