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8 tips for saving money on back-to-school shopping 

As the kids get ready to head back to school, you’ll need to do some shopping – notebooks and paper, maybe new jeans and tees – we know it can all add up quickly. Here are helpful tips.  

1.  make a list

Write down everything your kids need for the new school year. Some schools create lists which can eliminate you having to guess and ending up with supplies you don’t need. 

Next, look at what you already own. You can also save money by reusing supplies. Those markers you bought last year are probably still usable. And there’s no need to replace items like rulers. 

Have your child help in deciding what they really need versus what they may want. Once you have a list, you’re ready for the next important step. 

2. make a budget

How can a budget save you money? When you figure out in advance how much you’ll spend and what you’ll spend it on, you’ll be less likely to pick up items in the store “just in case” your kids need them. 

How much will you need to spend? You can get an estimate by looking at what you’ve spent the past couple of years. If there were extra expenses that surprised you, add them to this year’s budget. 

We’ve made creating a budget even easier with our printable budget worksheet. You can download it here.

3. scope out the sales

Many stores offer deals on back-to-school items and will advertise in the Sunday newspaper, and that may make it worth buying.  

Compare prices on what you need and be willing to go to a few stores if that means more savings. Remember to check the sales at office-supply stores and your local dollar stores.    

Some stores will have ridiculously low prices on some items like spiral notebooks. Those are called “loss leaders” and stores will offer in hopes that you’ll come in for the deal and end up doing all your shopping with them.  

Guess what? It’s perfectly acceptable to pop into a store just to grab those deals. To save money on gas, try to shop at stores that are close together. 

4. search for coupons

Remember when using coupons was almost cool? If you bought the Sunday paper for tip 3, see if you can find coupons for the items on your list. Your kids can help by cutting them out and organizing them into categories like clothing and shoes, paper and pens, etc. 

Check online for coupons, too. Some stores may offer you a coupon if you sign up for their emails. Others will sometimes have extra coupons for people who download their smartphone app. Some may even let you stack coupons on top of sales, which really adds up.    

5. buy in bulk

If you have a membership at a warehouse club, this is a great way to save money. If you know the parents of kids who go to school with yours, they’ll probably need the same supplies. Offer to buy them in bulk and you can split the cost, the supplies and the savings. 
Some warehouse clubs also offer back-to-school bundles that include notebooks, pens, pencils and other supplies. Remember to check your list. If a bundle has too many items that you don’t need, don’t buy it. 

6. take a vacation from taxes

We love that some states offer a break on taxes for some back-to-school items. Do a search online to see if yours does and when it will happen. Each state will have different rules around what’s included and a dollar limit, so be sure you understand those.

7. save on school clothes

If your child is growing like a weed, and a completely new wardrobe isn’t in the budget, use those sales and coupons we mentioned earlier to buy one or two brand new items. 

Consider checking out garage sales, consignment shops, and end of season sales for the other items they need. Thrift stores are a wonderful place to find clothes in good condition that may cost much less than if they were new. 

You can also check for clothing swaps on your local neighborhood website or social media marketplace. 

8. spread out your purchases

If you don’t think they’ll need it right now don’t buy it. Put it on a list for the next week or month.  

This includes fall and winter clothing that your child probably won’t wear for weeks. Instead, take advantage of summer clearance sales for clothes they can wear now. Then wait and buy cold weather clothes later in the season when you may find more sales.  

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