School supplies craze

For many parents involved in their children’s schooling, annual rites include buying school supplies.
With so many goodies available from large retailers at the mall, children tag along with parents to shop for supplies and all have a grand time. All, that is, except the wallet.
On average, the price markup at large chains is around 35 percent. Ouch!
I recall shopping for school supplies with my mom as the schoolyear kicks in. We compared prices and got the cheapest items. During my time, the cheapest also meant poorer quality. But they were still usable. All it took was a little more care when using them, like making sure I don’t lose the cap of my cheapo pen that often leaked ink.
With two children in a school that moved 20 kilometers away from our house, it meant a little belt tightening because our gasoline bill would rise. Many students continued their schooling in the new location despite the distance because we parents believe that the way it delivers the curriculum was good for our children.
Good school, higher fuel cost, tighter budgets. This led to the idea of pooling our needs and buying in bulk.
At the close of school year 2016, some of us parents met in school to discuss options for carpooling and shopping for supplies.
With my knowledge of Binondo, I offered to do the buying. A tech-savvy parent created an online shopping system showing the school’s supplies list.
It was a win-win-win proposition for everyone. Parents did not need to brave the traffic at large chain retailers to get supplies that were priced higher.
When all the buying was done, we may have saved as much as 40 percent.
Our school requires certain brands of art supplies. So we bought branded art supplies from direct distributors or manufacturers.
(Our school’s art classes are real art classes where children are taught different art theories and methods. Students did more than just drawing and cutting out stuff).
For my fifth grader, the savings was greater: the price of the scientific calculator she needed (which she will use until she finishes high school) is half that in the chain retail store. Most of the supplies were purchased from stores along what Tsinoys still refer to as Nueva (now E.T. Yuchengco Street).
Around a third of the student population bought supplies from our small online sari-sari. Teachers saved a lot of time because I delivered all these students’ supplies directly to the school. In the past, children brought large bags of supplies which teachers collected and checked.
All paper supplies were then stacked by kind and stored in the school’s stockroom. Children do not need to bring anything anymore during the entire school year. Individual items like notebooks, crayons, pencils were distributed to the students and went into their cubby holes in the classroom.
The environment won because there is less plastic packaging in bulk buys.
Likewise, the annual rites include wrapping books and notebooks.
I remember when mom and I were done shopping for supplies, we headed home where dad was ready with old calendars to wrap my notebooks and books. The clean, unmarked backs of the calendar pages would cover my notebooks. I remember that as the school year began, my notebooks would be pristine. By the end of the year, they would be covered with drawings and stickers.
Even after my dad passed away, I continued wrapping my books in old calendars or old gift wrappers. By high school, I stopped wrapping them altogether because my little brother was now in school as well. I don’t recall if his school required it or not, but I always wrapped his book in plastic. Wrapping one set of stuff was enough. I think I transferred wrapping duties to him when he reached fifth grade.
With our environment in the dumps, I say get rid of plastic and go back to old-school calendar wrapping.
Many used books donated to Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran come still wrapped in calendar paper. Maybe it was the thing to do in those good old days. It is certainly the right idea. If the purpose of plastic wrapping is to keep the books from ripping and getting dirty, then using those thick glossy calendar paper should work just as well.
By the way, when wrapping with old calendars, do not use clear tape, which is also plastic. Instead, make the inside flaps wider so the wrapper does not fall off.
This year, I am buying for an entire school. It was really hard work for me because I ended up purchasing from six different suppliers. But if the school will allow it, I would gladly do it again next year. It helps all parents save money, and it lessens our collective environmental impact.