With school starting back up, many of us know the excitement (or horror) of running around at Target trying to find the items on our back-to-school shopping list. However, this year, with a global pandemic, over 1.2 billion students around the world will be affected by school closures, and many schools are turning to online learning. The pandemic has also put a financial strain on many households, so here are some budget-friendly school supplies to help you continue your education!
Disclaimer: I am not sponsored or affiliated with any of the websites mentioned.
1. A Computer and a Stable Internet Connection
Given the general idea of online learning for most schools, a reliable computer and internet is the most important item you will need. However, while some computers can be very pricey, I’ve found that Chromebooks work great for the price. During online school, I used an Acer Chromebook 14 for all of my work, and it has served me well. I could use Google Classroom, Zoom, and all of the online learning applications my school required, with the exception of a couple features. You can easily find one for under $300, and it will work for all your basic school needs.
Here’s a tip that I only learned after school ended, if you have a home account and a school account, you can add your school email by going to Settings -> People -> My accounts -> Add account. I spent so much time logging in and out of my school account, so knowing this would’ve saved me so much time.
A stable internet connection is also crucial for online school since disconnecting from an important meeting or class is incredibly frustrating. While I’m still on the search for a stable internet provider, libraries, coffee shops, and fast-food restaurants often provide decent free WiFi, when the pandemic is over, that is. Please stay at home to protect our amazing front-line workers!
Also, online websites and apps such as Honey, which automatically searches for coupon codes, and Student Beans, which provides discounts to students with a student email, can help you save money when buying electronic devices and more.
Even though our teachers won’t be there to make sure that we’re taking notes, I find that note-taking is actually quite helpful in remembering information. However, your note-taking doesn’t have to be in a notebook, take an old binder and some filler paper to get a notebook that costs around a dollar!
I found that decorated notebooks were often times way more expensive than plain notebooks, but since I really liked those decorated notebooks, I bought a notebook for $0.50, made a drawing on a piece of paper, cut out the drawing to fit the notebook, and used Mod-Podge to seal the drawing onto the notebook. I’ve made some super cool personalized notebooks that way, and it’s really nice to be able to make your own beautiful notebooks for cheap. For notebooks with plastic covers, packaging tape works to tape labels and drawings onto your notebook!
In seventh grade, my history teacher required us to have a 11″ by 9″ notebook, and because of that, I’ve discovered one of my favorite spiral notebooks. It’s the Pen + Gear 1-Subject Notebook which only costs $0.97, and it’s big enough to fit worksheets without the edges hanging out. The Pen + Gear 4×4 Quad Notebook is the same size, but with graph paper, so it’s great for students in high school math classes.
3. The Basic School Supplies
With a notebook, you’re going to need a writing utensil too. While most of us have used wood pencils, I usually prefer mechanical pencils for school because they don’t require sharpening. I like using the Pilot G2 Mechanical Pencils, but I’ve also been building up my collection of mechanical pencils. Some of the pencils in my collection include Pilot Opt. 0.5 Shaker Mechanical Pencil, Staedtler Norica Black Wooden Pencils (these are my favorite wood pencils!), and Pilot Dr. Grip Play Border Shaker Mechanical Pencil.
A simple pen or wood pencil can be decorated too, by using washi tape and wrapping it around the writing utensil, and there are many cute patterns for washi tape! Other things to have include glue, tape, stapler, scissors, erasers, and highlighters. I found these super cool pen-style scissors, called Sun-Star Stickyle Scissors – Compact Type, and they fit conveniently into my pencil pouch just like any other pen. Highlighters are also important when annotating, so the Pilot FriXion Erasable Highlighters allow you to erase if you mess up, which is really helpful. The color does fade over time though.
Normally, my teachers print my assignments and worksheets, but now that we’re at home, we have to print our own. Laserjet printers allow you to print a large amount of paper, so most businesses and workplaces use laserjet printers. However, inkjet printers are better at printing photos and color documents.
I’ve used the HP Color Laserjet 3600n for over 10 years, and while it’s not being sold anymore, there are other more affordable printers on the market. However, while I do prefer writing over typing a worksheet, PDF editors are another affordable option. Adobe Acrobat DC Fill & Sign is an easy way to fill out worksheets, and I think it works the best out of all the PDF editors I’ve tried. Lumin PDF also works, especially if you need to draw on the worksheet.
Other things that are good to have include…
Planners are super helpful for scheduling and remembering deadlines, so you’ll always remember when your class is and when you’re available. There are printable planners online, or you could buy a planner. Sometimes cute planners can get a bit pricey through, since you don’t always get lucky and score the perfect planner for cheap, but online planner apps such as Google Calender works just fine.
My mom has used Google Calender for years, but I prefer writing down due dates in a physical planner because I think it’s easier to access without getting distracted. The helpful thing about Google Calender is that it reminds you about an event 10 minutes before the time you set, so you won’t forget about your class, unlike if you forgot to check your planner!
6. A Dry-Erase Board and Markers
Okay, my mom hates the smell of dry erase markers, so I’ve been banned from using them. However, before they got banned by my mom, I used dry-erase boards and markers so much, because they’re actually super helpful, especially for math. You can easily erase and redraw graphs, tables, and calculations. By reusing one board, you can help the environment too!
Dry-erase boards are quick and easy to use, and while you can get one for a few dollars, some smooth surfaces, such as a sheet protector with a piece of paper inside, will also work! You can also create a dry erase calendar by putting a calendar template into a picture frame.
7. Binder or Folder
It seems like we all have a binder somewhere, from third grade all the way to high school, a binder’s always been on the school supply list. I actually stopped using binders in eighth grade though, because I found it to be too big and heavy to fit in my backpack. Instead, I used a regular plastic folder to hold all of my papers, and categorized them by class periods.
For example, periods 1 through 3 would be on the left side, and 4 through 6 on the right side. While I did regularly clean out my folder to avoid accumulating too many documents that I didn’t need, accordion folders are another alternative for more sections and more space.
However, since I won’t have to carry around a backpack this year, I might start using a binder again! Dividers are a great way to section your binder into different classes, and you can find binder dividers for less than a dollar. They’re easy to make too, as you can use cardstock to cut out the shape of the tabs, and glue it onto another piece of hole-punched cardstock.
8. Headphones or Earbuds
With classes being held on video conferencing apps, it’s great to have a pair of good quality headphones with a microphone. While my Chromebook has a decent camera and microphone, sometimes I prefer to use my earbuds for better quality sound.
I have Apple EarPods, and they work great, but there are other great afforable options too. It’s important to make sure that the headphones or earbuds have a microphone, since students will need to respond and interact during class times. They’re also great for cancelling out background noise, especially if there are multiple people that are working in the same space.
9. Designated Workspace
Working in a quiet area has been shown to improve productivity, and that’s important for students to have a good learning environment. I usually work in my room where I have my desk, but if you don’t have a designated office, that’s fine! Choose a quiet area in the house, and move in a table if there isn’t already a table.
It’s best to choose an area with natural lighting, since researchers found that children in low-lighting classrooms had a harder time paying attention. Sometimes I prefer working in the dining room or sunroom though, so a table that has been cleared off could serve as a workspace too!
10. Graphing Calculator
Most advanced math courses require graphing calculators, and sometimes they can get a bit pricey. My school requires the TI-83 Plus or TI-84 Plus calculator, and they cost around $90. However, some online websites or apps are free alternatives for a graphing calculator, such as desmos.com, which is a free, easy-to-use, online graphing calculator.
There are other calculators available for download too, such as the Virtual TI v2.5 beta 5 that works like a real graphing calculator, and more on Google Play Store or the App Store. If you prefer to have an actual graphing calculator, buying a calculator second-hand can be a great way to save money. Websites like craigslist.org and ebay.com can have some great graphing calculators in excellent condition, so it’s worth it to check these out!
In conclusion, while the pandemic has had a huge impact on students around the world, you can still make the most out of online learning, with the help of some online resources and affordable school supplies!
Li, Cathy, and Farah Lalani. The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Changed Education Forever. This Is How. 29 Apr. 2020, www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-education-global-covid19-online-digital-learning/.
Epperson, Sharon. “Expert Tips on How to Cope with the Coronavirus-Related Money Stressors Keeping Americans up at Night.” CNBC, CNBC, 11 May 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/05/11/how-to-reduce-financial-stress-triggered-by-coronavirus-pandemic.html.
“Environmental Benefits of Dry Erase Boards.” Everase, everase.com/environmental-statement/.
“Corporate Quiet Rooms Benefit Workers, Add to Productivity.” Zenbooth, Zenbooth, 29 Nov. 2017, zenbooth.net/blogs/zenbooth-blog/corporate-quiet-rooms-benefit-workers-add-to-productivity.
Sara. “How to Succeed at Distance Learning Without a Desk.” Sunshine Whispers, 26 July 2020, sunshinewhispers.com/how-to-succeed-at-distance-learning-without-a-desk/.