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I Bought All Our Back-to-School Supplies for Under $20

For so many of us, the start of the school year is filled with anxiety, fear and sadness in anticipation of what's to come. Yes, I'm talking about that trip to the store for back-to-school supplies.

Last year, after standing in line for 45 minutes and then handing over a small fortune to the cashier, I wanted to stab someone with the $8 ruler we just bought. (But I didn't because it was their last one and my daughter needed it for art class.)

So this year, I decided to make a trip to the dollar store. Best. idea. ever. We got everything she needed for under $20, which is around 1/3 of what I would have paid at a big office supply store AND no one got stabbed. Check it out:

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Start with the basics: binders, filler paper, composition books and folders

Normally the binder and paper alone would be around $5, but at the dollar store everything you see in this picture will only set you back $6.

Next, your instrument of choice

Multipacks of pens, pencils and highlighters—all $1 per pack. In an office supply store just one pack of highlighters is at least $3. And at the rate pens disappear in our household, this is going to save us a ton of money.

Now on to the real necessities: snacks

School is tiring and kids need to eat. And yes, I've heard the warnings about imported food at dollar stores being hazardous to your health. But stick with the name-brand items, which they have lots of, and you'll be fine. Just stay away from anything that has "lead" as one of the first three ingredients (I'M KIDDING.)

You're going to need a lot of these

Where do all the index cards go? This seems to be one of the great mysteries of life. All I know is my kids go through a ton of these during the school year for notes, projects, etc. so it's nice to know for a couple of bucks that we now have enough to last us until the apocalypse.

Buying school supplies makes you really thirsty

Our dollar store had a huge selection of thermoses and to-go cups. My daughter picked out these: One's for water in her lunchbox and the other is for her morning coffee on the metro. These will probably be lost within the first month of school, but who cares when I can replace both of them for only $2?

Can you every really have enough sticky notes?

What is it about the irresistible allure of brightly colored bits of paper with a sticky back? We found a big assortment of these at our local dollar store—all sizes and colors and even some in the shape of the letters in the alphabet, in case you ever forget your initials.

C'mon, people—stick with me

Need glue sticks, tape, staplers? You'll find everything you need for sticking one thing to another. Last year we paid $4.99 for a mini-stapler, so with the $3.99 we saved this year, we'll buy more gummy bears (see above.)

Now you need somewhere to put all this stuff

We found pencil cases in several different styles, shapes and colors. I saw these for $4-$5 at the office supply store, so at $1 each you can afford to buy four of them to stash all that extra cash.

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So sit back and count up all the money you've saved

According to my daughter this was the pièce de résistance. They are required to have a scientific calculator which run around $8-$10 elsewhere, so apparently all the kids are racing to the dollar store to buy these. Hurry, before you get run over by a pack of teenagers.

Photos via Kiyomi Morrison

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