It’s hard to believe it’s mid-August already, and with that, back to school shopping is in full swing. With the trending #clearthelists movement, as well as for parents wanting to save more money on quality supplies for their children, I wanted to share this post from ChooseFi that I thought were some excellent tips! Also, here is a link to some of the top selling supplies on Amazon.
Most Common School Supplies Needed
Before you can even begin the hunt for cheap school supplies, you need to have an idea of what your child’s school is requesting. Some schools provide a grade-by-grade breakdown for supplies but if your child’s school does not, here’s a list of the most common items:
Pens–usually blue or black
Zippered pencil pouch/pencil box
These are great items to keep in stock all year or keep an eye out whenever you are shopping. If you can find them on clearance, or on deep discount throughout the year, purchase them then to prepare for the next year.
But on top of these, there are some other items that are requested on a more grade-specific level, or based on school, that can still be fairly widespread. These include:
Trifold display board
These items are also good to watch for, depending upon the age of your children. For example, if you have a five-year-old, you probably won’t be needing a scientific calculator for a few years. So don’t worry about buying that one right now.
Now that we not what we have to buy, let’s take a look at where to buy them to get the most bang for your buck.
This is one of my favorite places to hit first. Of course, as the name mentions, everything is only $1, which makes it awesome! However, some of their products aren’t built for long-term use, such as the crayons and markers. As one member from the ChooseFI Facebook group states, “Dollar store. Get a good backpack during the year on sale nearly anywhere.” And I agree with that statement. Dollar Tree isn’t necessarily the best place to get backpacks or any of the bigger, more heavily used items.
When I look for cheap school supplies at the Dollar Tree, I look for things such as:
Keep in mind, though, that sometimes the plastic folders and notebooks might be cheaper at some of the other stores during back-to-school sale time. But year-round, this is the best place to get all of these items, especially the calculators!
Here is another great place to pick up some school supplies. While the selection at Five Below isn’t as vast as the selection at Dollar Tree, some of their items are “fancier.”
For example, their crayon selection. They carry the Crayola brand and they happen to only be $1 during the back-to-school season. This is the same price as the crayons at the Dollar Tree, but they are much better quality.
Some of the best deals found here are:
Some of the drugstores, such as CVS and Walgreens, will have some great sales during the back-to-school season. The best way to get the biggest deal here is to use your store loyalty card. Sometimes the card will give you an additional discount, while other times you will get a coupon for money off your next purchase.
Make sure to keep an eye on the store’s website or the app for the best deals during back-to-school season and plan accordingly.
Some of the best items I have found to get at the drugstores are:
Highlighters (note: these are usually the larger, fatter ones and can end up being cheaper than the skinnier ones)
Cheap School Supplies Online
For those of us who prefer not to run around from store to store, online shopping is the way to go. Some of the aforementioned stores will even have similar deals online and ship your purchases directly to your house! Most of them have a small shipping cost, but sometimes that cost is waived if your purchase is over a certain amount.
Some of the best places to get cheap school supplies online are:
Amazon: Higher-end backpacks and lunchboxes can be great finds here
Hollar.com: Character backpacks and lunchboxes, plus they have a $1 section with a lot of supplies
Craigslist: You never know what you are going to find here
Freecycle: This site is a place for people giving away things instead of selling them, but it can be hit or miss
Facebook Marketplace: Same as Craigslist, plus there are some special groups just for parents, as well as for giving away things before you toss them (this is one of my favorite groups!)
Discount School Supply: Pretty much everything you can think of, plus they have free 3-day shipping
These are great sites to keep in your mind year-round because you never know what you are going to find when. Another commenter from the ChooseFI Facebook group states, “I always bought on sale/clearance and then had the stuff I needed without running out to buy that expensive whatever at the last minute. This isn’t just the basics, but stuff like science project boards and report covers and paper fasteners.”
And one of the best ways to cut costs is by keeping your back-to-school supply stocked throughout the year.
Get The Most Out Of School Supplies
As you can see, there are many different places to find great deals on cheap school supplies. This doesn’t just apply to the back-to-school season, but year-round.
For some of the best deals, don’t skip the Dollar Tree. But spring for the heavier duty and/or name-brand items at other stores, such as Five Below or the myriad of online stores. If you have a loyalty card for the major drugstore chains, then these can be great places to find rock-bottom deals on certain items during back-to-school season.
CHOOSEFI FACEBOOK GROUP WISDOM
While these tips are helpful, members of the ChooseFI Facebook group shared even more hints and tricks that can help save you some serious money.
My favorite go-to tips was, “We reuse things. Even notebooks! Folders, glue, markers, etc. Inventory what comes home with them and check your supplies before buying all new the next round.”
My second favorite tip from the group was, “I always shop on tax-free weekends–automatically saves me 6.5%.” This is particularly helpful if your state does this. For years I waited until tax-free weekend to do some back-to-school shopping. But my state has decided not to participate in tax-free weekend 2019, and I am extremely disappointed.
And for one more great tip from the group, “Try to anticipate. Get the list for the grade ahead of your kid and buy that stuff after school starts for the next year. It’s always like 90% a week after Labor Day.” I love this one and use it quite frequently to fill in my stash so that the kids never run out of things they need during the year.
Overall, you don’t have to spend a fortune on back-to-school supplies to get your child stocked up and ready to go for the year. Using these tips, and a little bit of planning, you can potentially get away with spending very little on the things they need for school.