Do Your Kids Waste or Lose School Supplies?

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Do your lessons get delayed because somebody can’t find a pencil or her notebook is missing? Are you appalled at the amount of paper your dear children waste? I found that when these items were simply provided for their use, they tended to not take particularly great care of them, but when they had to purchase them, they had “ownership” and paid closer attention to how much they used and where they stored it.

“But I can’t make my kids pay for their own school supplies!” you gasp. Sure you can, if you buy the supplies and then you give them the money to purchase them from your “family store.” This was something that worked very well in our household. It did seem a bit odd to my husband that we were paying for the supplies, then giving THEM money to buy them again! 🙂 But it gave them ownership, and the possibility of leftover (“get to keep it”) money gave them an incentive to be careful.

We haven’t done it for a few years because they internalized it after the first two or three years and we haven’t had to do it, so I’ll tell you what I can from memory. As far as the amount of money: We set everything in 5c increments, so we got nickel rolls from the bank. I figured up how many pencils, how much paper, how many erasers, etc. they would need for the year (reasonably) and added that up (at our “family store” prices). I added about an extra dollar or two (in these times of inflation, you may need to up this – depends on your kids, too). I think we gave each of the older (middle schoolers) two and a half rolls, and two rolls to the primary students.

The way it worked:

Each of them would play “storekeeper” to a sibling on the day before school started; this helped with money skills, too.  (They then color coded their supplies with initials or colored tape (blue=Anna, green=Leah, purple=Bekah) so they knew at a glance which materials belonged to whom. I also bought them each a $1 clear plastic “shoe box” with white lid and let them all spend the afternoon decorating them with paint pens.)

Whatever money they had left, they were to store in a zipper-seal baggie in their school boxes to buy additional supplies as they ran out. Remember, this was calculated to be enough to buy more paper, pencils, etc. and have some extra for ice cream, a movie, whatever.

However, if they ran out of their money early because they had to replace supplies for wastefulness or carelessness, they had to buy future supplies that year out of their allowance or out of earned monies. I did not “give” them any more money or any more supplies (be reasonable and take any real unforeseen circumstances into account, like the house flooded and the paper all got wet, etc.). In a pinch, they traded with a sibling, did each other’s chores for use of crayons, did an extra job for me, etc.
Photo credit: Rebekah McBride, Moss & Ink
Also, I charged a 25c deposit for the use of my office supplies, to be refunded upon prompt return of the item. If I had to ask for the item back because the user got sidetracked and didn’t return it, I kept the deposit. After a few infractions, the rule for that child temporarily  became that the item had to be used at my desk area and could not be removed from the area (couldn’t take it to her room, etc.). After a few weeks, we would show grace and begin again with the deposit.

Suggested pricing (on a sign near our supplies storage):
Pencils 10c each
Pens 15c each
Notebook paper 25 sheets for 10c
Computer paper 10 sheets for 10 c
Construction paper 3 sheets for 10c
Scrap paper (incl scrap construction paper) FREE [encourages recycling of scraps]
Glue stick 50c each
Erasers 10c (small) or 25c (large)
Use of tape, scissors, glue, hole punch, stapler, colored pencils 25c deposit, refunded if item returned immediately

 How does your family handle school supplies?

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