Back to school sales have already begun and the summer is winding down for most kids. Every parent and teacher knows that purchasing school supplies are not usually a one-time occurrence. Over the course of a school year, the price tag of replenishing supplies can be costly. With a little researching, planning ahead, and goal setting the costs of back to school shopping can be reduced significantly.
The average American family with kids in grades K-12 is projected to spend more than $848.00 this year, according to the National Retail Federation. The majority of that goes towards clothing and new electronics. We want to share some ways to save money so that you and your family can come in well below that average cost.
Here is a list of 15 tips for big savings:
- Buy a Three Ring Binder – Rather than purchase multiple notebooks, opt for a hard cover three ring binder and a set of dividers instead. This one-time purchase will offset the cost of having to purchase a ton of different notebooks which will inevitably run out of paper before the end of the school year. Check out these great deals on back to school supplies from Dollar General: https://www.dollargeneral.com/products/category-page/office-school-supplies.html
- Wait for the Supply List – It’s important to wait for the Teacher Supply List before you shop. This can save you money because you won’t buy unnecessary things. Different teachers require different supplies. For example, 5th-grade teacher Mrs. Smith may require students to buy sticky notes while her counterpart Mr. McNeil may not require them. It’s always a good idea to stick to the list and avoid impulse buys or buying a supply that’s not needed and will never be used. Don’t waste that hard-earned money!
- Buy these Supplies throughout the Year – While it’s recommended to wait for the Teacher Supply List, there are three school supplies that are a given; paper, pens, and pencils. Purchasing these in mass quantities creates a supply which will last the entire year and possibly into the following school year. Check out these other great deals on school supplies for this year: https://www.target.com/c/kids-back-to-school/-/N-5xtyp
- Dollar Stores – Dollar stores have an unfair rap for selling supplies which are sub par in quality. In reality, they often sell the same school supplies as the major retail chains at a fraction of the cost. Stick to the name brands that you know and love, i.e. Bic, Crayola, Elmer’s, Ticonderoga, etc. You can find these same brands at any dollar store for a fraction of the price at drug stores or other retail stores. You can get everything you need at most Dollar Stores, so stop there first and check off as many items as you can from the Teacher Supply List then go elsewhere if need be.
- End of Summer Sales – In late August and early September, retail clothing chains often sell short sleeve polo shirts and other clothes for up to 50% off in an effort to make room for their Fall clothing line. With the recent trend of warmer autumns, polo shirts can be worn into early November. In addition, short sleeves can make their return as early as April, meaning this one clothing purchase can account for half the school year so stock up.
- Buy Non-Perishables in Bulk – Buying in bulk can help you save money. Fruit Snacks, juice boxes, crackers, pudding cups, beef jerky, bottled water, and other non-perishable food items can last an entire school year so take advantage of this. Parents spend way too much money on their kid’s lunches. You can really save a ton of money by packing or “brown bagging” lunches instead of giving your child money every day for them to buy the school lunch. Also, consider investing in a Crockpot in order to cook multiple meals for the week, and leftovers can be taken for lunch as well. When you buy in bulk, you’re saving money per unit, which adds up to real savings over time.
- Invest in a Waterproof Book Bag – Even when children take the bus to school, there is always a chance their book bag could end up in a puddle. Replacing damaged notebooks is an inconvenience. However, replacing damaged textbooks that run upwards of $50-$75 per book can be very costly. It’s wise to invest in a waterproof book bag. It will also hold up longer than a cheaper brand so you won’t have to buy another one halfway through the school year.
- Used Books – For college students, used books are the way to go. Not only have they already been read – some may have already been highlighted for you. From purchasing your textbooks from former students to renting the college textbooks you need online, there are many viable ways to save money on this necessary expense. This doesn’t really apply to grade school or high school kids because their books are given to them by the teachers on the first day, but remember that a number of school supplies can be bought used such as shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes, etc.
- Pay in Cash – Put the credit cards away and promise to pay with cash only. Having to physically part with money allows the shopper to understand exactly how much money they are spending. This eliminates unnecessary expenditures. You should withdraw a limited amount of cash and watch it dwindle as you spend it. This will help prevent overspending. The point of this tip isn’t to save hundreds of dollars, but to force yourself to actively notice what you’ve been overspending on.
- Set a Spending Budget – Is it possible to spend less than $200? Less than $300? As with any financial goal, be realistic but set the bar as high (or in this case, as low) as possible. Setting up a spending budget isn’t difficult or time-consuming at all. It will help you stay on track and you’ll know exactly how much you can spend. Stick to the budget and you’ll be sure to save money this school year!
- Buy only what you need – Each year the teachers usually hand out a School Supply list as a recommended guide for what the kids will need that school year. You can cross things off your list that you already have, and then only purchase things on the list. Extra supplies will probably never get used and just leave your pockets empty.
- Look for the “end of summer” sales – This is where online comparison shopping can come in handy. That blue gel pen at Best Buy might be two times cheaper at Wal-Mart or Kmart. Take a look online before heading out to the actual stores, and you’ll know that you just got that trapper keeper for the best possible price! Do kids still use trapper keepers or am I showing my age?
- Ask for price-matching at the store – Staples claims that the retail giant is offering the lowest prices anywhere on back-to-school supplies. If there’s any uncertainty, they will back it up with a 100% price-match guarantee. If you can find an item priced for less anywhere else then Staples will give you the difference, plus 10% off. Use policies like this to your advantage!
- Shop at places that honor future markdowns – Check on the store’s price adjustment policy, you may be able to save on items that are marked down after you buy them. The savings can be most significant when purchasing clothes. Make sure that you check with each store to find out what their return policy and price adjustment policy are before you buy.
- Take back supplies if they are NOT being used – If you went over budget on school supplies this year, frequently check to see if there are any items that your child has not used yet or even refuses to use now. Kids’ tastes change and grow as much as they do. If you notice that some clothes are going unworn, or some supplies are not opened, try taking them back to the stores to get some money back.
As with any budget decision, saving on school supplies is a matter of making wise and financially sound choices. Make a conscious decision to spend wisely for the upcoming school year. The money saved can be used towards the following school year or for a future family vacation. It can also be used to pay down debt or fix things around the house.