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kids in school

Find local alternatives to back to school shopping and spending

Find local alternatives to back to school shopping and spending

The back to school shopping season accounts for about 50 percent of annual school-related spending and impacts approximately one-quarter of U.S. households.

While clothing and school supplies dominate back to school lists, the highest average spending is for computers and hardware. Here’s a breakdown of spending per family in each category:

·         Computers & hardware $307

·         Clothing & accessories $284

·         Electronic gadgets $254

·         School supplies $104

Getting kids ready to go back to school may include more stuff, more hassle and more stress. But there are plenty of things you can do to save time and money. Local resources abound for getting what you need to go back to school.

SCRAP offers supplies to create DIY one-of-a-kind items for school, like pencil bags from fabric, zippers and found objects, or to customize last year’s backpacks by adding sew-on patches or letters. They have paper of all colors and sizes, binders, markers, pens, colored pencils, plus so much more.

Free Geek has repurposed electronics of all kinds at the new-and-improved Free Geek Store. It makes its computer systems the focal point of the space and you can also donate old computers and electronic equipment.

Title Wave Used Book Store includes a wide selection of books and other materials at deep discounts. Share your used books with friends, relatives, or younger schoolchildren. The Children’s Book Bank needs gently used books to pass onto children in Portland who might not otherwise have books of their own at home.

Interested in diving into more about back to school spending? There’s a survey about insights on spending and shopping trends.

Check out past posts about kids in school - and use the Resourceful PDX map to locate more resources near you.

 

Get moving on the way to school

Get moving on the way to school

Options is the name of the game as you shift back into the school routine. How you get to and from school, after-school activities, sporting events, and play dates – all of these are times to consider alternatives and, as a bonus, offer ways to spend more time with family and friends.

Carpool

Connect and collaborate with other parents on a carpool for the kids to reduce pollution and traffic congestion while saving time and money. Use this free online tool to find carpool companions. Or talk to friends and neighbors to share in the day-to-day schedule and make the most of your time.

Walk or bike

Promote exercise (and get some yourself) and quality time with your kids by walking or biking with your kids to school. Find maps to school, information and events through Safe Routes to School or sign up for their newsletter.

Bike shops all over Portland offer repair services and classes, and can help outfit you for the weather. Or come to a Repair Café to learn how to get minor things repaired for free.

In whatever ways your family chooses to get back to school, incorporating thoughtful actions that are good for you and the community help provide lasting effects as the seasons change and the new school year becomes routine again.

Visit our other recent posts to find more tips and ideas about kids in school.

Save money by packing waste-free lunches for school

Save money by packing waste-free lunches for school

It’s easy and fun to pack waste-free lunches with colorful reusable containers, utensils and cloth napkins!

Tips for waste-free lunches

1. Pack lunch in reusable containers or a lunch box. Wash and reuse containers for sandwiches and snacks. 

  • Many grocery stores offer food containers and lunch boxes – be sure to check that they are free of BPA, lead, PVC, phthalates, and vinyl. 
  • Lunch Sense and PlanetBox also offers safe, toxin-free products online. 
  • Reuseit lunch kits help with planning your kids’ lunches and offers alternatives to disposable items.
  • ReUsies Snack and Sandwich Bags has a coupon in the Chinook Book and offers an alternative to disposable bags.

2. Choose durable bottles for drinks.

  • Fill them with tap water, which is just as good as bottled water and at less than a penny per gallon, it's a great bargain.

3. Bring your own metal forks, spoons and cloth napkins.

Reuseit presents a number of tips and ideas about reusable items and waste-free lunch options in their video.

By planning ahead and creating weekly meal plans, you can reduce waste while shopping, too. Stock the fridge in one trip, and you’ll save time and resources too.

Check out other back to school resources in our previous kids in school posts.

Swap and share your way to savings for the school year ahead

Swap and share your way to savings for the school year ahead

School days are coming! Channel your creativity and resourcefulness to get kids off to a great start. Swap and share items you already have, but no longer need, to keep kids outfitted for activities inside and outside the classroom.

Host a clothing swap

Hosting a clothing swap with friends and neighbors is a fun and easy way to share kids’ clothes, toys, books and sports equipment, and donate anything that’s left. 

A clothing swap involves getting a bunch of people together to exchange clothes and other items you no longer wear, and offering them free of charge to others by swapping them instead. Swap events are a great excuse to get together with friends or meet new people, all while giving your stuff another life and helping everyone save money and avoid buying new.

Swap Positive is a local resource that provides all you need to know about attending, hosting and getting involved with swaps in Portland. There are options for family swaps and those specific to household stuff or clothes of every size.

Center for a New American Dream put together this video about hosting or participating in a clothing swap that can help you plan your own swap!

Find used sports equipment

Don’t forget about sports gear and equipment – items for school and recreation leagues can add to your budget. From cleats to uniforms, there are ways to find used items through swapping, borrowing and purchasing gently used goods through your friends, neighbors or Craigslist.

Join a swap and play space

Join one of the swap and play spaces around Portland to connect with other families with children. Swap and plays offer an opportunity to swap outgrown clothing, toys and gear, share community play space and also connect with other parents and kids in your neighborhood.

Portland swap and play spaces are membership organizations and vary in hours, activities, events and ways to get involved. They are Southside Swap & PlaySt Johns Swapnplay and Woodlawn Swap n Play

Check out other back to school resources in our previous kids in school posts.

Get extra credit with your school supplies

Get extra credit with your school supplies

Compiled by Eco-School Network Leaders at the Center for Earth Leadership

The time of year between July 4 and September 15 represents a season (other than summer!): Back-to-School. When retailers are emphasizing a shopping season, resourceful people take notice and consider their actions to avoid impulse purchases. 

On average, a family with school-aged kids will spend $673.57 for clothes, accessories, electronics, shoes and school supplies. The National Retail Federation surveyed more than 6,800 consumers about their annual back-to-school plans, finding that families with children in grades K-12 are expected to spend 9.6 percent more this year than last year. (Source: Time)

The average spending per family in each category breaks down as follows:

  • Clothing: $235.39
  • Electronics: $204.06
  • Shoes: $126.35
  • School Supplies: $107.76

Here are some strategies to help you save money, buy less stuff and get the most from this back-to-school season.

Avoid using shopping lists unless supplied directly by the school

Online and store-supplied shopping lists are often written by the companies who manufacture school supplies. Obtain the school’s supply list to ensure you get what the teacher needs.

Set your school up with Schoolhouse Supplies

Schoolhouse Supplies is a local organization that collects corporate donated supplies, buys supplies in bulk and delivers the school supplies directly to the school. These supplies are less expensive because they are purchased or donated in large quantities. They save parents the hassle of running all over town in the family car to purchase supplies and ensure that the right supplies are bought for the class. Schoolhouse Supplies offers teachers low- or no-cost classroom supplies. Learn more at the how to donate page online.

Buy supplies after winter break

Instead of purchasing supplies at the beginning of the calendar year, work with your teacher and volunteer to purchase supplies after winter break. At some schools, the supplies often run out at mid-year. By replenishing just the most-used supplies, you’ll help ensure that those supplies that have run out will be replaced and the classroom won’t have excess supplies they don’t need.

Volunteer to conduct a supply audit for your students’ classroom

Auditing how many supplies are used versus what supplies are purchased is a valuable activity for teachers. Often, supply lists are generated at the beginning of a teacher’s career and as technology and teaching needs change, the supply doesn’t receive the fine tuning necessary to keep it relevant.

Create a Party Pack for your teacher

Most classrooms have several parties or celebrations annually, in addition to student birthday treats. Creating a Party Pack that contains durable items can significantly reduce the amount of garbage produced by classroom parties. While parties differ, the average event produces 30 gallons of garbage (per Portland Eco-School Network research). That fills approximately one large black garbage bag. 

Contact the Center for Earth Leadership for more information about the Eco-School Network. 

3 ways to rethink back to school supplies

3 ways to rethink back to school supplies

Getting kids ready to go back to school may include more stuff, more hassle and more stress. But there are things you can do that will help save time, money and resources. Check out Portland resources first to get what you need to go back to school.

Does everything have to be new? Can creativity and reuse have a place at this time of year? The stuff we need for school accounts for a large amount of money spent on items we may already have on hand. On average, a family with school-aged kids expects it will spend $630 this year, the lowest it’s been since 2011 and down from $669 last year. (Source: Time)

You can get the young kids involved with back-to-school readiness by making a game of finding things they already have in the house for the school year ahead. Establishing a routine is important this time of year so get them involved in maintaining new (or reused) items by making an effort to put school supplies in a safe place every day. Perhaps the one who finds the most usable things can win a special prize or shared experience at a local scoop shop!

Here are some ways to rethink how to get the supplies your kids need.

1. Plan ahead. When you have a plan it's easier to take action.

Before the new school year begins, sort through your old materials and reuse what you can from last year's supplies. Make a list before you shop for school supplies because it will help you remember what you wanted to purchase and limit impulse buying.

2. Consider quality over quantity.

Buy products with more recycled content – paper with a higher percentage of post-consumer materials, for example – and less or no packaging. If the product comes with packaging, ensure the wrapping or container includes recycled content and can be recycled.

3. Buy local. Reused school and craft supplies are available in Portland.

Visit SCRAP to help create DIY one-of-a-kind items for school, like pencil bags from fabric, zippers and found objects, or to customize last year’s backpacks by adding sew-on patches or letters. SCRAP offers paper of all colors and sizes, markers, pens, colored pencils, plus so much more.

For books and computers, consider used or refurbished ones. Many schools reuse text books to save money and reduce waste. Share your used books with friends, relatives, or younger schoolchildren. Multnomah County Library is an excellent resource for research projects and homework help. The library’s Title Wave Used Book Store offers a wide selection of books and other materials at deep discounts. Free Geek is a great place to donate old computers and buy replacements, plus find other electronic equipment.

Save money on kids' clothes

Save money on kids' clothes

Kids grow fast! Finding gently used clothes at secondhand stores and clothing swaps is a great way to save money and help teach kids about the value of resourceful living. As kids move through clothes from growing up, playing hard, or the inevitable lost-and-found bin, parents need affordable options and tips for saving money on kids’ clothing.

Some of Portland's used children's clothing stores and resale shops are filled with great quality, and sometimes never worn, clothes and shoes for all ages. They allow parents to buy the right size clothes for the right season for their ever growing kids. When you’re done with those clothes, you can sell them back at some of these same shops so another family can use them.

Swapping clothes with friends and neighbors is another option, especially connecting with those who have kids older than yours, where a cycle of hand-me-downs can happen. 

Local resources such as sewing classes, cobblers and tailors can help you repair, rather than retire, garments with small tears, missing buttons and broken zippers. Visit a Portland-area Repair Café for free assistance on mending and fixing clothes.

Metro Parent maintains a comprehensive list of consignment shops in and around Portland. Look for coupons for many of these shops in your print or mobile Chinook Book.