How to Save The Most Money on Back To School Items

It’s that time of year again and with the kids going back to school, it’s also time for parents to open up their wallets for all of those back to school supplies. If you’re like most parents, you’re looking for some great deals to help you save even more on those things your kids just have to have this year.

I spoke about this topic on Fox TV this morning, watch the replay of my segment here:


Putting a little pre-thought into your back to school shopping can help save you loads of money in the long run.

So I’ve got a few important tips on how to save the most money on back to school items:

Timing is Key

Back to school sales usually happen during the end of July and first half of August.

That means you’ll get some crazy good deals on most office supply items, but don’t be swayed by the marketing ploys of buying things “just because they are on sale”. For example, computers are not the best deal right before back to school. You can score a better deal during the Black Friday craziness.

If you can hone in on the best deals right now, then you can stock up and you won’t get stuck unnecessarily paying more later. I mean you can stock up on Index Cards that normally cost $2 for only 50¢ during this season… the rest of the year, you’ll pay $2. Why overpay just because of poor planning? Buy 4 of them and spend $2 and then if you don’t need them, you’ll be stocked up for the following year too!

Use Price Matching To Your Advantage

This is one of my big tips for buying a backpack. If you’re at the store and suddenly realize that you’ve forgotten about a better deal somewhere, see if the store offers price matching.

Both Target and Walmart offer price matching, but there are limitations (e.g. same brand, size and quality).

Know What Is The Best Deal

Comparing prices across stores is the key to knowing whether or not you are getting a good deal.

The down side is that this might mean making multiple shopping trips to various stores. One store might have cheaper pencils/pens/utensils, while another may have a great deal on backpacks.

I’ve compared the cost of almost 50 common School Supply items across Walmart, Target, Staples and Office Depot/Office Max and identified where each item is the best buy. Download my cost comparison cheat sheet from here.

Be Sure To Consider Quantities

I was an accountant before I was a Mom, and that means in order to properly compare products, I like to break things down to the lowest possible unit.

That means if you’re purchasing something that contains a bundle of items, such as crayons or pencils, it’s important to consider the number of items that you’re getting.

While a pack of 12 pens for $1.50 might seem cheaper than a pack of 60 for $4, you’ll find that after doing the math the pack of 12 is actually nearly TWICE as expensive. {$4 for 60 pens is 7¢ each vs $1.50 for 12 pens is 13¢ each}

Simply use a calculator when you’re in the store and want to know which one is the better deal.

Don’t Underestimate The Dollar Store

Dollar stores generally offer discounted notebooks, poster board, pencils, plus even scrapbooking and teacher supplies!

You might want to consider checking out these stores before going elsewhere. Especially for things like lunch bags, insulated cups and  double sided tape (that is one thing that never goes on sale anywhere at any time!).

I keep a list of 10 items I never buy anywhere else!

Stick To The Essentials

Now listen, I’m the first one to LOVE shopping for office supplies and I can easily get carried away by donut erasers and adorable floral printed binder clips. But if you want to save money… you’ve GOT TO STICK TO YOUR LIST.

Make a list of things you know your child will need. Then carry it out with the most diligence you can muster.

Yes, I realize it is no fun. And I do think you should allow yourself to get ONE SPLURGE ITEM, just for the sake of feeling good about things.

But when that necessity list of 10 things turns to 25 items and $200 later… well, you are just gonna feel bad for it once you get home. So trust me and dig deep and don’t give in to every whim.

You can do this. I believe in you. {and it won’t hurt to say a little prayer for me}

Don’t Forget Your Coupons

C’mon, you didn’t think I would forget to tell you about using coupons did you?!!

Coupons are a free money! And they will help you get FREE (or nearly FREE) school supplies also.

Remember, to maximize your savings, you will want to combine store coupons with manufacturer coupons and combine them with items that are already on sale. I’ve got lots of Back to School Deals over here.

Take Advantage of Immediate Discounted Gift Cards

My family using discounted Gift Cards all the time. We usually forget to buy them ahead of time and hurry to get them from our phone on our way to a store or restaurant.

You can buy it and then they email you the gift card and you can use it right from your phone.

If kinda feels like you are cheating because I would bet everyone else in the establishment is not getting a discount on the money they are using to pay. SCORE!

My favorite places to get discounted gift cards are Cardpool and  Cardcash!

Use A Cashback Credit Card

While I don’t suggest using your credit card if you truly don’t have money and you are hoping you will later… this is more of a strategy to look at the credit cards you have and see if they offer any kind of extra cashback reward that you can use when you go to buy back to school supplies or back to school clothes.

We have a Discover Card and when I just logged in to my account I found that they are currently offering a 5% Reward when we use the card at Restaurants… 5% of FREE MONEY just for using that card (we have it set up to automatically make the full balance payment each month).

Putting some thought into your shopping strategy can help ensure that back to school shopping fits into your budget and continues to save you money throughout the rest of the year.

Back to school shopping can really break the bank! It seems like every year the kids need more and more to get through the school year. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to save bundles of money.

YOUR TURN: What is your favorite School Supply to stock up on? I start to feel panic if we don’t have enough packs of pens in the house. Let me know what is your favorite in the comments below! 

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