Ways to Save for Back to School Shopping

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back to school shopping

Yes, back to school time is upon us already.  Most schools around the Atlanta area go back either the end of July or first of August, but back to school shopping begins much sooner.  I want to make sure y’all are prepared, and can find ways to stretch your dollars, as well as not scramble at the last minute for back to school shopping.

Ways to Save for Back to School Shopping: Start Early

I’ve noticed back to school starts immediately after the fireworks fizzle out on July 4th.  So start scoping out the sales now.  Most of the major chain stores will start discounting back to school items the week right after July 4th – this typically includes Target, Office Depot, Walmart, Staples, and more.  So check your weekly sales fliers either via the Sunday paper or online for the deals of the week.  Last year, you may recall, I saved HUGE shopping the Office Depot weekly deals, which had many penny, quarter, and dollar items.  There may be items for sale that you may not need right away, or you may need more of the sale items than the limited amount (I know Office Depot had a limit of 4 of each sale item, typically), but at these prices, go ahead and get the sale items.  Please note, these deals may involve you being part of  their store loyalty and rewards program.

Also, you may want to work as a team: find another parent friend to partner with for school shopping.  If there’s a sale on crayons, you can each go stock up on the maximum allowed amount, and if only one of you needs the crayons, then you’ve just doubled your supply for a fraction of the cost.  Then perhaps your friend may be in need of, say Expo markers, where you aren’t, you can again both get the maximum allowed amount, and your friend can walk away with double the supplies.  This can also work if you have a parent or sibling or neighbor friend close by who isn’t school shopping.  If they’re comfortable signing up for the store loyalty card, then you can team up and double what you need.  Maybe you can treat said family member or neighbor to lunch at Chick-fil-a in exchange for helping you!

Ways to Save for Back to School Shopping: Use Your Smartphone

In recent years, I’ve seen smartphone apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51 jump on board with back to school savings.  Starting in July and typically through Labor Day, they’ll have rebates for a selection of school supply items.  When those rebates coincide with a store deal -which is not uncommon during the back to school shopping season- that’s when you can really save.  Ibotta even lets you scan the item’s barcode to see if it matches a current rebate, so you can easily check in store.  Also, make sure you are utilizing your Target Cartwheel app to stack on savings at this time, too.  There should be a “school supplies” section within the Cartwheel app.   Sometimes you’ll be able to utilize a store coupon, manufacture coupon, Target cartwheel, AND an Ibotta rebate all at once!

I also want you to utilize your smartphone to price compare.  Since most major retailers have an app, this should be easy.  How on earth does this work?  Here’s an example:

  • Say you’re in Walmart, and want to see if that deal on a 12 pk of Expo markers really is a great deal.  Open up your Target app and scan the markers barcode.  That should tell you a few things: 1) if Target sells that exact item, and 2) what their price is.  Keep in mine, the app may list their online price, and not their in-store price.
  • You can check this with any number of stores: Target, Walmart, Costco, Sam’s, Office Depot, and Staples.  Keep in mind, there will be items that one store carries, that’s packaged just a little different for another store, which may make it slightly difficult to find by scanning the bar code.  This is when you simply use your search feature.  So, in this case, you’d search for “Expo 12 count” and see what results you get.  Also, since Sam’s and Costco are more bulk sales, you’ll may need to determine the unit price to price compare.
  • I also want you to check against Amazon prices, too.  You’ll do this the same way, scan the item with your Amazon app, and see what sort of prices you get. If you have Amazon Prime, this is a great way to do your back to school shopping. If not, then try Amazon Prime with a FREE 30-Day Trial.  And here’s a bonus offer if you’ve got a kid going off to college: join Prime Student FREE Two-Day shipping for college students to maximize your savings further.

Ways to Save for Back to School Shopping: Shop for the Long Run

When my daughter started kindergarten, we went to Toys R Us and took advantage of the “free lunch box when you buy a backpack” deal.  She picked out an Ariel backpack and an Ariel lunch box, and we ended up spending roughly $20-25 on these items.  Within a few months of being in kindergarten, she declared that Ariel and all Disney princesses were “baby-ish”, but she still begrudgingly carried her backpack and lunch box to school for the remainder of the year.  The backpack got pretty beat up over the year, while the lunch box was in decent shape.

The summer between kindergarten and 1st grade, I found a $5 backpack at Goodwill (while we were up in Wisconsin, of all places) that was brand new – it was a basic pink with gray polka dots, and it came with a matching lunchbox.  That thing has held up beautifully for two school years, and she very well may enter 3rd grade with it, too.

We’ve found a basic Star Wars very gently-used backpack at a garage sale for my son, spending one whole dollar.  So he will start kindergarten with a character back pack as well.  However, I’m not confident that backpack will stand the test of time, particularly for a little boy.  So I plan to invest in good backpacks for each of them this year.  Brands that tend to hold up well include Pottery Barn kids, Lands End, and L.L. Bean – yes, these brands will be an investment, but they have a reputation for holding up well for years.  I recommend getting a simple-patterned one (no characters), and let your child accessorize with things that can be swapped out like key chains or patches.

My point here is to invest in pieces your child will use for a long time, like a back pack and lunch box.  They’ll need those every school year, so invest in one that will last multiple years.  Also consider a good quality thermos/water bottle, too.  This is one of my favorites.  Other long-term investment pieces include scissors, locker shelves, a good zippered binder once they hit middle school, good quality pencil pouch, and even good quality sports bags and equipment.

Ways to Save for Back to School Shopping: My Final 2¢

When it comes to back to school shopping, my best advice is to KISS it!  Yes, Keep It Simple Student.  😉  Simply put, please please please don’t run all over town in an effort to save a few dollars.  If you can get the bulk of your school supplies and school clothes at one store, do it.  Even if they don’t have the lowest prices for all items on your list, save yourself the headache (and gas money) of lugging kids to another store just to save a few dollars on a few items.  Of course, if that other store is on your way, and you’re not making a special trip, then that’s fine.  But please don’t stress out over school supplies.

As a former public school teacher, I can tell you that yes, I had the bare minimum for supplies – I was begging for boxes of tissues so my 4th grade boys weren’t blowing their raw little noses on those scratchy brown paper towels.  I literally did a happy dance when one of the assistant principals handed me a box of 144 number 2 pencils.  Yes, your kids’ teacher is likely dipping in to their own pocket to pay for a chunk of what’s being used in their classroom.  So, when a parent comes in and offers me supplies, I’m not going to turn it down, nor am I going to turn it away because it’s not the proper count or the right brand.

Supply what you can for your child.  If you feel compelled and called to do so, donate more.  But, again, please don’t stress about that list of school supplies.  Sometimes buying those pre-packaged school supplies can be a good thing, even if it’s not the super-cheapest route.

COMING SOON: Ways to Save with Back to School CLOTHES Shopping


Keep on saving!  :o)

**Remember, y'all, this post may contain affiliate links. I receive a small amount of compensation when you purchase from my links, which I"ll totally blow on waffle fries and sweet tea, y'all!**

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