9 Easy Ways to Save on Back-To-School Shopping

Renee Sommer

It’s hard to even say this, but it’s almost time for the kids to go back to school. Back-to-school shopping can put a big dent in a family’s budget, especially if you have multiple children or a really trendy fashionista. To save you a little stress – and a ton of cash – we’ve put together nine super easy tips to save big money while back-to-school shopping this year.

1. Skip the brands and characters (or at least hold off on buying them)

While your kid may love Hello Kitty this summer, once they start school and realize that some other character is all the rage this year, you may find them begging you for an upgrade. If you can’t forgo the brand names and character items altogether (which would save you a ton of money), wait until the kids have started school and consider buying these things as Christmas presents instead. Likely they’ll go on sale after the back-to-school season is over.

2. Shop end-of-summer sales

While summer clothes are hitting the clearance racks and everyone is looking for the latest fall fashions, scoop up some out-of-season bargains. Skirts and shorts can be worn with leggings into the fall, and short-sleeved tops are great for layering.

3. Stick to the list

Don’t waste money on unnecessary supplies; just stick to the list the school gives you. While some extra items may be adorable, they’ll likely never get used, and you’ll be out the money. Also, if you have elementary students in your house, a lot of the school supply items are shared in the classroom. So buying special scented markers won’t do your child (or their teacher) any good.

4. Watch ad circulars

It may surprise you to learn that sometimes grocery stores have the best bargains on basic office supplies. As an added bonus, you can just grab them when you’re there picking up your regular weekly groceries and avoid added driving and time spent running between stores.  

5. Let the kids get creative

Instead of buying fancy binders and folders, buy plain ones (which are often a fraction of the cost) and let the kids decorate them. They can make collages and slide them into binder covers or decorate folders with Washi tape and markers. You’ll come out ahead in your budget while the kids will have a blast and end up with one-of-a-kind supplies.

6. Do a closet and supply sweep

Believe it or not, you may already have a good chunk of what you needed hiding in junk drawers, boxes in the basement, and in the corners of the closets throughout the house. Make it a scavenger hunt and rally the kids to help you find every pencil, folder, stapler, and paperclip you own. Pile them in a central location and take stock. Buy only what you can’t find.

7. Shop at garage sales and bargain/thrift stores

Garage sales and thrift stores could literally have everything you need at a fraction of the cost. Start hitting them up now and look for fall/winter clothing, used supplies, and outerwear. You can also get some incredible bargains on school supplies at the dollar store: Notebooks, pencils, and containers for lunches can all be purchased there, and no one will ever know the difference!

8. Buy in bulk

When pens, crayons, and glue go on sale in the late summer, buy enough to get you through the rest of the year. If you don’t think you can use an entire 100-pack of pens, talk to your friends and neighbors: You can pool your money to buy supplies and then divide them equally.

9. Use Facebook groups to find items

If you’re searching for a specific thing but don’t want to pay retail prices, post in one of the local “for sale” groups on Facebook. This is also a great way to sell off some of last year’s items and put the proceeds towards this year’s shopping.