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How to Save Money on Your School Supply List

Updated on July 30, 2012

School Supplies Can Get Expensive!

Back to School Supplies
Back to School Supplies | Source

Top Three Ways to Save Money on School Supplies

  • Coupons and Back to School Sales
  • Rebates and In Store Rewards
  • Recycling Ink

Our back to school supply lists are arriving. Many schools provide programs with prepackaged school supply packs keeping back to school shopping simple. At our children’s school the program costs:

  • $50 per student grades one through eight
  • $30 per student in Kindergarten

This year I have two children in 2nd grade and two children in Kindergarten. This service would cost me one-hundred sixty dollars and did not include paper towels and tissues which were on the list as well.

I had to find a way to save money shopping for school supplies.

Back to School Shopping

Last year I was able to get many free or cheap school supplies by paying attention to coupons and the back to school sales flyers. I have the most success at Target by utilizing their online coupons listed under Stationery and Holiday. Additionally, I keep my eye out for the $1 off any $3 or more Up and Up item (a Target brand) coupon. Target carries reams of paper and binders under their Up and Up Brand.

Walgreens is an excellent way to save money as well. In late July and early August, Walgreens has weekly in store coupons highlighting back to school items starting. Each week, I go in and only purchase those specials.

Consider paying attention to the school supply list for future grades as well. There is no guarantee that the exact same sale will be around next year. Additionally, there were a couple of times this year when my kids lost a supply, the class was low, or we needed to do a project at home. I always have extra, inexpensive supplies on hand.

Spending Habits?

How do you purchase your back to school supplies?

See results

Use Rebates and In Store Rewards

Many office supply stores advertise back to school savings along with rebates or in store rewards. If you are disciplined enough to fill out the rebate forms and send them in, rebates are great ways to save on supplies. Additionally, stores such as Staples, Office Depot and Office Max offer in store rewards if you use your frequent shopper card.

For example, purchase a backpack for $29.99 in July and receive $29.99 in rewards available in your account mid-August. Rewards also require a level of discipline. Understand if you will use the dollars on other items in the future and pay attention to expiration dates on the rewards certificates.

Recycle Ink Cartridges

My box of empty ink cartridges
My box of empty ink cartridges | Source

Recycle Ink to Save Money

This year I am trying a new way to save money on school supplies by recycling ink. Staples, Office Max and Office Depot each have ink and toner recycling programs which work in conjunction with in store rewards.

Check the program specifications for each store prior to recycling ink. Currently each of the three stores credits your account two dollars for each empty ink cartridge recycled with a maximum of ten cartridges per month. When I asked what ink cartridges were accepted, I was told that they must be in good repair and fit in a printer. Toner is accepted as well.

I found two empty ink cartridges last month and turned them into Staples. This month I had four dollars to spend in the store. This was simple and I needed to figure out how to get more empty ink cartridges without buying more full ones!

My friend and I purchased five-hundred empty ink cartridges on eBay for eighty dollars. By splitting the cost I became the proud owner of two hundred fifty cartridges for forty dollars. This month I have recycled ten cartridges at Staples and ten cartridges at Office Max. My account is credited twenty dollars per store and I have already recouped my investment. Now I have two hundred ten cartridges that I will continue recycle at a rate of ten cartridges per month, earning twenty dollars per store per month. My forty dollar investment results in earning an additional four hundred twenty dollars.

My intention is to use this as my back to school and office supply fund. Not only am I recycling and keeping empty ink cartridges out of the landfill, I am saving money.

Sample Back to School Supply List

Back to School Supply List
Large Tissue box
Pack #2 Sharpened Pencils
Pair headphones in large ziplock bag
Spiral bound wide rule notebooks (70ct)
Box Crayola Crayons (24ct)
Coloring/Activity Book
Crayola Broad Classic Markers (10ct)
Eraser, Pink Pearl
Folders: 2 pocket/plastic
Full size book bag
Small Glue Sticks
Sturdy School/Pencil Box (8x5)

Getting Those School Supply Lists Ready

This year I am looking at grades K-3 on the supply list. Looks like I will only need twenty-four glue sticks for my Kindergarteners. I am expecting some amazing projects coming home! I am going try my best to get them for free or cheap at the grocery store, drug store or Target. But if I can’t find a great deal, I am using my in store rewards from my ink recycling at my local office supply store.

I am curious how much supplies will cost us this year.

I GUARANTEE it will not be one hundred sixty dollars!


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    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Great idea, Tyler! Thanks.

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, barbergirl for reading. That is great that supplies are included in California! I think I am about done back to school shopping and have spent very little. I am lucky that so many stores close to me run great back to school deals. I might get to use some of my 'ink money' on something more fun than pink erasers, too!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 

      8 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I am pretty fortunate... when I lived in Wisconsin, not only did we have to pay registration fees for the school, but school supplies themselves would easily cost us at least a hundred bucks or more for my two daughters. We moved to California a little over a year ago and happily, the only good cost in California is the schools... no registration fees for school and they don't even send out requests for school supplies. The schools completely supply all the supplies making it very budget friendly out here. In fact, I just need to purchase a backpack (if the previous one is completely worn out) and maybe a new lunch box.

      Good luck with all your back to school shopping. I hope you find some great deals!

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Chrissie, I love clearance racks, too. My husband laughs at the random things I bring home because they were 90% off! Thanks for reading!

    • chrissieklinger profile image


      8 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I search for things all year long on clearance because back to school shopping can definitely break the bank. I loved all your suggestions and ideas!

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Laura it was funny because I had my $4 from Staples and I thought I had gold in my hands. When my friend mentioned ebay, I was looking for the best deal that afternoon and did a buy it now to get the package headed our direction. Thanks for commenting!

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image


      8 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Great advice and very timely information. Creative way of getting rewards at Staples too. I recycle my ink cartridges there and use the rewards but you really hit the jackpot with the ebay purchase. Smart thinking!

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, raggededge, for commenting. The savings can easily translate over to office supplies in general.

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Debi, I was so excited when my box of ink arrived. I felt like I had a box of cash! Best of luck!

    • theraggededge profile image

      Bev G 

      8 years ago from Wales, UK

      Good advice for anyone who spends a lot on stationery items. :-)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I buy for my 10 year old and for my own classroom. Target saved me a ton of money last year. I am hoping for some similar sales again this summer. I did not know about the ink cartridges, I will have to look into that! Thanks for the info!!

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, Jellygator! Recycling ink is so easy to do! Thanks for commenting!

    • jellygator profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      Love the Ebay empty cartridges tip! Thanks!

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      I just started back to school shopping for my children two years ago and learning quickly, there must be a better way. Hope you can save money with these tips or share with others who can use the information. Thanks for commenting!

    • shalini sharan profile image

      shalini sharan 

      8 years ago from Delhi

      wish you wrote this years back, it would have saved money of my parents


    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, Ttoombs! I hope you can save a few dollars with these tips! thanks for reading and commenting!

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      PracticalMommy, if you husband has a business account, sometimes they can return 25 cartridges per month. Check it out and good luck!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 

      8 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Wonderful ideas and a fantastic hub! Thank you, twintimes! I will be using these for back to school shopping this year. :) VUM.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      I didn't know that about the ink cartridges! I'll have to pass that info along to my husband, who is a Dean of Students and stocks up the school store for the kids in the fall with cheap school supplies. He can save the school a lot of money!

      Great tips for parents. Voted up, useful and sharing! :)

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      They are very expensive and our lists are pretty large. I hope you can use a few of the tips. Thanks for taking the time to comment, too!

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, Janine, for taking the time to read. Thanks for the pin, too!

    • twinstimes2 profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Lackey 

      8 years ago from Ohio

      Natasha, I can see you running out to get empty ink cartridges! I am kind of excited for the rewards to start kicking in. Thanks for reading.

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Great tips for any parent. School supplies can be very expensive these days, much higher than when I was a kid. Good job!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      8 years ago from New York, New York

      Love this and will be pinning this for the beginning of the school year. So many good ideas all in one place. Thanks again and will be voting up and sharing too!!!

    • Natashalh profile image


      8 years ago from Hawaii

      That is such a brilliant idea about the ink cartridges! Wow. You know, depending on how much you purchase at Staples, you can get your Staples card upgraded and can receive rewards for more cartridges a month. (I used to work there)

      Thank you for the advice. Kids aren't the only ones with back to school supply needs - us hungry grad students can use this advice, too!


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