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25 Ways To Save Money On School Supplies

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It’s that time of year again, summer is winding down and the back to school ads are starting to appear.

Whether this is your child’s first back to school experience or their last, the cost can sometimes be a burden to those who are not prepared.

Today, we are going to look at 25 money saving, back to school tips to help ease the cost of your child’s school supplies.

1. Start Shopping Early

When it comes to starting your school shopping, the best piece of advice is to start early if you are going to be on a budget.

Each year, the back to school shopping season starts earlier and earlier.

In order to beat the crowd and get to the good deals first, you are going to want to keep a close eye on the most popular retailers.

Starting in early July, most retailers will start to tease their back to school sales and by the end of July, you can expect to see some sales start to roll out.

As more and more retailers start to follow suit, follow along to see who is offering the best deals on the items that you need the most.

Focus on big ticket items as most of your small stuff will be around the same price.

2. Find Your Kid’s School Supply List

One of the best things you can do to get a head start is to get your hands on a list of school supplies that your kids will need throughout the year.

While most kids will need the same essentials, most schools provide lists of different supplies that they expect your kid to bring with them.

This will include items for themselves and for the class to use for group projects.

Having this list in hand will allow you to check off each item as you purchase it.

It will also allow you to research prices for each product to compare prices across different retailers.

Make a list of the prices for each supply at each store and see if other stores will price match so you can get the best prices in one stop.

3. Check Your Home For The Supplies You May Already Have

A big mistake that many people make when doing their school shopping is not checking their home for items they may already have.

Simple items like pens and pencils or even binders left over from previous years may have gone forgotten under a bed.

While it may not save you a fortune, it’s one less thing you have to purchase for your kids. 

This is a great chance to clean out junk drawers, kids rooms, and closets to look for anything that can be used throughout the school year.

You will be amazed at just how much you and your kids have forgotten throughout the school year.

Take this time to dedicate a school supply area in a hall closet or office to keep any extra supplies in one place for next year. 

4. Check For Government Assistance

When it comes to anything school related, there is usually a government assistance program to ensure that your kids are taken care of.

The same goes for school supplies in some areas. 

There are programs in place to help low income families receive assistance or free school supplies.

Each program is different and may require different criteria to qualify but they all have the same goal: providing kids with the supplies they need to get the education that they deserve.

So talk to your school and see what programs are available to help you out with your back to school supplies. 

5. Shop Around At Different Stores

While you may have your favorite store to do your school shopping at, this may be the year to check out a few different retailers to see if they have better pricing or selection.

Taking a peak at their pricing online will give you a better idea of what you can expect in store.

Check out their pricing policies to see if they offer price matching in case you find the same supplies cheaper elsewhere.

Once the sales start rolling out, you will notice that different stores may have different offers.

Some stores that have a surplus may offer bulk discounts which could be a great idea for those with multiple children.

6. Invest In Quality Items That Will Last

It’s no secret that kids are hard on school supplies.

From tossing around backpacks to spilling juice inside their lunchbox, kids will put school supplies to the test.

While you can’t prevent this entirely, you can be prepared by purchasing high quality supplies that will take the beating for years to come.

If you are unfamiliar with quality brands, a quick Google search will give you access to thousands of reviews from real people who have owned each product.

While being frugal and going with the cheapest may be your first thought, having to replace a backpack mid-year may drive up the cost of the cheap backpack to around the same price as a good quality backpack.

7. Stock Up For The Whole Year

School supplies are needed all year long both at school and at home.

To ensure that you do not have to make a last minute trip at the end of a busy day to get more pencils, it is a good idea to stock up on the essentials to last all year long if you can.

You will usually notice a cheaper price if you buy more at one time.

Stocking up for the whole year will also allow you to have supplies to trade with other parents later down the road if you need to swap a few supplies.

This can be done by organizing a school supply swap within your neighborhood.

8. Organize A Supply Swap

Organizing a school supply swap is a great way to not only get together with your neighbors, but allow everyone to trade off some extra supplies for things they may need. 

For example, if you bought pencils in bulk on Amazon and have more than you could use, you could trade them to a neighbor for a ream of paper that your kid needs to bring for their class.

While you could easily go out and buy a ream of paper, this is a frugal way of bartering extra supplies to save you both time and money. 

9. Shop Garage Sales Or Thrift Stores For Better Deals

Another easy way to shop for school clothes, backpacks, and dorm supplies is to check out local garage sales and thrift stores.

By buying secondhand, you could save hundreds of dollars and get things that were used very little or not even at all.

Thrift stores are usually a better bet for more classroom supplies when compared to garage sales.

When searching at garage sales, you will most likely have the best luck with clothes and dorm room items such as mini fridges, beds, and furniture.

Bringing your kids along with you can make the process much easier as they can pick out the things they like and they will learn to be more frugal for next year’s back to school shopping.

10. Check The Dollar Store

The dollar store is going to be your best friend when it comes to classroom supplies during back to school shopping.

While it may not be known for it’s quality, the dollar stores are a great place to pick up pencils, pens, paper, and other cheap supplies where quality may not be as important.

Dollar stores are also a great place to pick up items that are going to be used by the whole class.

Many schools require students to purchase tissues, crayons, and other universal items to help furnish the classroom.

Since these are going to be used by everyone, you will not want to put a lot of money into quality, so the dollar store options will be a great choice.

11. Shop During Tax Free Weekend

If your state has a tax free weekend, this is going to be the time to shop for some school supplies.

As one of the busiest shopping days next to Black Friday, tax free weekend is flooded with back to school shoppers looking to cash in on both big sales and not having to pay sales tax.

This is going to be best suited for those looking to make larger purchases as the taxes really don’t start adding up until you get over $100.

Depending on what you are shopping for and how many kids you have, this could have the potential of being a day for you to save a lot of money.

Of course, even if you have to make a few small purchases, every little bit helps.

12. Check Store Social Networks For Sale Updates

Back in the day, if you were wanting to keep tabs on all of the sales that are coming out from different retailers, you waited until the Sunday newspaper came out to see who was releasing what.

Now, with the introduction of the internet and social networks, you can follow your favorite retailers on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and stay up to date with what sales they are releasing and when you can start shopping.

If you are on any of these social media channels, subscribe to their updates to be one of the first to find out when their sales start to drop. Alternatively, you can head over to their website and sign up for their email newsletter to get exclusive coupon codes and early access to online sales.

13. Have Kids Work For Their Supplies

If your kids are old enough to work, you can have them pay for their own supplies, or at least help out a bit.

Being a parent is expensive and there is no shame in asking your children to help pay for their own supplies if they are working, especially if they are wanting to buy expensive clothes or accessories.

If you are wanting to teach your younger kids the value of a dollar, you can have them set up a pet sitting business or walk dogs around the neighborhood to help pay for the supplies that they want.

This not only helps ease the overall cost for you, but it shows your kids how to be more frugal with money as they will have to spend their own money buying their supplies.

14. Wait Out Back To School Sales On Clothes

When you see that first back to school sale on clothes, you might be grabbing your kids and keys and heading to the mall.

Perhaps you are the type to wait for tax free weekend to stock up on all of the clothes they need and not pay sales tax.

Whichever you are, pulling the trigger before the kids are in school could be costing you more than you realize.

By waiting until the hype of back to school fades, you will notice many retailers deeply discount their back to school lineups of clothes to make way for fall clothing.

This is going to be the best time for you to get the best deals on clothes for your kids.

If you can convince your kids to wait it out, your savings could be in the hundreds of dollars.

15. Shop Through Online Shopping Portals To Earn Cashback

If you are the type to do your school shopping online, you could be getting cashback from your purchases.

Online portals such as eBates, allow you to earn cashback on your purchases at popular retailers.

All you have to do it to navigate to the site through their shopping portal.

Online shopping portals are sites that link to many larger sites such as Walmart, Dillards, Macys, and more.

By using this portal, you can get up to 10% or more cashback at these retailers.

eBates gets a kickback from these sites for referring you and they pass some of that kickback to you in the form of cashback.

This can be redeemed in the form of Paypal or gift cards to other retailers.

If you are going to be shopping online, you might as well take advantage of getting cashback.

16. Create A Budget & Stick To It

Creating a budget for school supplies can be hard as different schools call for different supplies and you never know what else your kid may need.

However, you can set a broad budget that you plan on sticking to to ensure that you do not overspend during your back to school shopping frenzy.

One of the best ways to go about this is to get your school supply list and research the prices on everything.

Once you have a ballpark amount, you can let your child pick out what they want as long as they stay within the specified budget. 

As for clothes, have your kids make a list of what they absolutely need and what they want.

Give them a budget on the things that they need, and if you have the money, allow them to pick a couple of items from the “want” list.

17. Don’t Be Afraid To Say No

 When taking your kids back to school shopping, it can be stressful to try to stick to a budget when they are asking for everything under the sun.

While it may be tough, it is important for you to put your foot down and say no when your child asks for something that is outside of your budget. 

When sticking to your budget, you have to be strong willed and make sure that you do not cave at the request of your kids.

While they may not understand now, with time, they will realize that you made the right decision and will keep that knowledge with them for a lifetime.

18. Buy Second Hand Electronics

With technology becoming more and more common in school, it is not unheard of for kids to be needing tablets and laptops at earlier ages.

Buying new electronics is never cheap and having your child lose or damage a brand new tablet can be quite frustrating.

To ease the initial cost and provide your child with electronics that won’t be a burden if they damage it, you can scour the internet for cheap, used models.

Using sites like Craigslist will allow you to find exactly what your child needs to get the job done at a fraction of the cost of a new unit.

Most of the time, these are sold with wear and tear as they are used products, so your child won’t feel as bad if they add a few scratches or cracks.

19. Use New School Supplies As Birthday Or Christmas Gifts

To help save some money when treating your children to birthdays, Christmas, or other holidays, you can use school supplies as gifts to act as a two in one present.

While kids may not be as excited to open up pencils and pens in their birthday presents, disguising their back to school clothes as their presents can be an easy way to make this happen.

If there was a specific article of clothing or electronic that they wanted for back to school shopping, remember it and use that as their Christmas presents.

They will be so happy that they got a present that they will not even think twice about it being a late back to school shopping present.

 20. Compare Prices Of Prepackaged Supplies Vs Buying Individually

When picking up the school supply list from your kid’s school, there may be an option to buy everything all at once in a conveniently wrapped package.

While this could be a great way to get everything they need all at once, it is usually marked up to help benefit the school or school programs.

If you are trying to get through your school shopping on a budget, take note of what all is included in the kit and what the price of the kit is.

Do some research on the prices of all of the supplies in the kit and see if it is worth the extra money to buy it all at once vs sourcing them yourself.

Most of the time you will see that it is much cheaper to buy them yourself if you have the time.

These kits are for those who want to save time and energy and have a larger budget.

21. Buy In Bulk For Multiple Kids In The Family

Buying in bulk is a way to save money in many different aspects, school supplies included.

If you have multiple kids in school, buying in bulk can help knock out a few different lists all at once.

Checking out sites like Amazon or eBay may help you find large packs of pencils, pens, and other necessities that can be bought cheaply in bulk.

You can also check big box stores such as Sams to see what they have to offer as far as back to school items go.

Sometimes you will find that these stores have bulk discount when buying things such as paper or crayons.

It is a great way to save money and basically build your own back to school kits for each of your children.

22. Don’t Be Afraid To Use Hand-Me-Downs

Hand me downs always get a bad rep of being worn and tattered clothes and supplies that no one wants to use or wear.

In reality, hand me downs can be shirts that were hardly worn or backpacks that never got used by older siblings.

Teaching your kids to swap hand me down, or hand me ups, can help you save a lot of time, money, and energy when it comes to back to school shopping. 

Back to school clothes shopping is one of the most dreaded parts of the back to school process and having your younger kids grow into their older siblings clothing can not only save you money, but possibly a trip to the department store as well.

To help convince your children to do this, allow them to pick out a few new articles of clothing in exchange for accepting some hand me downs.

23. Teach Kids How To Care For Their Items To Ensure Longer Use

Like we discussed before, kids are hard on school supplies.

By taking the time to teach your kids how to take care of their items and wash their backpacks and lunchboxes properly, you can ensure that you get the most use out of each of their items.

This is especially true for those looking to utilize more hand me down items.

Getting your children in the routine of staying organized, maintaining their supplies, and being cautious with their clothes can help these items last for years to come saving you hundreds if not thousands over the years of your kid’s school years. 

24. Avoid Campus Bookstores – Buy Secondhand

When your kids go off to college, the dreaded text book expense comes about.

With each class comes a specific textbook that your kid will need to successfully complete the class.

The cost of these textbooks can be well over $100 each and without student aid or grants, you are left to paying them for yourself.

There are many different ways to buy these textbooks, but the campus bookstore is easily going to be the most expensive.

Due to these books being in new condition and the added convenience of being on campus, the price of these nooks are sky high.

To get the best price on textbooks, use an app such as eCampus to save up to 90% off of textbook purchases and rentals. 

You can always choose to rent books as well.

While this may seem like throwing money away as you do not get any money back, it may be the most cost effective way to get books for your student. 

25. Buy In Increments To Spread Out Spending

To help spread out the costs of school supplies, pick up a few supplies throughout the summer each payday to build up a school supply stash to pick from when your kids get their lists.

By doing this, you can set aside $10-$20 weekly dedicated to school supplies so you don’t have to drop hundreds all at once.

This is also a great way to take advantage of sales throughout the year to make saving money even easier.

By starting this at the end of school shopping season, you can take advantage of school supply liquidations.

If you are setting the money aside, you will have a stash of money ready to go once a sale drops.

26. Check With Teachers To See What Is Essential

If you are absolutely strapped for cash and need a little bit longer to get some money for all of your kid’s school supplies, meet with their teacher to see what is absolutely necessary for the first few weeks.

This can let the teacher know of the situation and buy you some time to get the rest of the supplies. 

Most kids will need simple cheap items such as pencils, paper, folders, and crayons depending on the age.

Most teachers will be very understanding of the situation and may even have a way to help you out.

The key is communicating with the teacher to inform them of any situation you may have so they can stay up to date on their students. 

27. Use Cashback Apps For Additional Savings

When shopping for school, you are going to be spending some money.

Some budgets are a little larger than others but we can all agree that we wouldn’t mind getting some of that money back in our pockets.

That is where apps such as Ibotta, Shopkick, and Swagbucks can help. 

Each of these apps allows you to earn cash back by shopping online or in store at your favorite retailers.

Cash back is earned by spending totals or by participating products and can be redeemed in the form of a PayPal payout or in the form of a gift card to other retailers.

There are many different ways to earn so make sure you check before spending any money this season.

28. Search Craigslist For Dorm Supplies

When it comes to college, there are many different expenses you and your kid is going to have to worry about.

For those without financial aid, scholarships, and grants, these expenses are going to have to be paid out of your or your kid’s pockets. 

One expense is going to be furnishing your college students new dorm or apartment.

While you may hope that they have worked and saved enough to do so, some kids may not have had the chance to work yet.

For any circumstance, checking out sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace will allow you to buy secondhand furniture and appliances your kid can use to get them through their college years. 

Another tips is to scour campuses at the time where kids move out as they usually throw away some pretty decent furniture as they do not want to mess with moving it. 

29. Allow Older Kids To “Pay Back” New Clothes & Other Non Essentials

If you are finding yourself paying for a lot of back to school essentials for your older kids and want to teach them about being frugal, have them pay you back as they can throughout the year.

This can be done through actual jobs or for younger kids, chores around the house. 

While this may seem like a weird thing to do, it helps make the process less stressful and teaches your kids the value of a dollar.

You could even put this money aside for them to have when they graduate or toward a car fund to help them out further down the road.

Conclusion

With all of these great tips for saving money on back to school supplies, you should feel much better about this back to school season.

As kids get older, their school supplies tend to get more expensive, so building money saving habits early on will help save more money in the future. 

Did we miss any essential tips? Let us know your favorite back to school money saving tips in the comments below.

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