School Supply Challenge: Won’t You Join Me?

I know, I know. Summer just started. It doesn’t seem possible that the back-to-school sale season could already be upon us. But judging from the circulars, it most definitely is.

If you were around last year, you might remember that I set myself a challenge to spend just $5 on all the school supplies for both my then pre-K’er and my then 1st grader. I came in just over the limit at $5.59. Not too shabby!

In reflecting on that challenge, I put together this list of tips for keeping costs low for school supplies. Go read the post, but here’s the key: You have to be organized – and start early.

So, in the spirit of both being organized and starting early, I am issuing myself the following challenge: To spend just $15 on all school supplies for my three kids. {You can see a complete list at the end of this post.}

I increased the amount over last year’s $5 for a couple of reasons. First, two of our kids will now be in elementary school (kindergarten and 2nd grade), and they therefore have more extensive lists than last year. Plus, I’m participating in a home-school preschool coop for my two-year old, so I will need to stock up on some art supplies for my day with those kiddos.

Honestly, $15 seems impossibly low right now, but I know that if I shop the sales, use my coupons, and bide my time, I can score a number of items on my list for free – or very nearly free.

Would you care to join me in this School & Office Supply Challenge? $15 doesn’t have to be your target amount – it can be less or more… whatever makes sense for your family and your list of supplies. Just make sure it’s a challenge. $50 isn’t a challenge, ok?!

In the comments section below, tell me how much you are hoping to spend – and if you want, share your list as well. If you have a blog and want to blog about participating in the School Supply challenge, that’d be cool! I’ll have occasional check-ins with link-ups over the next several weeks, so that you can brag on all your awesome deals.


Here’s my school supply list – all of which I hope to score for $15 or less over the next 6 weeks!


  • 1 Box Crayola Crayons, 24 Count
  • 1 Box Crayola Markers, Wide Line, 8 Count
  • 1 Box Crayola Markers, Thin Line, 8 Count
  • 1 Bottle Purell Hand Sanitizer with pump, 8 fl. oz
  • 1 Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, 10.7 oz
  • 1 Fiskars Scissors, child size blunt tip
  • 1 Box Dixon Ticonderoga #2 Pencils (non-mechanical) 12 Count
  • 1 Box Tissues, 100 Count
  • 1 Box Storage Bags, gallon size (preferably “slider” top)
  • 1 Box Storage Bags, quart size (preferably “slider” top)
  • 1 Composition Notebook, wide ruled, 70 sheets (any color)
  • 3 Mead Spiral Notebooks, SOLID color cover, one subject, wide ruled
  • 4 Elmer’s Glue Stick, .77 oz
  • 3 Pink Erasers (for art room)

Grade 2

  • 2 Nylon 3-hole punch pencil holders with one clear side
  • 4 Pink Erasers
  • 2 Elmer’s Glue Bottles, 4 oz.
  • 2 Elmer’s Glue Sticks, 4 oz.
  • 2 Boxes Tissue, 100 Count
  • 1 Box Crayons, 16 Count
  • 1 Box Colored Pencils, 12 Count
  • 1 Box Markers, 12 count
  • 12 #2 Sharpened Pencils
  • Pencil Sharpener (2 hole)
  • 2 Dry Erase Chisel Markers (black only)
  • 1 Spiral Notebook, wide rule
  • 2 Composition Notebooks, wide rule, 100 pages
  • 1 Plastic Folder (yellow only)
  • 4 Highlighters (1 each – yellow, green, orange and blue)
  • 1 Box Storage Bags, quart-size with slider closure
  • 12” Ruler (for art room)


  1. why oh why does my kid need 48 #2 pencils? (well 12 are for the art room, so…)

    • Danielle says

      My kiddo needs 36 #2 pencils, I thought that was a lot and a specific brand name at that, so no $1 boxes over here.

  2. I have 6 kids to outfit for school supplies- $50 for me would REALLY be a challenge. Please post all websites offering specials. Note- Landsend has been offering a lot of coupons recently- their stuff may be pricey but over time it pays off- their backpacks last forever. I have had one for 6-7 years- so that makes $4-5 a year which is cheap.

    • Let us know how you end up making out! I bet you can go even lower than $50!

      And I totally agree with you on the LE backpacks. In fact, I have also been buying more and more of their uniform stuff from LE. The quality is unsurpassed and when DS wears a hole in the knee of his pants, they will replace it, no questions asked.

  3. Tziporah says

    Just a quick question, if it says “clorox wipes” does that mean you actually have to buy the name brand? As a new elementary school parent, not sure.
    I have been shopping for kindergarten since last year, when prices were 90% off. Hope he can use the stuff this year!

    • Danielle says

      I’ve seen the schools ask for a specific brand for art supplies, pencils, etc., but not for wipes, my list just says disinfecting wipes. I’d ask another parent at your school if it matters.

    • I know the teachers actually do want the specific name brands as much as possible. I would imagine for wipes and hand sanitizer it shouldn’t matter too much, but I remember Nicole telling they want the Crayola b/c they are better quality.

  4. Danielle says

    If anyone is looking for backpacks, LL Bean has a bunch on sale (I’m guessing last years styles or discontinued colors) with free shipping. A little more expensive than you can find at Target, but they last forever.

  5. This is only a fair frugal challenge if you are getting the items at places that you would be at anyway buying other things. A trip to Staples to get $0.05 boxes of crayons is not a bargain when you consider the price of gas to get to the store and the time wasted to go to the store. Usually there are only three or four amazing deals at any one point. You have to a) find out what is on sale at what store, b) drive to the store (I don’t know about other people, but I do not regularly shop at Staples, Office Depot, or other office supply stores), c)get to the store when those items are actually in stock, and d) repeat the process week after week during the summer. It seems to me that ultimately you would do better checking out what on the supply list is on sale each week at Target (or whatever the place is that you regularly shop) and buying it there. You would end up spending more on the supplies, but you would not spend an extra penny on gas, and the additional time commitment would be extremely minimal.

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