Buying Backpacks on a Budget

It is that time of year again! Time to go back to school, which means time for the purchase of school supplies. This is not at all my favorite time of year. I am one of the people who does not work during the Summer so this time of year is especially tight on our finances. We already have all of our normal monthly expenses and then you add on top of that the extra expense of tons of supplies for three school aged children, and that makes for a tough monthly budget at my house.

When it comes to backpacks I have a pretty strong opinion about what I will and will not buy. As I said earlier, I have three kids that are school aged with my oldest going into the sixth grade. I have bought quite a number of backpacks in the last 6 or 7 years. I have tried different styles, different prices and different brands. Hopefully my experiences will help some of you who are trying to make a better decision when it comes to backpack purchases.

If you are like most people you head out to your local mass merchandise discount retailer to buy the majority of your child’s school supplies. Many times these stores will offer very inexpensive backpack options. I have bought so many of these back packs that it actually makes me ill. I have never had one last through the whole school year! Sure I am only paying $8 or $10 but I have to replace that backpack before the end of the school year, so it costs me more in the long run! Very frustrating! When I purchase a backpack, I expect it to last through the entire school year at the very least. After this happened with a few of the normal back packs, I tried one of the one shoulder satchel style bags, and still had the same issues. Either the fabric on the bottom gets a hole in it, or the strap itself would break beyond repair.

I began to wonder if it was just my child. Then when the same thing happened with both of my younger kids, I knew that the backpacks were the problem. I started to think back to my own backpacks when I was in school. I don’t remember having that many backpacks. I guess it wasn’t a memory that really stuck with me. However, I do recall carrying the same backpack all through high school. Also taking it with me off to college for a year, and then finding it in the bottom of a closet when I packed up to move in with my husband. It lasted a very long time. I wondered why I was having so much trouble finding backpacks like that for my own children. It hit me like a ton of bricks! Sure, I felt like I was saving money by purchasing cheap backpacks. But really I was not saving money at all! It was costing me more money to buy new backpacks mid-year, or at the beginning of every school year.

Last year I decided it was time to invest in more expensive backpacks. This was an experiment for me because it would be the first time I had spent more than $15 on a backpack for one of my kids. I started to research some of the big backpack names on-line. LL Bean, and Jansport were my first choices. I have always heard good things about those brands. Plus the backpack that lasted so many grueling years with me was a Jansport. My first glance at the brand websites was very discouraging. The backpacks were going to run me at minimum $40 plus tax and shipping. So I began to research further and try to find a local retailer that carried these brands of backpacks. I found out that I could find the Jansport brand at several local retailers. I was hoping to find some cheaper locally.

I went on the hunt one afternoon last Summer. We started at the mall. Several stores in the mall carried the Jansport backpacks. However, I was not having much luck in finding any that were on sale or discounted much at all. Across the street from the mall were some office supply stores. These stores were also listed as retailers that carried the Jansport brand. We went searching through the aisles at the office supply store and all of the sudden I saw what I had been looking for … red tags! There they were, last year’s fabrics, at a super discount this year! I only paid a little bit more than I would have if I had bought the cheap backpacks at that other store. $9.99 for one back pack, and $19.99 for the other. I was absolutely thrilled to find what I was looking for!

Then the real test came, my kids actually using them! I was so concerned that I would be disappointed. However, these backpacks come with a limited lifetime warranty so I figured I couldn’t go wrong with this choice. I could not be more pleased with this purchase! The backpacks have helped up to daily trips to school. They have been taken along to the grandparents houses for sleepovers, plus carted on family trips. They have held up beautifully! I do not anticipate having to replace these backpacks for years to come. Actually I wonder if I will ever have to replace them!

If you are on the hunt for backpacks for your kids, please remember to think twice before buying the super cheap ones that you see at the mass merchandise stores. You may just save yourself some money buy spending more than you originally planned.

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