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The Coupon Lady: Helping out the classroom

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This past Monday night, I attended my son’s school orientation and met with his teacher for the second time. My husband and I had introduced ourselves at the open house a few weeks ago.

This time, the teachers and parents discussed classroom policies and discovered what our children would be learning. As I talked with my son’s teacher and principal over the course of the evening, I realized that there are many things couponers can do to help their child’s classroom and school. I gladly volunteered to supply the classroom by stockpiling. With a little money and a little bit of extra planning, any parent can make sure that children and their teachers have the supplies and extras they need to succeed this year. I want to share some great ways that you can help, with minimal costs to you.

Teachers usually have simple request lists. My son’s teacher asked for tissues, paper towels, baby wipes, cleaning wipes and plastic storage bags. These items are frequently on sale, usually every 12 weeks, and coupons are often available. I have no doubt that the stockpile can be built up quickly.

Some teachers also request snacks for special events or for certain days of the week. I recently picked up Quaker Reduced Sugar Granola Bars for $1.30 after sales and coupons. I was able to get eight boxes at that price, so I have at least one group snack covered plus a stockpile for school lunches and after-school snacks.

In addition to providing your child’s teacher with some common-use items, a couponer can also provide teachers with extra supplies. Office supply stores have great sales throughout the school year. Even if you have already gathered the supplies your child needs, consider grabbing a few extras. Your child’s teacher will appreciate any extra pens, pencils, crayons or other materials you can spare. Office Max offered three 12-packs of No. 2 pencils and three single Sharpies for just 25 cents each. College- and wide-ruled filler paper were free after a $5 minimum purchase. Office Depot offered 10 two-pocket folders and slider pencil boxes for a penny each and safety scissors for a quarter each. As the school year progresses, keep your teacher in mind as you find those deals.

Don’t be afraid to offer any supplies you already have on hand. My family seems to collect pens, pencils, crayons, scissors, tape and calculators. They mysteriously vanish from their proper place, only to appear months or years later. Instead of throwing away these items, ask if the teacher would like to have them. Last week, we donated three large boxes of crayons for our daughter’s pre-K class that had only been used once at a play date.

Many schools participate in the Box Tops for Education program, which gives 10 cents for every box top symbol turned in. Last year, my son’s elementary school earned $4,160 from the program. That’s 41,600 box tops. Collecting those little scraps of paper can make a big difference. The Web site is at boxtops4education.com.

Another great reason to participate in the Box Tops for Education program is that the Web site contains high-value coupons on participating items. My family has already managed to earn $1 in box tops for this school year by redeeming a special bonus offer online and playing a few online games. This is not including the box tops we’ve collected during the summer months.

There are hundreds of participating products from brands including Avery, Betty Crocker, Bisquick, Brita, Cascadian Farms, Cheerios, Fiber One, General Mills, Green Giant, Hamburger Helper, Hanes, Hefty, Juicy Juice, Kleenex, Land o’ Lakes, Nature Valley, Nestle, Old El Paso, Pillsbury, Progresso, Scotts, Totinos, Yoplait and Ziploc.

Also keep an eye out for clearance educational toys that your teacher can use. I recently discovered a Butterfly Growing Kit on clearance for $4. Kits such as crystal growing kits, slime, bug habitats or similar items make great hands-on activities that bring learning to life. Your child’s teacher and class will love them.

NEXT CLASS

Carol Gunter will hold a free Couponing for Beginners class at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 29, at the Thomson-McDuffie County Library, 338 Main St., Thomson. Call The Augusta Chronicle at (706) 823-3318 for more information.


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