Back to school shopping can be a daunting activity.
Being confronted with endless rows of colorful pencils, notebooks, binders and all manner of accessories is overwhelming. So much of the school year's success seems to ride on having the right stuff. After all, a fully loaded arsenal of freshly sharpened, sparkly pink No. 2 pencils makes all the difference.
"Retailers will offer back-to-school deals to entice shoppers," says the Better Business Bureau of New York. "Coupons, deals and giveaways are always nice, but make sure you actually need the items first and beware of advertising that could steer you wrong or sounds too good to be true."
With all this pressure on obtaining the tools deemed necessary for a child's education, the financial burden at the start of the school year can be significant. Aside from the monetary concerns, it can be difficult to even know where to begin shopping. To aleviate some of the confusion, many Jamestown schools post their supply lists online. Persell Middle School officials organize their classrooms by "teams," and each team has its own supply letter.
A few sample items include two 3-inch three-ring binders, at least 100 sheets of notebook paper, at least two dozen pencils, at least five pocket folders, two large boxes of tissues, a TI-30XIIS scientific calculator and a pair of headphones, among other things.
Luckily, there are places frustrated parents can turn to. Online shopping can be a money-saver for many. Firing up the computer can cut back costs by comparing websites and products to find parents the best price. If moms and dads don't have the time to cut coupons, services like FreePriceAlerts, an automatic price search engine that instantly notifies online shoppers of low prices, can do it for them.
According to the National Retail Federation, parents will be shopping carefully and making special efforts to save on supplies this school year. Thirty-one percent of families say they will do comparative shopping online (compared to 29.8 percent last year), and they will use more coupons (38.7 percent vs. 36.9 percent), and cut back on extracurricular activities or sports (14.3 percent vs. 10.2 percent).
However, some families may not have access to a computer with which to do their school shopping. That's where the Joint Neighborhood Project comes in.
"We fill backpacks with grade-appropriate supplies and give them out to children in need," explained Barb Hungerford, executive director.
The backpacks are purchased and filled using JNP's funds as well as through donations from local organizations. Bemus Point United Methodist Vacation Bible Camp, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, the Jamestown Islamic Society and Jamestown Business College are all major contributors to the program.
"We have given out around 300 backpacks," said Hungerford. "It's the same number that we gave out last year."
Unfortunately, that number is not enough. JNP runs the back to school drive every year, but this year they have had an increase in requests. JNP is unable to fulfill the demand, and it has no plans to expand the program due to lack of funding. Hungerford puts the soaring demand up to the increasingly exhaustive supply lists provided by schools.
"The supply lists schools are giving out seem to be getting longer, and the cost is really increasing because of this," she said. "It is getting more expensive to send a child to school, and because of this we are really seeing a rise in need."