At Home or In Class: How to Save Money on Back-to-School Shopping

Did you know that the average cost of back-to-school supplies is $529? It might be even higher now because you do not know if your kids will start school at home or in class. You may not want to spend that amount of money on supplies for your children. Whether your kids return to school or take classes from home, you may want to find ways to save on back-to-school supplies.

Back to school savings

Save Money on Back-to-School Shopping

Here are 12 ways that you can potentially cut down your cost on back-to-school supplies.

    1. Make a list
      The first thing that you should consider is making a list. When you make a list, you can figure out how much things are going to cost. Also, having a list may prevent you from buying something that you do not need. Not only that, but you could even save time shopping from not having to guess what your child will need for school. Many schools provide a list of required items before school starts. Check with your child’s school website.

      Here is a list of back-to-school items that you may want to put on your list:
      • Index cards
      • Lunch box
      • Sharpie pens
      • Highlighters
      • Erasers
      • Notebooks
      • Calculator
      • Calendar
      • Graph paper
      • Folders
      • Hole-punch
      • Post-it Notes
      • Pencils, Pencil sharpener, and Colored pencils
      • Pencil pouch
      • Ballpoint pens
      • Glue stick
      • Binders
      • Gym Bag & Gym Clothes
      • Protractor
      • White-out
      • Bookbag
      • Kleenex
      • Wet Wipes
      • Printer Paper
      • Clothes
    2. Stick to a budget
      Because you could potentially spend more than $500 per student on school supplies, you should consider setting a budget and sticking to that budget. With some smart and creative shopping, you could possibly spend just a couple of hundred dollars per child. Challenge yourself to see if you can get all the school supplies needed for less than $200.

    3. Shop sales
      There are usually several back-to-school sales available at your local stores as well as online. Be sure to keep an eye out for these sales. Sales can pop up at any time, so be prepared to purchase the needed items when they go on sale. Once the sale is announced, you can take your shopping list and get as many items as possible. Be sure to get to the stores early. Many of the supplies tend to go fast at sale prices.

    4. Look for price matching
      Sometimes a store will offer something known as “price matching.” With price matching, a store will potentially match the price of a lower-priced competitor. Be sure to check out if your local store offers price matching. If the store offers price matching, you could save some big bucks by getting everything you need from one store.

    5. Swap with friends and family members
      You could also get some items for free by swapping school supplies with family and friends. For instance, you may end up with more pens than you needed for your kids. You can swap those pens for extra notebooks that your friend has. If you make enough swaps, you could get many back-to-school items for free.

    6. Check out the dollar store
      One of the best places to find school supplies is your local dollar store. Some dollar stores offer their school supplies for just $1. You could likely find items such as packages of pens, notebooks, compasses, rulers, scissors, and other items for only $1 per piece. Be sure to include your local dollar store during your shopping trip. Remember, not all stores with “Dollar” in the name charge $1: know before you go.

    7. Check out thrift stores
      Your city or town might have one or more thrift stores. These stores could have back-to-school supplies at exceptional savings. Some of the items you may find at thrift stores can include backpacks, clothes, shoes, pencil cases, and reference books. Check out thrift shops for some of the more expensive items on your list.

    8. Don’t forget to shop online
      You may be able to find some great back-to-school savings when you shop online. Just be sure to account for the delivery times so you can get the supplies before the first day of school. Some of the items to consider purchasing online include clothing, backpacks, shoes, and other higher ticket items.

    9. Shop on sales tax holidays
      Just about every county and city offers tax holidays for school supplies. During tax holidays, you won’t be charged tax on school supplies. Depending on where you live, you may save up to 10% on the cost of school supplies. Be sure to check your local store to find out when the tax holidays take place.

    10. Compare prices
      It never hurts to compare prices. You may be surprised where you will find savings for your school supplies. Here is a list of places where you should compare prices on your back-to-school items:
      • Big stores (Walmart, Target, Smart & Final)
      • Online stores (Amazon,,
      • Office supply stores (Office Depot, Staples)
      • Dollar stores (Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Family Dollar)
      • Thrift stores
      • Supermarkets
      • Drug stores (CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid & Duane Reade)
    1. Look for private label items

      Some stores will sell private label versions of common back-to-school items such as pens, notebooks, book bags, and more. Sometimes, private label items can be available at a considerable discount compared to the brand names.

    2. Check out garage/tag/yard sales

      You may be surprised at what you will find at a garage/tag/yard sale. While you may not be able to find a great deal on pens, paper, and notebooks at one of these sales, you may find some great deals on backpacks, printers, shoes, and gym bags. Garage/tag/yard sales tend to take place on the weekend. Be sure to set aside time on Saturday and Sunday to see what you can find at your local garage/tag/yard sales.

Bottom Line

There are several ways that you can save on back-to-school supplies. Be sure to compare prices online as well as your local neighborhood stores. Also, don’t forget to swap items with your friends and family. Finally, be sure to set a budget. You may be surprised at how much you will save during your next back-to-school shopping spree.

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