This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure here.
Did you know you can get most of your back to school shopping done without spending much at all? There are so many great deals that it just takes a few minutes each week and you’ll have most items for pennies on the dollar. Here are some of my tips for how to save on back to school supplies!
10 Ways to Save on Back to School Supplies
I know you don’t have your school list or even know what teachers your kids will have, that doesn’t need to stop you. The sales are running now through the third week of August—for 6 weeks. That’s it! If you don’t go back to school ’til September and you wait until the night before to shop, you’ll cry. In general, you can guess what your kiddos need and you’ll probably be 95% spot on. What did you use when you were 6? Crayons, pencils, and markers…
Starting before you have the “official” list may seem dangerous, but if you end up grabbing an extra pack of pencils at 10¢ a pack it’s not nearly as bad as paying $2 for them the night before.
Tip: Use my School Supplies Buy Price List to help spot the best sales.
Make Your Own List
Go ahead and make a list of what you think they can use. While this isn’t a school-sanctioned list, it will help you to stay on track and on budget. If you start buying every 20¢ deal out there, things could get hairy. On your list, make sure to include some necessary items to help outside of school, too. Think of it as your school and homework supplies list.
Double Your Quantity
This tip isn’t so much about cutting the budget right now but more about planning ahead. Most school supply lists never have enough on them to get you through the year, and, sadly, we NEVER see a spring school supply sale. Double whatever you think you need so that you have a stash of supplies to last all year. This is huge in our house with us homeschooling. This year may be the first year that we bought enough and didn’t run out for crayons or paper mid-year.
Don’t Shop All At Once
Grabbing your school list and buying it all in one trip at the same store may feel like the smart thing to do, but it’s really the worst plan. Each week we see certain 25¢ items, but they change from week to week across big box, grocery, and office supply stores. Following the list you made, grab items when they are on sale and, within a few weeks, you’ll have everything you need at the cheapest price!
Tip For Teachers: Staples and Office Depot have different limits on deals for you! Ask your stores for specific details but many times you are able to buy 30 on items that have limits of 10.
A lot of the top deals are in the office supply stores (Staples and Office Depot/Max). They run the best deals but often have the smallest supply. If the products are national brands (i.e. Crayola crayons and not Staples crayons) then you can get those 25¢ crayons at Target. They will price match any local competitor for any identical product! Keep in mind they will still enforce any limits that were in the original store’s ad.
Don’t Forget Coupons
We actually do see coupons for back-to-school items! Crayola, Elmer’s, BIC, Paper Mate, and Sharpie will put coupons in the Sunday papers and some online to print. You’ll also see store coupons off total purchases or specific items. Also watch for Target Cartwheel coupons in their mobile app! In Target, you can scan the barcode of items in your cart with their app to check and see if there are any coupons available (super easy and fun for the kids to help with).
Quality Is Worth It
There are a few things that are worth the extra money. While I’m not saying splurge, I would recommend buying a higher quality backpack, lunch box, and even binders. These take a beating and, in the long run, not having to replace them becomes the savings. I still have the Jansport backpack I used in high school. I used it all through college and still use it when we go on long trips! (You don’t really want to know how long ago I was in high school.)
Quality Does Not Have a Face On It
This has caused heated debates in years past, but buying school supplies that have characters and brands on them costs money. Lots of money. In reality, 99% of the time they aren’t the best quality products, but you are paying more for them than top quality items. If your kids really want branded items, then compromise on 1 or 2 things, or grab them a pack of stickers of with their favorite characters and let them brand items themselves!
Tax Savings Shopping
If your state has tax free shopping days, then take advantage of them for larger purchases. The savings is not worth it on the little tiny items you are buying over the next few weeks, but for backpacks, uniforms, graphing calculators, etc., this can be a nice savings. The stores also go big over these special weekends with good sales and store coupons.
Think Used For Some Items
While used pencils and crayons are probably not the best idea, used graphing calculators are a great idea. Clothing can also fit this category. Shop consignment sales starting in August to get uniforms and clothing. Also, for other large ticket items, think of going used for tablets and eReaders. For anyone else homeschooling, we’ve also gotten used microscopes, math manipulatives, and curriculum used!
Do you have any other ways to cut the back-to-school budget? Let us know in the comments!