Back-to-School Shopping: 13 Super Easy Ways to Save Money

It’s back-to-school time, and the list of things you have to buy is staggering! Of course, you’d never compromise on your kids’ education, but any savings will be a welcome relief. Help is at hand. We’ve hunted down the top tips on how to save money on school supplies.

1. Don’t Buy It If You Already Have It

If you’re thinking of grabbing the school supplies list and hitting the shops without further delay, stop. Take a deep breath. Now check out what you already have at home.

Get a little creative.

  • Refurbish slightly scuffed files with a pretty paper or plastic cover.
  • Those color pencils may look a little worn, but a wipe-down and a sharpening can give them a new lease of life.
  • Can you spruce up an old pencil case or make one from scraps you already have?

Ask your family to help. They might have odds and ends tucked away that you didn’t know about. Tick off items as you go. Your list could be a whole lot shorter by the time you’re done.

2. Time to Get Your Back-to-School Supplies Shopping List Together

As any smart shopper knows, shopping without a list will waste time and money. Impulse buys will tempt you, and you could end up buying lots of stuff you don’t need while overlooking things you must have. Categorise the items you need so that you can plan your shopping expedition well.

3. Prioritize and Schedule Your Shopping

Rushing off at the speed of light to stock up on all the school supplies you’ve listed could mean that you settle for higher prices.

Bargain-hunting means taking your time and checking out your options. For example, if sports equipment is on your list, when does the play season begin? The more time you have to look around, the greater your chances of saving.

If you aren’t sure about when your child will need certain items, especially the more expensive ones, ask the school – if you’re home-schooling, you’ll know the answers already.

4. Back-to-School Shopping Season Is the Worst Time to Buy

It’s just how retailers work. They know what the money-spinners are at different times of the year. Just before school begins, they’ll stock up on everything you need – and they’ll sell it at premium prices.

As demand drops off, they’ll mark things down, have clearance sales, and so on. That’s the time to get school supplies cheap.

5. Become a Coupon Collector

Couponing is fun, and it can save you a lot of money on everyday items. School supplies are no exception to the rule. Scour newspaper ad supplements, sign up for vouchers, and hunt for discount coupons and promo codes online.

If you can combine this tactic with off-peak shopping, you can use coupons on marked-down items and get even bigger discounts.

6. Watch Social Media, Get Store Apps and Use Cash Back Apps!

If you aren’t already following your favorite low-priced retailers on social media, start doing so now. The same goes for downloading store apps. It’s a “if you snooze you lose” situation. People who watch for bargains on social media and store apps are the ones who will get them. Don’t miss out!

Cashback apps like Ibotta will add to your savings after you’ve been through the checkout. Do the math and you could find out that between coupons, special offers and cash back bonuses, you’re paying next to nothing for certain of your school supply items. You could even make a few cents profit!

7. Buy in Bulk with Other Kids’ Parents

Teamwork pays dividends when you go shopping for school supplies. Apart from sharing info on bargains, you and your friends can buy in bulk from stores like Costco to save on the cost of individual items.

Even if your friends’ kids aren’t in the same class or school as yours, there are some things that will be on every school’s list of required supplies. Use our ultimate guide to buying in bulk and max out your savings.

8. Know When Spending More Costs You Less

Cheap backpacks and school shoes might look tempting, but how durable are they? You certainly won’t save anything if you need to replace them several times during the school year. Choose brands you know you can trust even if the items cost a little more. Bonus points if you can get a school bag with guarantee.

9. Save on School Books

School-books can be super expensive, especially when it comes to college textbooks. For literature classes, your kids will be studying classic books. You, a friend, or a relative may already have a copy, or you can shop at second-hand bookstores.

No matter what book you’re looking for, online shopping is well worth investigating. See if you can snap up some second-hands on sites like Amazon.

But there are more ways to save on textbooks. You could even get them for free. Some of the avenues to investigate include:

  • Getting an older edition (check with the school if that’s OK)
  • Borrowing books
  • Getting second-hands from last year’s students
  • Renting or sharing books
  • Getting digital format versions

10. Save on School Clothes

School clothes should be neat, durable, and practical without being dorky. Much as your child might want to sport name brands, it’s not necessary to buy the most expensive clothes.

If your child wears a school uniform, check out the possibility of getting second-hands. Kids grow fast, and you could get almost-new items for a fraction of the price. Some schools even have a little second-hand shop.

Make friends and network with other parents. You might even get second-hands for free!

11. Don’t Overlook Garage Sales and Thrift Stores

If your child plays sport or wants to take up a sport, you’ll find that the equipment comes with a hefty price-tag. You might luck out with special offers at the end of the sports season, but the best place to get good sports equipment cheap is at thrift shops and garage sales.

You might even find a few more of the items on your list, so keep an eye out for items like perfectly good backpacks and unused stationary.

Talk to friends and family about the items you’d like to find cheap. They may spot something at a garage sale you missed. And while we’re talking garage sales, why not raise extra money towards your school supplies shopping by organizing one yourself?

12. Keep School Supplies in Mind Throughout the Year

There are some school supplies you just know you will need sooner or later. Keep an eye open throughout the year and snap up low-priced stationery before demand goes crazy. Items like pens, pencils, and paper are always going to be on the back-to-school list!

As for electronics, watch the post-Christmas sales and Black Friday specials and shop around online to get them at the lowest prices you’ll see all year.

13. Involve Your Kids

If you are on a budget, make sure that your kid knows that as well. Better yet, if your kids are old enough, hand over a reasonable budget and tell them how you calculated it. They can keep the balance if they get school supplies for less.

If they overspend, you may need to take them back to stores to return merchandise, but the lessons they learn when they manage their own budgets will have lifelong benefits.

Are they nagging you for expensive, branded items? Let them save up pocket money or earn money in their spare time. They might even reconsider when they have to pay for luxuries themselves.

For parents, back-to-school time can be stressful and costly. By using these tips, you can save money on school supplies and enjoy contributing to your child’s education. The most important lesson of all? Your kids can learn to live within their means.

Like this article? Pin it!

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

View Comments (4)

  • I was home schooled for years, but when I went to school, we were always very careful about what we bought. I think organization is probably the biggest thing that can help you save money. For instance, it's easy to not realize you have 2 years worth of pencils and pens lying around the house, if you never take a moment to collect them all in one place and redistribute them to those who need them.

    Another things I wonder about is why so many supplies are needed? I think the schools really need to re-evaluate what is actually necessary and what is fun, but not actually needed for learning. So many families don't have hundreds of dollars to buy supplies. Why not keep it simple and just require pencils and paper?

  • It is a great time of year to be posting things like this, because children will be wanting to start buying things ready for the new school year. I think that it can be very easy to get carried away, thinking that they will need more than they actually do, when in fact most can get away with buying relatively little. So yeah, make sure you know what you've got already, and you should then find that you don't get to much unnecessary stuff.

  • I am entering my first year of college in a few weeks and have gotten all of my shopping done by the middle of summer. Most people want to go out and buy all new things when there is nothing wrong with what they already have, inevitably wasting money that could be better spent elsewhere. In my opinion, the parents also play a role in the black hole that is back to school shopping, as they want to buy any and everything, wanting the best for their kids. My mom wanted to buy me an entire new bed spread, complete with a comforter, memory foam pad, special pillows, and a vaporizer. What do I need that for? I don't even sleep with a comforter now and haven't for the past few years as I don't find them entirely comfortable. I do appreciate it, but the only thing I buy every year for back to school shopping is a Five Subject Five Star Notebook and planner.

  • I like the ideas like Save on School Books, Save on School Clothes and Buy in Bulk with Other Kids’ Parents.
    There are so many sales and discount offer running on back to school month. Specially amazon, walmart and other online store give exclusive offers for stationery, clothing and many more items.