Back-to-school shopping can become overwhelming and expensive! That’s when it pays to be smart with your money to stretch out your dollars for great back-to-school deals. Here are 12 tips to save money to school shopping to help save you time, money and your sanity!
12 tips to save money on back to school shopping
1. Take Inventory
My first tip is to look through your own home and take inventory of the items you already have. Go through last year’s supplies and see what can be used, and what needs to be replaced. Search kids’ rooms, old backpacks, and office to check on supplies first. Check old backpacks and see if they have any tears, holes, or broken zippers.
Then, make a list of items you need. If you have multiple kids that need the same items you may be able to split value packs as well so make sure to have an idea of what each child needs before hitting the stores. Also, it might be worth to check online first to compare prices!
2. Stick to a budget
Make a budget and stick to it. “If you have older kids, let them know in advance how much they have to spend. This way they can pick which items they want to “splurge” on and which ones they don’t. They may want to spend a lot on a nice notebook but stick to the cheaper pencils and pens.” Says Robyn of A Dime Saved.
3. Shop early
Beat the lines and picked over back-to-school departments and make a trip to the store one-two weeks before school starts, rather than a day or two before. “Even doing a little shopping at a time can ease the woes of back-to-school,” says Kelly Rupiper is the Content Director of Upparent.
“On your weekly grocery run or trip to Target, peep through an aisle or two and pick up a few necessary items. Be it a fresh pack of crayons, fun folders or even Ziploc bags, grab the items that you know you will end up needing. This saves ‘fun shopping”’ for a family outing that is short and stress-free. Nothing is better than picking out the backpack or lunchbox of the year!”
4. Shop right before school starts
If you can, wait until right before school starts to buy the essential supplies, and wait a few weeks to purchase the rest when the prices tend to drop! You’ll save money on regular-priced items once school has begun. Also, check the clearance aisles after school begins and you can often find drastic mark-downs on supplies.
5. Check online
When shopping with your older children, make sure you’re not overpaying for more expensive items such as textbooks. On-campus bookstores may be convenient, but aren’t usually the cheapest option.
Head to online retailers such as Chegg and Textbooks..com to get up to 90% off textbooks rentals and used book purchases,” says Sarah Hollenbeck at Offers.com. “You can even sell those same textbooks back at the end of the year, getting a good portion of your money back.”
Check deals online as well, especially for back-to-school technology where you can find great savings on expensive electronics.
6. Stock up on essentials
Shoes are a bigger-ticket item that can be bought for less during back-to-school sales, and if your child is about to outgrow his or her current size, think about buying another pair in a larger size for later in the school year.
“If you know for certain that you will need an abundance of notebooks over the next few years, and you happen upon a great deal on notebooks, stock up. Find out your local office store is running a BOGO on printer paper? Buy some! You might be set until your kids are in college,” says RetailMeNot‘s Shopping and Trends Expert Sara Skirboll.
Think twice about promos that try to get your to buy more. For example, buy-one-get-one 50% off, a lower price when you buy multiples, or a “better value” if you buy a larger pack of something. If it’s an item you may need more of (like folders), this may be a good deal. But, even if you have the best intentions to save the “extra” items for next year, school supply lists change year to year, and glue sticks, markers, etc. may get lost in your home over the next 12 months. Be cautious before buying more (and spending more) than you need for this school year says Hollenbeck.
7. Use a Student Card
If your child is older and has his/her own student I.D. card, make sure you take that with you when shopping for back to school supplies. “Many retailers and even restaurants offer freebies and discounts of up to 50% just for students, and the savings can be even bigger when shopping for specific items like school supplies and fall clothing,” says Hollenbeck.
8. Check flyers and coupons
“Quickly glance through some deal sites and store ads to see which items are on sale and stock up on the basics- pens, notebooks etc.” says Robyn of A Dime Saved. “Look online for coupons and take advantage of cashback apps. These little savings can add up in a big way!
Always clip the office and school supply coupons you see in papers or flyers. Even if it is for something you think you don’t need, if you spot a sale on that product, you can sometimes get the product free. “I do this every year with the popular Bic stationery supply coupon, which is why I have a drawer full of free Bic pens, Bic pencils, and even White-Out! I’ll donate extras to school supply drives or my work office,” says Mary Potter Kenyon, author of Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, and the Stories Behind America’s Extreme Obsession.
“Using online coupons is the easiest way to save money on items you would have bought anyway,” says Jill Caponera, Consumer Savings Expert at Promocodes.com. “Search sites fir online coupons at your favorite school supplies stores, such as Staples, Mead and Jansport.”
9. Buy generic brands
Certain school supplies are packaged and designed with patterns that may be outgrown the following year. They’re also more expensive. Folders and binders that are used every day are either opened or stored away.
“Because of that, you can easily cut out one unnecessary costs of back-to-school shopping by opting for generic designs and brands. Especially with multiple children, it will pay to skip out on flashy or branded materials,” Doug Keller, Community Manager/Personal Finance Expert of Payless Power.
10. Visit your local dollar store
The dollar store is a great place to shop for notebooks, paper, pens, markers and more at extremely low prices. You could purchase everything your child needs for the new school year for under $20.
11. Use BTS as a teaching moment
Back to school is a good time to talk about money and how much the family has budgeted for school supplies or clothes. Often, kids want more and/or more expensive items that their parents wish to spend. “Helping children understand what things cost and letting them determine what to buy given a budget helps children understand they can’t have everything they want,” says Bonnie Meszaros, associate director of the Center for Economic Education & Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware.
“Parent and child make a list of items the child wants for back to school or use the supply list many schools send home. Have child prioritize the things wanted and then the parent provides an amount available to spend on these wants. Child uses flyers, websites or visits to the store to gather prices and determine which and how many wants can be satisfied and what will have to be given up. Often when a child thinks about what is given up, they reconsider their choices.”
12. Look to the community for help
If you are a family that is struggling financially, look to your community for help. There are a lot of nonprofits across the country that hold back to school drives to support local children and families in need, says Shawna Roy, 43, director of Buckner Family Hope Center in Houston.
There is often a school uniform swap day, so if your child is required to wear a uniform to school, find out if your school district or local organizations and churches are holding a swap. You can provide your uniforms that are only slightly worn and too small to another family and in turn receive uniforms that fit your kids now..
Thrift stores are also be a great place to shop for back-to-school.