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10 Ways to Save Money on School Supplies

Updated on July 30, 2010
Thanks Flickr!
Thanks Flickr!

I have four kids and shopping for back to school supplies can be daunting and expensive. Four separate lists for four different schools - each list including dozens of items for me to purchase. I don't consider this fun, or cheap, but I have found a few ways to save some money while still getting the things my children need. Here are the ways I save money on school supplies.

  1. Don't buy from the PTA or the school itself. Many schools offer kits based on the grade level and some schools have their own supply sales. I have found these places to be very overpriced compared to the sales in local stores. I have also found that the kits don't include everything needed, as each teacher has their own few items the child needs.
  2. Shop around. There are back to school sales galore - many with rock bottom prices. The stores are hoping to lure you in with their folders for $.01 and figure maybe you will stay and buy the rest of your needed supplies while you are there. By shopping at several different stores you can get each store's loss leaders and combined get great deals on everything you need.
  3. Buy extras of the things on your list. The worst thing for your budget is to get all the needed school supplies pretty cheap in August and then have your child need more in January. There are no school supply sales in January and frequently the stores don't even stock what you need at that time. I have found it best to buy extras in August and keep a box going for when my kid needs more glue sticks or notebooks.
  4. Don't get everything at once. I know buying everything at once might make your life easier and be less stressful, but you won't save much money. Shop the loss leaders at several stores for a few weeks in a row and the chances are good you will have most of what you need at rock bottom prices.
  5. Use coupons. Did you know there were coupons for school supplies? There are and I use them all the time. You can find printable ones on the internet as well as some in the Sunday paper.
  6. Buy in bulk. Sometimes it makes sense to buy in bulk. For instance all of my kids have high lighters on their list. I bought a pack of 10 on sale and it is enough for each child plus some extras.
  7. Check the clearance shelves throughout the year. Frequently by the time September rolls around the school supplies have been drastically reduced in favor of Halloween or Christmas decor. This is a good time to stock up on next year's supplies. The basics usually don't change from year to year so this works well.
  8. Keeping #7 in mind, if there are supplies on your list that can wait a bit, this can save you money. Maybe your child doesn't need graph paper until November. Rather than paying full price in August, wait until it goes on clearance and it get it at the reduced rate.
  9. Keep it simple. My children need dozens of folders each year. If I were to let them get a fancy character or printed folder for all of their needs I would immediately blow my budget. We stick to the basics for whatever we can and it makes things much cheaper. Remember it will probably be torn up by December anyway, so why spend a lot of money on it. To appease my kids, I will usually let them pick out one special folder or fun pencil as a way of compromising.
  10. Reuse supplies. Each of my children needs a large pink eraser. When I went through my supply drawer I found we have a half dozen used ones. They still have plenty of life left, probably years worth at the very least. I don't need to buy a new one just because it is on my list of things to buy. And all those half used pencils leftover from last year? They can keep on using them.


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    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 7 years ago from East Coast

      I know! I think the kindergarten classes are supplying glue for the whole school! I actually called the school when I saw the list and asked if it was a typo and they said no. I have no idea yet how many students will be in each class, but if there's 20 students that's 600 glue sticks!! I'm tempted to return half of them, but I also want to get off to a good start with the teacher, so I'll just wait and see...

    • Wendy Krick profile image

      Wendy Krick 7 years ago from Maryland

      Great tips. I have 3 kids and found it always cheaper to buy in bulk.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      That idea of unwanted school supplies is such a wonderful and it is amazing how much would have been thrown away.

      Thank you for your wonderful hub, Jennifer. Although I have no kids of school age but I remember how money could go there unnecessary.

    • profile image

      Jeanine 7 years ago

      If you have the time and energy, at the end of the year consider asking the school to let you place empty boxes to collect the unwanted school supplies. My girl scout troop did this at 3 schools - we ended up with a pick-up truck load of supplies!!! Much more than we expected. Some crayons, pencils, markers, notebooks, etc...weren't even used by the kids. We set up distributions to supply some of the low income children for the next year

    • Jennifer profile image

      Jennifer 7 years ago

      That is crazy! Were you supplying glue for the whole class?

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 7 years ago from East Coast

      More great tips! I made the mistake of going to one store for everything and I couldn't believe how much I spent. The first thing on the kindergarten supply list is 30, yes 30, jumbo glue sticks! That was about $30 just for that! I'll definitely follow your tips, especially #7. Thanks!