Back To School Savings

Learn at Lower Prices

Back To School Savings
August 8, 2016

Whether you are sending your kids off to kindergarten or to college, back-to-school time means a serious dent in your wallet. With some planning, however, you can limit the size of that dent. Here are some helpful hints:

  • Set A Budget – As with any shopping run, if you do not make a list and do not have a budget, you are very likely to spend more than you intended. Research prices online or in stores before you start.

    Use the budget as an opportunity to discuss priorities with your kids – if they want a particularly expensive or trendy backpack or shoes, they can help decide where the money can be saved in other supplies to pay for their indulgence.

  • Track Sales Early – Back-To-School sales certainly help, but if you keep an eye out for extraordinary deals on basic supplies during off-seasons and clearances you can save significant money.

    August, and to a lesser extent, January, are the peak back to school times. Shortly afterward, when the larger stores are liquidating their back-to-school aisles and reducing their stock, you can pick up great deals. Buy the basics in bulk – notebooks, paper and pens, etc. – and save them for the next school year.

  • Coupons – While they are tedious to collect and use, coupons accumulate savings. Collect them from the paper and any collection board or online sites throughout the year. Online coupon links are available from some retailers, if you don’t mind putting up with extra e-mail in your inbox.

  • Alerts – Following some retailers on Facebook and Twitter can allow you to find special deals and sales that are not otherwise publicized and can give you advance notice for ones that are.

  • Book Deals – Textbook prices are shocking these days, but more options are available to avoid paying retail. Used books are available many places, especially on college campuses. Newer options include the ability to download virtual textbooks, or rent textbooks for a semester.

    Also, consider asking those that have already taken a particular class if you can buy their book – sometimes they will even give it to you. Of course, you have to make sure that book is still being used for that class.

  • Shop Used – Saving on used items can go beyond textbooks to clothes and other school needs like dorm-room furnishings. Try second-hand shops and yard sales, or online sources such as eBay and Craigslist.

  • Tax-Free Days – Most states and areas offer sales tax-free days for school-related supplies and stores tend to run corresponding sales. Usually these take place in late July or early August. This can be a great time to buy the larger items that your child may need, such as laptop computers, to multiply the savings.

  • Rewards Programs – Look for any cash-back or other rewards programs at retailers or online vendors where you normally shop for supplies. Similarly, you may be able to receive rewards through your payment method by using a credit or debit card that has a cash-back or useful rewards program. Just make sure that you are not tempted to buy more things than you need to extend the benefits, and check for exclusions in what you can purchase.

What’s that noise? It is the sound of your less-dented wallet thanking you for doing your best to save on back-to-school needs. It may also be the sound of you congratulating yourself for saving the family money. Go ahead; you deserve it. Give yourself an “A” in savings.


Photo ©iStock.com/artiseer

  Conversation   |   42 Comments

Add a Comment

By submitting you agree to our Terms of Service
Daniel Dohlstrom | 08.19.15 @ 14:44
Oh back to school time. For me this process goes all year long, knowing that supplies will be needed not only for my child, but to help supplement the lack of supplies our teachers are given. I regularly shop stock up sales, use my Staples reward card, and often wind up with a good stockpile of needed items for any time throughout the school year.
Sara | 08.19.15 @ 14:47
Without tax free days in my area it looks like I need to be shopping more with coupons and at dollar stores.
Angie | 08.19.15 @ 14:47
Oh, this article comes just as my wallet is smarting from the back to school preparation frenzy! Sending 2 to college, 1 in high school, 1 in middle and 1 in elementary. Clothes and shoes are the worst, but I have also found that clothing availability spikes in thrift stores around that time as the folks who are buying the new sizes for school are cleaning out their children's closets. Big savings there, too! And a big "Thank goodness for companies like Chegg" for college textbook rentals - the costs are less than a third compared to buying!
Crystal | 08.19.15 @ 14:53
We are about to go back-to-school shopping, so some of this was really helpful. We are part of the Kohl's rewards program which saves us a lot of money!
Christina | 08.19.15 @ 14:57
My friend had a really smart idea, and bought ALL of her kids' school supplies on Amazon! What a great way to eliminate a lot of frustration and avoid crowded stores!
trish | 08.19.15 @ 15:03
I tend to purchase my school supplies at the end of September, for the following year! They mark down so much and you tend to know the basics you need every year. I only had to add a few miscellaneous things this year to my stockpile to get the kids ready for school!
Steffanie | 08.19.15 @ 15:08
I watch for the mark downed items after the big rush of buying. I store a lot of the items in our closet until the next year. It helps a great deal, especially when we shop for so many. We are down to shopping for 4, so that helps too. Love this article!
Alec | 08.19.15 @ 15:13
My daughter won't start school until next year so I haven't faced this problem yet. However, this is some great advice. Another suggestion would be to buy supplies one at a time, to stockpile, throughout the year as your normal budget allows. Without coupons or sales, you won't save, but it'll be a little easier on the bank account if you spread out the cost instead of dropping all the money at once.
Elaine | 08.19.15 @ 15:20
It is not only good advice for parents sending their children back to school but for the actual teachers as well. I know for sure, since my husband is a teacher, that setting up a classroom can be a strain on the wallet. Tax free days in my area help a lot, just wish it was longer than a weekend. Things sell out too quickly since we are only given two days of tax free shopping.
Victor | 08.19.15 @ 15:31
Great Article for parents !!
Britt | 08.19.15 @ 15:32
Back to school time is one of my favorite times of the year! Everywhere has so many amazing deals and it's such a good way to save money, especially if you stock up on enough stuff to help get through the year.
Meredith L | 08.19.15 @ 15:43
I love when teachers hand out a supply list early in the summer. It helps me spread out my expenses. If I don't get a supply list then I make a generic list of things they always use: pens, pencils, notebooks, composition notebooks - I get them when they're on sale. I love Payless Shoes when they have their BOGO sales, and bookbags and some clothes can be found at thrift stores. Every penny in savings helps.
Jackie | 08.19.15 @ 15:48
Great tips for saving on school supplies. Remember, school supplies have to be purchased every year, therefore buying the least expensive is a wise choice.
Nancy | 08.19.15 @ 15:53
Great tips, as usual. I find my biggest savings are watching the sale ads early and throughout the summer. A lot of the big chain stores have great deals (think .01, .25 and 1.00 items) just to get you through the doors. If you hit the sales every week, you can be just about set by back to school time with little out of pocket.
Carla Truett | 08.19.15 @ 15:56
With the school supply list getting longer and longer each year, it is hard to plan for everything that a child needs. I look for sales throughout the year on the basic things I know they need. I also take advantage of our tax free weekend for the rest. If I find a great bargain, I will buy extra to donate to the school supply drives in my area.
Kamie | 08.19.15 @ 15:58
I have never understood how someone wants to spend $400+ for back to school things. I do all these things listed, and I end up with years worth of things for less than $50 out of pocket. And most of it I donate to churches that want to do school bag giveaways, or to the schools to help with costs.
Vaughn | 08.19.15 @ 16:26
Awesome tips to keep in mind for when my little one starts school.
Erin | 08.19.15 @ 16:36
We don't have to worry too much about back to school shopping around here, but all of these are good for savings in general. Great tips.
Christina | 08.19.15 @ 17:15
I always shop with coupons it takes time to put all together but so worth it. Check for sales and use your coupons with them, and some stores have their own coupons you can stack together big savings! I keep a stock pile of everything my family needs on a daily bases. I use the savings to buy their clothes and shoes..
Wanda Langley | 08.19.15 @ 17:40
It would be great if all States had the tax free weekends. My son lives in GA and with the sales and coupons it really helps them out with three girls.
Irene | 08.19.15 @ 17:42
Glad my kid is grown and my school shopping days are over. I don't know how people afford it these days.
Beverly | 08.19.15 @ 18:22
This is the first time in 18 years I don't have to worry about back to school shopping. I always felt like a winner when I got notebooks and pencils for 10 cents. Definitely have to plan ahead and know what your child will need. It seems every year the list continues to grow.
Apryl | 08.19.15 @ 18:36
Makes me look back at all my parents did and wonder how they pulled it off.
Stokes | 08.19.15 @ 19:24
My back-to-school plan is two-fold. First, I shop for the basics in September when all of the stores are moving out their back-to-school items to make room for fall items. Second, I keep an eye on all the stores and wait for the best deal for the items I need. For example, Office Max/Office Depot does penny deals for weeks before school starts. Each week, they have a couple of items that you can get for a penny with a $5 purchase. My oldest child's orientation isn't until tomorrow, but I already have most of what he'll need.
Leah | 08.19.15 @ 19:43
I lucked out this year with not having to buy supplies. However all this information is super helpful to have when buying things for my classroom. And even when I'm buying donations for my son's class.
gracie | 08.19.15 @ 19:49
These are all wonderful hints to follow. I also use back to school savings time to stock up on household office supplies while things are running at extra low prices. By watching the sales and clipping a few coupons I can collect what I will need for the rest of the year at significantly lower cost.
Donnie | 08.19.15 @ 20:06
I didn't do any back to school shopping this year. My wife did, and all from the comfort of the dining room from her computer. Now I did register my daughter for high school and the text book cost is getting out of hand. Here is an idea forschool staffs around the country...eBooks
Andrea | 08.19.15 @ 20:09
I wish I had joined several months ago. These are very helpful.
Joanne grant | 08.19.15 @ 20:18
Thanks for the tips...
Zanna | 08.19.15 @ 20:55
Shop early and often. I try to pick up a few notebooks, packs of paper, etc. every time I shop during the summer, instead of getting it all in one big pile at the end. Anything they don't use can be donated to the classroom for others who might need it, and I usually have plenty stockpiled for whenever my kids run out.
Jane | 08.19.15 @ 21:54
I wait for the back to school sales, and keep my coupons ready to go!
Chelsey | 08.19.15 @ 23:28
I always bargain shop and look for coupons. I like to stock up on school supplies during the off season when they are at rock bottom prices.
Heather | 08.19.15 @ 23:35
I totally took advantage of tax free days in Ohio. Between that and good sales at the stores, we were able to get everything for back to school. All school supplies were purchased through our school who bought in bulk and that saved us money as well.
Bobbie | 08.20.15 @ 00:29
I do stupid coupon shopping all year long, and my school district is one of the last to start, so by the time I get the class lists, most things are on clearance already.
Sarah | 08.20.15 @ 00:45
I homeschool so back to school shopping for me is more than a little different. I do, however, love the tax-free time. This year our state did a week (well, 10 days actually). It's nice to be able to stock up on things we always need like crayons, notebooks and paper when it's not only cheaper but tax-free too. Great list of tips regardless of having kids in the back to school craze. Knowing how to shop smarter, is just smart. C'mon, tell me you don't use paper and pens at least once in a while...
Kaila | 08.20.15 @ 05:38
I love back to school shopping, probably cause I am still buying stuff for myself since I dont have kids, and am in college. However I already follow many of your tips, from following the circulars, to couponing, ect. Thats how I am able to get extra supplies and donate them to local groups that help families who are struggling.
Jo | 08.20.15 @ 05:58
We follow most of these, another good idea our Staples has a clearance bin that they do 50% off the clearance price, we have found notebooks, binders, pens, pencils, erasers, etc back there, plus they always are doing great deals during back to school. It is worth a look!
Missy | 08.20.15 @ 16:18
These are some great tips since I have one in grade school and one starting college.
Missy | 08.20.15 @ 16:20
These were some great tips for someone with one child in elementary school and one starting college.
Rindy | 08.20.15 @ 16:23
These are some great tips and I will use them. I also like to browse a local internet site that is like a virtual yard sale. I have found many bargains on some barely used clothing there. I also love my savings catcher through Walmart. I am able to accumulate some cash back on groceries to put toward school supplies that way. Add all that to tax free days and you can get some great deals.
Katie Greene | 08.20.15 @ 18:02
Back to school sales are so tricky. They always say lowest prices of the year, but you have to play the waiting game and see how low it will go before it all goes back to regular price. It's a gamble really. Know your rock bottom prices before you shop
Ron | 08.20.15 @ 23:57
Buy in bulk from discounters and stock up for two years. That is what I do.
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 12.07.16 @ 10:49
{comment}

  Our Professionals Are Available to Help!

  Can't find What You're Looking For?