6 Tips to Save Big on School Supplies

Aug 14, 2015

As any parent can tell you, the back-to-school season can get spendy quickly. Reports as to just how much money's spent on supplies vary greatly. A recent report from TeachersList, an online school supplies list aggregator, puts the average amount of elementary back-to-school supplies at $70.93. Other reports, like this one from American Express Spending & Savings Tracker, put the average cost closer to $1,000. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to help you save big when it comes to this annual shopping spree.

Take inventory first.

Before you head to the store, be sure to take a look at what you've got lying around your house. Put all school and office supplies in one location and make a list of what you've got. Then, compare that to the list of recommended supplies from the school. You may be surprised at the amount of supplies (and money!) you'll end up saving.

Buy later.

If you can wait, most markdowns on clothing, electronics, and shoes typically occur in mid-August. (Don't forget to check online retailers for sales too!) Your child may have enough supplies left over from last year to hold them over until the sale starts.

Purchase items with a warranty.

This is especially important for clothes and backpacks. Stores like REI or Costco have warranties that guarantee their purchase, meaning your kids can still play rough without having to replace these items.

Prioritize supplies.

Comparing school supplies seems to be a rite of passage for new classmates. Inevitably, your kids will want the latest and greatest (and likely most expensive!) gear. Have a conversation and decide on a budget before you head to the store. Once you've decided on a figure, ask your kids to prioritize what item(s) are most important to them. When you get to the store, help them add up the costs of the items they'd like, thus making school shopping a math and real world lesson!

Buy in bulk and share.

Wholesale stores like Costco or Sams Club offer great deals on select school supplies. Unfortunately they often come in mammoth, wholesale-size quantities. If you don't have more than a couple kids with duplicate supply needs, consider reaching out to neighbors or other parents to see if they're interested in splitting the cost of some items.

Plan ahead.

As with most things in life, it literally pays to be prepared. Shop for next year during this year's sales, just be sure to set those supplies aside so they don't get used. If you can, avoid buying supplies in August or January. Especially on non-style drive items that you know your kids are going to need again, like pencils or folders. Skipping the shopping during peak times can save you 50-75% off regular retail prices.

By coming up with a plan early on to tackle back-to-school shopping, you may end up saving hundreds!