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How to Save Money on School Supplies

Updated on December 3, 2018
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Sally is a business communications coach who gives workshops on how to keep your professional reputation squeaky-clean and drama-free.

How can I save money on back to school items without being cheap?

From new school supplies to clothing and sports equipment, figuring out how to pay for all those essential back to school supplies can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips and tricks on how to save money on school supplies so that your child has everything she needs to succeed.

Teach yourself a few tricks for saving money on school supplies.

If you are scrambling to figure out how you will pay for back to school supplies for your kids this year, you are not alone. According to a study conducted by the National Retail Federation, a family with children in kindergarten through 12th grade will spend about $549 getting ready to go back to school.1 From new school supplies to clothing and extracurricular sports equipment, figuring out how to pay for everything can feel overwhelming.

Here are some tips and suggestions for how to avoid overspending on back-to-school supplies for your kids. Setting a good example for your kids by saving money and getting the best deals on student supplies is a great way to teach kids about the importance of cultivating good money habits. Financial literacy is not often taught in schools and so as a parent or guardian, it’s your job to help your kids have a healthy relationship with money.

Expect the unexpected when it comes to finding bargains on back to school supplies. Keep an eye out for sales on office supplies. Back to school supplies on sale can pop up at any time of year, not just in the weeks and months leading up to the new school year. Many school districts have opted to keep kids in school all year long with shorter, but more frequent, holiday breaks instead of a long summer break. This means that kids could be entering a new school year in January, April, or August.

Think outside of the (pencil) box. You may be surprised at where you can find good deals on office and school supplies. Drug stores and supermarkets sometimes bring in low cost school supplies to entice shoppers. You may not be able to find all of your back to school shopping needs in one store, but you can stock up on a single item. If you start thinking about back to school shopping early, you’ll have more time to pick up good deals wherever they pop up. To make your shopping trips efficient, work these purchases into your regular shopping lists so that you aren't going to the store for one item at a time.

Share your home office supplies with your kids. If you have a home office, you probably already buy office supplies on a regular basis. Pencils, pens, notepaper, markers, and glue sticks are common home office supplies that are also on many back to school shopping lists. The next time you buy office supplies, divide some items up and set them aside for the new school year.

Buy schools supplies in bulk online. By ordering your school supplies in large numbers from an online retailer, you may qualify for free shipping. Plus, having your items shipped right to your door will save you the hassle of running around. Think of the money you'll save on gas by not running around all over town as part of you back to school savings strategy!

Packing a lunch that your kids will actually eat is one of the best ways to save money on back to school costs.
Packing a lunch that your kids will actually eat is one of the best ways to save money on back to school costs.

Eat like a kid! One of the best ways to save money on back to school lunches is to buy in bulk and then make everyone’s bag lunch at the same time, including yours. If you are striving to provide your kids with a healthy lunch each day, why not put that healthy thinking to work on you! Yogurt, low-fat cheese, whole fruit, and veggie sticks are just as good for you as they are for your kids. And once again, by showing your kids that there is nothing wrong with taking your lunch to work instead of buying snacks at the coffee bar, you’ll be setting a good example. You’re never too old, or too young, to save your money.

Ethan Ewing of bills.com2says, "By planning meals and shopping for the week, families can eat better and save more than resorting to takeout at the end of an exhausting day. Plus, home-cooked meals provide a great way for families to stay in touch once the school year begins." Not only is this a great way to save money on feeding your kids at school and at home, It shifts your family's focus from spending money just to keep up with the latest fads, and directs it back to what really matters: spending quality time together!

For tips on how to pack tasty lunches for your whole family, check out the video below. It's full of great money-saving ideas to help keep your kids happy and nourished at school! (The suggestion to buy chocolate bon-bons on sale after the holidays and then putting a chocolate treat in each lunch kit is brilliant! This is much cheaper--and more eco-friendly--than buying miniature individually wrapped chocolate bars.

One of the best ways to save money on back to school supplies is to show your kids how to keep everything they'll need in the classroom neat and organized. The less often pens and pencils get lost or binders and notebooks get torn and tattered, the less often you'll have to replenish your kids' homework and study supplies. The video below offers tips and suggestions for how to organize school supplies so that they don't get lost or damaged.

How much do you expect to spend per child on school supplies (not including shoes and clothing)?

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Teaching good organizational skills also encourages your kids to take pride in their possessions and look after them properly. This isn't just a good back to school habit to teach kids. It's a good habit for all areas of their lives!

Have you got any creative tips for saving money on back to school supplies? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments!

Creating a budget for back to school supplies and then sticking to it is an excellent way to teach kids about saving money.
Creating a budget for back to school supplies and then sticking to it is an excellent way to teach kids about saving money.


1. National Retail Federation

2. 7 Tips for Back to School Spending,

© 2014 Sally Hayes


Submit a Comment
  • Victor Perkins profile image

    Victor Perkins 

    5 years ago from Manasquan, NJ

    Good information, thanks for sharing


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