7 Tips for Saving Money on Back-to-School Shopping

Stocking up for the school year? Here are some ways to save money on school supplies.

True, there’s still another month or so of summer—but if you’ve got a school-age kid, you’re probably already thinking about all the books, calculators, and Silly Bandz your kid will need for his first journey back on the big yellow school bus in September. If your child’s in college, you’re looking at an even more severe blow to your bank account, with all the overpriced textbooks, dorm furniture, and other “necessities” (not to mention the jaw-dropping tuition bill).

You’d probably rather put off the back-to-school purchases, but if you create your plan of attack now, it’ll be much easier to enjoy the rest of your summer without stressing over financial woes. If you’d like to soften the blow of back-to-school shopping, here are some helpful tips.

Take a good look at what you’ve already got. Sure, it’s tradition to buy new pencils, paper, and notebooks at the start of every school year, but take a look at last year’s leftover supplies before you go shopping. Chances are, you may not need as much as you think.

Make a list. Do you find that you always end up buying things that you don’t really need? Stay focused as a hawk by making a list before you go shopping. If you create the list on a mobile device, you can easily check off each item as you pick it up.

Buy online. You can often find better deals on back-to-school supplies online, particularly if you check out a site like RetailMeNot.com for promotional codes and coupons. For college students, you can get a year of free shipping from Amazon by signing up for a new Amazon student account—and trust us, you’ll be using it.

Hit up the dollar store. There’s sure to be a dollar store at a shopping plaza near you. Sure, they’ve got some cheap candy, but they’re also a goldmine for school supplies: pens, pencils, notebooks, you name it. You’re likely to find better deals there than in a discount megastore, and without the massive crowds.

Buy used books, or better yet, borrow. Schoolbooks can add hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars to your back-to-school bill. Keep it cheap by buying gently used versions online, or borrowing books from a site like Chegg.com. If you know your child will only be using the book for a couple of weeks, see if it’s available at your local library.

Try Craigslist and yard sales for clothes. You’ll find plenty of nice, barely-worn clothing in your child’s size for cheap by scouring sites like Craigslist and your local yard sale listings. You could also organize a clothing swap with some of your neighbors—chances are, they’ll have some great barely-worn stuff in your child’s size.

Take advantage of your state’s tax-free holiday. Some states will remove sales tax for a few days during back-to-school shopping season, so you can save quite a bit on your in-store purchases during that time period. To see if your state has a tax-free holiday, check out this list.

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