If you’re sending a kid to school this year, you’re probably spending over $100 on school supplies for that kid.
That doesn’t count clothes. Or electronics. Or PE uniforms. Or locker pretties. Or even a backpack and lunch bag. That $100 is JUST school supplies.
And that number is from last year–the totals for this year haven’t even come out yet, but you can bet that school supplies are even more expensive this year.
Fortunately, you can bring that number down with a bit of crafty know-how and a few recycled materials.
Now, I know that you can’t DIY the five-subject notebooks or the boxes of #2 pencils that are on your list, but some of that stuff–think pencil cases, folders, even backpacks–you can totally make yourself, and everything that you can make will not only be that much cuter than the store-bought stuff, but it’ll also be that much less expensive.
So check out this list of 15 DIY school supplies from recycled materials, and see all the things that your kid could be bringing back to school this year!
1. backpack from old jeans. A backpack can be a major back-to-school cost, and some of them are so flimsy that they won’t even last the year. This backpack made from old jeans is totally free for the making, and denim is so sturdy that you KNOW it’s going to last.
2. book cover. Remember these from elementary school? They’re a cheap way to keep all your schoolbooks clean and tidy!
3. cereal box folder. This folder, made from a cereal box (the link that the post points to doesn’t seem to work, but the image of the completed folder is good enough to eyeball your measurements), can easily substitute for a store-bought folder. Frankly, it’ll also hold up better than the store-bought folders.
4. embossed folders. If you’re required to send the flimsy paper folders, you can at least personalize them in a unique way using cereal boxes.
5. fabric file folders. Paper file folders are cheap, but they also act cheap. Upcycle some old work shirts or a sundress, or use up some of your stash fabric, and make a set of fabric file folders that your kid can use forever.
6. food packaging pencil cases. Upcycle cereal, cracker, or macaroni and cheese boxes, or any other of your favorite food packaging to make the cute pencil cases.
7. jeans leg locker caddy. Your kid could even make this locker caddy himself–it’s that easy!
8. lunch bags. L.L. Bean doesn’t *have* to supply your lunch bag, unless you want it to. There are loads of cute, serviceable, easy to make lunch bag tutes out there in the world. Here’s a felted wool version that we love a lot.
9. magnetic containers. Let your older kid go shopping at the international grocery for an interesting food to try, then upcycle the container that it came in into a unique magnetic container for her locker.
10. notepad. This requires a special kind of glue, but once you beg, borrow, or buy it, you can make your friends a family an unlimited supply of custom notepads using all kinds of upcycled papers. Make the bottom piece cardboard, glue a strip magnet across the top of it, and your kid has herself a perfectly handy scratchpad to keep in her locker!
11. paper bag journal. An older kid taking an art class, or who just likes to sketch while listening to lectures, can save the margins of her notebook by using a handmade blank journal, like this one made from paper bags. Substitute any upcycled papers that are good for sketching.
12. pencil and notebook folder. Upcycle some stiff cardboard and grab some fabric from your stash to make this DIY version of a Trapper Keeper.
13. picture frame dry-erase board. If your kid is going to use this in her locker, make sure to find her an old picture frame with a plexiglass front, NOT a glass one.
15. soda bottle pencil case. This clear, roomy case would also be great for highlighters and markers.