How to save money on back to school costs

You don’t have to go broke when you go back to school shopping. Follow these hacks and tips and you’ll save BIG during back to school deals and sales!

Does the thought of back to school shopping make you sweat? From the new clothes to the school supplies and all the different lunches and snacks, it can often seem like too much all at once.

With these tricks and hacks, you can still save big when you go back to school shopping – whether you have one child or five!

Save Money Back To School Shopping

There are tons of ways to save money on your back to school needs, and this list has them all. Check out the 17 hacks and tips and start saving some real money!

1. Only Buy What You Need

Before you even begin shopping, go throughout your house and your kid’s closet to take inventory of what you already have. You don’t have to buy a closet full of clothes and new school supplies they won’t need.

Use what you already have if you can. Some things that stand the test of time and can be passed down from year to year include pencil bags or boxes, pencils, pens, and loose-leaf notebook paper.

2. Buy Supplies After School Starts

Don’t buy all your supplies before school. Instead, wait for school to start and let the teachers tell you which items the kids really need. Then, school supplies will go on sale and you can snag them at a great price. Plus, you won’t buy supplies that your child won’t use.

Some schools send out a list of requested school supplies, only to make changes during the first week of school. If you wait until after school starts, you can buy your kids exactly what they need and nothing they don’t.

3. Do A Supply Swap

Work with your friends and family and host a supply swap together. For example, if you have a few extra packs of pencils that you kept from last year, you might be able to trade them with a friend for some new packs of crayons they kept.

This also works if they have a backpack their child barely used. Kids don’t feel like they are getting a weird hand-me-down when it comes from someone else instead of their own house.

How To Save Money On Back To School Costs - Do a supply swap with friends!

4. Follow Stores On Social Media

The best times to follow stores like BestBuy, OfficeMax, Walmart, and Target is during back to school and the holidays. This is when they begin posting sales and deals. Then, you can even compare one store’s deals with another one.

5. Shop Around

Compare stores and buy things at the best prices. Some stores like BestBuy have price-match policies so you can be sure you are getting what you want at the lowest price.

If you don’t have time to comparison shop, use the ShopSavvy app. It does all the comparison shopping for you!

6. Sign Up For Rewards Programs and Cash Back

Lots of stores have rewards programs, ask your associate if the store you are shopping at has one. This is a really easy way to get cash back or coupons.

If you do have a reward card, get to know what the rules are, and spend the minimum amount to obtain your reward. Then, use the reward to purchase the rest of your back to school supplies.

7. Sign Up For Store Emails

Another way that stores will try to advertise is by sending out coupons via email! Sign up for store emails and print out those coupons or save them to your phone.

Don’t want to clutter up your inbox? Create an email address just for newsletters like these.

8. Visit Money-Saving Apps

There are lots of apps out there that you can use to earn cash back and find the best coupons.

These are the best money-saving apps that will help you save money.

  • ShopSavvy: Simply scan that barcode to find out if you’re getting the best deal. The app will even show if your store will price match!
  • Flipp: This app shows you all your favorite stores’ weekly ads all in one place.
  • Scour their back-to-school list for amazing deals on everything, from pens to backpacks! They have an iOS app and an Android one.
  • Groupon: Search for school supply deals and coupons with this money-saving app.
  • Honey – This app automatically finds the best coupons and deals when you shop online.
  • Ibotta – After you go shopping, scan your receipts and you will earn cash back. Use the code HIXLPFR!
  • Rakuten – Just like Ibotta, if you use Rakuten, you’ll earn cashback on your purchases.

9. Shop Thrift and Consignment Stores

It might take a little extra time and visiting the store a few times, but you can score some really amazing deals at second-hand stores. Look for the name-brand clothes and the nearly-new condition some of their backpacks and shoes are in.

The tip for these stores is to shop early and go in often – the really huge deals go fast.

10. Buy Discounted Gift Cards

Look for sales on gift cards all year long and snag them when you can. Sometimes you can buy gift cards from Costco for a lower price than the card.

Also, if you have unused gift cards from stores you will never shop at, you can turn them into If you agree to receive payment in the form of an gift card, you’ll get an extra 6% back.

11. Shop September Clearance Sales

About a month after school starts, everything is going to go on sale.

Keep your eyes on clearance items and buy up what you need for the year.

Another smart tip is to buy a year ahead of time and just store it for a year! Some school supply needs change from year to year, but it’s best to keep the basics in stock, like pencils and paper.

12. Shop At Clearance and Dollar Stores

One of the best places to snag some great deals is the Target Dollar Spot. There are even stores dedicated to selling things at a huge discount. Buy as many of your school supplies at these places as you can.

Some of the things you’ll find here include:

  • Socks
  • Pens/Pencils
  • Art supplies (paper, crayons, glue)
  • Paper
  • Snacks
  • Backpacks

The only danger of places like this is that you might buy things you don’t actually need. Create a list and stick to it!

13. Buy Refurbished and Open-Box

If you need to purchase some electronics, look for refurbished or open-box items. These things are usually on sale for a great discount and there’s usually nothing at all wrong with them.

BestBuy sells open-box electronics at clearance prices, and often the only thing “wrong” with it is that the box had been opened once.

14. Shop Online Or By Yourself

Sometimes, shopping in stores with kids can be a huge distraction. As much as you love your kids, it’s just easier to stick to a budget when you have time to focus on snagging the best deal for everything you need.

Not only is it easier to stick to your list, but when you are shopping without distractions, you can actually spot some really fantastic deals, too.

How To Save Money On Back To School Costs - Skip the stores and shop online!

15. Create A Budget

The best way to save on back to school shopping is to create a budget before it even starts. Then, do your best to stick to this budget. One of the easiest ways to overspend is to shop without financial restrictions.

When you know what your budget is, you’ll make smarter purchasing decisions.

16. Spend Money When Quality Matters

You’ll honestly end up spending more money in the long run if you have to replace poor-quality supplies. There are some items that are worth the extra monetary investment. Compare the higher-quality item’s price to the lower one, and if it is the same as buying two (and you’ll have to buy two of them when you replace it), just buy the quality item.

This only applies to a few things, such as electronics. For other things, a name brand pushes the price up without any discernable reason. For most things, you can save a lot of money if you buy the store-brand.

17. Limit Extracurriculars

All those after school clubs add up in cost – they all have dues, supplies, and their own activities. Stick to your budget by only allowing your kids to do a certain number of after-school clubs.

This will also benefit you in another way – the more activities they do, the more you’ll be running around like a non-stop taxi. They need time for their homework and you all need time to spend together as a family.

Back To School Shopping: Final Thoughts

With a little diligence and planning, you can save lots of money on back to school shopping. Start early and save some of your shopping for after the school year starts. Stores count on selling during the month of August, so save as much of your list until September as you can, and you’ll save some serious money.

The most important thing to remember is to make a budget and a list and stick to it. This is a very exciting time of year and marketers hope to sweep you up into the excitement, which will cause you to make impulsive shopping decisions (and spend more money). Instead, make your list and don’t spend extra time in the store or on their website.

You can enjoy shopping – and save money doing it!