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Don’t toss this year’s backpacks

By on June 7, 2009

photo by ned raggett

Once your child is home on summer break, you can take inventory of what supplies are left that are still in good condition. Often, binders, backpacks, lunchboxes and clothes can be used again in the fall. The first reader tip is great because the kids can have a “new” backpack and you don’t have to spend any money. This tip won’t work as well for backpacks with trendy characters or movie themes, so keep that in mind when buying them.

JUST LIKE NEW: I put away my kids’ backpacks at the end of the school year. The following year, I buy new backpacks and then put those away at the end of the year. At the beginning of the following school year, I pull out the ones that were put away the first time, and it’s like new backpacks! This makes them last two years and avoids the “everyone else has a new backpack, and I want a new one, too” whines. Also, not backpack-related, I cook things with good cuts of steak like fajitas and cheese-steak sandwiches so that one package of steak will last for two or three meals. — Angelee, Missouri

REUSE PACKAGING: I save the wrappers from sliced cheese to separate the frozen burgers that I make myself. I just throw them in a container that I keep in the freezer, then use them when I’m ready to make my burgers. I also make use of empty cereal, cracker, tortilla and frozen-waffle bags for lunches. Another is reusing my washed foil. I also find the brown-paper lining in sugar bags to be the perfect weight for draining fried foods. — Theresa, Florida

KEEP WOOL SWEATERS LOOKING GREAT: Hand wash only when necessary in a tub of cool water and about a teaspoon of all-natural delicate wash soap. Just push the suds through once or twice, and let set in the water for five minutes. Treat any spots. Then, with cool water, rinse the sweater thoroughly, but not with much agitation or your sweater may begin to felt. Once rinsed, roll your sweaters in several old towels (in case you have colors that bleed) to take out the water. Lie the sweaters flat, or, if they are bulkier, you can drape them across the center on a clothesline. Once dry, block with an iron and pick off any fuzz with a sweater shaver. I wash my good wool sweaters about once a year before I put them away for summer. — Michelle G., Vermont

MAKE IT LAST: To extend the life of pantyhose and knee-highs, try applying some ordinary hairspray to the toe area. A quick spray after each wash will prevent the toe area from wearing through. A sticky zipper can come unstuck when sprayed heavily with starch or when they are rubbed with a candle, too. — Sarah L., e-mail

REPAIR CLOTHES: I took in some pants that I picked up at a thrift store to have the zippers replaced. For a total of $20 each, I got a lined pair of wool pants, linen pants and polyester/rayon pants. Not bad. I have decided it is really worth it to have new zippers put in on these good-quality pants from the thrift store. Maybe not the cheap pants, but the good lined ones, yes. — Jean, Canada


  1. Pingback: Monroe on a Budget » Frugal Village tips on kids’ backpacks

  2. Jackelynn

    6/10/2009 at 1:22 pm

    Wow, your kids must be very careful with their backpacks! I’m lucky if either kid still has the one i bought them at the beginning of the year lasts even half way through.

  3. Sara Noel

    6/10/2009 at 1:37 pm

    In the article, it’s not my kids. It’s a tip submitted from someone else. But this past year (for the first time), I bought higher quality backpacks and not the typical less expensive character type. My school aged kids are 9 and 6. They are still in excellent condition, so I will be implementing this tip for this year. In previous years, I bought cheaper backpacks and they were so beat up and barely made it until the end of the year. On one, the zipper even broke. The higher quality backpacks are covered under warranty which is nice. I’ll never buy a cheaper backpack again. Of course, I don’t know if your backpacks were cheaper backpacks, so hopefully it doesn’t seem that I’m assuming. I’m just sharing my experience.

    In a previous article, I mentioned this tip as another option for older backpacks.

    STORAGE: Old backpacks can be hung on hooks or hangers in the closet. You can store socks, winter gear, game-console accessories, toys, spare sets of sheets and pillowcases, etc. You can still use them in the car for sports equipment, a blanket or a spare set of clothes or in the garage for garden supplies.

  4. NewLeaf

    6/11/2009 at 7:53 am

    I like this idea. I have noticed that the better quality backpacks do last. You could even put some iron on patches the next time to make them look up to date.

  5. Sandy

    6/12/2009 at 10:34 am

    Definately go with higher quality backpacks. I did cheap ones for years and they often didn’t last even one school year. Then when I started working at 16 I found this beautiful black leather backpack that was on sale (!) for $50.00, now this was in 1989 (I was a junior in high school). That bag lasted through 2 years of high school, 6 years of college, 2 years of motorcycling and 8 years of camping and kids before finally giving up the ghost two years ago. I almost felt like I should have buried it! It lasted 18 years! Definately a return on my investment 🙂

  6. Anna

    1/18/2010 at 4:05 pm

    It’s definitely worth the money (within reason) to get a better backpack. One elementary school daughter is on Year 3 of the nice brand-name sports bag her uncle gave her for Xmas, while the other one is nursing along an el cheap character backpack with a broken zipper. At the end of the school year, I simply take a softer bristle scrub brush, squirt some laundry stain remover on it (it’s pale pink), scrub it gently until the worst of the stains are gone, hose it down, and hang it out in the sunlight for a couple of days to dry. I’ve been on the hunt for a better backpack at a thrift shop for girl #2 (though the good ones never seem to find their way there).

  7. Steve

    6/4/2010 at 9:59 pm

    I just wanted to say I really like your blog! Keep up the great work!!

    Common Cents

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