Dear Crabby, Why are Back-to-School Supplies so Expensive?

Dear Crabby,

I am sending my kids to school for the first time (they’ve been homeschooled until now) and am finally ready to start back-to-school shopping. Some of my mom friends have been lamenting over the cost. Is it really that expensive?

Thanks, Mona Moneysense

Dear Mrs. Moneysense,

All I can say is prepare yourself for sticker shock. Back in my day all we needed were the basics: paper, pencils, ruler, and books – all items the schools pretty much gave to us! I do remember sweet talking my momma into a pack of fancy colored pencils. She thought I might be a budding artiste, but really I just wanted a red pencil to draw blood in my cops and robbers pictures during class. As I entered junior high and high school, composition books, a three-ring notebook, and fountain pen were added to the list. Still pretty straightforward and necessary to my, ahem, sterling education.

DearCrabbyLast week, I tagged along with my daughter and grandkids as they did their back-to- school shopping. One grandkid is starting 4th grade and the other 1st grade. The space dedicated to back-to-school supplies is ridiculous! Once you arrive in this land of notebook nirvana, you pick up your school’s list. Keep in mind this list is in addition to any specific requests your child’s teacher has made to help make the classroom experience more ‘magical.’ I watched my daughter spend close to $30 buying 24 large glue sticks! What on earth are these kids making? Or maybe it’s to have backups in case a kid eats them? Hard to say, but it’s still a lot of glue. Then my daughter said the first grader needed crayons, I pointed to the trusty Crayola 64 pack. Oh, no. That’s not the kind this budding artiste needs. Nope. Apparently only Crayola twistable crayons in primary colors are good enough for 1st grade… and there’s only eight in the pack! In the end, school supplies and other ‘necessities’ for both rugrats came to over $200! And my daughter said she’ll probably have to stock up again at some point during the school year. I’m betting she’ll need more glue sticks. After lunch she mentioned they still needed to shop for back-to-school clothes and asked it I wanted to coming along. I told her I suddenly remembered I had a root canal appointment. Between you and me I think we need to stick to the basics and focus on teaching our kids what will help them survive this crazy world we live in. In the meantime, good luck with your back-to-school shopping and remember that everyone else is crazy. We’re the sane ones.

Good luck!

Sincerely, Dear Crabby

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Stuck in a rut? Need some biased advice from a crabby old baby-boomer? Read regularly by thousands and loved by some, Dear Crabby answers questions weekly to life's challenges. Send him a note at

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