Save money on school supplies

Marko Geber/ DigitalVision via Getty Images

School Supplies Shopping: Save Money Using These Tips and Hacks

School Supplies Shopping: Save Money Using These Tips and Hacks

Reuse, swap and shop smarter
Save money on school supplies

Marko Geber/ DigitalVision via Getty Images

According to the National Retail Federation, parents and guardians plan to spend a record amount to ready their students for the 2020 socially distanced school year. To avoid blowing your budget and to save money on everything from notebooks and yellow pencils to neon sticky notes and 24-count crayon boxes, follow these school supply budgeting tips.

Stick to the school supply list

Stick to the school supply list

apomares/E+ via Getty Images

Sticking to the bare necessities is one of the easiest ways to save money. If your child’s school releases a list of required purchases, stick to the list and only that list. Resist the urge to buy any frivolous journals, colorful rubber band balls or packs of pastel gel pens. If your child’s school has not sent out a supply list, buy just the essentials for now: pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, binders and folders. The rest can come as needed.

Shop at home first

Shop at home first

PeopleImages/E+ via Getty Images

Another way to buy less? Look around. Shop in your home before ever stepping outside of it. Put last year’s highlighters, extra pencils and other supplies to use this year. Used, slightly used or new school supplies have no expiration date.

Look for giveaways in your area

Look for giveaways in your area

serezniy/iStock / Getty Images Plus

Record-setting unemployment and other coronavirus money concerns have rocked family finances. To save the most on school supplies, research free giveaways in your area. Look to local chapters of large organizations like Salvation Army, United Way and the Boys and Girls Club of America or smaller neighborhood groups or clubs. You may also contact your child’s school directly or the school district for recommendations.

Safely swap supplies and uniforms with friends and neighbors

Safely swap supplies and uniforms with friends and neighbors

SDI Productions/E+ via Getty Images

If not entirely free, swapped is the next best thing. So make like the school lunch table and start trading. Reach out to close friends and trusted neighbors about safely trading unwanted school supplies and uniforms. Swap your child’s old small or medium uniform shirts for a friend’s unwanted loose-leaf paper or extra sticky notes. Everybody wins.

Look out for sales

Look out for sales

EQRoy/Shutterstock

What would a money-saving guide be without a sales shoutout? Save money on school supplies by keeping a keen lookout for sales at all your favorite department stores. Target and Walmart both currently have school supplies like rulers, crayons and spiral notebooks on sale for as low as 25 cents. Check store websites for sale updates and act fast to get the supplies you need before other shoppers buy up the lot.

Price match when possible

Price match when possible

FG Trade/E+ via Getty Images

Several major retailers have price-match policies that, with some effort, can save you big money. In-store Walmart prices can be lowered to match in-stock items on Walmart.com. On Walmart.com, customers can contact customer service if they find a lower price from any online retailer on any identical, in-stock product. Target will match the price of any qualifying item found on Target.com, in a local print ad or on select online competitor sites like Amazon.com, OfficeDepot.com, Staples.com and Walmart.com. Staples will price match in-store purchases to identical items sold and shipped by Amazon or other in-store and online retailers.

Visit discount and dollar stores

Visit discount and dollar stores

EricFerguson/E+ via Getty Images

Instead of waiting for your favorite department store to lower prices, visit your closest discount or dollar store. There, prices are likely to be low. While what you could buy with a dollar has changed over the years, buck-or-below school supplies are a steal.

Use up any rewards program points

Use up any rewards program points

andresr/E+ via Getty Images

Money spent yesterday could be money saved today. If you have been stocking up on any rewards program points or store credit at stores like Target or Walgreens, finally put those points to use on this year’s school supplies. The money you spend on supplies this year will undoubtedly help you restart your point stash for next year.

Save on big purchases too

Save on big purchases too

gahsoon/E+ via Getty Images

Beyond saving on just the typical stationery supplies, parents should save on big-ticket items too. Laptops and computers are a hefty investment. To solve this, parents of college students should look into sales on electronics. This year, college students can save up to $200 on Apple laptops, $100 on iPads and receive a free set of Airpods with every eligible purchase. 

Take advantage of tax-free weekends

Take advantage of tax-free weekends

PUGUN SJ/iStock / Getty Images Plus

While five states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon) do not charge retail taxes, the other 45 states and Washington, D.C. do. Luckily, over a dozen states offer a tax-free weekend. During that time, states lower or cut the sales tax to assist back-to-school shoppers. This year, nine states have designated Aug. 7 through Aug. 9 a tax holiday: Florida, Iowa (Aug. 7-8), Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Two states will go tax-free for an entire week — Maryland from Aug. 9 to Aug. 15 and Connecticut from Aug. 16 to Aug. 22.

Buy plain colored binders, folders and notebooks. No cartoons.

Buy plain colored binders, folders and notebooks. No cartoons.

Rebecca Nelson/ Image Source via Getty Images

As much as your child insists they absolutely need that “Paw Patrol” folder or the “Frozen” backpack, they really don’t. Save money and stick to the plain-colored supplies. Not only cheaper, but plainly colored notebooks and folders also make for easy organizing. Blue means reading, green means writing, red means math, etc. 

Allow your child one fun item

Allow your child one fun item

Africa Studio/Shutterstock

If able, appease your kid by buying them one fun item. One super cool pencil pouch or the gel pens with the candy scents, that’s it. In the process, teach your child to show gratitude for what they have, not discontentment for what they lack. 

Get your child involved in shopping

Get your child involved in shopping

MaxRiesgo/ Image Source via Getty Images

Saving and budgeting your own money is just one of many lessons we learned from our parents. Pass the knowledge down another generation by involving your older children in the budgeting process. Allow them to help price match or save up money for their most coveted cartoon binder or locker magnets.

Buy in bulk

Buy in bulk

Image Source/ Image Source via Getty Images

Why buy each of your kids one individually sold scissors for $1.50 when you can buy a pack of two for $2.29? Oftentimes, buying in bulk can be more effective than buying just the one item you need. Put away unused supplies for next year or swap with friends for supplies you are missing.

Be patient and shop clearance once the school year has begun

Be patient and shop clearance once the school year has begun

© Darren Baker | Dreamstime.com

If you can afford to hold off on buying a few school items until after the school year has already begun, do so. Wait to purchase any remaining school supplies or uniforms until they are all placed on clearance or prices are marked down during the supply shopping offseason.

Use paper bags as book covers

Use paper bags as book covers

blackred/E+ via Getty Images

This money-saving hack is a bit of a throwback. Rather than buying stretchable book covers for your child’s hardcover textbooks, use sustainable paper bags. Save the buck or two per book and ask the grocery store cashier for a few extra brown bags instead. Bonus: your child can decorate the paper-bag canvas anyway they wish. Bring on the crayons and stickers.

Invest in one good backpack

Invest in one good backpack

Marilyn Nieves/E+ via Getty Images

Instead of picking up a new backpack every year, invest in one good quality bag that will last years. JanSport, for example, offers a lifetime warranty on all backpacks. If your child’s JanSport bag is a bit banged up, all you have to do is cover the shipping charge to the company’s warranty center and they will repair or replace your bag free of charge.

Buy a lunch box, ditch the brown bags

Buy a lunch box, ditch the brown bags

AlemaGoma/Shutterstock

Similar to the way you save on backpacks, a durable school lunch box could save you money on years worth of tearable brown paper bags. Not to mention insulated varieties allow for more fun school lunch recipes your kid will actually eat.

Buy bigger uniforms and clothing rather than smaller

Buy bigger uniforms and clothing rather than smaller

Thurtell/E+ via Getty Images

Kids grow up fast — that’s something every parent will learn. If you are concerned about a child quickly growing out of their school uniform clothes or that new pair of shoes throughout the year, go ahead and go up a size. That way the clothes last any surprise growth spurts or laundry machine mishaps.

Buy fewer uniforms and clothes rather than more

Buy fewer uniforms and clothes rather than more

10'000 Hours/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Buy fewer, good-quality uniforms and clothing items at the start of the year. After the first quarter of school, reconsider buying more. If you can make do with less, continue with that practice all year. Kids will be kids. They will spill on and stain their clothes daily. For good upkeep, spot clean and wash your kids’ school clothes daily. School uniforms aren’t the only clothing items that need to be washed — find out how often to wash your jeans and everything else in your life

More From The Active Times

Free Kids Learning Apps to Use During Coronavirus Quarantine

21 Simple Weather Experiments To do With Children 

Easy, Fun Recipes to Make At Home With Kids During Coronavirus Quarantine

23 Ways You Didn't Realize You're Offending Your Children

The Best Dog Breeds for Families