Family Money Saving Tips

Best Places to Buy Cheap School Supplies (Online & Offline)

Kids on Laptop
Written by Irina Vasilescu

Stocking up for a new school year isn’t cheap. If you just grab your list and shop till you drop, you’re bound to spend way more than you should have – even if you choose stores that are known for their low prices.

We recently looked at ways to save on school supplies – now it’s time to look at the on and offline outlets that will help you to meet your savings goals. Check out the best places to buy cheap school supplies. Mix them and match them to push your savings to the max!

Shop Online First

Online Searching

Before you begin, set a baseline by checking out prices online. If you can’t find better deals at brick-and-mortar stores, you can finish your shopping online. So, let’s begin your shopping trip at home. Grab a pen and your school supplies list and check these outlets first. Remember, you might come back to them, so save those URLs.

Do All-In-One Pricing on Amazon

You probably won’t find the very best prices on standard Amazon listings. Look for clearance items and daily deals if you want the lowest prices. Ideally, you shouldn’t commit to the purchase just yet. Before you do that, you will first look for better prices elsewhere. Having said this, you could be in luck, and you don’t even have to budge from your chair to get your bargains.

Bargain Hunt on eBay

So, you can’t be super-picky, but you still could get lucky. Besides, who doesn’t like uncovering good stuff on eBay? We took a look and found everything from the ultra-smart (and kinda pricey) to some really cute kids’ stationery sets for a song.

Buy in Bulk Online

If you’re shopping for several kids or are joining forces with other parents to hunt down the best prices, don’t forget to check your bulk shopping options online. Oriental Trading might not be the cheapest overall, but they run sales with up to 65 percent off some pretty cute school supply items. US School Supply and Amazon also offer bulk deals.

Check Out Hollar

Everyone’s talking about the cheap backpacks you can get on Hollar. We took a look, and there they were. According to what we hear, they’re not bad quality either. Check out the clearance section for the best discounts. We spotted some pretty good stationery deals in stock when we looked here.

Now Visit the Big-Name Stores

Shopping

As part of your regular shopping, do a price check at the big-name stores you’ll be visiting anyway.

Do look at your bonus cost-cutting options like discounts and cash-backs, but don’t make your decision until you’ve checked our third store category option!

Walmart Rocks for Cheap School Supplies

If you’re seriously in a hurry and don’t have time to turn shopping into a money-saving game in which every dollar counts, Walmart is your friend. No, you won’t necessarily get the best prices on everything, but they’ll be on the low side of fair. Use our Walmart shopping tips to get the best out of your shopping.

Target Could Have the Deals You’re Looking For

Whenever you need something cheap, Target is a good place to start. You could even cut dollars off the ticket-prices with a few smart strategies. But be an alert shopper. No store is the cheapest on absolutely everything.

Bring your price comparison list along and take notes. You’ll come back to these deals if they’re still the best ones when you’re finished with your comparison shopping.

Walgreens for Less Obvious Cost-Cutters

On the surface, Walgreens isn’t the greatest choice for school supply savings. But you need to factor in a few things. If you’re a frequent shopper and have joined the loyalty program, your rewards count for something. There’s also the app – and you should check it for discounts and coupons to help you save.

Shop with the Gang at Costco

The only snag with Costco shopping is that you’ll end up with a lifetime supply and a battered budget. But if you have a school supplies shopping team on your side, bulk buying can be a huge cost saver. Follow the tried and tested methods that will help you save at Costco no matter what you’re buying.

Staples for Price Matching Plus a Discount

If you just walk into Staples and start shopping, you aren’t necessarily going to get the best deals. However, what a lot of people forget is that Staples offers 110% price matching.

So, if you can find an identical item in another store for less than the Staples price, they’ll match it and take a bit off the top too. That means you can beat Walgreens, Target and Walmart prices! Check out their price matching policy for a quick how-to.

Hit the Cheap School Supplies Jackpot at Dollar Stores and Thrift Stores

Thrift Store Shopping

Based on an experiment carried out by ABC News journalists, you should find all or most of your school supplies for way less when you do a little creative shopping. 

Here’s how the experiment went. Three pairs consisting of an adult and a school-age kid each went shopping for school supplies. Each had the same twenty-item list.

  • One team shopped online only
  • One team chose mainstream discount stores
  • The last team went to the dollar store

By now, you’ve already guessed which team got almost everything on the list at a much-reduced cost! Yes, our dollar-store team was a hands-down winner. The discount store team got the second-best prices, and the online shoppers fared worst of all!

It would be easy to conclude that dollar stores really are the best bet. So, why didn’t we start you there? Well, whenever we assess an experiment, it’s worth seeing whether there are gaps in the methodology. Here’s what ABC News’s shopping teams didn’t do.

  • The teams didn’t comparison-shop. Could the dollar store team have done even better? Find out by doing the homework they didn’t do.
  • The list only covered stationery. As your kids’ education progresses, they’ll need a lot more – and some things, like consumer electronics, are high-ticket items.
  • Nobody used coupons. Coupons can make a huge difference to your bottom line. You can walk out of a store with items you paid a few cents for or even get credited with a few cents just for buying an item.

Now, you have three categories of prices: online prices, chain store prices, and dollar store prices. With all your data-gathering work done, you can choose the best option for each item on your list.

Back to School Electronics: A Class of its Own

Kid with Headphones

There was a time when a pocket calculator was the most advanced electronic item school kids needed. But as your kids’ education progresses to college, they’ll need access to laptops, and if they don’t have a smartphone yet, they’ll find it a handy tool.

Not long ago, we covered the smartest ways to pay less for smartphones. And yes, a good smartphone really is useful to students. They can take notes on the go, capture audio, and video, organize their schedules, and settle debates on just what the professor meant within seconds.

As for your kid’s laptop, there’s no need to lash out on the snazziest one. You can get great deals on refurbished laptops or store demo models. Newegg is an example of a reputable outlet where you can get great refurbished laptops for crazy low prices.

You Know Where to Look. Happy Hunting!

We’ve taken you on quite a shopping journey. Now, it’s time to do it yourself. Turn it into a game and check your savings score when you’re done. In some places, you may only have saved a couple of dollars, but when you add it all together, you’ll be able to see the fruits of your labor. Remember, every little bit helps!

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Best Places to Buy Cheap School Supplies

About the author

Irina Vasilescu

Irina Vasilescu is our crafty designer. She joined the team three years ago and is also involved in the writing process.

1 Comment

  • Hi Irina,

    Great post with awesome information. You have shared very good list of online and offline shops where we can get cheap deals. When I think of online I prefer amazon purely because of its great customer service. Offline, I think I will settle for Walmart.

    Thanks for sharing this post. have a great day. 🙂

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