Creative Uses for School Supplies
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School supplies aren’t just for school. Consider these ways to make the most of back to school sales and BTS clearance racks.
Now is the season to pick up some great deals on school and office supplies. As you know, places like Walmart and Target have been hawking their wares for months. The back to school season seems to begin as early as July 5.
Now that kids are actually in school, the “sales” are mostly over, but the deals are still to be had. My mom regularly snatches up bags and bags of supplies on clearance about this time. I’ve found backpacks for a couple bucks each that I’ve used for our kids’ Go-Bags. I’ve also stocked up on different items to use for travel such as small pencil bags, hand sanitizer, and tiny notebooks.
Clearly, you don’t have to use school supplies just for school. With some clever thinking you can repurpose those items for gifts and other household uses. Check out these ideas:
1. Make decorative pens.
You’ve seen these in doctor’s offices – the Bic pens transformed into flowers. Sure, they can look cheesy, but that really depends on the type of fake flower you buy. They can make great gifts for teachers and friends and grandmas.
2. Build a household notebook.
School and office supplies can help you get your head on straight at home! With binders and copy paper and a copy of my ebook Organizing Life as MOM, you can create a household notebook for yourself or as a housewarming gift for a friend.
Read how to set up your own home management notebook – one that rocks.
3. Make decorative journals.
Simple composition books can get new life as journals when you decorate them. My sister gave these as Christmas gifts years ago along with a coffee gift card and a beautiful fabric coffee sleeve.
These are the makings of a great Saturday Morning Off to gift to a friend. Just be sure to make yourself a set!
4. Use crayons as gifts.
Crayons are a dime a dozen right now — literally. Stock up for your own children, but also lay in a supply for your gift cupboard. Crayons make a great birthday bag filler or part of a coloring kit. Repurpose your old crayons into Muffin Tin Crayons.
5. Stock up on stocking stuffers.
Crayons, pencils, erasers and little notebooks make great stocking stuffers. Plan ahead for Christmas and avoid the crunch — for time and money — later.
For more clutter-free stocking stuffer ideas, head here.
6. Give them away.
Check with your local homeless shelter or foster children’s care board. Kids who live transient lifestyles, obviously through no fault of their own, still need school supplies. Find out what your community’s needs are and how you can help fill some of them. A backpack loaded with extra supplies can help one more kid feel better about his day at school.
7. Send them away.
Likewise, plan ahead for “Love in a Shoebox” and other similar ministries where collections are taken of items to send to children in Third World Countries. Often times the simplest things, like a Hello Kitty pencil, can brighten the lives of children.
Read Carrie’s tutorial on the best ways to pack for Operation Christmas Child.
Got another great use for school and office supplies? I’d love to hear it!
PS: This post was originally posted on July 21, 2009. Please take a minute to read the comments. Readers suggested some more wonderful ideas. I was so blessed by everyone’s thoughtfulness. Thank you!
How creative. We usually just save our extras till next year but I love the DIY journal idea and boxing it up and sending it to those that need them.
I stocked up on bottled glue this year to make gak/goo during my to-be 4 year old’s Messy Monster party ( in January!) I like to keep a spiral or 2 and a few pens and pencils in our game cabinet, so they’re ready to go when needed for games. I like buying extra crayons to melt into molds for party favors or little seasonal gifts (i.e. hearts for Valentines). As far as donationsOur children’s hospital requests donations of crayons and coloring books, I’ve given them to our church (we have a basket of crayons at the entry for little ones to use during the service), and of course OCC and schools (as others mentioned).
Great idea on the gak! Sounds like you’ve got great plans for extras.
I love school supplies! I think the idea of stocking stuffers is great. I always hate those cheap little things that you end up tossing. And by Christmas the newness has worn off the other school supplies, and some things are lost. I’ll have to keep that in mind. 🙂
I can’t stand Christmas Stocking Twaddle. Oy! 😉 I aim for clutter-free stocking stuffers, like these: http://lifeasmom.com/2011/12/clutter-free-stocking-stuffers-frugal-friday.html
I ask at my local elementary school what they would like me to donate for families that struggle to afford school supplies.
Awesome way to serve your community on the dl.
Making decorative journals and adding a coffee gift card to it is a great idea for a gift! You could also add some chocolate and a nice pen as well and make it a small gift basket. I also like the idea of stocking up for Christmas stocking stuffers. My girls like getting art supplies like crayons, markers, and such at Christmas and we usually buy some of those for stockings. So great idea to stock up on them now when they are on sale!
Great suggestion about the gift card. Thanks!
I have noticed that file crates are cheaper during back to school season. I use these as laundry baskets. They can also be catch-alls in the garage to help with organization. I keep a plain one by the front door to stash shoes. And every bedroom closet has a crate for shoes. I use one at the beach, so sand falls through. There is a black one in the trunk of our auto, to hold gear. In the playroom they can help to sort toys and if you flip them over and add a chair cushion they make extra child seating. I love finding more uses for file crates and back-to-school season is the time to get them.
Another great place to donate that most people don't think about is the local hospital.
The children's wing can use crayons, coloring books, paper, markers, stickers and other things and all the other areas can use notebooks, pens, pencils (for the psychiatic ward, they can't have pens), binders, etc.
I have been hospitalized unexpectedly several times and sometimes just having something to do with your mind and hands can make a big difference in recovery.
ooh, thanks for the reminder! i need to get stocking up on (home)school supplies while they're cheap! by the way, loved the pieces on reorganizing your homeschool room!
I donate them to my local humane society. Many shelters are in need of office supplies like pens, tape, office paper, highlighters, dry erase board markers etc.
I stock up on everything on our teacher's list- try to send in 2 to 3 times what they ask for- sometimes more (I go straight down the list even though I have a girl I get the boy stuff too…)- in case there are kids in our class that dont have the necessary supplies. I also usually go to my teacher's store at the beginning of the year and get a gift card for the teacher- in part to bribe her LOL in case my kid is bad but also because I know that they dont always have the supplies in the room they could use.
These are great Ideas, I love the journal, I have 2 sisters and I know now what to give them for Mothers day or their bdays! I have a daycare in my home and I love back to school time, bc I can not only get things for my kids that are in school but also to stock up on my craft stuff. Plus our church is always looking to give to those members that cannot buy for their kids. I love to shop BACK TO SCHOOL!!!!
My son has leukemia and spends a lot of time drawing at the hospital. The playrooms at hospitals can always use "school supplies" for the art center or to give to students who may be working on school work while waiting to see the doctor.
Another great idea is Jared Boxes. You can read more about them here.
what great ideas! thanks for sharing.
I like your journal idea. Personally, a gift like that at Christmas would be greatly appreciated. The Christmas in a Shoebox ministries are also wonderful, and stocking up now on needed items for cheap means that you can fill even more boxes!
Wonderful post! I linked to it. Also, a group of 8 of us are rounding up the best back to school deals each week- in case you are interested.
I love the free household printables! What a great resource, thank you for posting that!
I also take advantage of the deals to buy supplies to keep in my own classroom, but to also create "first day" bags. I fill up a ziploc bag with several pencils, pens, box of crayons, blue stick, bookmark, cap erasers, highlighters, etc. This bag is waiting on the students' desks when they walk in on the first day. It's fun to see the looks of surprise on their faces. Makes for a great first day!
I like the idea of dressing up a regular compostion book to look like a journal. This might be a fun first day activity for my classroom…if I can find some cheap supplies!
I never even thought of #6—what a great idea!!! I have a ton of old but still in good condition backpacks around here (let's face it, eventually they outgrow the Dora or Barbie backpacks!!) that could be filled with supplies and donated.
I just bookmarked your site.
I had a similar idea that I wrote about at http://jdaniel4smom.blogspot.com/2009/07/adopt-teacher-school-or-charity-give.html.
I have seen great school supply deals on the internet and in newspaper ads lately. As a teacher for twenty years, I used to gather supplies to use in my room each year. There was always someone who didn’t have what they needed to start the year or had run out of things mid-year. Some years I hadn’t ordered enough pencils for daily use and all the standardized tests and had to pay full price for them mid-year.
Now that I am at home mom, I still gather school supplies to donate. I donate to school supply drives (I’m in a teaching sorority Alpha Delta that collects school supplies.) and give them to teachers at my son’s future school. (It can’t hurt to make a positive impression early.) I bet in these hard economic times that are lots of places that could use them and you can get many of them free or close to free.
Check out the sites below that I found on Cincinnati Cent's web site:
Target – Amy at Cutting Coupons in KC
CVS – Kristi at More Than Cents
Walgreens – Julie at Kingdom Klipper
Meijer – Becky at Nickels-N-Dimes
Office Max – Andrea at Mommy Snacks
Walmart – Tara at Deal Seeking Mom
Staples – Katie at Cincinnati Cents
I like to stock up on the notebooks when they are cheap. My kids use them for drawing and games when they need a quiet activity or for road trips. I love to stock up for the shoebox charities also.
Love these ideas! Thanks so much for sharing! Linked to you…
Such great ideas! I linked to you! Thanks!
We donate supplies to the art teacher at school. The art teachers have limited budgets and are always appreciative of crayons, markers, glue, aluminum foil, and toilet paper rolls. Ask your child's art teacher what she needs. You'd be surprised at the answer.
I love these ideas! Art supplies (crayons, etc) are a great birthday gift and donation idea. Just linked to you…
How about putting up new pencils, pens, colored pencils, markers and crayons in our children stockings Christmas. Even though my children are 13, 15 & 16, they love new crayons. By Christmas, our homeschool supply of some of these items is bedraggled and they love the new stuff. Or put up items to use for long car trips. We also so Operation Christmas Child and buy the items on sale year round.
Wow, these are much better ideas than I was expecting when I followed the link from Freebies4Mom. I like to donate Christmas gifts that are neither too educational nor too mindless, so that journal idea is AWESOME, especially since I give a lot in kind to a shelter for runaway teens. And last year, I assembled gift bags of craft supplies for Toys For Tots donations – the deals in the drug stores right now make dollar stores look expensive!
We stock up for our Operation Christmas Child boxes that will be packed in November. I include things like paperclips and binder clips, which people in 3rd world countries use for things other than school/work (I saw them used as picture hangers, a belt buckle, among other things) but aren't so easy to find at the markets there.
Thanks for the list – you've given me some good ideas!
Great ideas! These flower pens would make pretty favors for a wedding or baby shower too. They could be placed in a bucket in the middle of the tables and used as a centerpiece until the guests take them home. Thanks for helping me think creatively about how to use all of these school supplies we're getting free!