I’m super frugal, always trying to find the best deals, and in this post I’m going to tell you how I regularly save money on back-to-school supplies. I’ve had seven years of practice, so here it goes!
I recently read that according to the 2018 National Retail Federation (NRF) survey, families will spend an average of $685 per household to prepare their kids for the new school year.
Over half of their spending will be for clothing and shoes, and the remainder will be for electronics and supplies.
Say what again?
I can’t believe so many people spend that much money on school supplies and clothing!
I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to cost that much money to stock up on just school supplies.
I usually don’t even spend $100 on my son’s supplies and clothing (he’s going into 7th grade).
Back-to-School Supplies Shopping Hacks
I’m going to focus on the school essentials that are a must — the ones that the school is telling you that you have to buy for you child’s classes.
I’m going to ignore those items that your kids might want (like those $100 jeans) — but you should know that all my tips will also help with those clothing expenses.
Shop in your own home for back to school supplies – Inventory And Repurpose
Okay, before you do any shopping, check out which school supplies you already have at home. My son came home with a backpack full of supplies he hadn’t used on the last day of school — I will reuse many of those for his next year of school.
And this happens every year: he only uses about 20 pages of his composition book. It would be wasteful to throw them out — I just tear out the 20 pages, keep the ones filled with great stories or drawings I want to hold on to, and have him use the notebook for the next school year.
Once I print out his school supply list and check off what I already have, I go out and shop for the remaining ones. You might be surprised how many items you already have covered.
In my experience, it helps to spread out shopping for supplies over several weeks, maybe even months. That way you can take advantages of the most coupons and deals.
If you are like me, I don’t wait for birthdays or holidays to shop. I actually shop during the year whenever I see deals. I always have some gifts and gift cards at home so I don’t have to run out of the house last minute when I need one.
When it comes to backpacks, I’ve found that investing in a quality backpack is worth the extra money — instead of buying a cheap one that falls apart after six months, get one that’s sturdy and well-made. My son has one from Lands’ End that he has had for three years now, and Jansport has a lifetime warranty on theirs!
Shop for School Supplies Online
If you prefer shopping online instead of driving all over the place, here are my favorite online money-saving tips.
Amazon is of course the easiest and most cost effective places to shop. This year they have a whole back to school section with all the best deals. And, it’s organized by school age! They also have sections for computers, electronics, girls’ fashion, boys’ fashion and even backpacks.
If your kids are college age, they may also be interested in a Student Prime account, which is less expensive than a standard Prime account. And, best of all, they can try it for FREE for 6 months. That means free shipping, 2-day delivery, and many other perks.
Get $10 for free for just signing up — see, I already saved you money! And when you invite friends, you receive $25 for each friend that signs up and orders something.
Rakuten saves you money every time you shop online. Many of the stores (like Target, Amazon, Walmart, or Staples) are offering special back-to-school deals with double cash back for purchases.
When you go to Rakuten first and then shop at the retailer you were going to shop on anyway, you get a percentage of the purchase price back via a check or Paypal every quarter. I have gotten back over $500 by now, and I don’t even shop online that much.
If you install the Chrome extension for Google Chrome, it automatically shows you the savings when you go to a shopping site.
Rakuten has teamed up with Dollar General and Discount School Supplies, so you might want to check them out once you’re on Rakuten, plus Staples and Amazon.
You can sign up for Rakuten/Ebates here. It’s free money.
Bonus Tip: Once you go to Rakuten and then on the site you want to shop on, like Staples, stack coupon savings you can find on sites like Retailmenot.com before you check out. You might get another 2 percent to 10 percent off that way!
This is a new find for me — it’s an online dollar store with items that are — you guessed it– mostly $1!
I got half of my son’s supplies and extra ones I want to donate to our community center from this site — and I found a glass water bottle with a removable plastic sleeve for only $6! I had researched good deal a few days before, and the best glass bottle on Amazon was over $30.
Shop in Stores
CVS rewards card and app
We have CVS around here, you might have another drugstore where you live, but they all have rewards cards. You should take advantage of them! They are free — just ask for an application the next time you visit.
I get emails with special offers that are personalized to my previous purchases, coupons in the mail, and I can find even more deals via the app. CVS often sends out emails with 40% off one item or 30% my whole purchase, and that is when I stock up on anything I need, like school supplies.
Stores try to get you into the door with crazy cheap offers — take advantage of that and only buy those deals, like 5 cent folders or 5 cent pens.
If you like shopping at Target and are there anyway, check out their school supplies. I have their credit card and save 5% on all purchases. If you use their Cartwheel app on top of that, you can get even more savings. If not, look for a coupon in their weekly flier.
Target has a back to school list/app you can use to make shopping easier. You can use online or in store.
Check out your dollar stores nearby! You can often get amazing deals there on notebooks, index cards, sets of pens, and more. Even if you just find one or two items that are cheaper than in other stores — stock up for the future.
Some Dollar Stores you can use online, if there isn’t one near you. Dollar Tree is one of those.
Apps That Save You Money
Groupon.com — this site has deals and coupons for an endless number of online sites and services
Ibotta — Earn cash on everyday purchases. Get a $10 bonus when you sign up using our link and claim your first offer.
Target Cartwheel (see above)
Prepare for next year, and shop for school supplies AFTER the kids are back in school. That’s when the stores want to get rid of all the extra supplies and mark them down drastically. I usually score big-time at Staples and Target during their clearance events.
I guess you could also get only a few supplies first and buy the rest during clearance events after school starts. After all, do kids really need 25 pencils on the first day of school?
And can I give you one last tip? I’ve learned this the hard way: I’m so frugal, I used to buy pencils that weren’t sharpened yet because the box was a few cents cheaper.
It is NOT worth your time to spend half an hour or longer sharpening 25 pencils the night before the first day of school.
Hopefully I will have saved you so much money on your back to school supplies shopping with my tips that you will invest in already sharpened pencils. Treat yourself, ha!
Don’t forget — sign up for Rakuten today if you want cash back for your online shopping.
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