Back to school: save vs splurge guide

It's that time of the year when we are prepping our little and not so little people to go back to school.

After last year's school year, it is understandable that there may be some uncertainty still lingering over what the school year is going to look like. Nevertheless, we have to prepare that it is back to normal and hope that there are minimal disruptions to our childrens' school year.

Last year, I was really last minute in my shopping and I remember labelling what felt like a million of my son's items for school the night before school. I made a decision that I would not fall into the same issue this year especially because my twinnies are heading into kindergarten this year which means I have THREE TIMES the number of things to label.

I was off work the last week of July and the first week of August and just knowing how busy things were going to get, I did ALL my back to school shopping then. I still need to get a label maker so I can label all the items, but I am sharing in this post today what to splurge on vs what to save for.

Splurge: Backpacks, Lunch bags & Lunch boxes

In previous years I have gone cheap on backpacks and lunch bags and even lunch boxes. What has ended up happening is that mid-year one if not all 3 have fallen apart and I have had to replace them when there aren't a lot of options and it has ended up costing me way more than if I invested in keepers. So this year, I chose to splurge on all 3. I went with Louis Garneau for the twins and big brother for their back packs, lunch bags and pencil cases. They have a 2 year warranty and replace items if the zipper gets ruined or if it rips. You can get these at Boutique Clement or Staples.

I also splurged on lunch boxes. I went with Yumbox for the twins. After hearing reviews from mums on the fact that they have used the same yumbox for 3 - 4 years, I was sold. I snagged a couple on sale at Chapters/Indigo. You can also find them on sale on

Save: Crayons, markers, coloured pencils

When it comes to crayons, markers and coloured pencils, I went cheap and saved. When kids get to school they will mix up all their pens and markers and will end up almost guaranteed in sharing with friends so there's no reason to splurge on items that will most likely be lost by the second week of school. Crayola is tried tested and true so this is what I went with. I did price comparison between Staples (Bureau en gros in Quebec) and Walmart and found the same items cheaper at Walmart so that's where I got them from.

Splurge: Snow suits & Snow Pants

This is my 8th winter dressing kids in Canada. Ottawa/Gatineau winter are particularly brutal with temperatures dipping to -30C and even -40C (-22F to -40F). Exactly. So investing in winter clothes is very important as kids go out every single day - unless it is -50C. They will be waiting for the bus outside and having the right protective clothes will keep them nice and warm. I have been buying Carters/Osh Kosh B'Gosh snow suits and pants since the kids were little and they have NEVER let us down. Despite all the rough playing, they have been in good enough shape to hand down from big brother to little brother. We tried GUSTI last winter for big boy and it was pricey BUT did NOT deliver so we will be going back to our tried, tested and true Carters/Osh Kosh snow suits.

Save: Undershirts and layers

As my kids have gotten older we have transitioned from onesies to undershirts and thermal pants. I save on these because they are going under their clothes, they will be washed several times, they don't need to be pricey. I have found great undershirts/t-shirts at walmart or H&M. H&M have 3 for the price of 2 for their sets of undershirts/tshirts both in long and short sleeves. George at Walmart also has some great cotton basics.

Splurge: Winter Boots

Winter boots are another essential item for Canadian winters. For the same reasons above, wet feet will make for miserable and probably cold-prone kids. We have gone with Sorel and haven't been disappointed for the past few winters. They are pricey BUT well worth it and tend to be in good enough shape to hand down to little brother. We also tried GUSTI boots last winter for the twins and they held up quite well (unlike the GUSTI wintercoat). My son's boot strap got cut within an month and they replaced the boot no questions asked. Winner/Marshalls are great for Sorels on sale if you catch them early - they get bought quite quick. You can score a pair for $40 (regular price $75). Carters/Osh Kosh also have the boots on 25% off every once in a while, so be on the look out for the sale. Kamik is also a great Canadian brand. We get ours from Aubainerie another great Canadian Qubec-based store - they ship across Canada and also have some great options and price points.

Save (aka splurge on a budget): running shoes

Almost all school lists call for indoor shoes. I save aka splurge on a budget by buying name brand shoes from Winners/Marshalls on sale. So far Reebok, Puma, Nike and New Balance have been great options and by getting them at winners you save a good $30-$40 compared to their price at regular stores. DSW is also a great store for buying name brand kids shoes on sale.

Did you find this post helpful? Share it!

Join the Career Slay Mama Tribe so you never miss a post.