Back-To-School: Save Money On School Supplies

Hard to believe, but summer’s almost over and that means it’s time to think about how to save money on school supplies. We’ve already been issued a lengthy list of “necessary” school supplies. I put that in quotes for a reason: over the years I’ve come to realize many of the listed materials never actually get used. Even if you aren’t comfortable ignoring certain items on the school supply list, there are still ways to save money on school supplies.

Back to school shopping can get very expensive but it doesn’t have to break the bank nor does it have to be a hassle. >Online coupon codes really do provide great deals for all types of school supplies and is a stress free way of doing so. Use them, and use the strategies below, too.

First, set up a supply spot. This is a good practice to follow all year since your child will always know where to look if he or she needs something. Post a copy of the supply list near your spot and check off items as you gather or buy them. You can use the list throughout the school year to replenish supplies when they’re on sale.

Shop at home: Remember the backpack your kid brought home at the end of the year, the one that’s been sitting in the closet ever since? Chances are, there’s a nice stockpile of pens and pencils in there. (And maybe a nasty lunch box, too, so be careful.) Things like rulers, calculators and pencil boxes can be cleaned up and reused every year.

Shop both the early and late sales. Stores really compete for your money around back-to-school time, sometimes selling pencils for 10 cents and boxes of Crayons for a quarter. Meanwhile, manufacturers are issuing coupons like mad, too. Stack the coupons on top of the sales, and buy more than you think you’ll need of things like pencils, pens, filler paper, spiral notebooks, Crayons, colored pencils, markers and erasers — all of which tend to be at their lowest prices before school starts. Other items tend to be marked down after school starts: binders, clipboards, lunch boxes and backpacks. Yes, the selection is smaller but the savings are big. (Be sure to check my guide on what to buy in August for big savings.)

Check online, too. I’m reluctant to buy school supplies from eBay, having been ripped off buying what I thought were going to be quality items only to find they were cheap stuff that fell apart right away. Talk about defeating my efforts to save money on school supplies! Now I compare our grocery, dollar and drugstore sales with the prices on Amazon’s school supplies page where I often find better deals buying in bulk.

Shop tax-free when you can. Many states offer tax-free days at the end of the summer, and you can find the list of tax-free holidays (updated for 2013). If your state permits it, buy bigger-ticket items like computers and college dorm furnishings on these dates. Be sure to check if back-to-school clothing gets a tax-free break in your state, too!

Just say no. Advertisers indoctrinate kids to believe they need a lunchbox or backpack with this year’s hot cartoon character. You and I know better, just as we know that what’s hot in August will be so over by Christmas. Tell your kids that if they think they MUST have the latest Nickelodeon or Disney characters on their lunchbox, they should save their pennies. (And explain they can also just buy stickers with their favorite characters to stick on a generic item.)

Start a school supply savings jar. My son’s school required him to have a pencil and a red ballpoint pen every day, in every class. With very few exceptions, he’d lose one or the other by the end of the day… or so he said. By the third month of school, he’d gone through the entire year’s supply of red pens, and I got tired of paying to replenish them. So it became his responsibility to put 50 cents out of his allowance into the supply jar, then use that money to replace any items he’d blown through. Not surprisingly, he got a lot better about holding on to his pens and pencils. (Also not surprisingly, I found several dozen of them in his backpack after he’d cleaned out his locker at the end of the year.)

What ways have you found to save money on school supplies? Share in the comments!


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