Back to School Shopping Tips

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Last Thursday I posted a price list for school supplies.  You may have already noticed that I’ve been adding to it, showing you where you can get those prices or beat those prices for the current week.  I’m hoping that I’ll be able to do this all summer long so you’ll know the best prices for the major retailers across the country.  I also promised you some tips for shopping for school supplies, so here they are:

  1. Buy extras.  It never hurts to have a couple extra boxes of crayons @ $.20 each.  Besides, wouldn’t you hate to pay $.97 or more for just one box in the spring if your child needs a new set?
  2. If you’re out shopping and find a good price, but think you can do better- buy it anyway and save your receipt.  I’d recommend keeping all the items you buy from each store in the same bag with the receipt so it’s easy to tell what goes with what.  You can always return items in a few weeks if you didn’t beat it, or didn’t have time to get to the store with the better price-which brings me to another point-
  3. Value your time.  Unless you are scraping pennies together to buy supplies- it’s not worth the extra 20 minutes, gas, and mileage to make an extra stop to save $.50.  To save $3 or $4 in 20 minutes I would make an extra stop.
  4. Shop without your children.  We all know how excited they get about buying their school supplies.  Most kids will want the shiniest and brightest items that also have the highest price tags.  “See not, want not” definitely applies here.
  5. Don’t write your child’s name on the supplies until after open house.  You may find that your child’s teacher says that they have paint in art class and so they don’t need it in the regular classroom.  Or she might say that she’s overrun with kleenex from last year, but could really use extra dry erase markers instead.  Again, saving your receipt is critical.
  6. Before you buy #2 pencils that aren’t yellow, or white out and other specialized items that aren’t on your child’s list, find out if there are items that are prohibited.  Many schools now prohibit the special #2 pencils, whiteout, and other items that can cause problems in the classroom. 
  7. Consider buying just the basics of each item and letting your child have a character backpack or lunch box for a more personalized item.  Which will make more impact, 3 shiny character notebooks for $1.97 each instead of $.10 or a character backpack for an extra $5?
  8. If your child can make do with last years lunchbox or backpack for a little while, hold out on buying a new one until the 50% off, 75% off or 90% off sales in September.  Better yet, make do all year but buy one in September 2011 for Back to School 2012.  
  9. If your schedule is tight, buddy up with a friend.  Make your lists together from the ads and each shop at 2 different stores, then settle up and trade items later.  
  10. Some items are just plain cheap in quality.  If your child breaks his/her scissors every year, buy a different brand.  Generally stick with the brand requested by the school for scissors and similar items.
  11. Shopping in the office supply section of Walmart or Target may be less crowded, which means less stress. Items in the office supply section may not be priced on the shelf with
    the back to school pricing but the same items will scan at the same
  12. There’s nothing wrong with a new outfit to start the school year with.  This certainly does make a child feel special, but consider only a couple of new outfits to last your child until fall weather kicks in.  If you buy 10 new outfits for August, they will wear them for only a couple of months, and likely will have outgrown them in March when the weather begins to warm up.  When you see a great sale on clothes for back to school, buy some in the next size up for spring.
  13. If you find a price at Target that is equal to or slightly above another store, remember your 5% off for using your RedCard (credit or debit) and also your $.05 off per reusable bag (doesn’t have to be a Target bag) In this case buying 5 items $1 at Target comes out to $.94 each after the discounts.
  14. You can often find the bonus packages of children’s underwear at back to school time, so this is the time of year to stock up on the next size for your children.

Good luck!


  1. Thanks for the great tips! I’ll def. keep them in mind. :)

  2. As always, thanks for the tips! Love how practical you are when it comes to frugal living!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Great tips:)
    Thank you!

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