How To Save Money on Back To School

Remember the 80s? Maybe the 90s? Back to school was so exciting for me. New shoes, clothes, a fancy new backpack and school supplies. It was a magical time! And sooooooo expensive for my mom! Sorry Mom. We asked some other awesome moms how they handle the added expenses that come with back-to-school. 

Make a list and check it twice

No matter what time of year it is, when you shop, always bring a list. Stores of every variety are specifically built to grab your attention – and your dollars. When you have a list and stick to it, you’re rebelling against their smooth marketing plans and layouts. This is something I know for a fact. 

If it's not on your list, it doesn't go in your cart

What is a Back To school "Essential"?

Many schools and classrooms will provide a short list of things your kids will need/want at school. But remember, if it is truly essential to their education, the school will provide it. 

Things like changes of clothes/socks for younger kids, your own masks, are sent from home when they’re available. Elementary classrooms often like indoor shoes once the weather gets wet and snowy, plus the obvious cold weather gear. Bigger kids may need a lock for their locker if they get assigned one. Everyone will need something to carry their lunches in and a refillable water bottle. Remember to label everything with a permanent marker or our faves, Mabel’s Labels. 

Skip the store-provided shopping list

Retailers don’t provide you with a free shopping list out of the goodness of their hearts. They do it to convince you that the items they suggest are in fact essential. But parents like us know better. In fact, when we took one of those store-provided shopping lists for kids in grade 1-3 and really broke. it down, turns out they were upselling you by at least a dozen “must-have” items and over $50! Some questionable items on the list for grades 1-3 were liquid paper, highlighters, safety scissors, oil pastels and tape. Definitely not essential, and many are provided in the classroom.

back to school shopping list
Parents who know better, shop better. Skip the store provided list and save.

this isn't supermarket sweep

The very best tip that our socially savvy moms on Facebook shared was to not buy everything you *think* you’ll need for the first day. Because you won’t need much on the first day or even the first week. 

The absolute essentials from above are all your need on day 1. Everything else can be bought in stages if you need it. But keep that list handy so you don’t re-buy supplies. A few weeks ago I found new, unopened packages of metallic pencils that we justhadtobuy! and clearly never used. 

Don’t buy anything you don’t 100% need beforehand. Wait for the list from school, and compare it to what you have at home already. Most pencils, markers, erasers are misplaced long before they are used up, so send the kids on a scavenger hunt to find them all. Every piece they find is one more uninterrupted minute of Minecraft or Netflix! Once you’ve got them in one place, corral them once and for all in glass jars or extra pencil cases from previous years. 

Once you see what you have and what you need to buy, you can reap the benefit of patience because stores will start discounting their back-to-school items to make room for other seasonal displays. Prices from by as much as 75% to move that inventory out the front door. 

Use the buddy system

Unless you have a large family, you often won’t have a need for 12 pencils, 24 pens, or even 3 coil notebooks. When you find a good price on a multipack, share it with another family. You can slash your spending in at least half, and cut down on the clutter left in your house when the excess items don’t get used. The same principle works for tape, glue, glue sticks, erasers, binder paper, folders and more! 

Look Past The Back To School Section

Those cool cardboard displays from Crayola and the trendy notebook covers with matching pens are great but they also drive up the prices. Big retailers like Staples and Walmart have permanent sections for the most-needed supplies, so check there as well. Why pay triple for a pineapple-shaped eraser when you can get 3 basic white ones for less? 

Save on more than school supplies

Along with a long list of school supplies, kids often ask for back-to-school clothes. Again, these don’t need to be expensive, especially when you remember that kids can wear shorts and t-shirts to their first day back, while will be on clearance at most stores. And think of shopping for gently-used items, too! Kids grow so fast that it’s a shame to keep buying new when there is so much out there that is perfectly good. Here are a few places our moms love to shop second-hand for their kids clothes:

shop where savvy moms shop

The moms who shared their best back-to-school shopping tips also shared where they love to shop when they want to save a few bucks. Here are their top recommendations: 

  • Dollar Stores – because their products are fun and carried all year round, so no flashy gimmicks for September
  • Staples – from now thru September they have a variety of the most requested items on sale for $1
  • Walmart – their prices can’t be beaten on most of the BTS gear your kids ask for

Do you have a shopping tip to share, please leave it in the comments so we can all benefit from your tips! 

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