How to Save Money on Back-to-School Supplies

by Jessica - July 15, 2019

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Few times are as hectic and emotional as going back to school, and that goes for parents too! Especially when it comes to shopping for school supplies while trying to stay within a budget and save a few dollars wherever possible. Thankfully, there are plenty of great ways to gather everything your children need without spending a fortune, and that includes extracurricular activities and school sports.

If you’re already a seasoned bargain-hunter, then you will be able to complement the following tips with your experience. However, if you’re new to this, it’s okay! All you have to know is when your local stores are starting their back-to-school sales—some of them do it a little earlier each year—so you can plan out your shopping. These back-to-school saving tips will help you out, good luck!

  1. Start shopping at home

Before hitting the big box stores to get all the school supplies on your list, start your shopping at home. Are you forgetting a drawer full of pens and pencils that you never use? Does your home office already have highlighters and lined paper? How about a binder that just needs a little makeover? The secret behind saving is to start doing it before you even set foot inside the store, and by giving a new chance to these home supplies, you’re getting rid of clutter at the same time. It’s a neat one-two-punch life hack!

  1. Swap your leftover supplies

This can be a novel idea even if you already know how to save on school supplies. Another step you can take before heading out to the store is coordinating with other parents to plan a supply swap. One of you may have extra reams of paper that they will want to trade for a binder or a pack of pens for crayons, and so on. Ideally, you should call the parents in your children’s classes, but if you have friends whose kids go to different schools, you can ask to see if they are willing to trade, too. This can turn your small supply swap into a bigger success than you could have imagined. 

  1. Choose quality

When shopping for school supplies, it might be tempting to go with the lowest-priced option. You’re trying to save, after all! But think about how those items are going to perform down the line, and the cost of replacing them. Instead of buying whatever’s cheapest, go for products that are inexpensive but look like they’re going to be durable and label them as soon as you get home to make sure that they won’t be stolen or lost. You might end up spending more upfront, but the fact that you’re only buying them once per year is better.

  1. Buy used for sports and club materials

Your children might be interested in joining one of the school’s many sports teams or clubs, like baseball and the school band. While it’s important to support and foster their interests, you are potentially looking at a thousands-of-dollars price tag in fees, gear, uniforms, and more. Yes, it’s kind of scary how expensive extra-curricular activities are but don’t panic! There are many ways to save when you shop for them.

When it comes to sports, your best bet is to buy used when it comes to gears and other equipment through websites like SidelineSwap and Play It Again Sports, where people sell their used gear and at bargain prices. As for music-related activities, you can buy used instruments by searching on Music Go Round, a site that functions similarly to SidelineSwap, although don’t forget to check for more general marketplaces like Craigslist and eBay. 

  1. Go for big-ticket items first

When you’re on a saving spree, the price of every item matters. But if you’re planning to get a big-ticket electronic item like laptops, tablets, and more, you should focus your efforts on finding the best bargain for that first instead of being all over the place. If you save $200 on a new computer instead of $10 on a bunch of smaller items then your budget will end up being way more effective. Start with the big-ticket items, then work your way down the list until you reach the cheaper ones. 

  1. Buy a surplus of supplies

Take advantage of back-to-school sales to stock up on finite, non-reusable supplies such as reams of paper, markers, coloured pencils, glue, and others. It might seem counterintuitive if you end up spending more than planned because of this, but it will make sense when your kid runs out of something that you have a spare of. If you have to buy it again later at a higher price, then you’re not really saving.

  1. Stick to your list

Shopping for school supplies during back-to-school sales can be a double-edged sword since you’re more likely to find the items you need at a discount, both also many others that will be alluringly colorful and cheap. If your school issues a list of basic supplies for your kids, print it out or have it in your phone and stick to it al the way through, no matter how many stores you visit. Once you’re done, check if you stayed within your budget; if you did, then you can check out other discounted items that catch your eye, but only get them if you think they’re going to be really necessary.

  1. Stop worrying about the smallest details

Yes, it can be really frustrating to make a budget, hunt for the lowest prices across many stores, then realize a week later that prices for a couple of things went even lower during the week. Don’t sweat it too much! If you already saved what you had hoped for, your job is done and you shouldn’t worry too much about the what if. Now that you have a little extra cash, you can invest it back into your house, like getting a nice deep house cleaning to start the new school year in the best mood possible!