10 Back-to-School Items to Buy Used

There are many ways that you can participate in your own personal reuse revolution this back-to-school season, which can help to shrink your footprint rather than your bank account. Items such as clothes, shoes, books, calculators can be purchased used in order to support the green initiative. This article offers a list of common school

There are many ways that you can participate in your own personal reuse revolution this back-to-school season, which can help to shrink your footprint rather than your bank account. Items such as clothes, shoes, books, calculators can be purchased used in order to support the green initiative. This article offers a list of common school supplies that you can buy used this year to help our environment and save money.

Earth911.com, 8/16/2011


1. Clothes and shoes

Kids grow up fast, and that brand new Transformers shirt he just had to have will probably be getting snug by winter vacation. Wouldn’t a vintage tee be a lot cooler for him (and your checkbook)?

Since kids often only wear a given garment for a few months before outgrowing it, there are plenty of good-as-new kids’ clothes out there for a fraction of the cost. Thrift stores and yard sales are great spots to start. But the best place for kids’ clothing finds is swaps you set up with your family and friends. When the kids hit another growth spurt, there will be more than enough to go around.

2. Books

So, the kids are discovering Shakespeare this semester (insert grimace here). Why pick up a $30 hardcover of Romeo and Juliet when a gently-used manuscript will read exactly the same? Many schools have troves of used books in libraries and available for purchase for pennies on the dollar. If you can’t find the titles you want there, libraries, book mobiles and thrift stores have huge bins of gently-used books for 25 cents or less.

3. Calculators

The scientific calculator is often on top of the need-to-buy list for kids entering middle school. But unless your little darling aspires to be a mathematician, she probably won’t touch it after high school comes to a close. So, why drop up to $100 on a new one when there are scores of barely-used finds on the market for a quarter of the price?

Some electronics stores sell used scientific calculators, and you can often find them at yard sales and thrift stores, too. You can also purchase used calculators on sites like eBay, but make sure you can return it to the sender if it doesn’t work properly. If you’re buying from a yard sale or store, make sure the calculator is in working condition before you buy it. As many a student has discovered, those buttons are never the same after an apple juice explosion.

4. Backpacks and lunch boxes

Sure, it’s cool to have a backpack that can charge your iPod. But if that isn’t in the economic cards this year, buying used is a great option for a little “green” flair that won’t cost a fortune.

Backpacks and lunch boxes from yard sales and thrift stores are often good as new. And once you clean them properly, they’re safe and ready for their new owner. Cloth backpacks and lunch bags will be ready for use after a trip through the washing machine. Soak metal or plastic lunch boxes in a mixture of warm water, vinegar and baking soda. Then clean with a nontoxic cleanser to truly banish the ick factor.

5. Binders, pencil cases and other basics

Binders, pencil cases, folders and other basic school supplies may seem small. But somehow they always add up once you get to the cash register. We’re not suggesting that you pick up a notebook with five pages left in it, but some reusable items can get tossed before their time – meaning they’re often easy to find at rock-bottom prices.

Thrift stores often have basic school supplies for less than a dollar. And this is another area where the swap is your friend. The girl down the street would just die if she had to show up at school with that Barbie book cover again, but her trash could be treasure for your little princess. Ask friends and family members if they have unwanted school supplies, and offer some of your kids’ unwanted items in return. Green and free? It doesn’t get much better than that.

6. Math gear

Last year it was the ruler, this year it’s the compass, next year (gasp) – the protractor. Math gear is essential to your little pupil’s learning. But unless he “accidently” tosses his backpack out the school bus window, these items will usually be good as new by the time he moves on to another subject.

For this reason, thrift stores often have loads of good-as-new gear for pennies. Some classrooms also have boxes full of gently-used math supplies. Ask your child’s teachers if they have any used gear for new students to use, or suggest starting a hand-me-down program at your next PTA meeting. By the time younger kids need them, the school will have tons of items ready for reuse.

7. Sports and Athletic Equipment

When your child gives a new sport a go, it means many things for the family – grueling practices, exciting games and lots of new equipment to factor into your back-to-school budget. Ditch the hefty price tag of brand new equipment, and check out your local sporting goods store for some barely-used finds.

While you may be tempted to think that newer is better when it comes to helmets and other protective gear, gently used items that are purchased from a reputable dealer will play just the same. Baseball bats, hockey sticks and racquets are also perfect reuse gems, and some even play better with a little wear and tear. Clean items with a nontoxic cleanser, and they’re ready for action.

8. Art Supplies

Dried-out paints and glue sticks are never a good thing. But you can save loads of cash by buying some of your kids’ art supplies used. Brushes, sponges and other tools can take a lot of wear and tear, and buying them used saves money and keeps a useful item out of the landfill.

Many art supplies stores sell gently-used tools and some will even have paint, chalk and charcoal sets that were never opened by their original owners (think: discarded holiday gifts). Thrift stores and flea markets are also smart stops for used art supplies.

9. Instruments

Buying a brand new instrument for a beginner is always risky business. And considering a classic instrument plays just as well, there’s really no reason not to buy used. Most music stores sell gently-used instruments, and you’ll often discover cool vintage finds for a fraction of the cost of a new instrument.

Many instruments will be ready for play after a quick once-over with an eco-friendly instrument cleaner like Brillianize Musical Instrument Cleaner and Polish. But if your kid will be putting it up to his lips, you may want to do a deeper clean.

Give your brass or woodwinds a soak in warm water, white vinegar and baking soda. This alone will sanitize your instrument, but you can also use a metal-safe eco-friendly cleaner to be extra cautious. The ingredients in your soak also work wonders on tarnish. Mix the water, vinegar and baking soda into a paste and rub it onto tarnished areas. Rinse, buff and play!

10. Games and toys

It can’t be all work and no play. So, reward your little scholar with something to play with this year. After all, you’ll have plenty of extra cash for it. Thrift stores are chock full of toys and games that may not have been the favorites of their previous owner but could be hours of fun for your little one. When cleaned with a nontoxic cleanser, used toys are completely safe and ready to enjoy.




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