6 Tips to Save Money on Back-to-School Shopping

Posted by Shaun Morgan in SavingsJuly 28, 2022(Last Updated August 1, 2022)5 min read
Key Takeaways
  • Save money on back-to-school shopping with strategic planning.
  • It’s important to reuse items like school supplies or clothes when you can.
  • Where and when you shop can make a difference regarding your budget.
Are you ready to make some real money moves?

Back-to-school shopping can be stressful and expensive. The list of required school items seems to get bigger every year, and prices continue to rise. As parents, we want the best for our children but also want to ensure our budget is intact when the school shopping madness has ceased. 


There are plenty of ways to save money, such as taking advantage of state laws that allow you to have a tax-free back-to-school shopping spree weekend. Keep reading to learn about six tips that can save you money while shopping for back-to-school items.


Shop Around Your Home


Before you shop at stores, consider shopping your shelves. 


Did that notebook from last year ever get used? Is that binder still in working condition? How many folders are still in last year’s backpack? By reorganizing what you have at home, you may find that a surprising number of items are already marked off your list.

Regardless of what you find, taking stock of what you have is a sure way to save money on back-to-school shopping.


Shop the “Loss Leaders”


Patience can even help you save money before school starts. You will probably go shopping multiple times between the start of back-to-school sales and the time school starts. That is the time to start eyeing prices because, surprisingly, they won’t be the same every time you go to the store to shop. Some items, usually put in the large bulk bins at the front of a store, are called “loss leaders.” 


According to Investopedia, a loss leader strategy involves selling a product or service at an unprofitable price. However, that product or service is sold to attract new customers or sell additional products and services to those customers. The point of a loss leader is to get you to do more shopping even though the store will lose money when you buy that item.


So when you see glue sticks for a nickel a piece, that is the time to grab your glue sticks for the year. Of course, the store wants you to see the glue sticks and decide to do the rest of your back-to-school shopping all in one trip, but you don’t have to do that. So just grab the deals as they present themselves and watch the savings roll in.


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Compare Prices


Speaking of keeping track of prices, it is also a good idea to compare prices between stores. For example, some stores will have cheaper pencils, and others will have cheaper folders. Keeping track of those prices may save you a lot of money purchasing the cheaper item.


You can easily compare prices online too. Follow your favorite stores on social media or subscribe to emails to get notified of flash sales or steep discounts. This is a great way to compare prices and use different store sales to your advantage to get the lowest price.


However, it is important to remember that cheaper isn’t always better. For example, buying a binder for $1 to avoid a binder that is $5 might be a bad choice if the $5 binder will last one or even two school years, and the $1 binder will break in the first month. So remember that stores have different prices, but quality also makes a huge difference.


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Buy in Bulk


Everyone knows that bulk deals can save you money, but you also know that your kids won’t use 5,000 pages of paper in one school year. The key is knowing that they will be in school for many years. So if you can afford to splurge on buying paper in bulk, you’ll set yourself up for savings in the future when you take stock of what you already have.


Buying everything in bulk can be extremely expensive, so if you can’t afford it, consider these alternatives. 


You can buy one bulk item yearly to start your savings rolling without breaking the bank. For example, buying bulk pencils the first year and bulk paper the second year will allow you to stock supplies slowly and set you up to keep the savings going each year.

Consider going in on a bulk purchase with a few friends. One of you can make the purchase, and everyone else can split the money evenly. Splitting the cost of bulk purchases with family or friends is a great way to save money every year.


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Buy from Thrift Stores


If you can’t swap for the clothes you need, thrift shops are a great way to buy great clothes for low prices. Shoes, which normally run $30-$50, go for under $10, and shirts, which cost $20, often cost $2. If you have to buy an entire wardrobe, which is extremely likely for a growing child, you can save hundreds of dollars shopping at thrift stores.

Another frugal option is shopping at garage sales. People often want to get rid of their old child’s clothing by selling them instead of donating them. Clothes can be as cheap as twenty-five cents at a garage sale, depending on who is selling them. This is a great way to save money on clothes.


You’re probably concerned that all of the clothes at a garage sale or thrift store are from the 90s, in poor condition, and hopelessly out of style. In many cases, that can be true, but you can find some great gems without looking too hard.


If you’re still concerned, here is a hint to get the best clothes for the cheapest prices. Instead of driving to the most convenient thrift store, consider driving to the thrift store on the wealthy side of town. The thrift stores convenient to affluence are likelier to have fashionable clothes for low prices. Of course, looking for garage sales in these areas doesn't hurt.


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Clothing Swap


Every kid will want the latest and greatest clothing, but sometimes that isn’t possible. So when a few friends of yours have kids of various ages, it can be a great time to start swapping and trading clothes.


Does your kid need a gently used jacket? Swap it for a pair of pants that they grew out of. The more friends with kids of various ages you can get involved, the more likely everyone is to leave with something beneficial. Of course, some people with older kids will just be happy to get rid of old, outgrown clothing.


The Money Wrap-Up


Saving on back-to-school shopping requires planning, patience, and teamwork. The more you plan when, where, and who to shop with, the more you can save. With school coming back in session, now is the time to start planning and shopping for the best back-to-school deals.

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