The Ultimate Back To School Checklist

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Four children raising their hands in front of a teacher | Willful
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    Getting your household ready for a new school year can seem like an overwhelming job for any parent. Use this back-to-school checklist to minimize back to school chaos and get your family organized before the first day.


    1. Set a budget for any back to school purchases

    Back to school season can be an expensive time for parents. Before making any back to school purchases, decide on how much you can afford to spend and try to estimate how much everything will cost. Creating a budget early on will help you to prioritize spending and search for better deals.

    It might also encourage you to get creative - not everything has to be new, you can trade clothing and school supplies with other families or check out thrift stores and garage sales. If you need to buy school uniforms, find out if your child’s school has a trading or discount program.

    Sticking with a budget will help eliminate unnecessary spending and can even be an opportunity to teach your kids how to manage money. If your child is heading to college or university, you can also let them know what they’ll need to contribute or purchase themselves.

    Piggy bank


    1. Organize your closets

    Empty and clean your closets, dividing clothes and shoes into separate “donation” and “keep” piles. Kids outgrow their clothes quickly and chances are, their closets are filled with clothes they no longer wear. Emptying your closets will also give you a chance to vacuum and wipe everything down.

    Before putting it all back in, create a system for organizing and putting away clothes so that everything is easy to find - this will be a major help in getting everyone out the door a little quicker in the mornings. Don’t do this one alone - it’s always better to involve your children in cleaning and organizing!

    2. Create a system to organize and store papers

    As a parent, you have endless documents and paperwork. Whether it’s birth certificates, medical papers, insurance, tax records, your legal will - the list is endless. Have a system to organize all of your important papers so that you can easily and quickly find them in an emergency. Consider purchasing a fireproof box to ensure the most important documents are stored safely.

    3. Update your calendar

    Having an organized, up-to-date calendar is key to being able to manage your kids’ busy (and sometimes conflicting) schedules. Take some time to fill in your kids’ schedules, including their after-school activities like soccer practice, piano, ballet, or karate.

    Whenever other events come up, make sure to enter it into your calendar as soon as you can. Make a habit of checking your calendar each night so you can plan for the next day. You can encourage your children to keep their own calendars too so they can learn to stay organized and manage their time from an early age.



    1. Confirm babysitting arrangements

    If you have a daycare or babysitter that watches your kids, make sure they know when school starts, school hours, and exactly when you’ll need them to watch your kids. Ensure you provide them with a list of emergency contacts, any allergies, and other important information they should know.

    2. Create a timeline to move bedtime earlier

    Late nights and relaxed routines are hard to avoid in the summer. If you have young children, slowly start moving bedtime earlier in increments so that once school starts up, the kids will be back to their regular bedtimes (and not overtired on the first day of school!) For older kids, remind them of the importance of sleep and encourage them to put away their phone at night.

    Woman holding alarm clock

    3. Plan school lunches

    If you plan out lunches ahead of time, you’ll be able to keep an eye out for sales on items that you’ll need like granola bars or fruit cups. Set aside some time during the last weekend of summer to prep lunches for the week. This will save you from having to throw something together after a long day of work or during a busy school morning.

    If your children are older, talk to them about nutrition and teach them how to make their own healthy meals. If your child is going off to college or university, this will encourage them to make healthy food choices even when you’re not around.

    4. Create a family emergency plan

    Emergencies aren’t fun to think about, especially as a parent. Although we can’t always control what happens to us or our families, we can prepare for it. Teach your children what to do in the event of a fire, storm, or medical emergency. Create a list of important phone numbers and make sure your children know where to find it.

    As a parent, you should also create a will and power of attorney documents. If you don’t have these documents in place, get them in order now so that you won’t have to worry about it when hectic school schedules start up again. Having a will ensures there is money set aside for your children and guardians to take care of them if something were to happen to you. Having a POA will ensure that if there’s an emergency rendering you unable to communicate, someone you trust will make decisions (that you’ve already outlined in your documents) about your property, finances, personal life and medical care.

    If you have a child that has reached the age of majority, you should help them get theirs done too. Even if they’re still living under your roof and you’re still paying their tuition, if a young adult is in an accident and becomes disabled, without a POA, you may need court approval to make decisions on their behalf.

    Please note that each province may have a different name for their emergency planning documents:

    5. Plan a visit to your child’s school

    If your child is feeling uneasy about a new school year (or new school), you can contact their school to set up a visit and meet with their teacher. This often helps with any stress or anxiety kids feel before the start of a new year.

    If your child is off to college or university for the first time, touring their school with them beforehand will also help reduce any fears. Contact their school to see if they’re offering any tours or make an adventure out of it and look around on your own. Try to find each of your child’s classrooms to help them avoid getting lost on the first day.

    Students in the classroom


    1. Purchase school supplies

    You can usually get a list of the grade-specific school supplies your child will need from their school. For younger children, you may need to stock up on pencils, colouring pencils, markers, glue, scissors, binders and erasers. If you have any of these items on hand that you can reuse, even better! If your child is about to leave home to go off to school for the first time, make a list of dorm items they’ll need like bedding, pillows, hangers, towels, etc. During back to school season, most home furniture stores have complete lists of dorm items that first-year students will need.

    2. Shop for fall clothing

    If your kids have outgrown last year’s clothing, getting fall shopping done early will save you from having to squeeze in a shopping trip in the middle of a busy school year. Even if the weather hasn’t cooled off yet, you’ll be ready for when it does.

    Start early to tackle all of these items before the first day of school. Make this your family’s most organized, stress-free school year yet! Enter our back to school giveaway for a chance to win a $250 Amazon gift card to make your back to school shopping a little easier on the wallet. While you’re there, if you haven’t made your will yet, use code SCHOOL20 for $20 off any Willful plan - code expires at midnight on Labour Day.

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