Tips for Back-to-School Shoppers

Back to School Savings for the New School Year


The first bell of the new school year is about to ring, and many parents are searching for money-saving tips on essential back-to-school supplies. Saving money this year is being made more challenging than usual by high inflation (8.5% as of July 2022). The National Retail Federation predicts that families will spend record amounts on school supplies to ensure their children have what they need to succeed in the classroom.


Average Expected Spend Per Household

Elementary through high school students = $864

College students = $1,199


But there’s good news: You can spend less than the average amount while still supporting your student. Take a seat and prepare to learn how to save money on back-to-school shopping despite rising inflation.


Make a List

You’re less likely to buy unnecessary items if you stick to a back-to-school shopping list. Save the list to your phone or print it from the school district’s website. Some retail stores even provide shoppers with lists provided by nearby schools. Use the list as your guide as you search for low-priced supplies and avoid guessing what your learner might need.


Search for Backpack Giveaways

Non-profit agencies, churches, and other organizations often give away new backpacks filled with school supplies to families in the community. Search “your city” + “free backpack giveaway” to find one near you. Attend an event before shopping for supplies to avoid purchasing items you can get for free.


Talk to the Teacher

While you might assume your 7th grader needs their own scientific calculator, the school may provide them for free during the academic year. Some teachers maintain supplies for kids who lose or can’t afford more costly educational tools. Cross items you don’t need to buy off the list.


Start at Home

Some school supplies are perennial — they keep coming back year after year. Examples include 3-ring folders, spiral-bound notebooks, and binders. Search playrooms, drawers, old backpacks, and closets for supplies you might already have on hand. There’s no need to buy new supplies if the ones you find still have life left in them.


Get Sale Savvy

Running all over town chasing sales wastes time and gas. Plan your shopping by limiting your purchases to online retailers or brick-and-mortar stores within a 5-mile radius. A few dollars saved on a few school supplies by driving 20 miles might not be worth it when you calculate how much you’d spend on gas to get to the store. It’s often easier to lock in savings by shopping at nearby retailers that price-match a competitor’s advertised sale price.


Attend or Host an Exchange

Families across the country host annual events where they exchange school uniforms, coats, shoes, and other items from prior years for things their kiddos need this fall. Talk with other parents at your child’s school for details. If a community exchange doesn’t already exist, consider hosting one yourself.


Shop Secondhand Stores

Many thrift and secondhand stores sell new and gently used office supplies your child can use in the classroom. Take your shopping list with you on your next visit. You might find notebooks, tabbed dividers, mechanical pencils, and a host of other needed supplies for pennies on the dollar.


Don’t Buy Everything Now

While retailers encourage stockpiling school supplies before classes start, it might be more beneficial to only buy enough for the first month of school. The longer school is in session, the more you’ll see discounts of 70% + pop up online or in-stores. Retailers must clear out inventory as they prepare to stock shelves with winter merchandise. Expect to see prices fall starting the third week of school.


Getting an “A” in back-to-school savings is possible when you have a plan. Use these tips to keep more money in your wallet while ensuring your kids have the supplies they need for academic success.