Did I ever tell you folks that I was a teacher?
I’ve taught everything from first grade through 11th and every summer when I drafted my school supply list I struggled with trying to save money on back to school shopping for parents and including everything kiddos would need for the entire school year.
In my last three years of teaching I actually came up with a system where I’d call each and every kiddo’s family on my class list and arrange for parents to give me money so that I would buy all the school supplies for my entire classroom for the entire year.
I’d essentially create a school supply fund that I’d use to purchase everything from pencils to Kleenex boxes so that every kiddo in my room had exactly what they would need. In order to do this I’d shop deals and scour for the best prices so I could come up with the lowest fixed amount contribution I could.
It worked well for my groups because parents were happy to have the burden of school supply shopping off their plate, every kiddo ended up with the same supplies and I could save money on back to school shopping by applying my teacher discount at various stores in our area that gave teachers a little kickback on supplies. Win. Win. Win.
Did you know that in 2010 (yes dated but for the purposes of this discussion it works well) the average American family spent about $600 on back to school per child? That’s a heap of money isn’t it? If you’ve got 2 kids we’re talking $1200 which is a hefty amount of money to dish out in one shot at the end of the summer know what I mean?
In a perfect world, parents would put aside a few dollars every week and save up for this expense but I know all too well how difficult saving any money at all can be when you’re faced with costly living expenses.
So, today I want to share a few tips for back to school shopping that will hopefully reduce the expense and financial burden on your family as we approach a fresh and brand new school year.
save money on back to school shopping: scoring awesome back to school clothes
Consignment shop barter deal
Got a local consignment shop in your area? Well, I’m sure you’ve also got a heap of clothes that no longer fit your kiddo laying around in drawers and closets. Why not give them a call and see if they’ll make you an equal trade? Not all stores do this but you’d still be surprised at how many do. An equal trade means they’ll either give you a piece by piece trade or they’ll value what you’re bringing in and give you immediate store credit. If you can manage to pull this off you’ll be spending basically nothing to get your kiddo(s) a new school wardrobe.
Craigslist/Facebook Group barter deal
Same as above. Get online whether that be your favorite local Facebook buy and sell group or on Craigslist and see if you can find another family willing to trade out clothing and other school accessories.
Shop sales and discounts
Around this time of year major retailers are having great sales to help reduce the costs of back to school wardrobe shopping. If you’re confident you can get sizes right get online via Amazon or a similar seller and take advantage of reduce costs and free shipping!
Shop Garage Sales
August is an awesome month for garage sales. I know tons of families who have garage sales right before the start of a new school year to unload the stuff their kiddos no longer need. Take advantage and build a super cool back-to-school wardrobe for your kiddo at a tiny fraction of the cost.
save money on back to school shopping: Money saving tips for scoring school supplies
Create a list and a budget
Shopping by a list is a sure way to save money and only buy what you need. If you’re school doesn’t provide you with a list for your child stick to buying essentials that you know your kiddo will need. If you can stay away from pricey novelty items (think binders with paw patrol characters) because the mark up on these products is astronomical.
Shop the list and only the list
School supply shopping can be an exciting time for parents and kiddos alike and there may be a tendency to overbuy if you’re not careful. Stick to your list to make sure you get only what you need. If something is missing or your child runs out part way through the school year you can always pick up an item or two that you need.
Hit up your local dollar store
The dollar store offers a great selection of school supply items at tiny prices. They are great for pencils, paper, coloring pencils, glue, highlighters, paper clips, staples and even copy books. Peruse through your local dollar store and see what deals you can score!
Source Supplies Online
Sometimes online shopping provides the best deal. Sometimes not. Always have a look online to see if you can score some of your required supplies at a lower price. Here are a few online alternatives that are cheaper than store prices. Keep in mind that I’m comparing to the cost of supplies in my area so these might not be the cheapest alternative for your family. Always price match before committing!
- Paper Mate InkJoy 100RT Retractable Ballpoint Pens – $7.50
- Elmer’s Liquid School Glue, Washable, Pack of 12 – $9.61
- Sharp EL-501XBGR Scientific Calculator – $7.75
- Mr. Sketch Scented Markers, Chisel Tip, Assorted Colors, 12-Count – $5.38
- Sharpie Permanent Markers, Fine Point, Cosmic Color, Limited Edition, 24 Count – $17.99
- Mead Spiral Notebook 1-Subject, 70-Count, Wide Ruled, 4 Pack – $5.96
- Mr. Sketch Scented Twistable Crayons, Assorted Colors, 12-Count -$4.53
- Packit Freezable Lunch Bag, Assorted Colors – $16.99
- KITTRICH – Stretchable Book Covers Jumbo Size -$4.23
- Everest Basic Backpack, Assorted Colors – $9.97
save money on back to school shopping: A Few Back to School ideas to keep in mind
It’s not all our nothing
Often times parents would come to me asking if it was necessary to buy everything on the list all at once.
The honest answer is no – it is absolutely not necessary.
If money is an issue it’s perfectly okay and acceptable to buy your child a starter kit (the bare essentials they need to get them through the first few months of school) and then supplement as you go!
So, don’t feel pressured to buy everything in one shot if you really can’t afford it. School supply lists in our district are more of a one-time buy all to keep things simple for parents but more often than not kiddos wont touch a good chunk of those supplies until well into the school year.
There’s still time to side hustle and earn a bit of extra cash
There’s still a good amount of time until the start of the of the school year for most kiddos who follow a September start schedule.
If you know that money is tight why not have a garage sale of your own or take up one of these 50 side hustles to put away a bit of cash to lessen the financial burden of back to school shopping.
Try avoiding using credit cards unless you know you can pay it off in full
If at all possible avoid buying school supplies and school clothes on credit unless you can pay for it in full to avoid racking up debt. There are quite a few ways you can make a little side-cash to pay for back to school needs without accruing any consumer debt!