Save Money on Back to School Shopping

back to school

Hello Crabby Shoppers,

It is that time of year again. School supplies start to go on sale and as you look over the list of items your child needs for school you start to panic. iPad, 1,000 boxes of tissues, spa gift cards for the school staff… wait that might be my dream list back from my teaching days. Anyway, even with items such as folders, pencils, binders and notebooks, the cost of school supplies can really add up.

One thing I do every year that saves our family hundreds of dollars is to shop the sales. Even though my girls are both now in college as of this year, they still need notebooks, pens and your typical school supplies. It’s just a little easier, because they do get to decide what they’ll buy and they carry their own tissues now.

If you don’t already get the Sunday paper, now would be a good time to start picking one up on Sundays. However, you can also get by with hunting the ads down online if you prefer. It is just more time consuming.

Every store out there has what is called “loss leaders.” These are one or two deeply discounted items that are used to pull you into their store so you will buy all your other school supplies. You’re going to outsmart the stores, though. You’re going to shop ONLY the loss leaders for now.

So, let’s say that this week, erasers are .25 a package at Target, paper is .50 a package at Staples and folders are 10 for $1.00 at Office Depot. Those are the only three things you will buy this week.

Next week, there might be pens on sale for .50 a package, notebooks for .25 each and so on. Yes, this method takes a bit more time, because you have to keep your checklist handy from the school and check off items as you go, but you will save a bundle. Just before school starts, head to the dollar store to finish off your list. If you absolutely MUST pay full price for something, Walmart and Target usually have the best prices on school supplies, but you may just wind up getting everything on sale.

Stock Up For Later

It never fails. Two weeks into the school year, a teacher decides your child suddenly needs another binder, notebook, your child loses her box of crayons, or every pencil you own disappears to the land of lost pencils.

When the items you know your child will use often go on sale, stock up. Keep a school supply drawer or closet just for this. Some items that your child likely needs every year, so if you have extras you can just push into the next year include:

  • Folders
  • Pencils
  • Notebooks
  • Paper
  • Pens
  • Erasers
  • Scissors (they always get lost, don’t they?)
  • Calculator (I’ve seen small ones go on sale for $1.00 each)
  • Binders
  • Crayons
  • Colored Pencils
  • Markers
  • Poster Board (yes, keep at least two on hand at all times for projects, but they are cheap at dollar store every day)

Give Back

If you’ve saved a ton of money on school supplies, take a few dollars and buy some extra supplies to give to the teacher. Most teachers love their students. If one doesn’t have what he needs to learn, she will go out and spend money out of her own pocket to buy these items.

Trust me that there is nothing more thoughtful to a teacher than a small basket (pick one up inexpensively at the dollar store) filled with extra boxes of crayons, pencils, erasers and paper. This saves her money and helps her students have the tools they need to learn. If you’ve picked up extras while they were on sale, this gift basket will cost you very little to share.

Have fun, enjoy the days of summer left with your kiddos still at home and happy shopping.

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Crabby Housewife

Crabby Housewife

Lori is a full-time housewife and writer, living in the Midwest with her husband of 27 years – they have two daughters. They have a house full of pets and her house is never quite perfect.