Inside: Does your budget for back to school stuff have to stretch further ever year? Here’s how to save big money on all the little things you need for school.
On the last day of school, my daughter came home and tossed her backpack aside for the last day of first grade. As she ran off to find a snack, I started sorting through her bag filled with stuff.
A big manila envelope caught my attention. Inside I found the name of her 2nd grade teacher, a welcome letter…and a school supply list. It’s already time to start thinking about next school year!
It can be overwhelming trying to keep up with everything your kids need for school. The supply lists seem to grow longer every year. And if you have more than one kid in school (or in our case, four kids!), that’s a lot of back to school stuff to keep up with.
Back to school shopping used to be a huge ordeal. An entire day would be spent dragging kids from store to store looking for things that didn’t even seem to exist. A 10 pack of crayons? A 2 subject notebook. Backpacks and lunch boxes for everyone. The day would end with either a glass of wine (or two) or a couple of Motrin and an early bedtime.
Over time I began to discover tricks that simplified the whole process. And even better, they saved me a ton of cash!
Save a Ton On Back to School Stuff
These tried and true tips will maximize your school supplies budget.
Start with What You Have
This seems silly, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost track of which items we already have at home. I wind up wasting money on things I didn’t need to buy.
Before you do any shopping, pull out last year’s backpacks. Are there items in there that are still in good condition? If you find binders, pencils, scissors, or other items that have wear left to them, mark them off your list. I know that my own kids bring home several items at the end of each school year that were never even used at all. No sense in buying new copies of those things!
Search through the house for things you might have purchased at last year’s sales.
If you or your spouse is a
hoarder saver, they might have old things on hand to use as well. Look for extra pencils, protractors, rulers, and other items in a drawer or closet.
Invest in Supplies That Are Worth It
When my oldest was in kindergarten, stores would often run promotions for free backpacks. It was exciting to find such a great bargain! So I grabbed a backpack with his favorite superhero across the back.
A few months later, that backpack was ripping apart. We’d repair it the best we could. But after a while, he was losing supplies and papers because we just couldn’t keep it closed.
After struggling with several cheap backpacks like this, I finally came to my senses. Yes, those nice bags from LL Bean or Jansport cost 3 times what those cheap backpacks cost. But they are well made and backed by a company with warranties and great customer service.
We bought an LL Bean bag for my oldest when he entered 2nd grade. Now 5 years later, he is still using the bag with no problems. My only regret is that I had his name embroidered on the bag. (Fine for a 2nd grader…but I don’t think my 7th grader is going to like it too much!)
I recently learned that many of the Jansport backpacks on Amazon are sold by third party venders. They are not necessarily backed by Jansport’s guarantee. So buyer beware! I’ve bought from Target in the past.
I also invest in a better quality lunch box for the same reason. This method costs more upfront, but you’ll save year after year.
Check Blogs for Deals
You want to find the best deal on the supplies that you have to buy. Luckily, there are many blogs available that can help you find the best price. Let them do the work for you! Some of my favorites to check on this time of year include:
- Cincinnati Cents (Katie posts deals from a wide variety of stores.)
- Passionate Penny Pincher
- Passion for Savings
There are many other great deals websites. If you have a favorite, be sure to leave it in the comments!
Shop a Little at a Time
Don’t feel like you have to get everything at once. Sometimes you’ll find great deals on some of the things on your list. But sometimes, things cost far more than you’d anticipated. Keep shopping across a few weeks to find the best deals on everything on your list.
Breaking up your shopping list is also beneficial because you can pay for items in smaller chunks. That way you don’t overwhelm one budget with a big expense. For instance, I shopped for school shoes earlier in the summer. That’s one less thing to buy when I’m ready to do my back to school shopping.
Do you usually attend summer festivals and fairs? Keep an eye out for free supplies there.
Often you’ll find politicians passing out pencils or pads of paper at parades. (A little sandpaper will take care of names you don’t want to promote, wink wink.)
Your local library might have pencils or rulers to promote their summer reading program. The county fair or local festival often has a wide variety of free materials to use at back to school time. Just keep your eyes open and grab supplies whenever they’re available.
That’s the 5 best ways to save money on back to school stuff.
One more tip…when you get that copy of the school supplies list, snap a quick picture on your phone. Then you’ll have it on hand, and you won’t have to worry when the paper gets lost before June is over!
Now let’s simplify that whole lunch packing situation!
How do you save on back to school stuff?