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7 Minute Read

How to Save Money on Back-to-School Shopping

7 Minute Read

How to Save Money on Back-to-School Shopping

There’s no avoiding it: The start of the new school year is just around the corner. That means your mailbox/inbox is about to get bombarded with school supply shopping lists, new school ice cream socials and information about the upcoming school year’s activities. Say it isn’t so!

The good news is that if you start shopping now, you’ll have your back-to-school shopping out of the way and even save money on your kid’s school supplies! Here’s our best tips and tricks for how you can save money on school supplies this summer!

Back-to-School Spending

Let’s face it. After a summer of buying swimsuits, summer clothes and all the food for your backyard barbecue, thinking about spending even more money is enough to make you cringe. But whether we like it or not, back to school comes around this time every single year.

With more than 29 million households in America having school-aged children, from kindergarten through high school seniors, you can imagine that the back-to-school spending season is a big one. Not only that, over 50% of your kid’s school year supplies are purchased before school even starts.1,2

What Families Are Buying for Back to School

Last year, the National Retail Federation estimated that most families planned to spend almost $685 on:

  • Clothing
  • Electronics
  • Writing utensils
  • Backpacks
  • Lunchboxes3


While we may not be able to escape the back-to-school spending game, we can decide how hard of a hit it takes on our budgets . . . and our wallets.

The Best Time to Buy School Supplies

The best time to buy school supplies is . . . now. That’s right, in order to beat the crowds (and those crazy prices), you’ve got to shop early and often! Pack your kids into the minivan, and start grabbing those deals before everyone else does—online and in stores!

 Back-to-School Shopping Tips

1. Do your homework.

In order to know if you’re getting a deal on school supplies, you need to know how much those items usually sell for at regular retail price.

2. Make a plan.

Using that (shockingly long) shopping list the school sent out, decide which items are a must before school starts. Don’t worry if you don’t have everything on the list before the first day of school. You can often find the best deals on supplies after the back-to-school rush is over.

3. Get on a budget.

Once you have a plan of what you’re going to buy, it’s time to budget! Yup, that’s the most important part. Believe us—the last thing you want to do is blow your grocery money on your kid’s pens and pencils for the year. And those have no nutritional value.

Set up your free EveryDollar budget, and start planning for your school supply purchases today. And as we said earlier, you can spread out your purchases—there’s going to be quite a few of them. It’s best to prepare for those fall expenses . . . now.

4. Sign up for store emails.

Like it or not, one of the best things you can do is sign up for all the store deals, discounts, and newsletters you can!

Many stores send out a weekly list of what’s on sale, and most even throw in a coupon too. And if you’re really tired of sifting through your personal email for all of those deals, you might try creating a separate email address just for this purpose!

When you’re shopping through your emails, it’s important to note any loss leaders you see. If you’re not sure what that is, just look for the biggest sale item in the ad, and you’ve likely found it.

Stores use this strategy as a bait and hook to get you in the door. Whether it’s free cookies in the bakery leading you to purchase a full box or it’s the item priced so low that you buy five—keep these strategies in mind when you’re shopping so you don’t go overboard.

5. Visit money-saving apps and websites.

Listen, everyone loves to save money. So, it’s no surprise that there are apps out there for . . . well, saving money! Don’t forget to use store-specific apps to save too. Make sure to download these money-saving apps well before back-to-school shopping begins:

  • ShopSavvy: Simply scan that barcode to find out if you’re getting the best deal. The app will even show if your store will price match!

  • Flipp: This app shows you all your favorite stores’ weekly ads all in one place.

  • Scour their back-to-school list for amazing deals on everything, from pens to backpacks!

  • Groupon: Search for school supply deals and coupons with this money-saving app.

  • Amazon: Do we need to say more?

6. Shop clearance and dollar stores.

Believe us, during the back-to-school season, clearance aisles will be your new favorite hang-out. Check out Target’s Dollar Spot (it’s at the entrance of every store).

Just make sure to keep your eyes on the prize. With so many trinkets on sale, it’s easy to drop $20 on things you weren’t even looking for!

Don’t forget about your local dollar stores too. They’ll have the best deals on calculators, tape dispensers, staplers, and even glue!

If you’re a coupon collector, don’t forget to bring any manufacturer coupons for pens and pencils to the dollar store—if you’re lucky, you may end up walking away with free supplies!

7. Don’t forget to use coupons!

We had to say it again. Coupons and promotional codes will become your new best friends (not to mention save you and your budget). Why pay full price when you can pay less and save more for the same product?

8. Shop the off-season.

You better believe it—some of the best deals for back-to-school shopping can be found when it’s not back-to-school season at all! But most importantly, you’ll want to keep an eye out for clothing deals. You might find it difficult to purchase a winter coat in the middle of summer, but it’s the best time to do it.

With a little bit of preplanning, you can find the best clothing steals for cheap. Yup, winter coats, long-sleeved shirts and sweaters, and even jeans. Let’s just hope junior doesn’t go through another growth spurt before the next school year.

9. Don’t forget about used or even refurbished items.

Let’s talk electronics. They’re just so dadgum expensive. And with technology becoming more and more important in the school curriculum, it’s becoming a purchase that you just can’t escape.

Make sure to check sites like eBay and Craigslist for lightly used (and deeply discounted) touchscreen devices that won’t send you to the cleaners.

And don’t forget—you can also find great deals on refurbished electronics too! Check out Apple, Dell and other major companies for their deals.

10. Leave the kids at home.

You’ve probably heard people say leave your kids at home when you’re grocery shopping, right? Well, the same rules apply for back-to-school shopping.

If you buy your kid’s school supplies based on sales and clearance, you’re not really going to pay any attention to brand names or the latest and greatest action hero-themed supplies. But when you bring your kids with you, you may end up spending way more. Plus, they’ll be happy when you come home with bags of supplies just for them!

Ready to start saving for those back-to-school supplies? Tell every dollar where to go this month with EveryDollar, and don’t forget to budget for your back-to-school spending!