Get our free updates by email and never miss a thing!


20 Back to School Supplies to Use From Last Year

Tell your friends!Tweet about this on Twitter15Pin on Pinterest25Share on Facebook3Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn1

20 Back to School Supplies Not to Buy

20 School Supplies Not to Buy

It’s back to school season, and here are 20 school supplies to use from last year.  Stories abound of parents going into debt to get all the school shopping done.  Most school supplies are things you don’t need to buy every year.  Some things you’ll need to buy every other year, and some only every 3 years!

Going back to school means kids need a lot of things, from school clothes to paper and pencils to new contacts and glasses. Contrary to popular belief, school shopping doesn’t have to kill your budget!

Many school items can be used for several years in a row. Make sure you evaluate your purchases carefully and buy quality items that will last more than one school year. It may not seem frugal to buy a more expensive backpack, but paying a higher price for a more durable, higher quality item can mean big savings in the long run.

If cleaning your child’s room turns up 500 crayons, 4 rulers, and 3 pairs of scissors, you might start to wonder why these items are on your list to purchase yet AGAIN before school starts! Recover and inventory all the supplies that came back home when school let out for summer vacation. Check your inventory against our list of school supplies not to buy before you go shopping. From the most obvious to the most overlooked, here they are:

20 Back to School Supplies to Use From Last Year

1. Rulers. There is a reason there are 4 of these in your child’s room. Rulers are readily given out at state fairs, parades and stores, but are pretty hard to wear out. Put one from last year into this year’s school supplies bag, and consider donating the extras to kids in need. Savings: $1

2. 3 Ring Binders. This is an item it’s okay to spend more on for durability. If binders are still in good shape with no tears, they can be used for several school years. Just change out the contents and re-label the spine, and you just saved $5. Savings: $5 each

3. Pencils and Pens. Chances are, most of the pencils that went to school last year came back home from school too. Round them up, sharpen to fresh points, and pack into a cute pencil box. Savings: $2

4. Erasers. For elementary school kids, erasers are a must-have. Big pink erasers require a lot of use to get to the point of replacement. Two large erasers will usually last quite a while. If they look dirty, rub them on the carpet to get them looking pink again. Savings: $2

5. Crayons. Most elementary supply lists call for students to bring in boxes of 24 crayons. Resist the temptation to buy huge new boxes of crayons every year.

Gather up the crayons in your child’s room and put them into a supply box. Discard the broken crayons only (or put those into a craft box for home use). Chances are, you’ll have hundreds of crayons to choose from without spending a dime. Savings: $2-$7

6. Markers: There may be broken sets of markers in your child’s room, and for good reason. Markers are great accessories and come with toys, fuzzy posters, color books, and more, so you’re bound to have a lot of different shapes, sizes and brands.

However, as long as there is at least one of each color, it won’t matter if you reuse them. Put into a zippered pencil bag or supply box and you have a full (if mismatched) set of markers. Savings: $3-$10

7. Backpacks: Pay a little extra to get one that will last. Cheap plastic backpacks might be tempting, but they’ll likely crack in the cold weather (for those who live in snowy climates) or fall apart with normal use throughout the school year.

Stick with solid colors and avoid cartoon and movie characters! There’s nothing quite as bad as having to buy a new backpack just because the picture on it isn’t cool anymore. A good quality backpack can last 3-4 school years. Savings: $10-$40

8. Scissors: It usually takes a hammer or an aluminum baseball bat to break metal scissors! Seriously, unless there is a strange accident to break them or cutting a lot of heavy material to dull their blades, scissors will last for several school years. Savings: $3

9. Colored Pencils: If they weren’t sharpened down to little nubs last year (and they probably weren’t), collect last year’s colored pencils and put them into a zippered pencil bag if the original box is missing. Savings: $3

10. Supply Box or Pencil Boxes: Plastic boxes can crack, but usually don’t get much wear and tear inside a desk or cubby. Use a pencil box 2-3 school years in a row. Savings: $1-$3

11. Bottles of School Glue: If last year’s bottle is not empty or dried out, it’s good enough to go back to school. Savings: $1 each

12. Glue Sticks: If the lids have tight fits and the glue hasn’t hardened, use the rest of last year’s glue sticks up first. Savings: $1-$3

13. Notebook or Filler Paper: Gather the partial stacks of empty sheets and fill them into three ring binders or clip together with binder clips. Savings: $.50-$2

14. Pencil Sharpeners: Little plastic pencil sharpeners rarely break. Get 3-4 school years of use out of sharpeners. Savings: $1

15. Notebook Dividers: Use sticky labels to re-label the tabs, and you can get multiple uses out of a pack of dividers. Savings: $1-$3

16. Pocket Folders: Buy plastic folders instead of paper/cardboard for longer life. Plastic folders rarely show wear and tear and can be used for years. Savings: $1-$3 each

17. Spiral bound notebooks: Most likely, last year’s notebooks weren’t completely used up. Tear out all the used pages, then use the remaining paper in the half-full notebooks up before buying brand new ones. Savings: $1-$4 each

18.  Mechanical pencils:  Did you know you can buy little packages of mechanical pencil lead refills?  If your pencils from last year are out of leads, just pop in some new ones! Savings: $4 a pack

19.  Highlighters:  Since highlighters take a long time to use up, the ones you bought for highlighting last year’s school notes are probably still good.  Savings: $2 a pack

20.  Lunch boxes: Most fabric lunch boxes (even plastic lined ones) can be washed in the washing machine if they’re dirty.  Unless your child’s lunch box has ripped or cracked, the same lunch box can be used for around 3 school years.  Savings: $10 – $20

Back to school shopping time doesn’t have to throw your frugal habits aside. By making sure to buy more durable school supplies and use up items already purchased in previous years, you can slash your back to school shopping budget dramatically!

We originally published 20 Back to School Supplies to Use From Last Year on Home Ever After on July 31, 2008. It’s also linked to Frugal Friday – go check it out!


Tell your friends!Tweet about this on Twitter15Pin on Pinterest25Share on Facebook3Share on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn1

Danelle Ice is an entrepreneur in Los Angeles and mom of 3. She is the creator of and Danelle is also known as internet personality SimDanelle, the first virtual person. Danelle is a beauty guru on YouTube, vlogger, blogger, and new media darling. She is a current brand ambassador for for Keurig and previous AMD Tech Mom, Kraft Foods Delicious Byte brand ambassador, and Purex Insider.


  1. Niki
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 18:01:06

    Great tips! my guys are not heading to school for a couple of years but I will keep these in mind. It is amazing how many parents get wrapped up in this and overspend….kind of like Christmas.


  2. Audra Krell
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 18:34:04

    The very first place we take our supply lists is to the “homework drawer.” At first the kids were bummed, but I won’t collect drawers of crayons, pens and rulers! We check off everything we have and then, we go to the stores. This is a great post!


  3. BarbaraLee
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 19:03:32

    With h/s we don’t buy things every year either. I have to buy 1 math program & some notebooks. DS2 requests some Mad Libs.
    I really think it is crazy to buy these expensive calutors.


  4. Melanie @ Notebook Learning
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 18:07:05

    You know what my husband used to do with spiral notebooks? Carefully unwind the spiral out of the holes (intact), add in paper from other half-used notebooks, line it all back up, then wind the spiral back into place through the holes!

    We’re lucky enough to homeschool, but any tips for folks who have to buy clear or mesh backpacks for school? I bet those don’t last as long as good regular ones.


  5. Kelly
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 21:29:28

    JanSport backpacks have a lifetime warranty . You can buy them online from E-bags and you can probably find one at a resale shop for a good price. They are very well constructed and we have used them for years and years .


  6. Home Ever After
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 23:04:59

    @ Niki: It’s funny that you say that, because it reminds of the Christmas buying hype also.

    @Melanie: My husband cracked up about your notebook story! For mesh/clear backbacks, I recommend scouting out the mesh beach bags at stores during summertime. The mesh used in those bags is usually more sturdy than clear plastic. Just make sure to check with your local school district that the colored mesh material will still be acceptable.

    Homemaker Barbi


  7. Home Ever After
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 23:08:40

    @ Audra: Thank you! I love the idea of your homework drawer. It’s great to get the kids used to the idea of reusing so early on.

    @BarbaraLee: The graphing calculators are quite expensive. eBay is a great place to pick them up used for a more acceptable price. (Madlibs are great – we love them at our house!)

    @Kelly: Thanks for the wonderful tip about JanSport backpacks. I’ll be sure to pass that on in the future.

    Homemaker Barbi


  8. Angela
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 23:31:30

    Oh so true….. so very true! Thanks for a new perspective on school supplies. :)


  9. april
    Aug 01, 2008 @ 08:44:39

    I saaved so much making the kids reuse a lot of what was leftover from last year…I was only out $10 for 2 kids(one in 4th grade, 1 in 6th) with almost $4 of that was a pack of dry erase markers.

    I don’t think we have bought a backpack in 3 years!


  10. Kris
    Aug 01, 2008 @ 12:19:42

    My own children have been receptive to my frugality in not buying things we don’t need. Most elementary kids really get into the reuse and recycle ideas to help the planet! By the time they are teenagers, they have more peer pressure to BUY STUFF. But not always…I never have difficulty getting rid of gently used notebooks and binders that students have left behind!


  11. The Chatty Housewife
    Aug 01, 2008 @ 21:22:04

    Would you really rub a dirty eraser on the carpet to get it clean? Isn’t that just transferring the dirt to your carpet? I would suggest just using the eraser as it is, or rubbing it on a piece of paper.


  12. A Credit Counsellor’s Approach To Budgeting Part 1 | Happy to be at Home
    Jan 15, 2009 @ 17:15:18

    [...] for lunch (you may have to increase your grocery category at this point).  I recently came across this neat site that gave tips on reducing some back to school [...]


  13. 17 Back to School Supplies to Use From Last Year | Pink Sheet Blog
    Aug 25, 2009 @ 22:01:26

    [...] here to read the rest: 17 Back to School Supplies to Use From Last Year Share and [...]


  14. Friday Favorites August 28 — Daily Dwelling
    Aug 27, 2009 @ 15:32:01

    [...] 17 Back to School Supplies to Use from Last Year by Home Ever After [...]


  15. Homewood’s 20th Anniversay, Labor Day Travel, and Coupon Queen « SixSuitcaseTravel
    Aug 28, 2009 @ 02:21:08

    [...] 17 Back to School Supplies to Use From Last Year ~ Home Ever After [...]


Leave a Reply