Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back to School

Back to School Shopping
Well, it's about that time again - back to school shopping has arrived. Parents everywhere are hit hard in the pockets. If you have the money, I highly recommend buying tons of school supplies now. You will not find better prices on pencils, pens, erasers, white out, glue, glue sticks, folders, lined (filler) paper, index cards, backpacks, colored pencils, and crayons then in August. So stock up!
Character and sport backpacks at Marshalls for only 12.99.
Everyone needs a backpack. It is always a given that every student will need a backpack. For parents that are new to the school shopping scene - be aware of durability and school restrictions.

Remember when shopping for a backpack that heavy text books will be pulled and dragged around in this contraption. It needs to be durable and have a good zipper. It is possible to find a cool backpack, that is well-made, that will last all year long. Shop around.
Most schools do not allow backpacks with wheels. You know the ones that roll like luggage. Although, it would be a nice break for your child's back to roll the books instead of lugging them around on their back, they are just too bulky and can't fit in most lockers.

Full size backpack on the Left compared to
 smaller 10-12 inch sized backpacks on the right.
Also, many schools require that your child has a full-size backpack, which is approximately 16-18 inches in height. This means that they don’t want a small toddler sized backpack. Why do teachers insist on huge backpacks for these tiny little backs? Artwork and paperwork. Younger students primarily need their backpacks for those huge art projects and paperwork to be sent home. So if the paperwork won't fit - then the backpack is useless. I recommend bringing a 1” binder (if you have a preschooler or kindergartner) or a 3” binder for older students to see if it will fit in the backpack that they choose.
Another, new trend that not all schools are going along with is the “messenger bags” or "trapezoid bags." Although the messenger bags can hold a good amount of books, their awkward shape makes it difficult for schools with small lockers to fit these rectangular or triangular shaped bags. So check with your child’s school. Don’t be shocked when you get a letter sent home – just call the main office now (they are open in August). A simple call to the main office can save you from trying to find a replacement backpack in the first week of school.  Don't know the phone number - just type in the town that your child's school is in or the name of the school (without commas or apostrophes) and you'll get a list of schools by using this directory for Connecticut schools

Three and Four Year Old Backpacks

  However, if you have a jealous 3 or 4 year old sibling you might want to consider letting them into the "back to school shopping" fun and get them a cute toddler-sized bag. Here are some toddler backpacks that I found at Marshalls, which are a perfect size to keep small toys to entertain the kids while waiting to eat at a restaurant.




Zoo Pack and Zoo Lunchies sold at Barnes and Noble Bookstores.
Preschooler and Kindergartners

For younger kids, there are some cute options like these animal inspired set I found at Barnes and Noble Bookstores called Zoo Packs by Skip Hop for $19.95. The Zoo Lunchies by Skip Hop are adorable animal, collapsible lunch boxes for an additional purchase of 14.95.To the right you can see the Monkey Backpack and the smaller monkey is the "Zoo Lunchies."

Just keep in mind that if you can't fit a folder in the backpack that you shouldn't buy it.

Old Navy has some cute animal inspired backpacks in-store for a more reasonable price, but I can’t speak from experience on the durability of Old Navy’s backpacks since I haven’t bought from them.

Princess backpack with lunch kit undone.
Princess backpack with lunch kit
 attatched to the front.
TJMaxx and Marshalls always have great deals on backpacks and in a variety of characters that elementary kids love. Always test the zippers and look at the brand that you are buying. If you zip it up and down a few times and can fit a folder -then it is a good start. I bought my preschoolers Disney backpacks with a collapsible lunch box that attaches to the backpack for only $12. So I got Disney Tinker bell backpack w/ an attached lunch box for only $12 for one daughter and the other daughter got a new Disney Princess backpack w/ attached lunch box for $12. So for $24.00 and tax they both have lunchboxes and backpacks. If you go directly to the Disney store, (which I love,) the backpacks are now on sale for $12 but you have to buy the lunch bag separately for an additional $8.00. However, you can have the backpacks personalized with the child's initials or name. I don't put my kid's first name on their backpack because I don't want to advertise their name to strangers, but initials are helpful to differentiate if another kid gets the same backpack in class. Also, Wal-Mart had a ton of backpacks at various prices starting at just $9.88 - $12.98 for character backpacks some of which came with the lunch box.


Avengers, Disney Cars and Spiderman Sets.
Justin Beiber, More Disney Princess &
Hello Kitty Sets at Marshalls.

After I chose the backpacks at Marshalls, I went poking around the kid section and I found stationary sets to coordinate with their backpacks. Each set only cost me $5.99 and came with two folders, 3 pencils, a three-hole pencil holder, a pencil sharpener, a 6" break proof ruler, an eraser, a small notebook and a large notebook and the princess one came with a calculator, too.

Minnie Mouse, Princess, and Tinker Bell stationary sets at
Marshalls and Pink Locker Set.
They even have some cool locker sets with white boards, markers and magnets. At my local Marshalls they had a variety of different stationary and locker sets. For girls they had Minnie Mouse, Disney Princess, Tinker Bell, Hello Kitty, Justin Beiber, Peace Symbols, etc. For boys they have the Disney Cars, The Avengers, and Spider Man. Check your local TJMaxx or Marshalls to see what characters they have on hand.

 From there, I went to OfficeMax and got a 6 pack of glue sticks for my kindergartner and Crayola crayons. I have to say, that if you want to pinch pennies - DON'T do it on the crayons. Have you ever tried coloring with the poorly made crayons that hand out at restaurants? They are awful. I highly recommend Crayola. Anything else breaks easily and doesn't color smoothly. Check your local flier for crayons sales. Walgreens, Wal-Mart and Target usually win in sale prices for Crayola every year. Be careful with the "buy one get one free" sales. I went to buy Mead, college ruled, 1-subject notebooks at only .47 cents from Rite Aid. While I was there, I compared Rite Aids "but one get one free" sale to prices at other top name sellers and found that the only thing that was cheaper was the 6 packs of Elmer glue sticks. Everything else was significant over priced when compared to Wal-Mart and Target. This week, Target and Wal-Mart are tied at .50 cents for a 24 pack of Crayola crayons. Also, be careful when you shop to not grab the wrong product.

Older Kids (Middle School and UP)
If you have a child going into school that is in 6th grade or higher, chances are good that they have a list of school supplies that they need to have on the first day of school. Be prepared and shop now. Bring the list with you to the store and make sure that you have plenty of time to poke around. Although, Wal-Mart had the lowest prices while I shopped this week - they also had the messiest stores, which made it nearly impossible to find anything. Target matched Wal-Mart on most of the prices while maintaining a neatly organized school section. So in my opinion, Target wins. Wal-Mart was so messy and disorganized that I almost bought the Washable Crayola Crayons for $1.97 instead of the regular Crayola Crayons for .50 cents. Sale prices are only a good deal if you can find the correct product that is on sale. Thankfully, I didn't have my three kids with me so I had an hour to walk around looking for crayons.

Backpacks for older kids need to be durable. In my opinion, L.L.Bean has the best backpacks for durability. They are even so convinced that you’ll be happy with their product that if you’re not “satisfied” they will refund your purchase and without a hassle. I bought my nephew a L.L. Bean Deluxe book pack for $39.95 and it just so happened that the style I got him didn’t have a stretchy side-pocket for his water bottle. He was unsatisfied, which made me unsatisfied. They kindly refunded me the current selling price of the backpack even though I had lost the receipt. He was happy to get to pick out his own backpack in all black with tons of pockets, and it lasted him all year. He chose the Super Deluxe Book Pack at $64.95. They have some great backpacks online like this cool skateboard themed one for only $16.99 or a nature one named Blue Wave Batik for $16.99. L.L. Bean has free shipping on all items. I like supporting an American business and frequently enjoy visiting Freeport, ME where L.L. Bean still originates.

However, I was shocked to find that Marshalls carried a variety of Jansport full-size backpacks that come with a Life-time Warrantee for a maximum selling price of $24.99.’s website states, “Guaranteed for Life
JanSport engineers quality, durable, and reliable products. So, if your pack ever breaks down, simply return it to our warranty center. We'll fix it or if we can't we'll replace it. We stand by our packs for a lifetime and since we've been making packs since 1967, that's a guarantee you can stand by.

 Not too shabby. My only concern would be how long it would take to ship it, wait for them to repair it and then wait for them to ship it back. However, it’s always nice to go with a company that stands-by their product so confidently.
Marshalls also had Marvel characters like Spider Man and sports team backpacks.

Free lunch kit comparison (from Toysrus and from Marshalls)
Toysrus always has a large selection at reasonable prices. They usually have a special promotion where you get to pick a free lunch box with the purchase of a backpack. I have done this before. The last backpack I bought from Toysrus lasted two school years and many sleepovers. In addition, the lunch box that my daughter picked was a good size and durable. Here is a picture of the Free lunch kit we got from Toysrus two years ago compared to the free one we got this year that came attached to the backpack at Marshalls.  As you can see the princess lunch kit on the left is much larger and even has a zippered section on the bottom where as the lunch kit on the right is smaller and only has one compartment.  Toysrus is still featuring the promotion that if you buy any backpack $12.99 or more that you get a FREE lunch kit up to $9.99.  Check it out here

Backpacks at Target.
Target had a bunch of character backpacks at 19.99 and other solid color, full-size backpacks ranged in price up to 34.99.

Target had a better selection for teen girls than most stores that I visited. Many stores seem to have many little girl backpacks but not that much for the older girls who have outgrown character backpacks.

Girl backpacks at Old Navy

Old Navy has a small selection but great prices on backpacks and lunch boxes. For girls they have polka dots, peace signs, and butterflies for only $7.00 per backpack and $4.00 per lunch box.
Boy backpacks and lunch kits at Old Navy

For boys, Old Navy has a sports theme, a camouflage design, skulls design and a skateboard designed backpack. Each is priced at $7.00 with matching lunch boxes for an additional $4.00.

Old Navy has a bunch of tin lunch boxes for sale, too.  They have Kermit and Disney Cars on sale for only $4.99. The other lunch boxes are priced below $8.00.  They had characters such as: Hello Kitty, Disney Princess, all the Marvel characters and much more. They are not selling them online but you can check with your local Old Navy to see what they are carrying.

Wherever you go shopping, I strongly recommend bringing a binder or folders to see if the backpack will be big enough to fit the supplies that are mandated by your school.

Happy Shopping!

Office Max is going to be featuring backapcks for 50% off starting on the August 26th and the Disney store has marked down their character backpacks to $9.99.



  1. Backpack is most important thing for school going kids. This helpful post will help kids and their parents to find best school backpacks for them.

  2. Nice and interesting stuff. I like this blog and I will look forward to reading more stuff.
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