10 Ways to Save on Shopping for School Supplies

School is just around the corner, implement these money saving tips from "Frugal Living" expert Jan Leasure to ensure you're getting the best deals when it comes to shopping for your kids.

Dear Super Saver: I know that it is August, but I am trying to get organized for my three kids for school (two in grade-school and one in Junior High).  I need a basic list of what my kids might need so that I can buy things in advance on sale.  Do you have any suggestions?  Thanks in advance. - Mindy K.

Dear Mindy: I used to teach Junior High School and not only are school supplies more and more expensive for parents each year, but your children’s teachers will be spending a lot out of pocket for your children’s education as well (budget cuts affect all of us).  I have a good list of supplies as well as some saving suggestions. Do you know that the average family spends more than $500 each year on school supplies and related items–not including “back to school” clothes!  (Both of my daughters always were school supply junkies, so keep it simple at first so you don’t create monsters) Try this list as a start:

Here are some Basics:

  1. #2 Pencils, mechanical pencils, colored pencils
  2. Pencil Sharpener
  3. Large eraser (pink or gum depending on age)
  4. Ballpoint pens (Black, Blue, Red–medium point)
  5. Highlighters & Sharpies–& Sharpies–& more Sharpies!
  6. Spiral notebooks (medium width/subject divided)
  7. Subject folders with pockets
  8. Protractor
  9. Ruler
  10. Loose Leaf Paper and 3 ring binder
  11. Hole punch
  12. Daytimer calendar (If I had had a daytimer or day-planner with a calendar I would have been a far more organized student–it is not too soon to start with this one!)  A daytimer can do double duty and replace an assignment book.
  13. Backpack (try to find one on sale that is gentle to back and posture, this could save you money in the future
  14. Index Cards
  15. Crayons (Crayolas, Crayolas & More Crayolas!)
  16. Stapler
  17. Scissors
  18. Calculator
  19. (biggie) The LUNCH BOX!
  20. Gym & Locker Locks/ Sports equipment

Money Saving Tips for Buying Those School Supplies

With the average student requiring about $500 worth of school-related supplies each year, here are some tips that can help you save 30 – 50%:

  • Set a Budget
  • Do not wait until the last minute; You might find better deals “off season” throughout the summer than at “Back to School Sales”
  • Keep several copies of your school supply list handy; purse, glove compartment, etc., so you are prepared when you run into a sale or special.
  • Keep School Supply/Office Supply coupons handy with the list in an envelope.
  • Comparison shop; Discount stores (Walmart, Sam’s, Target, Costco, etc) vs: Office Supply stores (Office Max, etc.) vs: Walgreen’s, etc., they all have their pros and cons.
  • Don’t overlook online school supply shopping.  For example, classroomdirect.com may have some specials you can’t touch on foot.
  • Check out a site called Lunchboxes.com if this was available when I was in school I may have become a “lunchbox hoarder” (They have great prices but try to hold back! & Remember, the lunchbox hero you choose might disgust your kids, so give them some input!)
  • Buying in Bulk is ALWAYS a saver; Team up with some other parents and see if you can buy in bulk and share the supplies and the savings!
  • If you need equipment for a new sport don’t forget that you can trade in old equipment and replace it with gently used (or never used, right?) at resale sports equipment stores like Play it Again Sports. (They have a website with a store locater to save gas.) www.playitagainsports.com
  • Keep all School supplies together at the end of the year so you can recycle your own supplies and pass down the extras in the family or trade with friends who need what you have and vice versa!

Yesterday I was actually checking out the school supply deals at Staples, Office Depot, ,, K-Mart, , Costco & Sam’s. You couldn’t believe the lines at Staples! There were competitive prices at all stores, but the specials were different at each one. Most of them had “loss leaders” which are things they actually sell at a loss just to get us into the stores. Check out the store websites and their hard copy flyers AND don’t forget that there are a lot of coupons now for school supplies, get enough at a discount to get your students through the year–but hide them.  If your kids are anything like mine were they have an “office supply addiction” and they will want to snag them all at once! (moderation, right?)

If you have any school supply ideas to add, please comment, or send me an e-mail to me, Jan Leasure, at: jan@jan-leasure.com. We save more if we share!


Editor's Note: Jan Leasure is the creator of $uper $aver Survival, a time & money saving website which features frugal living advice, household tips, coupons, recipes, giveaways and more. Please visit www.Jan-Leasure.com and join her savings community!

Fabi August 30, 2011 at 04:06 AM
Great ideas... however, my kids are in grade school and send a list home with parents for the supplies they need... I just wish we could get a hold of them sooner so we can also stock up on items! (Kinder & first grade... ) items school requested are for donation and I usually am able to supply all items, but end up paying higher prices.. :(


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