6 Ways to Save Money on School Supplies

Don't let that school supply list scare you. Here are easy ways to save on all the school supplies your kids need to have when they head back to school.

Shop at Home First

School Supplies
School Supplies. Jayk7/Moment/Getty Images 

Before you head to the store, take a walk around your house to see if there are any items on your kids' school supply lists that you might already have. Things like rulers, pencil boxes, calculators, and backpacks do not need to be replaced each year, so don't be afraid to reuse last year's supplies, if they're still in good shape.

Tip: Instead of buying pencils and pens, send your kids back to school with the free ones that businesses hand out (i.e. the ones that are currently taking up a bunch of space in your junk drawer). If they lose them, it won't be as painful to replace them.  

Shop Around

Back-to-School Sale
Back-to-School Sale. YinYang/E+/Getty Images 

10-cent crayons, 5-cent folders, 50-cent binders—stores fight hard for your back to school dollars, and that's great news for you. Watch the weekly sales circulars closely; then, cherry pick the best buys from each store. Remember: Just because store X wants you to spend all of your back-to-school dollars at their store, doesn't mean you have to; so get those 10-cent crayons, and get out.

Tip: Shop at a store that offers price-matching, so you won't have to burn up extra gas running around town to collect the deals from each store. Get everything in one place, and get the best price, too.

Take Advantage of Tax-Free Holidays

Tax-free sign
Tax-free sign. Etienne Girardet/Getty Images

Many states offer tax-free holidays around the start of the school year. Find out if your state has one planned; and if it does, be sure to take advantage of it. Shopping on the right day could trim as much as 10% off your back-to-school tab. If you have expensive items to buy (like a laptop or a graphing calculator) or multiple kids to shop for, that extra 10% off could end up being pretty substantial.

Tip: Tax-free holidays usually include things like clothing and shoes, too. Check to see what your state includes, so you don't miss out on any opportunities to save.

Only Buy What You Need

Backpack and school supplies
Backpack and school supplies.  Sean Locke/EyeEm/Getty Images

Once you're in the store, all those fun extras can be tempting—colored pens, locker accessories, self-stick notes, the list stretches on and on—but chances are, your back-to-school budget doesn't. To avoid overspending, determine how you'll handle your kids' requests for non-essentials before you head out to shop.

Some Ways to Handle Your Kids' Requests

  • Allow one extra purchase.
  • Have your kids foot the bill for anything that's not on the list.
  • Have your kids pay the difference between what you're willing to buy, and what they want to buy.
  • Refuse to give in to the request. It may not make you popular, but it is a chance to teach smart money management.
  • Shop alone. If they aren't with you, they can't  be tempted.

Personalize Everything

School girl with painted hands
School girl with painted hands. RUSS ROHDE/Cultura/Getty Images

Plain Jane school supplies always cost less than their fancier counterparts, but let's face it: to a kid, they just aren't as fun. The solution? Buy the budget-friendly basics; then, let your kiddo jazz them up with stickers and colorful doodles.

Buy Quality and Label Everything

Notebooks and other school supplies
Notebooks and other school supplies. Nora Carol Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Don't just grab the cheapest option available. Spend some time looking at how things are made, and choose the products that look like they're going to last. Go for the backpack with the lifetime warranty; choose the spiral notebooks with the durable plastic covers. Then, label all your purchases with your kids name, so they'll be likely to be returned to them if they get lost. You may spend more upfront, but if you don't have to buy replacements later, you'll come out way ahead.

Stock Up on Extras School Supplies

Girl shopping for school supplies
Girl shopping for school supplies. Elva Etienne/Moment/Getty Images

Buy extra notebook paper, glue, markers and other supplies that your kids are likely to run out of while they're on sale. This will save you money, and a trip to the store. Just be sure to put them somewhere you'll be able to find them later. You won't save any money, if you have to go out and buy everything again.