Use these frugal tips to help you save money on back to school supplies shopping this year.
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If you aren’t careful, back to school can completely ruin your family's budget. Before you know it you could spend hundreds of dollars on each child and still discover that something is missing. But, there are a few things you can do to save money on back to school supplies.
Reuse Lunch Boxes and Backpacks
Unless there is something obviously wrong with last year’s lunch box and backpack, it is perfectly OK to reuse them. It may not make them the coolest kids with the newest stuff, but chances are the only one who is going to know that they are reusing the previous year’s bags are your child themselves.
This is one area where I tend to purchase plain, high quality items rather than fun lunch boxes and backpacks. Many backpack companies, like Jansport and Eastport, offer lifetime warranties on their bags. It is worth the investment when your child can use it all through school.
Shop on Back to School Tax-Free Weekends
Some states have introduced Back to School Tax-Free weekends which are…well, exactly what they say. You can do your back to school shopping on these weekends and the savings really does add up!
As of the 2020, the following states offer Tax-Free Weekend: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Each state has different stipulations on what is included, but you can regularly get not just school supplies but also coats, clothes, shoes, blankets, computers, and books.
Heather, from Passion for Savings, has the complete list of Tax-Free Weekend dates here.
Make a List and Follow It
Have a shopping list ready before you even step foot inside a store and dedicate yourself to following this list. It will keep you from buying things that your children may not need, but are things that are fun or cute.
Another option for avoiding impulse purchases is to order your school supplies, or even back to school clothes and shoes, online. Many stores now offer free store pick-up, so you don't even have to pay for shipping. This is great if you tend to get sucked into clearance racks like I do!
Shop Your Local Dollar Store First
When the time comes for you to do the back to school shopping, start at your local dollar store. You will find a great selection of non-name brand supplies, ranging from pens and notebooks to art and craft supplies. I especially like to get organizational supplies at dollar stores. They are perfect for keeping lockers organized.
Shop Thrift Stores for Clothes
Just like you should shop at your local dollar store first for school supplies, you should shop at your local thrift stores for clothes. The clothes in these stores are gently-loved, but perfect for growing kids who will only get one season out of their clothes anyway. You can even sometimes find clothes there that still have the tags on them! Even at the thrift store, you can usually find one day a week where they offer an even bigger discount.
Shop Office Supply Stores
Next, skip shopping in those big box stores completely and head straight to the office supply store. The big box stores offer convenience by having everything in one place but you’re paying for that convenience at check out! Instead, go to the office supply stores to get the rest of your school supplies.
Office Depot/Max has fantastic deals all summer long in which you can buy specific supplies each week for a penny. These items change each week, so if you pay attention and plan to go every week, you can save A LOT. I do this each year and then donate all of the extra school supplies that I purchase to my daughter's school There are also organizations, like Kidsmart STL, that collect school supplies. This is a fantastic way to give back to the community while getting a crazy good deal on back to school supplies.
Leave the Kids at Home
Most importantly, leave the kids at home if you can. Yes, kids love being able to pick out their own supplies, but you will also end up spending much more money than if you had left them at home.
One thing you can do if you do want to give them the ability to pick things for themselves is to send them pictures while you shop. Ask them to pick between two options that you give. This way, you can still control your budget by only offering them cheaper options.