It’s School Supply Time in Canada!

Tips & Tricks


Did you ever see the commercial where the lovely young lady is walking down the street just enjoying her summer when a leaf falls from the tree above her? She points, starts screaming, turns, and runs very frantically away, arms waving everywhere. I don’t even remember what the commercial was for but it about covers the sentiment in my house in regards to the countdown to September. It’s school supply time!!!!  For eight years now I have tried to figure out a creative way to fill the school supply list but usually at the last minute go running, arms a waving, to the biggest box store I can find and buy everything brand new and for full price. Well, at least it looks pretty, for all of about a day!

So, I’m looking for creative solutions here. How do you get your school supplies? Do your kids love it or hate it? Do you get them or early or late? Is there actually supposed to be a list for grade 9 and, like every newsletter from grade 8 it is at the bottom of some recycling bin, or am I truly on my own this year (yikes!)?

Let the wonderful ideas that will save me (I mean us) all kinds of money flow!


33 responses to “It’s School Supply Time in Canada!”

  1. Brooke says:

    I will be entering Grade 11 in September. Despite not knowing how your system works, generally, the teachers will either hand out or orally describe what they are looking for in their students. Usually binders, paper, dividers, etc. I know it may be utterly frantic, and the thought of going to school (especially HIGH school) for your child may be daunting, you may want to hold off until you know exactly what the teachers want. I entered Grade 9 with a binder, some paper, and a small pencil case with a few pens and such, and did my back-to-school shopping that night. I also did that entering Grade 10. Usually, Staples, or the equivalent of it has a sale the day that school begins, so it’s not too tragic, price-wise. We were, however, in the States this week, so I did do some of my shopping at the wonderful Target. I picked up some seemingly good quality binders for about $2.50 each, and 150 sheets of paper for $0.75.

    My advice? Pick up the necessary items (AKA the ones you KNOW they are going to need) if you can snag ’em for a good price. Then just wait for the sales to come. 🙂

  2. April says:

    All you need for high school is, backpack, paper, pens&pencils, 4 binders, lock and mabey a calculator, don’t waste your money!

  3. Robin says:

    I’m thinking of getting them during todays bonus redemption at Shopper’s!

  4. Litesandsirens911 says:

    I personally have 4 kids, 2 in highschool, 2 in gradeschool…i wait until about now, and search the flyers, and buy in multiples of 4 everything I know they’ll need (pencils, markers, notebooks, binders, erasers, paper, etc….) and then once I get the teachers list, I just add to that…usually it is just x# of duotangs, or a math protracter set, etc….
    Luckily my kids in gradeschool come home with a list in June , and for 20.00 paid to the school, they provide all the necessary supplies, but that list doens’t always make it home!

  5. Mandolin5 says:

    I just go to where there are sales. Today I went to dollar max…. Which is a bit like dollarama and they had a ton of school supplies super cheap. Alternatively if you are really on a budget you can check craigslist when university semesters finish I know they regularly give away binders, books and calculators in my city.

  6. stwt0032 says:

    It’s been a few years since I’ve been in high school, and I’m not sure what area you’re in, or how many classes per day your kids have, but this is what I usually made sure to have. I always did my shopping as soon as I could – that way I could get what I need and avoid the crowds.

    – binders (I had 4 classes a day, so I had 2 binders – one for the 2 classes before lunch, and one for the 2 classes after. Less time at my locker between classes)
    – lined paper – stock up on this NOW – it is ALWAYS cheaper to when it’s on sale now, since there are rarely sales on it throughout the year
    – dividers
    – pencils, 1 pk – either mechanical or regular, make sure you get a sharpener or spare leads
    – erasers
    – pens – at least one red, and 1 pack black or blue
    – white out or correction tape
    – highlighter(s) – yellow is a must, but I always had a 4 pack with different colors
    – ruler
    – pencil case
    – backpack

    If your kid has a math class (and I assume they will) they will need:
    – graph paper (1 pk is usually enough)
    – math set (as long as your kid isn’t likely to lose it, get a better quality one like Oxford/Sanford and it will last throughout highschool)
    – scientific calculator

    Finally, every school is different with locker policies – some provide locks, others don’t. At mine, we had to provide our own locks, or could purchase them from student council the first week of classes. Our locks HAD to be combination locks (we had to give the school the combo for security reason). I always found that the Dudley locks we best, as I had some bad experiences with people picking the cheaper ones. If you don’t know what they’ll need, my suggestion would be to buy this now, and keep it in the package – if you don’t need it, return it.

    Hope that helps!

  7. RobynCD says:

    I think the bigger stores (Staples, Walmart) usually have a display with supply lists for the schools in the immediate area. Check out dollar stores for cheap supplies (but the big box stores usually have better deals with sales) and thrift shops for gently used backpacks and pencil cases.

  8. Melody113 says:

    Dollarama Less than $20 you are done. Back pack at Costco $19.99 for the Roots one as my guy uses it for a sled in the winter and that one holds up well. : )

  9. Olena says:

    My kids will start kindergarten next fall and I was thinking to talk to teachers/parents about this year’s list and then buy some supplies a year ahead. We have planty of storage room and some items go on sale after school starts.

    Would this be a good idea?

  10. Allison says:

    Try looking in Zehrs for great clearance deals! About a month ago I was in the stationary section and found packs of paper for 25 cents each!!!

    Usually their clearance is grossly underadvertised, so if you find something, get it checked and you might be surprised!

  11. fleetingleaf says:

    I find the whole “school supplies” thing overrated…what do you really need? A couple pens, a couple pencils (or mechanical pencils), eraser (one lasts at least 2 years), white-out, paper or notebooks and binders/folders, and a ruler (maybe a calculator if you don’t have one already). Pencil cases and backpacks…do you really need one every year…I used the same ones for like 8+ years. My pencil case followed me from middle school to university.
    Everything else that comes up on those lists are usually never used or you still have them from a previous grade. This happened with both me and my sister especially for the elementary and middle school years, there’s so much left-over useless supplies now.

  12. Dawn says:

    Yes you don’t need a lot for highschool. If there is somemthing missed you will know after the first day teachers always tell students what they will need, i’ve even had classes where people haven’t even brought binders or paper to school the first day…. not always the best idea though with first impressions and all that. I’m currently going through the same sort of debate right now, going to college and I’ve been out of highschool for 2 years. I don’t know what to expect or what to bring I know i’m going to have a laptop with me so i figure just the very basics and if i need anything else I’ll buy it after.

  13. lala says:

    You won’t need highlighters, colouring pencils, or any of the artsy stuff. Like scissors, staples, hole punchers, or compasses. Probably just pencil,paper, pen (red and blue/black), eraser, white out , calculator, ruler, binder, and backpack. you will buy the lock at school. Your child’s highschool will provide the artsy stuff, so no worries!

  14. lala says:

    Don’t forget dividers! Some teachers are big on that…

  15. Eric says:

    Staples always has a list on the tables at the entrance or so for every grade just to give customers an idea of what to get.

  16. Insane79 says:

    I think that was a Zellers back to school commercial!

    The lists get crazier and crazier with each year. I remember my mom having to buy hardly anything ( a pencil case, coloured pencils, but not the crazy 2 page lists I get for my kids) Aside from kleenex, papertowels, and ziploc that are now on the list every year, this year I actually have to provide stickers!! Stickers, like the kind they put on the kids tests to say good job!

    I actually buy a fair amount of notebooks, ect… in like oct for the next year! They go like 50-75% off once school is under way. That way we also have a stash for the inevitable mid school year “I lost my ruler/calculator/pencils/highlighter, ect…” moments.

    A lot of high schools (my husband is a HS teacher) want the kids to have specific graphing calculators (my husband’s class has to have a very specific one that is like $100 but they can use it through high school). Wait and see what the math teacher wants them to have. It will at least have to be a scientific one.

  17. G says:

    My daughter’s school hands out a supply list with the last report card, so you know what you need for the next year. Early years in elementary school are annoying, with specific scribblers with special interlined pages, half blank, half lined, etc. Also, where I am, every store that sells school supplies have ALL of the different schools and classes printed out by the door when you walk in, if you forget your list. Pretty easy. BUT, usually I buy for the year in advance with that supply list from the year before, when things get marked down after school starts… I never buy stuff right before school:)

  18. babitos says:

    My daughter is going to the 3rd grade and so far i’ve spent 120$!!!And I’m not done!You can’t wait for sales because they need all their stuff for the first day.Don’t go to the dollar store and buy crappy stuff you’ll have replace in a month.

  19. amy says:

    Hi olena stocking up on things you think they will need is a great idea if you find great sales go for it school supplies don’t expire my mom always had a box of school supplies on hand for us all through school it was great for when you run out of paper pencils ect. mid year by the time we were in grade 4 we filled most of our lists from that box and I know it saved us tons of money the price of supplies only seems to go up every year. 🙂

  20. Andrea says:

    I’m a teacher now, so my school supply list is a bit different, but it wasn’t long ago that I was doing supply shopping for when I was still in school.

    Shopping for the elementary aged kids is easy, the teachers usually provide you with a list of what they’ll need ahead of time. These are the basics for grades 3 and up, any younger and the school should provide what they need:

    pencil case
    duotangs (binders for grade 7 & 8)
    pencil crayons
    math set
    calculator (invest in a basic scientific calculator in grade 7/8 that will last through till highschool so long as a specific calculator is required)

    Highschool is a little easier to buy for. Kids usually aren’t as hard on their stuff as they are in elementary school so they probably won’t need a new backpack or new pencil case every year. If kids are in specific math or art classes they will be told what materials they need to buy or what their materials fee covers.

    One thing to keep in mind: you know your kid better than anyone. If your child has a tendency to lose their stuff, or misplace it, or loan it to someone, then buy a little extra so you won’t have to shop for glue sticks over the Christmas holiday so your kid can finish their project that’s due the next morning (because almost every parent has had to do this at some point).

    Labeling your child’s supplies is also a good idea. I see so many things go missing either being borrowed and not returned or dropped and forgotten about. I’ve had kids misplace their only pencil every single day, which is why I buy boxes of pencils (among other things) and keep them in my classroom. Once the school runs out of certain supplies (usually around March Break), they won’t order any till the end of the summer, so buying a little extra for forgetful kids and labeling what they do have will go a long way to ensure they won’t go without.

    I buy my supplies at Staples or Walmart once their sales start in August, but dollar stores are excellent places to find supplies if you have multiple kids or are just looking to save a little. You can find all the basics there (except for maybe backpacks). There are a few items you will want to spend the extra money on, such as their backpack (Roots bags last amazingly long) and a math set (Oxford).

    Also, if you find you buy too much one year or the kids just end up using less, keep all your extras in a box and save it for next year.

  21. kittyboots says:

    This year my youngest daughter (who is going into grade 5) came home with a list of supplies that I could order through the school for $60.00! I was pretty sure we could put together the supplies cheaper myself. We re-used binders, rulers, calculators, etc. I ordered the highlighter and pens from Chapmans – the metalic pens are very nice. My older daugher (who is going into grade 7) had a list for her supplies that we have cost $90.00 if I ordered through the school. Both kids have to provide 500 sheets of xerox copy paper, kleenex, masking tape – things needed more for the teacher. We live in Calgary and I think we are being overcharged. I always try to look for lined paper, duo-tangs, and notebooks at Superstore when they go on clearance – usually the end of September.

  22. Mel says:

    we buy on clearance the year before and store, no need to spend ridiculous amounts when you can just buy it previously on sale.

  23. Tammy says:

    I am a high school English/History teacher and it is true that less is required in terms of a varitey of items but make sure that your kid is equipped with enough writing utensils (pencils and pens) and paper, erasers/white-out – there is nothing more annoying than kids who do not come prepared with the basic essentials. Also a binder and dividers to keep things organized is very important! As for the extras like scissors, rulers, glue, pencil crayons, markers, etc. usually the teacher provides them in classes like English and History since they aren’t used on a daily basis (I do anyway), but if a student has a back up pencil case full of these items then it is a bonus for them not to have to wait until another student is finished with the teacher’s. But if your kid had some of these items the year before then just re-use them from year to year as they won’t get used enough to warrant needing to buy new ones.

  24. Sasha says:

    I know this doesn’t help you but my daughter is going to grade one and they hand out a list with her report card. I wrote a cheque for $37 and gave it to the school, there is a local resource centre that bundles the supplies and delivers them labelled for $2. All Done!

  25. happymom says:

    I have 2 kids in grade school (gr 2 & gr 7) – we do buy some of the funky erasers or sharpeners, paper, dividers, clipboard, pencil case, highlighters, duotangs at the dollar store (they’re just as good as those at Walmart or Staples). I always have extra stock on hand (we make our own greeting cards so I always have something in the house they can use)…we did sew our own pencil cases last year the kids enjoyed that…we bought thicker material and added a zipper – they sewed on buttons and bobbles – lot more fun and because they made it, they were more careful with it. I do keep an extra set of crayons/pens/pencils/etc at home (communal homework station) so that the kids have what they need without looking for it when they’re doing their homework. I do shop the clearance sales after school starts which is very helpful throughout the year to handle projects, presentations and the like.

    I do label everything but not with their name – we use stickers – whatever they like and tape it to the item for extra sticking power.

    One thing I’ve done with wax crayons is wrapped them in tape – I wind it up from bottom to tip (unwind paper and tap and same time). My daughter tends to press hard which breaks the crayon in half and that drives me insane so this helps make the crayon stronger without breaking it too quickly.

    September is just around the corner – oh goodness!

  26. pinkyts says:

    I teach grade 1, and our school will provide everything that the students will need. However, if asked for a list, i usually suggest the following:

    Glue sticks
    pencil case
    markers/pencil crayons/crayons
    pencil sharpener

    Our school provides all of the notebooks/paper/duotangs, and well as pencils and erasers

    I have class sets of scissors, glue, colouring supplies, however it’s often nice to have your own of these things.

    The other thing that my students need to have are indoor running shoes.

  27. JSAM_S MOM says:

    My son’s school also hands out lists of required supplies with their last report card.

    Last year wHen I got the first back to school flyers in mid-August, I pulled out all of the stuff he had left over from the previous year. We went through the flyers together, and I showed him what new stuff cost v. using what he had left over. Some things were too ratty or used, so we got new items to replace those. Of the things that were still in good enough shape to use again, I let him decide what he wanted to use, and what he wanted to get new ones of, explaining to him that I would split the savings of using used v. buying new. Lo and behold, he chose to re-use almost everything, and only wanted a few new things. The difference was almost $25, so he put about $12 in his piggy bank, and I still ‘saved’ $12 and gave him an important lesson in economics.

  28. Alberta Girl says:

    We order our school supplies through the school. They are sent home the last week of school and the kids bring them back the second day in the fall. The first year I decided to buy the supplies on my own but it ended up costing me about $5 more than if I had just bought from the school. This is so easy!

  29. Lemdrop says:

    I start by looking at all the stuff my son brought home at the end of the school year, from last year. I check to see what is salvageable from that pile and then go from there. I keep an eye out for sales throughout the summer and buy bit by bit, as opposed to one big trip and having to pay full price.

  30. SpeedyTrini says:

    I don’t get it….

    What happened to the ‘last years’ stuff? in two-four months off school, why does the stuff have to get replaced?

    in h/school, I had two backpacks. they didn’t fall apart – the first one had to get tossed b/c I left some uneaten food *ahem* in one of the compartments.

    Sure it would be cool to have all new supplies, but why waste the money?

    I think I must have saved hundreds by not going out every year and buying all new stuff.

  31. sart1e says:

    I had my flyers ready to get the best deals at the stores with the lowest prices… walked into Staples and a salesperson was waiting at the door to let me know that they match (actually beat by 5%) all flyer sales. That sure saved a lot of running around!
    Also, I usually pick up a pack of paper to get started and wait a few weeks to get it for 33 cents a pack(Superstore). The stores always seem to have an abundance of paper. Other supplies however, I find you need to get before they run out.
    Happy shopping, from Chilliwack, BC

  32. royalviking says:

    I think it’s important to follow the list that is given by the teachers, BUT with a few things in mind…….

    Parents need to keep the school supply list(s) in a safe place. Before you go school shopping, go through what they had at the end of the previous school year and determine what can be used again — i.e. scissors, geometry set, rulers, leftover duotangs/scribblers/loose leaf, etc. Cross off whatever you do not need on the list.

    Then go shopping at Walmart, Staples, Dollar Store, or wherever has a good selection and competitive prices. However, do NOT skimp on quality with certain items. (Don’t buy crappy scissors that don’t cut, pencils/pencil crayons from overseas that don’t write & break apart easily), etc. It is VERY frustrating for teachers to have students who can’t cut paper, or have cheap crayons that don’t colour, or pencils that don’t write! Then these kids borrow from the others who buy the decent stuff and cost those parents more money. Some will say that buying better quality means a higher cost they can’t afford. Not true. If you go shopping at a store like Walmart, etc. when they’re having a good sale, the difference between ‘no-name’ and ‘Crayola,’ etc. is literally pennies. Cut back in other places, but not on quality educational tools. My kids have been using the same pair of scissors that they’ve had for years, etc. Watch for coupons, mark your fliers, buy in bulk if you see a great deal and save for the next year.

    Also, I think it’s up to each parent to determine the amounts in some places. I NEVER buy the mega amount of pencils suggested by the lists. My kids will not use 24 or 48 pencils in a year! I send about 12. They do not need 8 erasers either. Teachers have to gear these lists towards those who purposely break their pencils, rip their erasers apart, and don’t care about their property.

    It’s pretty commonplace now to see a couple boxes of tissues on the list as well. Whatever you do, parents, do not buy the cheap, rough, 1-ply tissues. Would you want that at home??? Buy a good brand with at least 2 ply, please. Same with backpacks – it pays to buy the heavy duty, higher-priced backpacks and have them last a few years.

    Also, consider donating extra pencil crayons, crayons, markers, etc. that you have sitting around at home and do not need. Pay it forward! ☺

    ***Manitoba Mom

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