It’s that time again, all the kiddos are heading back to school.
With all the hustle and bustle of autumn around the corner, it may be a bit of a challenge to stick to your budget. Finding cheap school supplies can help your family pay down debt, save for education or even retirement. So before you send your kids off on the bus, here are a few ways you can save money on back-to-school shopping
Ways to Score Cheap School Supplies
You may already have most of what you need; the cheapest school supplies are the ones you already paid for. Have you ever opened your closets to find an avalanche meeting you at the door? This may happen too often. It’s easy to throw unused items in a closet and forget about them for years. You never know what’s hiding under that mess. So, take an afternoon or a rainy evening and see what you can find hiding in your closets.
Make it a scavenger hunt with your kids. Create a list of items you need for this school year and let your kids loose. You may even complete their entire back-to-school list without a second thought.
Tip: If you find you have gently worn clothing, consider selling them on online or taking them to a local consignment shop. Selling unwanted items will free up some cash and space and will benefit others who may not be able to afford new.
Forgo the Trendy School Gear and Fall Clothes
Autumn is the time of year when retailers want to mark up desired items and clothes. If it’s trending this year, try to forgo purchasing it until it goes on sale or next year when it may be picked over. You don’t want to end up paying a premium on the “in” new item.
Teach your children patience and purchase the item when it comes down in price.
Tip: Looking for a great price on the hot brands on your children’s wishlist? Check out factory outlets. On average, outlets tend to be 24% less expensive than the retail counterpart.
Caution: according to Time Magazine- “It’s been estimated that as much as 85% of items sold at outlet malls were never available at traditional malls. Instead, they were produced—on the cheap—specifically to be sold at outlet malls.”
Stick to a List
Just like grocery shopping, it’s easy to get carried away when you don’t stick to your list. Before you head out, make sure you have created a list of everything you need.
Do your best not to deviate from your list. Remember, every little extra item you pick up could end up costing you.
Tip: Leave the children at home when back to school shopping. Retailers go to great lengths setting up back-to-school supply displays to encourage children and parents to spend. Instead of buying more expensive folders with your children’s favorite characters, buy plain folders and let them decorate them with stickers. If your children are anything like mine, they likely have lots and lots of stickers.
School Supply Hand-Me-Downs
You child’s lunch box from 3rd grade may not work in 4th grade but it may still be in mint condition. If your children no longer want certain items, hand them down to the younger generations in your family and vice versa.
There may be an older kid who has outgrown their backpack, but it will still work just as well.
Tip: Check local thrift shops and garage sales, these can be a great opportunity to pick up inexpensive supplies.
Host a back to school swap
Do you have extra binders or pens lying around your house that you would be willing to trade for other items? Try getting your neighbors, friends, and family together to swap the items you need. You could even make a party out of it.
I mean, is there anything better than saving money on back to school shopping with the people closest to you?
Tip: Consider getting a few parents together and buying supplies in bulk from an office supply depot, Costco, or Sams-Club.
Meal Prep for lunches
Spending money on lunches can add up fast! Why not take some time on Sunday to meal prep for the week! Not only will this save you money and help your children eat healthier, but it will make the mornings a lot more efficient.
Spend a few hours during the weekend planning and preparing your individual meals. Maybe even try planning your dinners out as well.
Looking for more ways to save money on lunches? Check these 15 crazy effective ways to save money grocery shopping.
Try shopping at the grocery store for school supplies
Target and Walmart might be your first pick for back-to-school shopping, however, they may not have the best deals. Try shopping at your local grocery store for your basic school necessitates.
This will also save you a trip, so you can purchase your food and back to school supplies in one place. This is a great way to save money on back-to-school shopping.
Tip: Check out your local dollar stores, dollars stores can be a great place to pick up back to school supplies inexpensively.
Focus on the More Expensive Items
There will always be sales and deals on pencils, notebooks, and binders. You really need to focus on the big-ticket items. There are plenty of sites that can offer deals or discounts on the items you are in search of.
Sites like CamelCamelCamel have Amazon price alerts, so you can keep an eye on your desired item.
Try comparing different sites to find the best deal. Keep in mind some items will go on sale after school starts. It’s okay to wait until after school begins to get your new item.
Price matching is an option as well. If one retailer has a better price for the same item, but you do not shop in that area, or it’s more convenient to get it at another store, ask about price matching. Some retailers will also beat the price with additional savings.
Tip: if you can’t find a great deal on the must-have item, check reward apps like Ebates, Swagbucks, or even credit card rewards. With kids in school, don’t forget to sign up for Upromise to earn free money for their college.
Wait to Purchase Necessities
Sometimes school or college will list certain items that may not be needed. Make sure to double-check with the teacher before purchasing unnecessary items. Waiting can be a great way to ensure the item is really necessary, and oftentimes, a few weeks after the back-to-school rush is over, retailers begin marking down school supplies.
For example, college professors may not always require the entire coursebook. They may only require a few chapters. Sometimes you can purchase chapters on Amazon or borrow someone else’s book for the semester. Don’t rush off to the book store before you are sure what you really need.
Tip: Libraries offer many of the textbooks you may need for free if they do not have the book you need they may be able to locate a copy.
The Bottom Line
There are countless ways to save on back-to-school shopping. Get creative and pair up with your friends and family to find ways to save this season.