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Save on back-to-school supplies with these great life hacks

School’s out for summer, but back-to-school shopping lurks just around the corner. Parents and kids may dread shopping for back-to-school supplies, and with good reason. Long lines and the bill total when checking out can give major sticker shock. This summer, make it a plan to save on school supplies by nailing back-to-school shopping with budget-friendly life hacks. We have some great tips to help parents take the stress out of back-to-school shopping and shave dollars off those receipt totals, especially if there are multiple kids to buy for. It all starts with taking stock of what’s leftover from the past academic year.

Mother and daughter doing some back to school shopping
New Africa/Shutterstock

Review extra school supplies

To avoid buying school supplies like pencils and index cards you already have a lot of, take a few minutes to organize any leftover supplies. Make a list of what’s leftover from the previous school year before making a list of what’s needed for the upcoming academic year.

Don’t one stop back-to-school shop

Instead of doing one trip for back-to-school supplies, leaving the family with an enormous credit card bill, plan on shopping four or five times throughout the summer during sales and clearance events. Prices will be more budget-friendly, and you’ll still have the same result. While it’s tempting to wait for the teacher list to come out, sometimes those supply lists arrive close to the start of the school year, and shoppers end up missing out on bargains.

Stock up

If you’ve ever purchased school supplies later in the year, you know the prices are higher. Basic school supply prices are cheaper during the summer, and stocking up on essentials like folders, pencils, pens and binders saves money in the long run. It also provides a money-saving stockpile for the following school year.

Shop at dollar stores

Don’t neglect local dollar stores when shopping for back-to-school supplies. Many dollar stores have the same needed supplies as major retailers like Staples, Office Max and Target for a fraction of the price.

dad and son doing some back to school shopping
New Africa/Shutterstock

Don’t miss sales events

Sale circulars typically come out on Sundays. Don’t wait until later in the week to head to a back-to-school sale. Sundays and Mondays are the best days to hit up back-to-school sales because there will be more sale options to choose from. As the saying goes, “If you snooze, you lose.” Follow favorite back-to-school supply hot spots on social media to keep an eye out for sales.

Take advantage of loss leaders

What is a loss leader? Retailers usually put one item on sale each week at ridiculously low prices in order to encourage shoppers to come to their store. Loss leaders are those really inexpensive items. Take advantage and stock up on any cheaply-priced loss leader back-to-school supplies.


Money-saving coupons are king, regardless of the percentage off. Even five percent saves money. Watch those newspaper and mail circulars for back-to-school coupons, and make sure to check online coupon sites like RetailMeNot and Coupon Cabin before heading out on a back-to-school shopping trip.

Take advantage of Amazon’s price comparison

While every back-to-school item kids need for the upcoming school year may not be cheaper on Amazon, it’s worth taking the time to check. Shoppers can compare prices using the Amazon app in-store by using the camera icon located near the search bar. Compare by using the camera to scan the item’s barcode. When shopping online, using Honey helps shoppers to compare Amazon’s prices to other online retailers, even estimating shipping costs and Prime membership. Honey is free to download to Firefox. Once installed, just click on the “h” icon over the product you’re searching for. If the best price appears, purchase the needed school supply on Amazon. If not, explore the other price options available using the drop-down list.

Don’t forget Rakuten

If shopping online, start with Rakuten, which used to be known as Ebates. Rakuten is free to join, and using the site saves shoppers money on back-to-school supplies because users earn cash back while also getting discounts.

Check out thrift stores and consignment shops

For backpacks and back-to-school clothing items, don’t forget to take a peek at thrift shops and consignment stores. Sometimes there are great deals on gently used backpacks and clothing. Brand new items with tags still on them also find their way to thrift shops.

September clearance sales

If after taking a look at the stockpile of back-to-school supplies you find there’s enough to start the school year, wait until those September back-to-school clearance sales. Binders, notebooks, pencils, cases, scissors and other necessary supplies will be cheap. Just remember, waiting until after the school year begins to back-to-school shop also carries a risk. Stores may be out of some needed items to replenish the stockpile.

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to be stressful or put a huge dent in the family budget. By using one or more life hacks, parents can shave precious dollars off of their shopping total. Keep these back-to-school shopping life hacks in mind when shopping for clothes, sneakers and athletic supplies to start the fall season. Comparing prices, sale shopping and coupons go a long way toward saving money.

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Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
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