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Budget tight? Need to save money on your back to school shopping? Check out these 14 easy tips to save big on your school supplies and clothes.
It is that time of year again. The seasonal aisles are full of back to school supplies, the kids are agonizing over outfits, and you are joyfully humming, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Or was that just me?
Back to school shopping can be a huge expense. Every year I would get 3 separate lists of school supplies. Added to that was the list of new clothes, because all my boys seemed to have a growth spurt in the summer and NOTHING fit any more
Outfitting three kids with school supplies and new clothes adds up pretty fast, so I started looking for ways to reduce the costs. I actually got to be really good at saving money in this area. So I thought I would share my almost 18 years of experience and share the tips that saved my family a ton of money.
14 Ways to Save Money on School Supplies
Hint: If you are parenting teens and tweens go straight to tip 14
At the start of the summer
Start your savings early by going through these tips
- Take an inventory of supplies you already have: There is no reason why many school supplies cannot be reused. You do not have to buy all new stuff. I even reused exercise books if they were hardly used. Simply tear out the used pages and stick labels over class names.
- Check with parents who have had kids in the grade above yours. Ask them what supplies their kids really used and buy accordingly! When my middle son was going into grade 2 I was given a list that included 24 tabbed exercise books! I couldn’t fathom how one child could possibly use tabbed 24 exercise books in grade 2. I called a friend whose child had just finished that grade. She assured me that the plain books worked fine and I only needed about 6. That call saved me about $20. If you find yourself short during the year you can always go buy extra, but chances are you won’t need them.
- Make a master list of what you need: This will keep you focused and on track. Keep your list on a Google doc in your phone, so you always know what you need. Share the google doc with your spouse/partner. If either of you stumble across a brilliant back to school sale you will know what to get. Don’t forget to delete items when you buy them.
Throughout The summer
- Shop the back to school shopping sales throughout the summer. I checked the flyers every week to see what was on sale. Hint: You only need to check the front and back covers of most flyers. Have you ever found that the inside pages don’t really have very good sales? I’ve heard it’s mostly paid advertising and not sales at all.
- Buy in bulk and share items between kids. It is often cheaper per item to buy things in bulk. The trouble is that your child doesn’t necessarily need 20 pencils or 10 glue sticks. If you have more than one kid you can share those items. If you are buying for one child you could form a small co-operative with a couple of friends and share the items.
Hint: Agree how you will divide the items and split the cost ahead of time. It will make things a lot easier.
- Shop generic: You usually pay far more when you shop for for shopping brand name and licensed products. Buy the no-name stuff and save a bundle. It is just as good
Don’t Forget to Check the Special Deals
- Special deals For example when I was writing this post Amazon has a special sale – 8 Crayola markers for under $5. It is not a huge sale, but today they also have a one-day coupon for 50% off any item. Now those markers cost $3.25 and it becomes a good buy. Tip: Download the coupons onto your phone.
- A back to school shopping data-base. If you live in the States check the back to school data base at Penny Pinching Mom to find who has the best prices on specific items.
- Reward Programs: Many big box stores stores have a rewards program. Our local grocery store has a points program. We can usually collect the equivalent of $60 in points each year. Try saving them each year to use for back to school shopping. Then make them stretch by taking advantage of the sales!
- The back to school shopping deals on Amazon . Check the deal of a the day regularly. You can limit the results by clicking on the categories. When I was writing this post I clicked on the category boys fashion. I had to scroll down a bit, but I found pants and shirts for 66% off the listed price.
Warning: don’t get seduced by the bright shiny sales. Stick religiously to your list!
How can I get cheap school supplies?
- Try the thrift store for clothes and school supplies. The thrift store in our town has lots of gently used kids clothes, as well as school supplies! I’ve seen backpacks, pencil cases, binders and other school supplies for next to nothing. Not all thrift stores are equal. Some have much better quality items than other. It is worth checking out a few to see which ones have better merchandise.
- Send out a message to friends on social media if you are looking for something in particular. We had a box of school supplies sitting in our closet for years, before I donated them to the thrift store. I would have been happy to give them away to a good home.
- Check to see what your school does with all the lost items that aren’t claimed. It is astonishing what doesn’t get claimed. Our school donates boxes of clothes and supplies to one of the local thrift school, others sell them, and some give them away. Take advantage of whatever your school does! Hint: Put a reminder on your calendar to call and inquire during the last two weeks of the school year.
Get Your Kids Involved
- When my boys started High School, I deposited a sum of money into their bank accounts and let them do their own back to school shopping. I told them that he could keep any money left over. It is amazing how thrifty your kids can be when they are motivated.
It also gives them invaluable practice in budgeting and making money stretch. I helped by talking through tips 1-5 with my kids. Then I told them when there was a good sale. They quickly became experts at buying clothes and school supplies at the best price. It also saved me loads of time.
If you are on a tight budget and there’s no money for school supplies
I’ve been in that situation and I know how hard it can be.
- Contact local organizations, churches, library, and/or your child’s school and see if you can get some help.
- If your child has a birthday near the start of school, ask for school supplies and clothes as gifts.
- Ask trusted friends if they have any spare supplies.
- Use tips 1, 10, 11, and 12
What are your best tips for saving money on back to school shopping? Leave a comment below.