Whenever the start of a new school year approaches, I can’t help but wish I’d had the option of buying low-cost supplies for my kids when they were in school. With the advent of discount stores, dollar stores, and job-lot stores, there’s no longer any reason for any parent to pay top dollar for the items their kids will need for the first day of school.
Here in southern Maine, parents now have lots of choices when it comes to buying school supplies. The ever-popular Walmart, with locations in Sanford, Biddeford, and Scarborough, immediately comes to mind, for where else can you buy single-subject notebooks for just 15 cents apiece? On my last trip there, I picked up a few things for my grandchildren, and I was amazed at what I was able to buy them with just a few dollars: pencil boxes, pocket folders, pens, pencils, crayons, notepads, markers, and white glue, all priced at a dollar or less each.
Not far from Walmart on Alfred Street in Biddeford, I ventured over to the Dollar Tree, a relative newcomer to the area. Located at the Barn Plaza at 435 Elm Street, the Dollar Tree is just what its name implies: a store where everything costs just a dollar. There, I found everything a kid could need, including pocket calculators, desk organizers, writing tablets, index cards and colorful computer paper. The Dollar Tree also carries a suprising selection of teachers’ supplies as well, including motivational stickers, room theme decorations, flash cards, and student certificates, to name a few.
Right next door to the Dollar Tree at the Barn Plaza in Biddeford is Marden’s Surplus and Salvage, better known simply as Marden’s, a 40-year-old Maine institution. There, I saw a good selection of backpacks and shoulder bags for under $20, as well as a vast array of school supplies, many priced under two dollars.
Not far from Marden’s at 321 Elm Street in Biddeford, the Family Dollar put in its bid as another option for parents looking for inexpensive school supplies. Another company with locations across the region, the Family Dollar offers a mix-and-match sale of school supplies at five items for a dollar. From pencils to glue sticks, it’s safe to say that parents could leave the Family Dollar with everything their kids need for a new school year without spending a fortune.
No school shopping trip to the area would be complete without a visit to another Maine retail institution called Reny’s Department Store. Located at the Saco Valley Shopping Center just off Elm Street in Saco, Reny’s offers a complete selection of discounted school supplies including three-ring binders, staple removers, pencil sharpeners and assorted portfolios and all for under two dollars.
In these challenging economic times, it makes good financial sense to get the most out of every school shopping dollar. Southern Maine families are fortunate in having the choices that make it possible to meet that challenge without going over their school-supply budget.