Need It/Don’t Need It: The Cheap Mum’s Guide to Back to School Gear

What’s that? You missed the screaming flyers, garish banners, and bellowing TV commercials? Well, we can officially confirm: it’s BACK TO SCHOOL TIME! Yep, and that means stocking up on a lifetime’s worth of bags, bottles, and containers guaranteed to disappear before the first week is out. Prefer to keep your hard earned cash in your pocket if possible? Let us break down what back to school gear you really need.


School Bag: Need It

Little one needs room for lunch box, homework, and a drink and, while wings and wheels are both options, our vote goes to the Harlequin Ergo Tuff Pack for its no-nonsense style, osteopath, physiotherapist, and chiropractor approval, and fifteen-year zipper warranty. Bonus: You just sorted their first day of high school too.

Lunch Box: Don’t Need It

There’s choosing your favourite Olsen, then there’s choosing your kid’s lunch box. We’re talking infinitesimal difference/life-changing consequences. So seriously, why not sod it all and pack their sambos and fruit snack in a reuseable, washable fabric bag? The environment—and your wallet—will thank you.

School Shoes: Need It

Good quality school shoes don’t come cheap. And while you’ll be tempted to go for the mass chain-store cheapies, don’t. Spending up on a pair of quality shoes will save you and your little one a world of pain. Literally. Get them fitted properly and go with a brand that offers warranties for wear and tear. 

Drink Bottle: Don’t Need It

You’ll want something that doesn’t: a) have a lid you can lose b) melt in the car c) smash into a million lethal pieces d) have that foul plastic or metal taste or e) get really heavy when you fill it with water. That rules out pretty much everything. Damn. But truly, a drink bottle is the first thing to go when your little one hits the playground, so why don’t you just grab one of those 23 used water bottles you’ve got kicking around the kitchen, smear their name on it, and call it upcycling. Win.

Cooler: Don’t Need It

The marketing spiel here is that the bacteria that causes food poisoning multiplies quickly at temperatures above five degrees, so an insulated cooler bag is essential. But, sheesh! Food poisoning?? From a school lunch?? That’s even less likely than “my dog ate it.” Steer clear of packing Heston’s Liquorice Poached Salmon and surely you’ll be all right.

Pencil Case: Don’t Need It

Sure, Junior would be the envy of the class with this Pita Bread Pencil Case, but we bet a zillion bucks that if you clean their room you’d find i) five gorgeous old pencil cases in pristine condition under the bed ii) at least 600 pencils iii) 2.4 million tiny little erasers in the shape of ice creams, biscuits, owls, and macarons. Simply grab your eyeliner sharpener & whip those pencils into line, and you’re done. While you’re cleaning that damn room you might even find your own leftover pita bread to snack on for lunch. (JUST JOKING! GROSS!)

Label Maker: Don’t Need It

True, it is 2015 and, yes, kids may be learning on iPads, doing homework on laptops, and riding home on their hoverboards, but when it comes to some things the old ways are still the best. Like using a Sharpie to write their name on their belongings, say.

Socks: Need It

If there is one thing—just one!—that you take from this article it is this: DO NOT FORGET THE SOCKS. Everyone thinks of socks as an afterthought, as a trivial item to be tossed in the shopping basket at the last moment, but no no no, let me set you straight. To kids, socks are like the ring to Frodo, Nemo to his dad, Elsa to Anna. Socks are precious. Find some you think munchkin will like, get them to try them on, buy in bulk, and consider your morning meltdown averted. Phew! 

image: Getty / Julia Wheeler and Veronika Laws

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