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How I Was Able to Donate 30 School Supply Items for Less Than $5 Out of Pocket

Donating 30 School Supplies for Less Than $5

Anne emailed in the following about back to school deals she got and donated recently:

My husband’s company is having a school supply drive for the YWCA. I told him I wanted to see how many supplies we could get for $5.

We paid $4.79 for the 29 items pictured. I owe it to Money Saving Mom® for teaching me how to coupon and how to find local deals through region-specific blogs.

My husband and I did separate transactions at Target (because their coupons state one coupon per guest):

For $0.90 before sales tax, we got 16 items at Target!

We went to the Friends and Family Sale at Fred Meyer, a store in the Pacific Northwest. All school supplies were 15% off with a printable coupon I found on a regional blog:

  • 6 spiral notebooks (sale price of $0.19) for $0.16 each – total of $0.96
  • 4 packs of Bic pens (sale price of $0.99) for $0.84 each – used 2 $1.50/2 printable coupons – total of $0.36 each
  • 2 packs of pencils (sale price of $0.79) for $0.67 each – total of $1.34
  • 1 pack of erasers (sale price of $0.50) for $0.42
  • We used a reusable bag and got an additional $0.05 off.

For $3.03 before sales tax, we got 13 items at Fred Meyer!

I also have a 2-pack of Sharpies that aren’t pictured and are the 30th item. I got them while grocery shopping on a 10/$10 sale at QFC (a Kroger-brand store) with a $1/1 e-coupon – so they were FREE!

In case you’re keeping track, the sales tax was $0.86 total.

After 11 years of teaching fifth and then second grade, I left teaching this June to stay home with our 9-month old daughter. I’m glad we’re able to contribute during back to school time in a small way!

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13 Comments

  • Jessica says:

    Yay! Last year I donated 6 copy paper boxes FULL of couponed school supplies to my daughter’s school.

    Has anyone noticed, however, that many schools are REALLY PICKY about supplies? Like crayons *have* to be Crayola, and not the off-brands that cost a fraction of the price? And so on, and so forth?

    • Mother Lydia says:

      When they are on sale, I’ve seen Crayola boxes all over for 50 cents versus the 25 cents for store brand

      So if you catch a sale the name brands may not be such a big hit.

      And there are reasons at least some of the name brands are being requested. Crayola crayons are heads and tails over the generic — such that it can lead to problems in classes when some kids get to use the “good crayons” and others are stuck with the “bad ones”. Their colors are more vivid and they transfer color to the paper smoother and easier. It isn’t worth the quarter difference in price to buy the cheaper crayons.

      • ShoppingFool says:

        Cray0la goes a quarter a box at least two or three times a year, so you can almost always get it for the same cost as the cheapie brand. I buy my limit several times so I can have them for school, home, and donation.

        We always get our list literally the last minute possible, after all the sales unfortunately. So I stock up on all the cheapies and keep some for home, fill the list when we get it and donate the rest. We have the sweetest school counselor and she’s in charge of all of the donations and if you could see the look on her face when we bring in things(everyone, not just us)…it’s worth a thousand words!

    • As a former Kindergarten teacher, I will say that one of the only things I was very picky about was Crayola Crayons. The reason being that many of the off brands don’t actually color well (cheaper wax, maybe) and the kids with the off brands often end up asking to borrow the Crayola-kids crayons because they actually color well and the color on paper matches the wrapper color. Off brands also seem to break easier, leaving the kids with those ones, again, frustrated and asking to borrow from a Crayola kid.

      Besides crayons, I was often picky about pencil brands (because really, if I have to sit and sharpen 1/2 of a pencil before getting it to sharpen for real, it’s a huge waste of my time and the parents money anyway).

      Most other things didn’t bother me, as the off-brands performed as well (I did request name brand white board markers, actually). So, for the most part, if a school is asking for a particular brand, it’s probably with good reason 😉

  • Anne says:

    It’s fun to share this with everyone. I just checked the links and I think the $1.50/1 Target printable is NLA. It went fast!

  • Robyn says:

    What an inspiring post!!

    Yes, schools are often very specific about supplies. I know at our elementary school, the supplies are “pooled,” so they want them all to be the same. And quality matters when you’re trying to get through an entire school year with 2 boxes of crayons each!

    I love that Anne used her couponing skills to help her community!! Thanks for sharing!

  • Caitlyn Lord Yasika says:

    I actually challenged myself to provide for 4 children.
    I have 1 daughter that started 1st grade, so I duplicated her list and gave both to her teacher at her registration day.
    There was person in need at my church who had a granddaughter started kindergarten. I purchased her supplies and also a bunch of supplies for my daughter’s former kindergarten teacher. I spent more than $5, but it was worth every penny.

  • Jen says:

    I buy for my own 2 kids, plus as a middle school teacher, I stock my prize box with school supplies at the beginning of the year. I usually spend less than $20 and have enough for the whole year. My students actually love to get mechanical pencils and nice clicky pens and highlighters and white-out and post-it notes for prizes (I reward them for winning certain games we play in class and for getting a 100% on a test). When I realized they liked the school supplies better than toys in the prize box, I was happy to oblige.

    • Robyn says:

      You sound like an awesome teacher, Jen!!

      As a mom, I’m SO grateful that my kids attend awesome public schools (elementary and middle). We’ve had so many great teachers along the way.

      I also like to ask the teachers at the beginning of the year if they need anything else. Sometimes, they don’t control the supply list, and they end up buying much needed supplies out of their own pocket (crazy!!).

      We also discovered last year that the teachers bring their own “k-cups” for the keurig machine in the teachers lounge. We try to pitch in at least twice a year and buy them a bunch, so they stay caffeinated. 🙂

  • ryan says:

    I take advantage of Office Max Perks all year through to stock up on school supplies and be able to give the teachers nice baskets full.

  • Anny says:

    Our children managed to stretch nickels, dimes and quarters and filled many a backpack using bargain hunting, clearance deals and inspiring our community to share. That project blossomed and my children biological and adopted paid donated backpacks forward. You see we had a critically ill baby back in 1990 and someone took the time to make sure that my 4 children had what they needed to start school.

    Paying it forward, over 6,000 children in 10 years got brand new backpacks filled with school supplies built on the hard work of a handful of children who reached out to the communities to make sure that kids in the local shelters, foster care system, and local social service agencies had what they needed to learn. That word spread, when my kids were featured in a People Magazine Story, Small Angels Who Care in 2005 and as the Disney All Stars Winner for Volunteer Service. It was built on bargain hunting skills and thinking big and making sure that kids could start school READY to LEARN and be proud the first day of school, not worrying about not having what they needed. They also learned someone cared enough to help.

    It didn’t take a lot to help, but saavy couponing and shopping skills. The adults in the community said it was an impossible goal, but just like the loaves and fishes story from the bible, the supplies always never ran out until the last backpack was filled.

    Two years ago, we gave up our project leaving the legacy in both of our communities hands. We continue to help fill the supplies bins.

    This year we have been inspired to help three children who needed help. Buying everything on their lists.

    I am buying 3 backpacks as a random act of kindness in honor of a caring young man named Derek who lost his life last week 3 days before his 10th birthday due to an accident in a neighboring small Wisconsin community. Actsofkindnessforderek on facebook has now over 8,870 likes. I will leave a note with each backpack from acts of kindness for Derek.

  • I am doing something similar, but with a $10 goal and giving these school supplies in Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes!

    http://www.fru-gal.org/2013/07/giving-generously-by-shopping-back-to.html

  • MtnMom says:

    Frankly every couponer should be donating something. There is always someone worse off. It’s about helping each other not just ourselves. Great job for posting this story and to the moms who have already donated.

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