These 15 Back to School Items are a Waste of Your Money

It seems like kids should loathe and parents should rejoice back to school time, but the truth is both groups hate it. For kids, it means summer is almost over, and the daily grind is about to start again. Parents don’t have it easy, either, since they have to start packing lunches and shopping for supplies that add up to a final bill akin to holiday shopping. Parents, we’re here to help. Sharpen your No. 2 pencil and cross these back to school items off your shopping list.

We already know the items to avoid for kids heading off to college, but kids in grade school and high school probably don’t need any of these (especially the pointless item at No. 11).

1. Clipboards

Female doctor hold clipboard pad and fill medical history

Don’t blow your back to school budget on clipboards. | megaflopp/Getty Images

  • Kids don’t need them, and you can make your own if they do.

Teachers tell Forbes that clipboards are some of the most pointless back to school items, so if it’s on your list, you can cross it off. Students don’t need a clipboard for most schoolwork, and if they do, you can probably find one around the house or make your own with some corrugated cardboard.

Next: An item in the same vein as clipboards.

2. Note cards

Notecard-index card

Notecards are back to school items kids won’t need. | Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

  • If your kids actually need them, share with other parents.

Just as most students won’t need a clipboard in the classroom, the same goes for note cards. Kids don’t need notecards for most of their projects at school. If the teacher says you need them, go in with a group of parents to buy a large pack and divide them among the kids.

Next: A way you can save 80%.

3. Trapper Keepers

Trapper Keeper - Vintage from 80s

Binders are just as good as Trapper Keepers for back to school purposes.| eBay

  •  Regular binders cost 80% less.

Millennials have no clue about these fancy three-ring binders that cost about $5, and your kids don’t need to know, either. Considering you can buy binders for less than $1, shelling out five times as much for a Trapper Keeper is a total waste of money.

Next: To err is human.

4. Whiteout

Black Marker Pen and Eraser

Teachers prefer to see the mistakes students make. | design56/Getty Images

  • Teachers would rather see the mistakes.

It’s almost always good to correct mistakes, but whiteout is still one of the biggest back to school wastes of money. Why? According to one of the teachers Forbes spoke to, educators would rather have the mistakes crossed out so they can see a student’s thought process.

Next: A waste of money with a big caveat.

5. Backpacks

Two backpacks

Little kids don’t need these for school. | Brett Holmes Photography/iStock/Getty Images

  • Little kids don’t need giant backpacks.

This one comes with a caveat. Of course, some students are going to need backpacks, and if the one from last school year is worn out, then a new one is in order. But if you’re little one is just starting school, he or she won’t need a huge book bag since there won’t be too much schoolwork coming home. Plus, a loaded backpack won’t be doing any favors for your child’s posture.

Next: Don’t go over the top.

6. Deluxe versions of normal items

colored pencils and markers in Italy

Your kids won’t need a ton of markers for class. | Mario LaportaAFP/Getty Images

  • The old tried and true work fine.

Your kids might need a set of colored pencils or a pack of ballpoint pens, but do you know what they don’t need? A huge collection of $19 glitter pens or a $33 set of colored pencils. The deluxe versions of regular supplies are pointless back to school items you don’t need.

Next: Chances are you don’t need to buy these.

7. New lunchboxes

Beatles lunchbox

Lunchboxes shouldn’t be on the back to school. | Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

  • Only buy new ones if the old ones broke.

A blogger at The Simple Dollar puts new lunchboxes in the “don’t need” category. Unless last year’s lunchbox is completely dilapidated, there’s no reason to buy a new one.

Next: Thinking long term.

8. Disposable lunch supplies

plastic bag with lock

Disposable sandwich bags are convenient but wasteful. | snyferok/Getty Images

  • Reusable containers save you money in the long run.

Brown paper bags, individually-packaged snacks, and plastic sandwich bags make packing a lunch for your kids easy, but they all end up in the garbage. If you’re thinking long term, however, it makes sense to buy reusable containers for sandwiches and snacks. The initial cost for reusable containers is higher, but you’ll save money in the long run.

Next: Teachers never want to see this show up in the classroom.

9. Candy

Prince George was rewarded with candy last Christmas.

Teachers won’t like it if your kids resemble Prince George when they’re in class. | Andrew Matthews/AFP/Getty Images

  • Imagine trying to handle your kids during a sugar rush.

If you want to get on a grade school teacher’s bad side, then, by all means, put Smarties and Pixy Stix on your back to school shopping list. But put yourself in a teacher’s shoes. How would you feel facing a classroom full of kids on a sugar rush followed by the inevitable crash? You might have just shuddered at the thought, and that’s why candy is one of the back to school items educators don’t want to see in the classroom.

Next: This is almost pointless in this day and age.

10. Loose-leaf paper

Stacks of paper

Your kids’ homework is never going to look like this. | Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

  • Your kids don’t need excess paper in a digital world.

Schools increasingly rely on tablets such as Google Chromebooks for assignments in and out of the classroom, according to the Associated Press. In this day and age, a giant ream of loose-leaf paper is practically useless. Most notebooks, which you’re probably buying anyway, have tearaway paper in case something needs to be turned in to the teacher.

Next: The most pointless of all back to school items.

11. Mechanical pencils

mechanical pencils with flavored lead.

Mechanical pencils are some of the most pointless back to school items you can buy. | Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

  • Standard pencils are better in a school setting.

No matter how great of a deal you get on mechanical pencils, they don’t need to be among the back to school items you put in your cart. Either they’re running out of lead at the wrong time, or kids are losing them as often as regular pencils. No matter how old your students are, they probably don’t need special pencils.

Next: They don’t cost a lot, but the kids still don’t need them.

12. Headphones

woman sitting at desk, wearing headphones

Headphones are back to school items your kids won’t need. | iStock.com/James Woodson

  • You won’t need them, or they’re going to get lost.

Chances are you can find a set of earbud headphones for less than $10, but you still don’t need them on your back to school shopping list. Some schools already have headphones for computers, and even if they don’t, the ones you buy will probably get lost or broken.

Next: You definitely don’t need the top-of-the-line version.

13. Expensive gym shoes

A customer looks at a new Air Jordan sneaker for sale.

Expensive shoes aren’t worth it.  Maja Hitij/Getty Images

  • Air Jordan’s aren’t going to make your kids play like Air Jordan.

Your kids might be begging you to put the coolest new shoes on your back to school list, but they probably don’t need top of the line gym shoes. The best pair of Air Jordan shoes won’t make your child jump higher or run faster, but those expensive sneakers will wear out just as quickly as their regular footwear.

Next: Defy tradition.

14. A new wardrobe

Sales clothing rack

Your kids probably don’t need a whole new wardrobe to go back to school. | wikoski/iStock/Getty Images

  • Buying a few needed items is the way to go.

Loading up on new clothes might be your back to school ritual, but it might be time to defy tradition and forego the wardrobe makeover. If the clothes your kids have still fit and are in good condition, you can save money by adding a few pieces instead of buying everything new. Another option is hitting your local thrift store and looking for diamonds in the rough.

Next: Buy these only if the teacher requests them.

15. Multi-subject notebook

School notebooks in variety of colors

Several single-subject notebooks are the way to go. | iStock/Getty Images

  • Your kids only need a multi-subject notebook if the teacher requests it.

Unless teachers say you need them, you can cross off multi-subject notebooks from your back to school items. A few single-subject spirals work just as well, plus they easily help kids visually differentiate between subjects when they’re rifling through their backpacks.

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