How To Save Money on Back to School Supplies

Take stock, wait till you’ve got your shopping list, and become a master deal seeker to stretch your school supplies budget as far as it can go!

It’s that time of year that so many kids dread: back to school! And while it can be nice to get your kids out of the house and back to the classroom, your wallet might be feeling a similar sense of dread. There are so many school supplies you’ll need to buy!

Depending on your budget, you might even have to take out a personal loan to afford everything. Or worse: You might have to take out a series of high-interest no credit check loans like payday loans or cash advances. You’ll do anything for your kids after all, and you don’t want them your kids falling behind just because they don’t have the right kinds of pencils.

Wait—do they still need a certain kind of pencil? Do they even need pencils at all anymore? Can you just get all of your back to school shopping done on the app store?

No, you can not. But fear not! For we spoke to the experts to find out how you can stock up on school supplies without depleting your bank account.

Look at what you’ve already got.

Slow down! Don’t hit the store just yet. First, you should take stock of what you already have.

“See what you can reuse,” advised Robyn, creator of the personal finance blog A Dime Saved. “Not everything needs to be new every year. Go through last year’s supplies and see what can be used, passed down, and what needs to be replaced.”

Katie Ross, Education and Development Manager at American Consumer Credit Counseling offered similar advice: “Shop your closet. Before you start your back-to-school shopping, make a list of inventory and supplies you already own and might be able to reuse for the new school year.

“Although your child’s school may issue a shopping list, you don’t need to buy every single item on it. In fact, you can even contact your school or homeroom teacher to ask what items are critical in the first month so you have a financial cushion.”

And speaking of that shopping list…

Wait for the list, then plan.

Although it might be tempting to get your back to school shopping out of the way as early as possible, you don’t want to accidentally buy something your children don’t actually need.

“Plan before you shop,” advised Robyn. “Make sure you have your school supply lists along with an idea of what items you already have so you don’t end up overbuying. If you have multiple kids that need the same items, you may be able to split value packs as well, so make sure to have an idea of what each child needs BEFORE you shop.”

But you should also remember that list isn’t written in stone. Unless it is written in stone, in which case you should probably follow it precisely since that must have taken a lot of effort to carve. But more than likely, you’ll be able to take some of Associate Director of Relationship Development at Centerpoint Advisors Ashley Agnew’s advice to heart:

“Ok, teachers might not like this one, but only buy the absolute necessities to get through the first two weeks. Your student should have an idea of what they will really need after a couple of weeks with their new teachers, and will most likely be given a few more items to shop for once they receive the overview of their curriculum causing another trip to the store anyhow.”

Become a master deal seeker.

Once you know exactly what you’ll have to buy, it’s time to become a student yourself … A student of deals, that is!

“First and foremost, do not underestimate your local dollar discount store,” Agnew told us. “Especially for younger children who tend to lose, break, and ‘share’ their supplies, big bucks can be saved by purchasing generic brand markers, pencils, pens, crayons, etc. The dollar store can also be a good resource if your classroom is requesting items such as cleaning supplies and hand sanitizers which can be pricey elsewhere.”

She also suggested you get to know your credit cards and state tax system well: “Check your cash back deals on debit and credit cards. Many offer discounts of up to 10 percent at common superstores. Also waiting for your state’s tax-free weekend (if available) may be hectic but worth the savings.”

And you can do some of the shopping without ever leaving your house!

“Shop online and shop early,” recommended Robyn. “Many stores have back-to-school deals on certain items already. Quickly glance through some deal sites and store ads to see which items are on sale and stock up on the basics- pens, notebooks etc. Look online for coupons and take advantage of cashback apps. These little savings can add up in a big way!”

Be discerning about where you spend a little more money.

Kids don’t always understand how money works, so you may need to explain to them that they can’t always get that when it comes to back to school shopping.

“Your kids may want to impress their classmates with the latest gear, but that doesn’t mean you should get into consumer debt as a result,” advised Ross. “One thing here or there may be okay, but being practical is key. Avoid fancy supplies that you don’t need and buy store brand if possible.”

But there is one item you may want to consider putting a little more money into.

“Buy a great backpack,” suggested Agnew. “Buying a good backpack that will last a few years will save you some bucks in the long run, especially if it comes with a warranty like L.L.Bean. Better backpacks tend to have more support, stronger straps and zippers and can double for sports and travel. Instead, let your littles choose a new lunch box every year. These are more than half the price, and after months of spilled juice, forgotten fruits, and molten fruit snacks, you might be happy to retire last year’s version.”

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of the school bus pulling up! Thankfully the kids have everything they need, and your wallet wasn’t hit too hard!

If you do find yourself needing to take out a bad credit loan to pay for school costs, skip the short-term payday and title loans in favor of a long-term installment loan with lower rates and more affordable payments. And to make sure you won’t need any loans next year, you can learn more about saving money with these related posts from OppLoans:

What are your best tips for saving money on school supplies? We want to hear from you! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Ashley Agnew creates value in investment management by helping clients have a better relationship with their wealth. At Centerpoint Advisors, she facilitates financial coaching programs providing emotional and educational preparation for the next generations. These include financial coaching and literacy seminars, college savings and retirement product research, and family round-table facilitation and moderation. She holds her B.S. in Marketing with a minor in communications writing from the University of Massachusetts as well as an MBA in global finance from Bryant University. In addition to her work at Centerpoint, she is also the Marketing Chair on the Board of Directors for XPX New England, an organization focused on business growth and transfer.
Robyn is a mother and someone who feels passionately about helping people with their finances. She has taken her personal experience, advice she was given, things she has learned on her own and in her MBA studies and tries to share what she feels is important financially on her blog, A Dime Saved (@adimesaved).
Katie Ross, joined the American Consumer Credit Counseling, or ACCC, management team in 2002 and is currently responsible for organizing and implementing high-performance development initiatives designed to increase consumer financial awareness. Ms. Ross’s main focus is to conceptualize the creative strategic programming for ACCC’s client base and national base to ensure a maximum level of educational programs that support and cultivate ACCC’s organization.

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