Walk into an office supply store and just try to resist the packs of multi-color highlighters and freshly sharpened pencils, the stacks of composition notebooks and pocket folders. Next thing you know, you’re walking out with way more school supplies than the second grade requires. Here are 15 ways to save on school supplies and send your kid back to school fully stocked while still sticking to a strict budget:
1. Take inventory
If kids have it their way, you’d buy everything new. But chances are you have a bounty of school supplies that are still usable. Sharpen those pencils and tear out those first five pages of used notebook paper. Assess what you have before you shop.
2. Maximize backpack purchases
Yes, last year’s backpack is probably good as new, but this is probably one item your kid doesn’t want to compromise on. Fortunately, you can find inexpensive backpacks at stores like Walmart, where they start at $3.97. Sometimes buying a backpack can even save you money. I’ve seen office supply stores offer 25% off supplies when you buy your backpack with them.
Better yet, why not purchase a backpack with a lifetime guarantee? Check our list of backpacks, clothing, electronics and more with a lifetime warranty that ensures you’ll never have to buy them again!
3. Follow the list
Your kid will inevitably want things not on the list. How can they survive the school year without a 24-pack of rainbow-colored permanent markers? Set some guidelines before you shop. For example, let your kid know you’re sticking to the list, but you’ll allow one extra purchase of their choice that’s under $10.
4. Stick to a budget
Another strategy for tweens and teens is to turn back to school shopping into a budgeting lesson. Give them a set amount of cash for school supplies and challenge them to get everything on their list for the best price possible. The average family plans to spend $97.74 on school supplies, but with the right savings strategies your family can definitely beat the average.
Are your teens difficult to shop with? Check out these 7 survival tips for shopping with your teen! If you have college-age kids, too, a lesson in college-specific financial tips is extremely important.
5. Study the weekly ad
You can typically find the weekly ad on a store’s website or posted when you first walk in the door. This is where you’re going to find some of the best deals available.
6. Look for loss leaders
Scout out loss leaders, or products sold at a loss, in the weekly ad, making it possible to find school supplies for as little as a penny. I’ve seen glue and erasers for one cent when you make a $5 minimum purchase. Other deals include 50-cent pencil boxes and 25-cent notebooks.
7. Use mobile coupons
Download the Coupons.com mobile app for savings you can use in-store. You can commonly find savings at stores like Staples, Walmart, Target, and Michaels. If you don’t have a smartphone, check the coupons and coupon codes sections on your desktop for offers you can print or coupon codes you can use online
Not sure how to go about using Coupons.com? Check out our Couponing 101 guide, with tips on how to print out coupons, how to find grocery coupons, and more!
8. Give back
Shop at certain stores and your purchase can do some good for your kid’s school. Office Depot and Office Max locations will give 5% back in store credit when you provide your school ID at checkout. Amazon Smile also lets you designate a school as the recipient of 0.5% of your purchase.
9. Join loyalty programs
Office supply stores typically have free loyalty programs that reward you with store credit. Most send out rewards quarterly, so by the time your kid is running out of note cards and printer paper you’ll be able to access the rewards credits you built up.
10. Look for rebates
Mail-in rebates offer some great savings. The trick is remembering to actually submit the rebate. Some stores like Staples have adopted easy online rebates. Using this strategy, I’ve gotten a pack of printer paper for just a penny.
11. Free gifts with purchase
Look for perks like a free lunchbox with a backpack purchase or a bonus highlighter with your pen pack. Some of the best gifts are found with computer purchases, like Dell’s free 32” TV with the purchase of eligible PCs of $699.99 or more
Find more great deals and free gifts with purchase for kindergarten through college students!
12. Gift cards with purchase
Gift cards are another incentive retailers will throw in. I’ve seen a $50 iTunes gift card offered with the purchase of a printer. Target also commonly offers gift card promotions, like when they handed out a $5 gift card if you spent $25 or more on a school supplies purchase.
13. Shop on tax holidays
Many states offer a tax holiday. It varies by state, but the majority host their tax holiday on the weekend of August 7-9. See our complete list of tax holidays here.
14. Save receipts
During August and September, every week will be home to a slew of new rock-bottom deals. Hold onto your receipts so if the price goes down, you can ask for a price adjustment. Most stores offer it within a 14-day period.
15. Price match
Retailers want your back to school dollars, so many are willing to price match competitors. Some even up the ante like Staples, which is offering a special price match policy through September 19. Bring in proof of a competitor’s lower price and they’ll match it — plus discount it by 10% of the difference.
Need more back to school inspiration? Keep ahead of the curve with these great back to school tips, guides, and sales!