School shopping’s done, and I haven’t left my couch

I really don’t like school shopping.  My son is entering third grade this year, so I’ve been through this enough times to know a few things for absolute certain:

  • I will not be able to get everything at one store.  No matter which ring I throw my hat into, that store will be out of at least one thing, and I will have to go to a second – or even a third – store.
  • No matter what time of day I go, the store will be crowded, the lines will be long, and the cashiers will be harried.
  • I will have to ask for help finding at least three things.  I have no idea which aisle Post-It notes are in.  Construction paper is never with the paper.  Neither is loose-leaf.
  • I will forget my cloth shopping bags and the folders will rip through the plastic bags.
  • I will buy the high-quality name-brand supplies, while many other parents will go to The Dollar Store and buy the paper you can’t erase on and non-washable markers.  Why do I care? Because the classroom shares almost all of the supplies.
  • I will stare at the 10-pack of glue, calculating how much I would be saving if I were buying all of these supplies in bulk.

Well, the Kindergarten teachers have done this year what I’ve always thought all of the classes should do: they requested we bring in $30 per child and not buy any supplies ourselves.  That way they can get exactly what they need, and save money by buying bulk.  Hallelujah.   I know I spent way more than $30 when my son was in Kindergarten.  May all of the other grades follow their lead next year.

But that still left a bunch of supplies needed for my son.  For the past few years I’ve been doing more and more of my shopping online.  My groceries get ordered online, delivered to my door and carried upstairs.  Impulse purchases have always been way too easy with Amazon Prime, but now I get all of our drug-store type supplies there and a lot of our non-perishable grocery supplies too. is a wondrous thing.  Why has it never occurred to me to do back-to-school shopping online?

So, 90-minutes and five websites later, I’m done.  After checking out shipping options and spot-checking a few prices, I settled on (choosing only from Amazon Prime items) and (free shipping over $50 – since I needed printer ink, that was easy!).  I know that I got the best prices I could have gotten online taking everything into consideration.  Could I have done better in the store?  Maybe.  But I would have had to go to the store!  Instead, I know that everything is in-stock, and it’s all going to be here more than a week before school starts.  And I got to watch Daily Show reruns while I shopped.

Customer service has undoubtedly gone down (of course, so has the behavior of the customers).  I have to pay to park at my local Target and I’m not even allowed to take the cart back to my car.  Traffic in Brooklyn often sucks.  I’m having a hard time justifying shopping offline anymore.

Originally posted on Selfish Mom.  All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted.  Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.


  1. says

    When you’re buying drugstore items, or school supplies, do you *have* to buy in bulk? It seems like when I go on Amazon for something like that, I have to buy 50 of something I need 3 of, and being single-me, it’s just not practical for me to buy that many things in such large quantities.

  2. says

    @Toni – It depends. I just bought a two-pack of deodorant, and for some kinds they even had a good price on singles. But I had to buy a three-pack of mouthwash (and the bottles are big). The Olay face lotion I use comes in singles, but the Olay face cloths I use only come in a four-pack. So with health and beauty and drugstore stuff there really seems to be no rhyme or reason to it.

    The only school supply I bought in bulk was a 25-pack of folders because I know we’ll need more during the school year and buying less was much more expensive per folder. The only pink erasers that were eligible for Amazon Prime came in a three-pack, but I run into that problem at Stapes too, not just online on Amazon. The composition notebooks for some reason were MORE expensive if you bought them in bulk.

    The ridiculous quantities come into play more with the groceries. That stuff you pretty much have to buy by the case. 48 cans of soup, a case of mac and cheese, 10 pouches of tuna…it wouldn’t work well for a single person, unless it’s stuff that isn’t going to go bad for years and you have the storage space.

  3. Laura says

    Pay to park to shop at Target!?!?! Not take the cart to the car?!?! Target is such an integral part of my life. I’d have to move.

  4. says

    @Laura – I know, it sucks big-time. It’s a big beautiful 2-story Target a mile from my house, and I hardly ever go there because I can only buy what I can carry to the parking garage. The other option is going to the Target that’s over half and hour away. You can see why I shop online.

  5. Sara says

    Every year when I see other parents squabbling over the last purple folder with brads AND pockets at Wal-Mart, I want to track down and KISS the mom who several years ago initiated bulk school supply purchases in my kids’ school district. It keeps improving, too — originally we had to order on a paper form that the kid had to take back to school, and pick up the supplies in the gym on orientation night and then take them to the classroom; then, it occurred to them that it was way simpler to just deliver them to the classroom in the first place; and now, we order online and they even manage to correctly deliver to my kids’ two different schools from a single order. It completely rocks.

    I still have to buy a few things for the older one, because he’s in junior high and needs certain non-standard organizational tools to keep himself on track, but at least I’m not competing with thousands of other parents for the same item. I’ll take that.

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