My daughter absolutely loves school but for some kids the only enjoyable part of the “Back-to-School” season is the shopping trip for new supplies (not that Haylee doesn’t love that part as well)! Those pretty notebooks, binders, and gel pens just make everything seem a little better!
The cost of school supplies is getting more expensive every year. Statista published a report showing average back-to-school spending in the United States from 2004 to 2017. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that it has increased by over $200.00 since 2004!
In 2004 the average amount spent on school supplies in the US was $483.28. By 2017 it had climbed up to 687.72!
Keep in mind that this is an average of all school supplies meaning older kids probably spent a lot more while younger kids spent a lot less.
Haylee is a freshman this year and I haven’t even seen a list yet! I got a little panicky about all of the expensive things they could require and decided to put together this list of tips on how to save money on school supplies this year in hopes of helping you stress out a little less!
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1. Shop alone – This is absolutely the best thing you can do for your back-to-school shopping budget but it can be a little unrealistic to think your children will be okay sitting this one out.
Shopping alone is the best way to ensure that you don’t come home with a lunch box covered in Disney princesses (or the latest movie characters) only to have your child tell you a week into school that no one is still carrying princesses and she needs a new lunch box!
Tip: If you must take your children there are two different tactics I use to save money. For younger children, allow them one small item of their choosing under $10. For older children, make sure to go over the budget with them, telling them exactly how much you are willing to spend on each item and if they want something more expensive they can pay the difference.
2. Make a shopping list and budget – Shop with a plan! Create a list of all of the school supplies you need to purchase. Never leave the house without a list of exactly what you need. It is so easy to see cool things that your child (or you…I am guilty of having an obsession with pretty pens) would love and get carried away purchasing every thing you see and like!
I mean who can resist this rainbow of pretty colors??? Not me!
3. Shop at home first – Never go back to school shopping without checking last year’s backpack for things like pencil boxes, rulers, calculators and other items that can be reused. It’s also a good idea to check desk drawers and supply closets in your home.
4. Shop loss-leaders – These are the amazing prices that you see on pencils, composition books, etc. that stores put on sale for a penny hoping that you will get sidetracked and buy everything you need while you’re there. Do not do that! Buy the items that are an incredible deal then leave. Go to the next store with a loss-leader or back home to wait for the next Sunday ads to come out.
5. Shop early and late – The first back to school sale is usually the Sunday after the 4th of July. This is when you start to see pencils and notebooks for .10 each. Shop the loss-leader sales early and shop late for the larger items like book bags and lunch boxes that will go on clearance as the school year gets closer to starting. Sometimes you come out even better to wait a week or two after school starts back to buy these larger items.
6. Shop drugstore ads – By shopping at drugstores that offer rewards, rebates and coupons you can sometimes get these items for free (or very close to free). My favorite is CVS because we always have ExtraBucks Rewards to use and they allow you to stack those discounts with coupons.
Related Post: 20 Ways To Stop Wasting Money!
7. Rebate apps – Check for school supplies on apps like Ibotta (use this link to get $10 when you sign up) and Checkout51 for rebates before you go shopping. Make sure you scan the item and the receipt as soon as you get back home so you don’t forget about it!
Tip: I use an app called Flipp to search for exactly what I need to buy instead of looking through ads and chance seeing something that I want to buy and don’t really need! This helps me not waste my money!
8. Skip name brand items – I hate paying for the name on an item. The only exception I have to this rule is items where quality may come in handy like backpacks and pencil boxes that could be used multiple years in a row.
9. Compare prices – Before buying anything I always compare store sales with online prices through the Amazon App. Make sure you have the app downloaded before you get to the store. My daughter needed a new TI-83 calculator for her first Algebra class and I thought I found a great deal at Wal-Mart. I scanned it while standing in the store ready to buy and found it $8.00 cheaper on Amazon!
Tip: Sign up for Amazon Prime if you haven’t already and get a 30 day free trial! I can’t even add up how much it has saved us in shipping charges! Also, if you are buying online, do not check out without using Ebates to get cash back on things you are purchasing anyway!
10. Buy in bulk – If you have multiple kids this could be a huge money saver. These glue sticks are less than .25 when bought in bulk. Buy the case and split them between your children.
Tip: If you don’t have multiple children you can buy in bulk with other parents.
11. Shop on tax-free days – Take full advantage of tax free shopping days if your state offers them. These are incredibly helpful when purchasing computers or laptops, clothing and other big ticket items. You can see when your state’s tax free holiday is here.
12. Shop at Michael’s for art supplies – Michael’s allows you to use multiple coupons of different types in one purchase meaning you can use a 40% off a single item as well as a 25% off entire purchase coupon for some deeply discounted art supplies.
13. Wal-Mart Price Match and Savings Catcher – If you find a great deal but only want to go to Wal-Mart then use their price match program to make your day a little less hectic. Also, don’t forget to download their app and scan your receipt through their Savings Catcher. If the app finds a better deal on an item at another store you will receive credit in the form of an eGift Card.
Tip: If you find a great deal somewhere else and have the time to run around then buy the limit there then go to Wal-Mart and buy the limit of the same item using price match to stockpile while there are great prices.
15. Use coupons and price match – Check the sales papers on Sunday for any ads you can use on school supplies including things like tissues and wipes. You can also use competitor coupons at stores with better prices.
Tip: Download coupon apps and price scanners to compare prices before buying. My favorites are RetailMeNot and QR Scanner.
Tip: Staples offers a 110% price match. When you find a great price on something, see if Staples offers the exact item and purchase it there where you get the extra 10% off. Be sure to take your proof (sales ad or app) with you!
16. Shop Sunday or Monday – When the ads come out on Sunday people rush to the stores for the deals. Make sure you get there before everything sales out.
17. Buy discounted gift cards – Purchase gift cards from places like Raise.com at a discounted price to get an extra deal. This is perfect when you know you have big ticket items to buy like a computer. You can buy gift cards for
Have you found any other tips or tricks for saving money on school supplies? If so, I would love to hear them…quickly…before I start my shopping please!