Ways to beat the high back-to-school costs

Barbara Hootman

Having children is expensive, and having children in school bumps the costs up considerably. No longer is back-to-school a simple matter of buying a new backpack and stuffing it with pencils and notebooks. For some families, it means a major investment.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the average cost nationally to equip students at the beginning of the school year is $642 for elementary school students, $918 for middle school students and $1,284 for high school students.

Hope Burk, the mother of Laila, a 12-year-old middle school student, and Jack Wesley, an 8-year-old Black Mountain Primary School second-grader, feels fortunate to not have to pay the national average to send her children to school in the Valley.

“When school starts, my kids go to school in summer clothes,” she said. “We usually do our back-to-school clothes shopping after school starts, as the weather begins to change. Doing it this way allows us to see what the kids really need.

“This year my kids have grown so much, I’m sure they will need a lot. I have to be with my daughter to shop for what she needs. She doesn’t always like what I pick out, but that is the way it is. As for my son, I do not shop with him if I can help it. As long as it is comfortable, he will wear it. We don’t necessarily have a budget. We just get what they need for as little as possible.

As far as school supplies go, she gets a list from the schools and “gets exactly what is on it,” she said. Doing so usually costs $25-$40, and then when school starts, supplies teachers request may add $10 to the cost, she said.

Martia Rachman, mother of 5-year-old Vivian, enjoys shopping with her daughter, Vivian, a rising kindergarten student at The Learning Community.

“We don’t have a specific supply list yet, but Vivian likes to shop for clothes,” Rachman said. Rachman buys shoes one size too big so that her daughter can wear them for at least two years.

“I purchase quality shoes so they will last,” she said. “I’m not sure what her clothes will cost yet. Backpack and shoes cost over $70 each.

“I find shopping at consignment shops makes sense for Vivian’s wardrobe. She has a say in what I buy. She likes to shop as I think most little girls do. We are taking a trip to Charleston, S.C., and we will find some shops there to browse through. We think we should be able to fill the supply list requirement and spend no more than $100.”

Brittany Krasutsky, an Owen Middle School teacher, has a 7-year-old son, Zander, a second-grader at Black Mountain Primary. Krasutsky cuts fall school expenses creatively. A single mom living on a beginning teacher’s salary, “there isn’t room for a lot,” she said.

“I wait for the sales to start to buy school supplies so I get them at a discounted rate,” she said. Having had her hair dressing license, she trades hair cuts for bags of clothes with her son’s best friend’s mom. “It’s super fun to unpack the latest clothing bag and see what’s inside.”

Make the most of back-to-school shopping

Check each school online for supply lists before you shop.

Sales have started at big box stores and office supply businesses.

Many online retailers offer free shipping.

Let children help create shopping lists.

Friends may sell musical instruments or sports equipment your child needs.

Consider Black Mountain’s thrift stores

Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry, 101 N. Ridgeway Ave.

Kiwanis Thrift Store, 503 W. State St.

Goodwill, 3018 U.S. 70