Seeking cheap back-to-school tips

This week, Consuming Interests' Cheap Trick Thursday will tackling back-to-school preparation, after realizing that jeezum, the summer is nearly over ...

Okay, back on topic: remember that Staples commercial where the father is dancing through the aisle of an office-supply store with "It's that most wonderful time of the year" playing in the background?


Generally the back-to-school shopping season is a great time --- for retailers, who enjoy sales that rival only to Christmas/winter holidays. But according to this MarketWatch story, shopkeepers are preparing for back-to-school sales far below previous levels, knowing that rising prices for everything else leaves families with few spare dollars for a fancy pencil case or trendy sneakers.

I'm curious if any parents or kids out there have good advice for bargain hunting when it comes to clothes or supplies, whether students are headed a neighborhood classroom or an institution of higher learning.

Granted, even routine decisions are way more complicated than they were when most of us were kids. Check out Kate's post at Charm City Moms about how to choose a backpack, for example.

And some supplies might not be negotiable ...

having written a story about back-to-school shopping lists issued by schools way back when I was an education reporter. Some schools even specified what brand of sandwich bags or crayons that students were to purchase. Maybe parents benefit because they don't have to buy something that wouldn't get used, but I could see how this could get out of hand.

Also, advertising to college students really kills me, because isn't tuition expensive enough as it is?

Yeah, maybe you need extra-long sheets and a shower caddy for dorm life, but are a beanbag chair and an iPod really essential? (P.S. I like how the first link places "study" on the bottom of the list of critical college functions, under eat, sleep and wash. Whatever! I didn't pay that much to sleep --- except in class.)

Then again, I'd like to find a happy medium between that and StopBuyingCrap's minimalist recommendation for equipping students.

Also, I'm curious: is a lunchbox on your list, or is it cheaper --- when you consider the prep time --- to have your kids buy lunch at school?

Please share any and all thoughts about preparing your young'uns to return to classrooms. We'll post the best ideas on Thursday.

(Staples commercial)