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Back to school. Back to reality.


Remember the sweet scent of paper and plastic while shopping for back-to-school supplies as a child? That new notebook may have been more than a stationery stock up. It might have represented a fresh start – a collection of blank pages ready to be filled with new ideas and goals for the school year.

Today, the person responsible for setting little ones up for success might be you! It’s a full-circle moment – but before you pour every last cent into ensuring that Canada’s future Prime Minister has what they need, read these money-saving, back-to-school shopping tips first.



Make a list of what you need.

This is a great opportunity to introduce your child to the concept of budgeting.

• Sit down with your child and build a shopping list together.

• Include categories like clothing, shoes and supplies.

• Demonstrate how their budget should be spread across each category.



Reuse your supplies.

Don’t rush to the store just yet. If your kids are a little older, you might have amassed a collection of lightly used school supplies. After you’ve tossed your lidless, dried-up markers:

• Grab a sharpener and give old pencils and pencil crayons a new life.

• Use elastic bands to neatly bind similar items together (if you don’t have their original packaging).

• Freshen up any old pencil cases with a little soap and water.

If you’re starting from scratch, it’s still a good idea to wait. Most teachers will send out a list of supplies required within the first week of school – once you receive it, give your local dollar store a browse. You can uncover some great deals on all of the essentials.


Pack nutritious and affordable lunches.

While it might be tempting to purchase pre-assembled lunches, they tend to be pricey and may not meet the nutritional needs of your child. Making your own gives you more control over what your child eats, inspires them to make smart choices and can offer instant savings on your groceries.


Here’s some ways to incorporate healthy options into your child’s lunches:

• Invest in a bento lunch box (a container divided into little compartments) – it’s a great way to incorporate elements of Canada’s Food Guide every day, including fruits, vegetables, protein and grains.

Add complex carbs like granola bars and pasta to give kids the fuel they need throughout the day! These items can be purchased in bulk at certain wholesalers and discount grocery stores.

• Blend and disguise vegetables and legumes like lentils in a meat sauce to create a nutrition-packed, delicious bolognese.


Invest in the best.

Some things are worth spending a bit more on. You might pay more upfront, but the investment could get you through several seasons, saving you money in the long run. When it comes to items that are exposed to wear and tear like backpacks, aim for quality. And, consider sizing up on outerwear to extend its wearability (or get you through a growth spurt).

You should also keep in mind that children go through interests faster than an unguarded jar of chocolate chip cookies (without raisins). Save the polyester princess and superhero backpacks for weekend outings and choose options in tougher fabrics like canvas for school. They can be personalized with all the key chains and removable patches they desire.


Before purchasing anything new, consider these money-saving tips:

• Check local buy-and-sell groups – the second-hand market features in-season barely used and new products that often sell for a fraction of the price.

• Add a browser plug-in that will search the internet for price drops on products you’re interested in (plus, many retailers offer back-to-school deals).

• Look out for end-of-season sales – you can sign up for email and text notifications from your favourite stores.



Check with friends and family.

It takes a village, right? That applies to grade school, too. Don’t be afraid to lean on your network for support.

• Swap or share items with friends and family to keep your spending down.

• Connect with parents of other kids in your child’s class by creating a text group so you can stay on top of homework and school organized events like “pyjama day.”

• Expand your network by joining parent groups on social media to swap tips.


With the current high cost of living, many Canadian families may be struggling to pay for food and school supplies for their children. While a national food program is in the works, there are a number of non-profit organizations that help teachers and parents stock classrooms with nutritious options for children who need them.

In addition, your school may offer free access to supplies, including technology. Reach out to your child’s school administration if you need extra help.