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School supplies?

I know what you’re thinking.

She is, without a doubt, totally and completely insane.

We just finished putting away the knapsacks, the school uniforms, the crayon stubs, errant markers and half finished bottles of Elmer’s glue that mysteriously defied the odds and survived the school year and she is thinking about school supplies??

Yup. You got that right. Because while most people associate hot dogs, pool parties and fireworks with the Fourth of July, for me Independence Day signifies the start of the school supply shopping season. I know, the summer has just started, the kids have barely gotten off to camp, but as soon as the last explosion of color has faded from the nighttime sky, it is time to start checking your Sunday paper for the sales, some of which are so good you should definitely stock up now for the entire year.

Hear me out before you dial the local insane asylum and give them my address.

Picture this: you are sitting at your desk or in your kitchen and you want to jot down a quick shopping list or a note to a family member. You grab a piece of copier paper that you keep on hand for your printer. Stop for one second and do the math. How much does that piece of paper actually cost you? If you bought that package of five hundred sheets of copier paper on sale for three dollars, you are paying six tenths of a penny per page. Now contemplate this. Instead of grabbing copier paper, you grab an eighty-page spiral notebook that you bought on sale during the summer for fifteen cents and rip out a single page. That paper costs you approximately two tenths of a cent per page, which means it is three times cheaper than copier paper and since many spiral notebooks come with perforated pages, you don’t have those annoying ragged pieces on the side when you rip the page out. While it may be true that we aren’t talking about significant sums of money here, those little chunks of change add up and, if you think about how many times during the week each family member needs a piece of paper, you may realize that in an average year you go through a lot of scrap paper. Of course, the truly thrifty among us will save every half used notebook that their kids bring home from school and use that for scrap paper, but I can’t really ask you to do that, can I?

What you need to remember as the days grow long and hot is that this is the time of year when assorted school supplies, including pens, pencils, glue, folders, paper, crayons, markers and more can be had at a fraction of their normal price and these sales are not repeated during the year. Take advantage now or be prepared to pay double or triple the price when your kids come home from school in the middle of the year and tell you they need yet another marble notebook.

Office supply stores such as Office Depot and Staples, mass merchandisers such as Walmart and Target, drugstores such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid and even major supermarket chains all offer amazing deals. Make some room and clean out a closet shelf or two. It’s time to hit the stores.

The best items to stock up on?

Looseleaf paper. While the days of finding filler paper on sale for ten cents a package are likely behind us, Staples will generally have one week during the summer when it is on sale for somewhere between twenty five and thirty three cents. Their during the year price for the same package of paper? \$1.99. Now you tell me. Doesn’t it pay to stock up now? Teachers in the younger grades will generally prefer wide ruled paper, while teachers in older grades may prefer college rule and shockingly enough, your children may have a preference as well, so check with them because there is nothing more annoying than having ten packages of paper in your inventory and having your children say “but I don’t like that paper!”

Marble notebooks are another great buy this time of year and have evolved over the years into all sorts of colorful patterns that your kids will love. At approximately fifty cents apiece, on sale, they are another great buy as during the year they can run between two and three dollars each.

School glue. Yes, it is worth buying Elmer’s and you will likely find it on sale for somewhere around a quarter a bottle. It keeps forever so don’t worry about buying extra. Someone, somewhere, possibly even you, is likely to need it. Pens and pencils are another great buy and you will hopefully find ten or twelve packs of each on sale at two for a dollar. If your kids are little, buy a package or two of Crayola crayons. (Yes, it is well worth paying more for Crayola.) If your kids don’t need them this year, they will need them next year and you never know when they might come in handy on a road trip or some other occasion. At well under a dollar for a box of twenty-four you can afford to keep an extra package or two in the house.

Of course, there are items that have a shorter lifespan and need to be used within the year before they lose their effectiveness. Glue sticks for one. As they age, glue sticks tend to dry out, so while you should buy a bunch to have on hand (and for some reason kids tend to go through these at an alarming rate), don’t overbuy because they really don’t last. Markers are another item that have a limited shelf life. Always buy washable markers and splurge on Crayola – they last longer and the colors are more vivid. Should you have markers that have dried out, take off the cap and sprinkle a few drops of water on the colored portion of the marker. Put the cap back on, wait an hour or two and you may just find that your marker has been magically resurrected.

If you have older kids, this is the time of year to find the one item that will (hopefully) keep them organized and on schedule for the entire year – a planner. Teach them to write down their assignments and tests on a daily basis so they can see at a glance what is looming in their future and prepare accordingly. Both Target and Walmart get these school planners in just once, at the beginning of August. Buy them as soon as they come in because once they are gone, they are gone. Yes, you can probably find them in an office supply store. But at double the price.

So hang in there, take it slow, sip some iced tea and enjoy your summer. But hit the stores and take advantage of those sales. I promise you, come the first day of school you will be thrilled that you did.

Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who has written for various websites, newspapers, magazines and private clients in addition to having written song lyrics and scripts for several full scale productions. She can be contacted at sandyeller1@gmail.com.